The role of playing in workshops


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The Role of Playing in Workshops

For a child, creativity is expressed in play-- and play is how they learn. As adults, however, we often lose that flexibility of mind and the desire to play, even though it is still one of the most effective tools in building social connections and learning.

SpeakerHub Quote: Play is possible one of the quickest and most effective ways of learning

“The truth is that play seems to be one of the most advanced methods nature has invented to allow a complex brain to create itself.”

-Stuart Brown, scientist and author of “Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul"

In this article we explore why playing is important for adult learning and how to add an element of play into your workshops to make them more engaging, more effective and more fun.

There is a growing amount of scientific research — from neurophysiology, developmental and cognitive psychology, to animal play behavior, and evolutionary and molecular biology – about play. The patterns and states of play shape our brains, teach us, create social connections and heighten our emotions.

SpeakerHub Quote: Playing utilizes a lot of different parts of our brains, which is why it is so effective

Why Play?

  • We learn better when we’re having fun.

  • Playing boosts creativity.

  • People learn more effectively through healthy competition.

  • Play helps develop our social skills.

  • Playing encourages people see things from different angles.

SpeakerHub Quote: Playing in workshops can help changes perspectives

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There are hundreds of game ideas that can be found online (a great resource is Businessballs’ extensive list of experiential learning games, found here.)

Here are some things you will need to consider when choosing a game to play in your workshop:

  • The size of your group
  • Any cultural differences (for example, touching strangers in not acceptable or comfortable in some cultures)
  • The mobility of your group
  • The amount of space you have to work with
  • The preparation and supplies needed to play the game
  • How much time you have (for example, a 45-minute game might not fit into a 4hr workshop)

3 Examples of How to Play in a Workshop

SpeakerHub Quote: Example of a simple game you can play in a training session or workshop

Simple: Locate + Interview
Give a delegate someone else’s name tag. He/she needs to find the other person, interview him, and introduce him to the group. It’s a great fun and forces delegates to approach new people.

SpeakerHub Quote: Example of a slightly more complex game you can play in a training session or workshop

Intermediate: Human Knot

This game shows people that they are in the best position to solve their own problems rather than outsiders. Two people from the group are asked to leave the room. The group forms a circle, holding each other by the hand. They should then “tie” themselves together without letting go of the hands, into a firm knot. The two people who have left the room are invited back in and, giving only verbal instructions, try to “untie” the knot. Get them to try this for 2-3 minutes (usually, it will not solve the problem.) Restart the activity and ask the two people to join the group this time. Now ask the group to de-tangle itself: it should take about 20 seconds. Added bonus: encourage people to relate the game to their own lives or projects.

SpeakerHub Quote: Example of a complex game you can play in a training session or workshop

Advanced: Roleplaying

Write down a prepared brief: either in the form of a situation or perspective and hand out to the different people in the group. Each person will have an objective they want to fulfil,  which may well be in conflict with the other players. Ask the group to observe how each role player handles the situations and as a follow up have the group suggest ways that the situation could have been handled differently. Have the group reflect and feedback what they felt when playing the role.

What games and activities have you tried in your workshops? What were the advantages or disadvantages? Do you have advice for readers who are looking to add a bit of play to their group sessions? We’d love to hear your ideas, contact us here.


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