My Year of Play

Last April I attended the 2015 LEGO Idea Conference in Billund, Denmark as a Innovation Pioneer. codeSpark received an invitation from the LEGO Foundation as one of 30 companies “Re-imagining Learning” globally. I happily went as visiting the home of LEGO was very high on my personal bucket list.

The attendees were an incredible array of educators, researchers, social entreprenuers and policy makers. The theme of the conference was introducing play into formal learning environments — something we support unconditionally.

A huge and growing body of research shows kids (and adults!) learn many things best through play. Formal instruction has its place of course but the more we can work play into our lives the better off we are. I’ll comment more on specific research later — the most important part of my experience at the conference was a new found resolve to play everyday, at work and at home.

At work we implemented “Board Game Fridays” where every Friday at lunch we would play a new game as a team. This has been both surprisingly fun and a fantastic bonding experience. We also spend 15 mins or so at most other lunches telling each other about fun apps or games we are playing.

At home we did two things immediately. During dinner each night we started playing games like “20 questions” and we changed Friday night from movie night to game night. I got board game and card game recommendations from friends and spent about $50 on new games on Amazon. Playing as a family is a bit of a challenge because our kids are 14, 9 and 7. Fortunately we are learning there are more cool choices that span a broad age range than we would have thought.

I’m constantly amazed at how much fun we have while playing these games! And more importantly we have deep conversations about everything from what’s happening at school to national politics. These conversations happened before but now they are more frequent and more meaningful.

Our favorite games right now are a card game called Sushi Go and a board game called Survive.

Sushi Go allows for a few winning strategies but you generally need to commit to one early on. It’s fascinating to watch my kids pick and refine their strategies from game to game.

Survive is clever resource management game (the player who saves the most people wins) that is beautifully designed. The more you play the crazier the board gets and it give my kids great satisfaction to eat my people with a sea monster or a shark.

I’m personally enjoying my new focus on play so much that I’m about to double down on playing everyday. I now make sure to play both by myself and with others at least 3–4 days a week and I’m wondering why I didn’t go down this path sooner.

I’m going to stay dedicated to this pursuit of play for a minimum of one year and will provide updates from time to time. If you have questions or ideas for future posts please let me know!

Hmmmm, maybe I can figure a safe way to play in my car?

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