In Boston’s Leading Hospitals, Nature Is Part of the Therapy

More interesting work being done to bring nature back into the healing process, this time in Boston…


Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital / Steinkamp Photography

In the 1908s, Roger Ulrich discovered hospital patients recover faster and request less pain medication when they have views of nature. Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, built on a former brownfield in Charleston’s Navy Yard, and MGH’s Yawkey Outpatient Center, both in Boston, seem to be guided by this essential finding.

At Spaulding, patients recovering from traumatic injury are rejuvenated by good medical care, but also sunlight, garden terraces, and views of the surrounding Charles, Mystic, and Chelsea Rivers. The hospital landscape is a multi-functional therapeutic space where therapists aid patients in the air and sun. In a tour of the 132-bed facility at the 2017 Greenbuild, Jeffrey Keilman, an architect with Perkins + Will and Sean Sanger, ASLA, principal at landscape architecture firm Copley Wolff Design Group explained how the facility heals, but is also one of the most sustainable and resilient…

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behavior · creativity · culture · environment · happiness · play

Karyn Lu: People & Places of Play – Creative Mornings Talk

This is an older talk, from 2013, but I loved seeing Karyn’s talk for Creative Mornings that discussed the value of adult play, providing some examples and play/art projects I hadn’t seen before, and especially in the Q&A section providing tips on how to become a play advocate in your 9-5 corporate job.

Check it out here:

Thank you to Creative Mornings for capturing this talk and sharing it publicly for everyone.

behavior · design · learning · Nature · play

The Fantastical World of Fairy Houses | The Etsy Blog

It is in our nature to pick up interesting rocks, sticks, and leaves as part of our exploration of our surroundings. Some people bring their treasures home and display them on a fireplace mantle or little shadow box.

For a husband and wife team, they have been turning their little finds into fairy houses, which is another playful way of exploring their surroundings and getting to engage in make believe play as a grown up. They are also one of the lucky few people who get to sell their play creations. They were interviewed on the Etsy blog about their creations:

Etsy: When did you make your first fairy house? And had you ever heard of one before you made one?

Debbie: I grew up writing poetry and playing musical instruments and I had always loved doing different kinds of crafts like making dolls, handmade books and cards. But no, we’d never really heard of fairy houses before we started doing this 25 years ago. At the time, our sons had just started going to grade school, and when I found I had more time to myself, I was excited to use my creative talents again. The first project I tried was making a full-size Adirondack chair; when that didn’t work out, Mike suggested that I try making a miniature chair instead. I used some materials I had gathered from a couple of acres near my mom and dad’s place in Washington, and it was so much fun I kept doing it.

Mike: We have always loved nature. When we would go for hikes, Debbie was always picking up things she found, so we already had quite a collection of wild grasses and flowers. And Debbie’s mom was our biggest mentor. She always said, “You have so much talent. I wish you would use your talent.” She really encouraged us.

more via The Fantastical World of Fairy Houses | The Etsy Blog.

How wonderful that Debbie’s mom continued to encourage to play and explore with creating these miniatures.

Have you ever built little fairy houses when you go for a walk? Or seen someone else’s creation? Do you build with LEGOs or other miniatures? Or K’nex (Connector) Sets or Lincoln Logs or other building set? Do you wish you still did? Share in the comments below.

behavior · brain · culture · health · play · Social

Play Doesn’t End With Childhood: Why Adults Need Recess Too | NPR

I’ve already shared this article via Twitter, but it is so important that I just had to re-share via my blog. If there was one mantra I would want to be known for it’s that adults need play. Humans need downtime. Humans need breathing room. Humans need play at any age!

A father and daughter try out a public park piano in Seattle, WA
A father and daughter try out a public park piano together in Seattle, WA

Childhood play is essential for brain development. As , time on the playground may be more important than time in the classroom.But playtime doesn’t end when we grow up. Adults need recess too.

The question is, why? To answer this question, Dr. Stuart Brown says we need to clearly define what play is. He’s head of a nonprofit called the National Institute for Play.

“Play is something done for its own sake,” he explains. “It’s voluntary, it’s pleasurable, it offers a sense of engagement, it takes you out of time. And the act itself is more important than the outcome.”

So, let’s take gambling, for instance. A poker player who’s enjoying a competitive card game? That’s play, says Brown. A gambling addict whose only goal is to hit the jackpot? Not play.

Brown says that children have a lot to learn from what he calls this “state of being,” including empathy, how to communicate with others, and how to roll with the punches.

read the whole article, including more insight from Stuart Brown, a long-time play research and advocate, via Play Doesn’t End With Childhood: Why Adults Need Recess Too : NPR Ed : NPR.

I have met and chatted briefly with Dr. Brown and read his work, and he has done some pretty interesting work on play over the years, using both primary and secondary research (I even cited him in my thesis).

I could easily go on a rant here as to why adult play is so important but so undervalued, but for now just read the article and leave any comments either here or on the actual article’s page.

architecture · community · creativity · environment · health · learning · play · youtube

Switzerland Opens its first Parkour Park – YouTube

The sport of Parkour is usually focused on finding your own path in non-planned environments. But having a space designated specifically for exploration is great for both beginners and veterans alike to practice seeing routes and trying new skills.

Traceurs and play advocates all over the world have been trying to start up parkour parks in various cities, so this is really exciting to see another one finally come to fruition after the hard work of local citizens. Well done!

Switzerland finally got their first Parkour park. The past 2 years the team “Parkour Luzern” was planning so hard to realize this project and finally Joel helped them to design and build the park. Jesse, Guilaume and Joel went there for training and now we are proud to put out the first video from this awesome location.

Grandstand Parkour Park

via Free-Z at Switzerland’s first Parkour Park – YouTube.

community · culture · play

I Played The World’s Largest Tetris Game | The Creators Project

A first-hand account of being involved in a large community-organized play event.

As much as I love Philadelphia, I never considered it a breeding ground for innovation, but over the past few years, the city has built up enough of a tech scene to spawn an entire week dedicated to celebrating it. To kick off its fourth year, Philly Tech Week gave locals the chance to play Tetris on the Cira Centre, a building conspicuous for bearing a grid of color changing LEDs that sometimes display the Phillies logo. It’s the second game Drexel University professor Frank Lee has brought to the Cira Centre, topping his giant Pong game last year. “What was gratifying for me about the Pong project last year was not that it was the world’s biggest videogame display, although that’s kind of cool. Rather, it was the sharing of the moment by the two people playing, the hundreds of people watching, and thousands of people across Philadelphia watching,” says Lee. Similarly, giant Tetris is more of an art project than a feat for the record books. Lee aims to create a social benefit, what he calls an “aesthetic of a shared moment.”

more details via I Played The World’s Largest Tetris Game | The Creators Project.

Just a fun side note: being part of a large collected effort, whether it’s volunteering at a beach cleanup or playing group Tetris, is very beneficial to mental health as well.

This past Saturday was International Pillow Fight Day, for example, and it received a lot of positive feedback from grown-ups who participated, even with the occasional mention of a hard hit. So pull out the cubes and let’s get it on!

anthropology · behavior · community · creativity · culture · happiness · play · Social

100 Seriously Fun Ways to Make Your Town More Playful | CommunityMatters

subway swing

Yes, yes, yes! This is so exciting! I love some of these ideas on how to encourage play in your community as a way of creating joy and growing community bonds:

Here’s our list of 75 100 ways that you can start making your city or town a playful place:

Join the CommunityMatters conference call on play and placemaking

  1. Join the CommunityMatters conference call on play and placemaking 
  2. Turn the subway into a swing set 
  3. Munch people with your eyes
  4. Turn your street into a Play Street 
  5. Let sidewalks be trampolines
  6. Play pong with traffic lights
  7. Transform a set of stairs into a piano
  8. Give pedestrians the keys to your city
  9. Host a hummingbirdman rally
  10. Embed games in public seating
  11. Think more like a roller coaster designer
  12. Rethink the public library as a place for play
  13. Start a citywide festival of play
  14. Challenge people to try alternative transportation
  15. Create a local currency, then turn it into a game
  16. Get all ethereal and make a playground in the air
  17. Install a swing just about anywhere
  18. Make a plan for engaging your community in play

see the first 74 via 75 Seriously Fun Ways to Make Your Town More Playful | CommunityMatters.

The other 25 were posted here, and included:

  1. Add cheer to the streets with tiny notes.
  2. Host a temporary tattoo parlor.
  3. Get out on the street with a popcorn machine.  Idea from @wemakegood
  4. Three words: Cardboard Animal Picnic. Inspired by Patrick McDonnell
  5. Stop standing and start sitting with bench bombing.
  6. Install a Givebox Idea from @wanderingzito
  7. Start a bell box mural project.
  8. Conduct pointless surveys.  Idea from @uncustomaryart
behavior · community · health · mental health

Pickleball, Anyone? Senior Athletes Play New Games And Old : NPR

Hazel Trexler-Campbell throws spray-painted horseshoes during the Senior Games in Cleveland on July 23. (Benjamin Morris for NPR)

Health and fitness is often focused on the young, to the point that as athletes age they often get discouraged that they can’t compete in their old sports anymore. Well fear not, young-at-heart! There is… the Senior Games, with different age brackets.

A lot of what you’d see at the National Senior Games looks familiar if you’ve ever watched the Summer Olympics: there’s track and field, basketball and swimming. At the Summer Olympics, however, you will not hear voices in the crowd cheering “Go, Grandma!”Everyone at these Games is over 50 and they play some sports that will likely never appear at the Olympics.

more via Pickleball, Anyone? Senior Athletes Play New Games And Old : NPR.

I JUST discovered the Senior Games this morning, and I’m already excited to sign up when I’m old enough to qualify – that’s only 20 years away, so I better start practicing. 🙂

But for those who already qualify, this is a great sporting event that should be shared out with more seniors. People like my dad, a lifelong athlete who tries to keep up with the young folks perhaps a bit too much, would make a killing in some of these events.

behavior · creativity · culture · happiness · health · mental health · play

Adults are reclaiming playtime

Dr. Norman Bethune (centre) watching a game of...
A lively game of checkers among friends (Photo credit: BiblioArchives / LibraryArchives)

From Dodgeball to pillow fights to roller derby, adults are reclaiming time to play in their lives:

It was all fun and games until someone smacked Don Norman in the head — hard — with a feather pillow. Walking into his first two-hour “Playing in the Deep” session, a weekly organized event in Portland, Maine that engages stressed-out grownups in childlike activities, Norman, a 48-year-old database administrator, didn’t know what to expect. Then he saw the pillows, a big pile of them, stacked high. Everyone around him grabbed one and was suddenly roughhousing like over-caffeinated kids at summer camp. Someone handed him his own pillow, but he simply held on to it, too inhibited to let his freak flag fly. He considered bolting.

“And then I got hit!” Norman recalls. “I figured, ‘If they’re going to hit me, I’ll hit them!’ By the end of the night, I was running around like a madman, and I forgot all about my self-consciousness. I forgot about everything. It was liberating.”

“I’ve seen a steady increase in invitations for adult play,” says game designer and self-proclaimed “fun theorist” Bernie De Koven, author of The Well-Played Game. “Now that we no longer have the same sense of community at work or in our neighborhoods as we did twenty or thirty years ago, these opportunities for play are filling the gap.”

The events may consist of kiddie games, but there’s often a serious psychological, even spiritual purpose behind them. “People need to feel they’re connected to other people,” says Cary Umhau, the cofounder of Spacious, who says she was inspired by the adage “Love Thy Neighbor.” “Most people are trying to numb themselves out from just the pain of life. If they don’t have addictions, they spend much of their life watching TV. They need places to come together, to step out of the box and out of their social silo.”

more via Stories: Playing For Keeps – Life Reimagined.

More and more adults are understanding the psychological benefits to playing and making time to let their hair down (or pull it up into a ponytail and go hog wild!), from less sick days to a larger community to helping solve a project problem at work. Even if it’s something as small as giving the barista a silly name the next time you order coffee (I am Batman!), it’s enough to get your brain cells firing and keep it healthy.

How do you squeeze in playtime for yourself? Share your ideas in the comments below.

anthropology · behavior · environment · Social

Letting the seasons influence work hours

English: New York, New York. Newsroom of the N...
Do you find yourself more or less productive during certain times of the year? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In this blog I often talk about play and creating space for play in our busy lives.  A recent article in Good magazine discussed the idea of changing our work habits to match the seasons, making more room for play (or at least less work time) in the summer:

Jason Fried, CEO of 37Signals, recently wrote for the New York Times that his company’s work schedules change with the seasons.

“For example, from May through October, we switch to a four-day workweek. And not 40 hours crammed into four days, but 32 hours comfortably fit into four days. We don’t work the same amount of time, we work less.”

We work less, he says. I can imagine it’s pretty easy to get buy-in for that idea around the office.

“When there’s less time to work, you waste less time. When you have a compressed workweek, you tend to focus on what’s important. Constraining time encourages quality time.”

This is a pretty rare set-up, but I have worked at places where they did offer 4 10-hour days in the summer, or 4 9-hour days and a half day on Friday, or some other kind of flexibility so people could take advantage of the nice weather. Europeans will often take a month off in later summer for vacation.

First, I think this is a great idea, and I think Fried makes a good argument that with less work time, people will prioritize work and really get the essential stuff done. From an anthropologist’s perspective, however, this dichotomy of summer equaling less time in the office, and theoretically less work, I find somewhat interesting, since as humans we traditionally tend to be MORE active and alert when we have more sunlight. In winter there was traditionally less food and worse weather conditions, so we would stay inside, hunkering down with our tribe or family, and maybe catch up on repairing clothing or tools. Late spring (when it stays light the longest) and late summer/early fall (just after the hottest temperatures) was a time of planting, hunting, gathering, harvesting, and getting stores up for the long winter months.

Today, we still hunker down inside during the colder months, but I find it interesting that this has translated into a tendency to stay inside busy over paperwork or computer work while summer, our traditionally busier work time, has become a time associated with leisure and play, or at least that’s what many of us would like it to be.

What are your thoughts? Do you like the idea of having work schedules that adjust with the seasons? Do you find yourself more or less productive in summer or winter, ignoring factors like kids home from school, etc.? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.