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  • Foto van schrijverPieter Derycke

Play and skill acquisition - part 1

In the following blogs I’ll try to make a case for using play in motor skill acquisition.

Play is often the thing you train for, to goal of the exercises you do, and the end point in a rehabilitation. As movement teachers, we often start with learning a basic skill, repeating it often to make it automatic, then integrate it with other basic skills, combining the basic building blocks of motor skills, and finally, in the end, allow our students to play with the skills. First you work, then you play, seems to be the motto.

I’ll try to argue that this is not necesserily the best way to teach motor skills (or, if you’re not a movement teacher, to learn skills). I think we should use play from the beginning.

Play is needed in motor skill acquisition, right from the start!

Some of the arguments that we’ll explore in the following blogs:

  • Play is the natural mammalian learning mode.

  • Play enhances ‘deep’ learning and thus skill transfer.

  • Play ensures optimal movement variability.

  • Play feeds the homunculus.

  • Play increases compliance.

  • Play benefits people in pain.

If I’m through all my arguments, I hope you will understand that play makes everybody a better mover, more adaptive, more inventive and also more injury proof.

As movement teachers, I think we rely to much on work, and should use play more. In my profession (physical therapy) we give the patients homework they have to do a certain amount of time or repetitions at a certain frequency. This does not mean work is bad, and play can be very serious and intense.

I’d like to end by modifying a frequently used proverb, attributed to Benjamin Franklin, although still very much in the same spirit as the original:

“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, let me play, and I learn.”

Untill next time, play it cool…



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