Second Assignment for Medicine and the Arts (FutureLearn MOOC in association with the University of Cape Town)

Games for Children or Team Building for Adults?

In the past, even more than today, strict boundaries were imposed between children’s play and the games, sports and hobbies that adults participate in. Amongst adults, there is still much distinction made between productive, often masculine-focussed, hobbies such as team sports and those creative activities that produce items of calculable value, and creative activities that are done purely to pass time or to make something purely decorative – seen in previous eras as mostly feminine activities. Likewise, structured adult games of skill or chance emphasise the intellectual and social attributes required, while those aimed at children emphasise the fun to be had, even when marketed as ‘educational’.

I’d like to argue that the boundaries are often more blurred than we’d like to think. In a previous job, I worked in both sales and regulatory roles, while running a Brownie Unit of up to 20 girls aged seven to ten years in my spare time. GIrlguiding has moved on a long way since I was first a Brownie, and now the girls are expected to do most of the planning for their weekly activities, while the adult leaders facilitate the process. One method of planning that some of the girls loved was Mind Mapping. This technique was originally developed for adults to solve complex problems alone or in groups, but it also seems to be a fun way for children to come up with ideas for different activities around a common theme.

Children also love creating collages by cutting up magazines and sticking the different images onto a background to create a new picture. I’ve used collage at a sales meeting where sales team members were complaining that a multipage detailer didn’t explain the products in a logical order. Groups were given scissors, backing paper and glue and asked to create a more user-friendly detailer. Not only were the complainers better able to express what the problems and solutions were, but they were able to relax after complex presentations on new product lines and just have fun for a while.

On a similar theme, I once attended a management meeting where we were asked to write down good and bad points of a number of company policies on sticky notes and then arrange them on areas of the wall designated for each topic. Everyone looked blank until I pointed out that I’d seen a similar activity demonstrated at a Brownie Leaders’ training session for us to take back to our Units, and if the activity was simple enough for a group of under-tens to be expected to understand it, my fellow managers should have no trouble doing the same.

In conclusion, I’m very happy to see a blurring of boundaries between adults and children’s concepts of play. If more adults could enjoy simple games, they would find their lives less stressful and might make the lives of those around them more pleasant too.

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