The Science Is Clear: Play Is Critical for Children’s [development] and Improves Well-Being for Adults
Play is state of mind that one has when absorbed in an activity that provides enjoyment and a suspension of sense of time. And play is self-motivated so you want to do it again and again.
The characteristics of play all have to do with motivation and mental attitude, not with … the behavior itself.
National Institute for Play, California https://www.nifplay.org/
Context: We have just had our September Zoom meeting and one of the participants mentioned that she felt her inquiry had provided opportunities for play. There seemed to be agreement amongst other particiipants that our inquiries provided opportunities for play.
I began to think about my own inquiry formed around the cultivation wildflowers and encouragement for natural wildflower regeneration for insect pollinators and how much the idea of playing featured whenever I’m outside doing stuff in and with nature. Clearly there has been a signficant element of work – for example the sustained physical effort of digging up the matted roots of grasses to create patches of bare soil for sowing. But there are also elements of play within the activities – for example just wandering and looking and listening and experiencing the wildflowers in my garden without worrying about time, is for me, a form of play. Perhaps the play is the reward for work and perhaps the opportunities for play are what sustains commitment in the end?
Concepts: Play is defined as a intrinsically motivated activities done for recreational pleasure and enjoyment  Brown  defines play as experiences that meet the following criteria: purposeless, voluntary, fun, outside of time (i.e., a flow state), less self-conscious, improvisational, and with a continuation desire (i.e., a desire to continue doing it once we have started). All aspects of my project would be contained within these characteristics except for the idea of purposeless which intuitively seems to me to be wrong. Much of my play as a child was grounded in the idea of exploring and discovery, or winning or getting better at something. My project to cultivate wildflowers is being undertaken for a purpose beyond myself ie to help nature, and that is is a deeper purpose than merely recreational.
The California-based National Institute for Play describes seven contexts and patterns for playI can recognise three of these within my own activities
1 Attunement Play – through which I have been able to develop a deeper connection and relationship with the natural world of which I am a part
2 Creative Play – through which I have been able to create representations and artefacts with aesthetic appeal for example through my photographs and movies. One might argue that the very production of a wildflower garden from a field dominated by grasses is a playful but purposeful act of creative play within which elements of work are integrated.
3 Storytelling – the production of stories (my blog posts and presentationsand my movies) describing, interpreting and reflecting on my experiences to share with myself and others.
Brown  identifies eight play personalities (Table 1). In truth, we mix these types depending on the context and, for what it’s worth, I can see in the context of my inquiry aspects of Explorer, Director, Collector (I would use Curator), Storyteller and Creator. Last night I helped set up a Moth Trap in my garden with an ecologist friend and early this morning we spent several hours examining and identifying the moths that had been trapped. It felt like play with a purpose, more than recreational and not like work.
Table 1 Play Personalities according to Stuart 
The Joker – plays with and through humour
The Kinesthetic - plays through body movement that celebrates the body’s presence and movement in the world.
The Explorer/Investigator - plays through learning. They want to know and understand. This type of play is a way of exploring and orienting to the world.
The Competitor – play in order to win or prove themselves against others
The Director - plays through building systems, processes and organizing. People who enjoy playing in this way find the experience of organizing, arranging, and directing as intrinsically satisfying.
The Collector - collectors are appreciators. They spend energy hunting, acquiring, and building a collection of useful, attractive, or interesting things or objects including gardeners who create botanically wonderous landscapes.
The Storyteller feels the release of play through telling and listening to stories. They are the authors and the novel readers, but more so – they are people who craft narratives from ordinary life.
The Creator - the creative person is inherently at play when they create. Whether it’s a traditional artist who paints, sculpts, or draws or nontraditional creators like landscape contractors, model railroad builders, crafters, and even aquarium owners, people who delight in imagining new ideas and bringing them to life are all enjoying the play style of creator.
I agree that play is a ‘state of mind’ and if we have the attitude we will find affordances for play in almost any aspect of our life. I think this is a characteristic of human creativity and I have been very fortunate in my life to find endless opportunity to play in the different roles I have inhabited. My job often became my hobby as well and that was all I needed to keep me engaged.
Whether I like it of not (and others I’m sure will feel the same) I tend to see situations (including work) as opportunities for play. What I've concluded from my own project is that what might be described as work, like the laborious digging and weeding I’ve done was interspersed and offset by other things I've done that are most definitely playful and enjoyable.
My realisation is that its the integration of these two modes enable me to stick at it and ultimately create the value for nature and myself that I'm trying to achieve... I am very happy to posit this as a theory for enabling some people to sustain commitment to significant tasks, that require investment of a lot of time, energy and resource. Such a theory could be framed using a phrase like:
While recognising that some people may see play as inappropriate for the serious challenge of living and learning for a more sustainable future, some people might appreciate the value of integrating play amongst the strategies they use to sustain their commitment to achieving this goal. In this way they utilise opportunity for creativity and in the process they enhance their own wellbeing.
One of the most signficant lessons for me has been the growing awareness that through my actions to help nature I am not separate from nature, I am part of nature with an important role to play in helping nature achieve its potential to recreate itself and in the process I contribute to my own formation.
1 Garvey, C. (1990). Play. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.
2 Brown S (2009) Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul New York: Penguin Group.
3 National Institute for Play. "The Science – Patterns of Play" https://www.nifplay.org/what-is-play/types-of-play/