Learning through play ~ My son the hero


“An idea, behavior or style that spreads from person to person within a culture”

~ src Wikipedia (so it must be accurate, right?)

I’m wondering about how Memes are spread in children. We have all seen the recent media interest reboot in the Titanic disaster. This has come in both televised drama as well as documentaries.
As if that Celine Dion track didn’t haunt our souls enough.

But here we are amid it, and my son, yesterday came to me, somewhat excitedly and says:

“Hey Dad, we were playing Titanic today!”

“Really, what did you do?”

“Yeah, I had to save babies.”

“I had to dive down really deep and get them.” 

“Then I had to look after them and hold them in my arms like this” (mimes cradling motion in arms)

“I saved 20 babies!”

I was both intrigued and touched by my little boy’s tale. Of course, I was pleased that he was playing out the Hero archetype, bravely plumbing the ocean’s salty depths to save defenceless younglings.

I also was struck, why don’t we – as adults do more of this?

What is the spirit of play, and how does it facilitate learning?

I’m still musing, but needless to say, the connection with zero pressure (it doesn’t matter if I screw up) has somethign to do with it, along with being in a state of fun.

I’ve got nowhere with my first question though, that is, why we, as adults don’t do this, or rather it appears frowned upon, or maybe we do it less consciously as we get older.

I understand that partially it may be due to reality biting, that is, it’s unrealistic to your visualising beating your adversary with a Streetfighter II Fireball – or Ha-Do-Ken (wave-motion-fist).

Ha Do Ken!

That said, pressure-free experimentation leads to advances and progression, so if you were going to have a limitless play, whether in business or sport or some other area, what would you do and play?

How would you stand, breathe, speak and act and what would you believe?

I dare you to try it.

You never know, it might just lead to some insight that changes something you do, someone you are or someone else.


  1. Cherie NewlandCherie Newland04-19-2012

    Alan, I like this post. Of course, the role of play and childhood games is skill building e.g. interaction, dexterity, thinking, archetypal expressions, problem solving et al. You said ‘zero pressure’, this would be true if the play or game were devoid of personification but children ‘become’ the parts they play with little-to-no distinction from or accepting of who they are. All in all, this isn’t a big deal as play offers a retreat back into ones’ self at end. Games are also a way of testing one’s skills and here the risk of ‘winner v looser’ enters… again through role-identification but this time with the added element of opponent rather than a cooperative. The greater lesson and where parents can be of help would be assisting the child to separate identity from performance. Mistakes can be corrected and performance has a range-of-development; both speak to capability and neither speaks to identity. Also, teaching kids to allow room in their model of the world for others to perform with excellence and to do so with joy so that it does not diminish their self-image is a much needed perspective. Of ‘how a person would stand, breathe etc, ‘what would you believe’ stands above the rest, yet, as demonstrated by your little boy, a sense of ‘purpose’ drives us to stretch beyond what we think is possible. Not belief but rather purpose gives us the tenacity and commitment to push forward and bring forth what could only be imagined. Imagination might be the mother of invention but a sense of purpose (conscious or unconscious) is the impetus.