Benefits of play


In a previous post we discussed the relationship between movement and learning. In this post we will look at the benefits of play. When you are using games the team members are participating in play. Here is one quote about play.

Play allows children to use their creativity while developing their imagination, dexterity, and physical, cognitive, and emotional strength. Play is important to healthy brain development.

Ginsburg, Kenneth R., (2010) page 183

The following video has a different take on play but certainly illustrates creativity and imagination.

So what are some of the other benefits of play.

…it [play] allows children to develop creativity and imagination while developing physical, cognitive, and emotional strengths… Play enhances physical health by building active, healthy bodies… Play contributes to healthy brain development… In addition, play and recess may increase children’s capacity to store new information, as their cognitive capacity is enhanced when they are offered a drastic change in activity… Play is essential to developing social and emotional ties…It teaches them leadership as well as group skills that may be useful in adult life.

Milteer & Ginsberg (2011)

This quote lists a tremendous number of benefits of play. Playing is important to our daily lives and our maturation. So can play be just as beneficial to adults. The following TED talk continues to look at play as being more than fun. It also looks at play as an important endeavour throughout the life span. Stuart feels that play should be constantly part of our lives.

Adding games to team training adds play to the lives of all of the team members. It can be a very beneficial addition to the program for so many reasons.


Ginsburg, Kenneth R. ‘The Importance of Play in Promoting Healthy Child Development and Maintaining Strong Parent-Child Bonds’, Pediatrics 2007;119;182 (

Milteer, R.M. & Ginsburg, K.R., ‘The Importance of Play in Promoting Healthy Child Development and Maintaining Strong Parent-Child Bond: Focus on Children in Poverty’ Published online December 26, 2011PEDIATRICS Vol. 129 No. 1 January 1, 2012, pp. e204 -e213

The importance of knowing names – part 1

Lots of people are talking about how important it is to know a person’s name. When ‘knowing someone’s name ‘ was placed into a Google search, almost 15 million results were received. So using Icebreakers with the goal to learn someone’s name seems to be very important to explore.

a person's name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language

So what are the physiological responses involved that provide the foundation on which we decided to use icebreakers? What effect does it have on us as individuals to have someone else know our name. There are three different components that will be reviewed in three posts:

  • What is my reaction to hearing my name?
  • What happens when you don’t know someone’s name?
  • How it feels to be able to call someone by their own name?

This post looks at the first question – What is my reaction to hearing my name? According to Holeckova and colleagues: “Hearing one’s own first name automatically elicits a robust electrophysiological response, even in conditions of reduced consciousness like sleep.”  Camody and Lewis found “evidence that hearing one’s own name has unique brain functioning activation specific to one’s own name in relation to the names of others”. These findings indicate that we have a strong physiological response to hearing our name. So our names would seem to be much more than a label to us.

a number of names

When we are in a crowd, “we turn towards a conversation when we hear our name (or some other highly relevant information) mentioned, even if this event takes place in a multi-source environment and in some distance”. (Wolvin, 2010) This is often referred to as the cocktail party effect.

And it isn’t just hearing our first name. Tacikowski & Nowicka conducting a study using the full name of the participants, found “that different kinds of self-related cues, such as self-name and self-face, activate a similar amount of attentional resources… We found that it is the meaning of the stimuli, i.e., the fact they denote us (‘It’s me!’)… that is crucial for the involvement of the attentional resources.”

So whether we hear our first name or our whole name, there are unique responses that occur in our brains. Our names are very important to us.


Carmody, D.P. & Lewis, M. ‘Brain activation when hearing one’s own and other’s names’ in  Brain Res. 2006 October 20; 1116(1): 153–158.

Holeckova I, Fischer C, Giard MH, Delpuech C, & Morlet D., ‘Brain responses to a subject’s own name uttered by a familiar voice‘, in Brain Res. 2006 Apr 12;PubMed1082(1):142-52.

Tacikowski, P. & Nowicka, A. ‘Allocation of attention to self-name and self-face: An ERP study‘, in, Biological Psychology 84 (2010) 318–324

Wolvin, Alvin D. (ed), (2010) Listening and Human Communication in the 21st Century, Wiley Blackwell, Malden, MA, U.S.A.

Learning with games and fun on the agenda

Team building is seen as a serious endeavour. So why would you want to add games and fun to this environment?

According to Maarten van Aalst, the director of the Red Cross/Red Crescent Climate Centre, “Games are an excellent means to get through often complex messages of scientists and can help bring about real change”. When playing games, the participants are learning.

In 2009, Volkswagon initiated program. They have created a contest and a web site which has the aim to:

This site is dedicated to the thought that something as simple as fun is the easiest way to change people’s behaviour for the better. Be it for yourself, for the environment, or for something entirely different, the only thing that matters is that it’s change for the better.

In the video below, a research team decided to use fun as a means of increasing the use of the recycling bin on the street.

Games add an element of fun to your team building program. Through this fun, you can lighten the serious mood and re-engage the participants with the subject matter. In addition games help the team members to both create and strengthen social ties with their fellow team members. This is turn helps to unite them in their learning.

Here is another way that a fun theory team found to alter human behaviour. This is a new way to do an old behaviour. Putting rubbish in the bin has not always been top priority for everyone. But add a bit of fun and it can become so.

We may not want the games in training sessions to radically change behaviour but we do want them to change into effective team members. How well we achieve this goal depends on:

  • the quality of the games being played
  • the fit of the games to the needs of the team members
  • what games are best for that stage of the team development cycle
  • the choice of game based on the goals of the team and/or the training session during which the game is played
  • the participation level of team members.

Why use games in team building

There are many reasons for using games in your team building program. The most important reason for most facilitators is that games can add an element of fun. In the other training activities, fun may not be the foremost goal. Games can entice team members to become involved. Team members will interact with each other in a different type of activity from the rest of the training program. Thus, games bring them together in a new situation. While participating, they get to know another side to their team mates.


Some of the other reasons are listed below.

  • Participating in games provides team members with an opportunity for movement that can be sadly lacking in the daily training/school routine.
  • Physical activity/movement promotes an increase in brain activity and re-energises the body.
  • Both increased brain, muscle activity lead to increased blood flow that will both refocus attention and improve the individual’s mood.
  • Any change in activity level will refresh participants and offset boredom. This is often called a brain break.
  • There is some evidence that goes further to say that if the games require movement that encourage participants to be active they can improve learning, concentration and memory.
  • Interactive games  build relationships between team members.
  • Games can provide a structured, interesting activity where participants are unconsciously learning team building concepts
  • In the developing of relationships, team members can get to know one another and start to trust one another while having fun.
  • Games can be educative in subtle but effective ways.
  • All games can help develop a range of communication skills and some require use of literacy and numeracy skills.
  • Good educational games can be motivational and promote a range of higher order thinking skills such as:
    • creative thinking (as found in the energiser and team bonding games)
    • problem solving and analytical thinking skills (icebreakers, energisers, team bonding and trust games)
    • collaborative, cooperative thinking plus negotiation skills (team bonding and trust)
    • reflective, evaluative and critical thinking (closure games).