Monday, June 30, 2008

Is play much more important than we realized?

One of my favorite wildlife stories is the wild (and said to be very hungry ) 1200-pound polar bear that came to play--every night for a week--with tethered sled dogs. The director of the national institute for play gives a great presentation on the event.

polar bear hugs husky sled dog in snow
Great photos, inspiring moments

German photographer and frequent National Geographic contributor Norbert Rosing took these photos, and Stuart Brown on Speaking of Faith describes the play that happened in this inspiring video. Brown is a psychiatrist who specializes in the study of the evolution of human and animal play, and the founder of the National Institute for Play.

polar bear playfully reaches out to play with dog

What's so great about play?

Brown points out (Why Didn't the Wild Polar Bear eat the Husky?) that if you've ever thrown a Frisbee with a dog, you knows playfulness is inter-species. Play can be a universal kind of training and language of trust. Knowing you are safe with another is a trust formed over time by engaging in regular play. Trust brings about intimacy, cooperation, creativity, successful work, and more.

Play is also a great way to connect when there is an age difference. In my work with kids and youth volunteers through New Reality Delivery, Improv play has shown itself as a great way of connecting and communicating as equals.

polar bear lays down and invites sled dog to play
Video (from a different situation) of this kind of playing:

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