It sounds a bit extreme to think we could change the world by helping our community get better at play. But we really believe it.
Play is at it’s core, pure fun. There’s a million benefits of play – but we don’t play because we want to get better at interacting with people or want practice negotiating turn taking or are working to improve our physical abilities. We do it because it’s intrinsically enjoyable. Making play the perfect vehicle for shifting a culture.
Now, imagine a tiny little town, with say, 200 people in it. 30 of those people are under 18, and most of them would only come to a play space with an adult in tow. If all of those people come once, that’s already 30% of the entire community – and many of those folks would come regularly. If we train seniors to volunteer, that ignites another chunk of the population in the ideology. Collaborating with various services for the community engages even more. Which means pretty quickly, we have a high likelihood of shifting a majority of the community’s perspective.
And since we’re implementing this initiative in our small town, doing it based in research and with plans to study our outcomes, we hope this can become a replicable model for play spaces in small communities across the country. Meaning our entire country’s perspective could be shifted.
Sounds good to us.
You may wonder what we want to shift. Really all the things that ail our world – but what we think will help most is how people connect with one another. We want to help our community improve how we have conversations, disagree, navigate conflict, and manage emotions. We want to support our neighbors in problem solving. We want to ask questions where we listen to the response instead of plan our own rebuttal.
But before all of this, we need to bring people together. All the people – regardless of religion or political affiliation or neighborhood or background – and we can’t think of a better way to do that than through play. With proper staff training and the creation of an engaging, accessible space – the friendships that spring up among adults and kids alike who otherwise may never have even met each other will create conversations and relationships that have more power than anything else to change the world.