When did you last play with something?

  14th September, 2018 By An Coppens

Yesterday I was chatting about how I tend to play with something to figure out how it works. The person I was talking to commented on how I named it playing. For me, it made total sense to call it this and it feels for me like play. I know when it is something new, I may not get it the first time and may need to find how I should work it. It was interesting to have pointed out that my natural inclination was to call it playing.

When we play, we also unconsciously learn. Trying out a new game or playing with some new software, gadgets, toys or doing something completely different than you usually do, encourages active learning in a very conscious way. You know and probably expect to have to learn in order to master the ‘new’ thing you are doing.

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I could have called it learning a new skill, but to me trying out a new tool, didn’t qualify for learning just yet. However, if it takes a bit of a steep learning curve, I will eventually change my wording towards learning or mastering. I can safely say for example that I may have originally played around with Zoho CRM to get my head around how it works, eventually, I took webinars, went to their conference and looked for specific help files to learn how to make the most of it.

The discussion made me think what is it that makes the difference and is there significance in calling something play and only later learning. Is there maybe something in this? Play happens spontaneously and often unconsciously. Children intuitively learn through playing. For me exploring a new tool or thing feels like playing. I am in the end just pressing buttons and taking steps to find out what the impact is when I do something in my new tool. I know I may not get it right or discover a great new way of working with something. By calling it playing in my mind I allow myself to get it wrong. As soon as I call it learning, I feel as if I should find the right way of doing it.

It may just be a personal thing, but I guess words have meaning and can create associated behaviours.

What do you say when you are trying out a new thing, are you playing with it or learning how to work it?

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