Looking back on some of my fondest memories, most began with, “Can Cassie come out to play?” Why? Quite simply, because play is fun. What if I use this beach towel as a flying carpet to travel to London to have a tea party with some ole’ chaps? What if I use these pillows as stepping stones in order to safely cross over the hot lava? What if I use this flashlight for a game of midnight tag? Sadly, as adults, we slowly slip out of this stage. We become more serious and less silly. So much so that we actually start to believe that anything fun is for meant for kids. Working in an environment where play is not only an essential value, but is executed every day, I experience it first hand, “Would you like to play a game?”…..“Hold on, let me get my kids.” The challenge for us as museum educators becomes, how do we get our visitors to break down those pre-existing barriers, step out of their comfort zone and have a little fun?
What if we invite visitors to partake in a competitive scavenger hunt in the galleries?
What if we engage families in a conversation with a character out of an artwork?
The truth is, play is much more than fun. It is how we make connections and shape the actual understanding of the world by discovering things on our own-the ultimate DIY. Play should be in our museums. Play should be in our art. Play should be in our home, in our schools, in our work. Recently speaking at CMA the ultimate guru of play, George Szekely, so perfectly sums it up that, “creativity is not something you can mandate.” It’s not a matter of saying this is what you’re going to do today and this is how you’re going to do it. Ironic, isn’t it then, that we have created a culture where testing trumps tea parties and we develop and live by slogans such as “Work before Play”? Without placing importance on such things, we begin to develop a population of robotic-like citizens who are stuck on repeat, unable to think of the next step, unsure of how to push play—and that is not silly, that is just plain scary.
Play is a perfect invitation to a situation that sparks an appetite for fantasy, curiosity, wonder, and imagination. For every beach towel, pillow, or flashlight opens endless ideas and generates unforgettable, valuable experiences. So go ahead–ask someone to come out and play with you today–no matter what your age. I double-dog dare you.
Art Speaks. Join the Conversation.
Cassie Koehler, Family Programs Coordinator
Over the past 18 months, in preparation for opening CMA’s new Center for Creativity (on Jan. 1, 2011), the entire education staff immersed ourselves in research on creativity, particularly what is necessary to cultivate creativity. Musings from the Center for Creativity is an opportunity for us to share our thoughts on this topic. Please share your views and resources with us, as well.