We aren’t born with playful minds, we create them.

Play is our greatest natural resource. In the end, it comes down to playing with our capacity for human potential. Why would we ever want to limit it? In a second post in a new series, produced by Frog Design,  The Four Secrets of Playtime That Foster Creative Kids  the author states:

There is a myth, common in American culture, that work and play are entirely separate activities. I believe they are more entwined than ever before. As the Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget once said, Play is the answer to how anything new comes about. A playful mind thrives on ambiguity, complexity, and improvisation; the very things needed to innovate and come up with creative solutions to the massive global challenges in economics, the environment, education, and more… Essentially, while players may feel empowered in the game; designers are empowered by making the game?and that has huge ramifications for society. The former works well when rules and boundaries are important to follow (as in an industrial economy). The latter is better suited for a complex future that constantly redefines reality (as in the creative economy). How then can we get our youngest generation to embrace the role of designer rather than player? The answer may lie in four foundational pillars of play: open environments, flexible tools, modifiable rules, and superpowers.

Open Environments

An open environment is not the same as an enriched one: being open does not mean providing more stimuli. Rather, open environments are those in which the learner  gets to be the author and the medium is open to interpretation.

Flexible Tools

Part of being open is being flexible. Technology has given us a whole new set of tools, though they’re being used in ways not necessarily planned for. Phone cameras, for example, have created an army of roaming reporters who upload news as it happens. The fact that people can find different ways of using technology?and that the technology is flexible enough to allow for this exploration?is the key for innovation and invention.

Modifiable Rules

Being open and flexible within parameters is necessary and even helpful, but what happens when the parameters themselves no longer fit our needs? Should learners be able to change the rules? John De Matteo, a teacher at Manhattan Academy of Technology (MAT)  adds,

Classroom management is important, he says. But it’s not more important than raising a student body who can do things for themselves and think freely. If [students] see a school that has all this opportunity laid out for them, they realize the possibilities are endless. As long as we are constantly forcing them to do activities, even though they learn, when they get out on their own they aren’t going to be able to think for themselves.


Superpowers…are the physical and mental skills that we develop to adapt and thrive in a complex world while exploring the creative opportunities made possible by global progress. (See “Our FUN-damental Superpowers,” at left.) Superpowers offer an easily articulated medium for children, parents, and teachers that is both playful and purposeful. Fundamentally, they are skills reframed as a type of power within the realm of human possibility and reach. Superpowers are the catalysts that maximize the benefits of the other three foundational pillars. Simply stated, they are the pivotal piece in turning a game player into a game designer.


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