Are You in Touch with Your Play Personality?

My three-year-old son loves to play “Bob the Builder”. He has a hard hat, several “tools”, and always has a project in the works. Currently, he is building an exercise room for his Mommy on the side of our house.

We all know that children love to play. But do we understand the importance of play for our children? It is especially important for children from a hard place.

Children from a hard place may not know how to play because they were in dangerous environments. We may need to teach them how to play.Dr. Karyn Purvis

The question is can you teach them how to play if you don’t play anymore? Are you in touch with your play personality?

Dr. Stuart Brown wrote a book, Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul that outlines eight play personalities.

The Joker

The “joker” play personality represents the most obvious and often the most extreme style of playful parent.  It is an inherently fun, silly, nonsensical style of play, and can even be sometimes outrageous.  It starts when children are very young, with parents engaging children in ‘baby talk’ and other forms of childishness, and graduates through the years to include the ‘class clown’ and those who enjoy practical jokes and even acting downright foolish.

The Kinesthete

The focus of this play personality is movement.  This includes athletes and those who are most alive when they are on the move walking, running, swimming, hiking, dancing, etc.  For those with this play personality, the focus is not so much on winning or losing a game, but simply being engaged in physical activity. The added benefit of this type of play is that these activities are great for the child’s brain and can often give much-needed sensory inputs.

The Explorer

Exploring is the preferred means of play for those with this play personality.  Exploring can be physical (as in going to new places) or it can be intellectual (discovering new ideas or information), relational (meeting new people), or emotional (searching for a new response to music, art, or a story).

The opposite of play is not work. It is depression.  Dr. Stuart Brown

The Competitor

This play personality enters the world of play through engaging in competitive games with the object of winning.  This can be done in a small group setting (i.e., one-on-one with your child) or as part of a larger group (i.e., team sports/games).  Those with this type of play personality like to keep score and typically they like to finish on top.  However, it is important that the focus remain on the play and the resulting fun, not the winning and losing.  For example, a parent can play any number of sports with her child.  The parent can also take up a board game (e.g., family game night) or on a limited basis play the child’s favorite video or online game with him or her.

The Director

Planning, organizing, and orchestrating scenes and events are what marks this play personality.  Homemade movies, amateur music recordings, planning a party, cooking a large meal for the holidays, and so much more.  For this play personality, the world is but a puppet and the parent holds the strings.  For example, a mom with a large family can recruit all of the willing (and even some of the semi-willing) kids to star in the family’s own production of The Sound of Music.

The Collector

This play personality is all about assembling and/or maintaining a collection of interesting objects or experiences.  Collecting can be done all alone or with others who have similar interests.  For example, a parent can engage in play with his child by becoming interested in collecting whatever is popular with kids at the time, or inviting his child to become interested in (and help him expanded) his collection of sports trading cards, Star Wars figures, etc.  Likewise, a parent can engage in this style of play with a child that is fascinated in animals and decide to embrace that interest by taking his child to zoos all over the country…or even around the world.

The Artist/Creator

Making things is the focus and source of joy for this play personality.  Think arts and crafts of virtually any kind as well as inventing, designing, decorating, and constructing.  These creations can be functional, artistic, or simply playful.  Whatever the purpose, the point is to create something.  For example, a mom can set aside time to help her children draw, paint or design.  A dad can invite his child into the garage to help him design, plan, and build play house or toy box.

The Storyteller

This play personality focuses on imagination.  It may be the predominant personality for those who love to read, write, draw cartoons, or watch movies.  Those with this play personality are able to create an imaginative world that can permeate almost any activity or context.  For example, the dad who plays basketball with his son in the driveway but rather than focusing on the score or the outcome of the game, transforms the game into a one-on-one contest of Larry Bird vs. Magic Johnson.  In his best announcer’s voice, he narrates a game filled with astounding plays, tense moments, and heroic last-second shots.

Play can be bring down the chemistry of fear and raise up the chemistry of healing in their brains.  Dr. Karyn Purvis

Danielle and I are learning that by playing with our son, we can connect better, help him learn how to self-regulate, help his brain fully develop, and even discipline more effectively.

What is your play personality? It could be more than one. Mine is a combo of Joker, Competitor, and Storyteller.

I am a longtime Austinite. Married my beautiful wife over 25 years ago. Adopted our son September 2012. Currently a writer and loving it. Previous jobs and careers include project management, missionary, and pastor. I enjoy sports (both watching and playing), traveling, reading, digging in dirt and hanging with my friends and family.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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3 thoughts on “Are You in Touch with Your Play Personality?

  1. I see more creativity with my kids as far as making up stories or making up jokes. I think I’m too serious at times which is really outside of my character. Before kids I was a real jokester. I don’t know what really changed? I do recognize I need to lighten up ! My kids are great at getting me to do so.

    • Veleka, I know Danielle and I can both relate to wondering what changed about ourselves after becoming parents! I know you have that ability to be a fun jokester and storyteller. I know your kids love it when you play with them like that.