Signals from the future #10 – Learning through play

On the 8th of April, we dove into a new topic for Signals from the Future: learning through play. Our guests were Anna Christina Frahm from Kiel, employee at Digitale Wirtschaft Schleswig-Holstein Clustermanagement (DiWiSH) and Lego Serious Play (LSP) Facilitator, and Latifa Al Khalifa from Bahrain, founder of Clever Play.

In this episode we looked at learning through play both for kids and for adults. In case you missed the episode you can watch the whole thing here:

Do you remember your favorite childhood game? Latifa and Anna definitely do. Latifa remembers painted a door on the wall of her room, and imagined stories and role-playing games, complete with flying unicorns and other kids, hidden behind that door. For Anna, it didn't matter what the game was, but the people were important, and the main thing was to laugh together and have fun.

Play continues to be incredibly valuable and important, even in adulthood, so both Latifa and Anna have found ways to integrate playful learning into their jobs. Latifa founded the company Clever Play, with which she supports and empowers children to tickle out their superhero potential and super skills. The idea for the company came about when she was searching in vain for a meaningful and fun activity for her nephew outside of school. Children need to be supported in discovering their interests and passions, but she couldn’t find anything that fulfilled that.

For Latifa, play-based learning means helping and empowering children to take control of their lives. Being active and present on an emotional, cognitive, physical and social level. She distinguishes between two methods in her program. There is guided play, where the children are given a specific task. And there is freeplay. This second variant tickles out the spontaneity in the children, where they are left in an environment and can decide for themselves how to deal with it. The idea here is to help the children move from the consumers of play to developers of it. Latifa gives for an example that, all the children should take on the role of engineers on one day and carry out experiments as engineers. This generates so many great ideas and the children can take away a lot for themselves and their own lives.

Anna’s orientation is towards adults. In addition to her job as a project manager and networker at DiWiSH, Anna was inspired by an acquaintance to complete a trainer program to become a LSP Facilitator. The LSP feeds back into her day job, and she loves to pass on to others what she has learned and what has helped her.

What does play-based learning actually mean?

For Anna, problem solving is at the top of the agenda here: Finding common solutions in a playful physical way, because in her opinion words are often simply empty sounds. Creating a representation of your world in a meaningful way and empowering everyone to get involved with their ideas creates great results. The alternative scenario is often that the same people always speak in meetings, and the outcomes are limited. Of course, there are also the old-fashioned bosses who don't like to see employees playing. So, it hasn't caught on everywhere yet, but it's becoming more known and popular. Anna says that even in her personal life, when someone has a problem, regardless of the nature of the problem, the first thing they do is get out the Lego kit. Let the hands do the thinking, and the head becomes much clearer. Note to all readers: If you don't have some Lego in your house yet, you should get some bricks as soon as possible.

So we’re seeing that playing can be a very useful tool in everyday life, for all of us. It's fun, activating, and generates results and solutions. For children today, the school systems are not supporting essential future capabilities like problem solving and taking intentional action. It is often only about the ‘WHAT’ and rarely about the ‘HOW’. Children should be prepared for the ever more dynamic world and that means through practice, not just in theory. So there is still room for improvement, both in Germany and in Bahrain. For this very reason, Latifa's program is not only aimed at children, but also the parents and teachers are welcome. Teachers are trained to adapt the program to fit their schools. For the parents, it's about them being able to really play with the kids, really get involved and take something away for themselves as well. It doesn't make you childish, it makes you childlike, say Latifa, and that is a totally beneficial place to be. Her nephew always asks her "Why do you work so much and not play instead?" Why indeed? It’s a smart thought, that we should incorporate play much more into our daily lives and not take ourselves so seriously.

Spreading the message of learning and working through play still poses a few challenges for proponents. The value of play is often misjudged, bosses want business and not play, and playful practices can expose uncomfortable truths as much as they can open up new avenues and opportunities. So, it's keep at it and play, one step at a time. Let's create a world together that suits our own imaginations.

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