Sunday, October 16, 2011

What is fun?

If you can’t see or hear the video, I’ll break down for you what Michael Shore says about fun.

First, in his years of studying children, fun, and play (he is the President of Worldwide Consumer Insights at Mattel) he has come to understand fun as having ten different aspects. Each one is an important, but different, piece of the puzzle.

1. Freedom

This is any unstructured, voluntary activity that a child engages in. It’s essentially running around. There are few constraints and there is an immediacy to the fun. It’s about living in the moment.

2. I Dream

This is imaginative play in which children come up with possibilities and enjoy pretending. This kind of play can improve our language and social skills, and is also linked to resilience and delayed gratification.

3. I’m Special

This is the kind of play that is about luck or have the rules suspended in your favor. Staying up late, getting an extra ice cream cone, or otherwise getting some privilege is what this kind of fun is all about.

4. I Belong

This is all about acceptance into a larger group and cooperative play among kids.

5. I’m Wacky

Kids love being wacky! This is about delight, vitality, and goofiness. Shore says that the best way to make a toy wacky is by having it burp or fart. If it’s a pet, make it poop or pee. Wacky!

6. I Know

This is about exploration, accomplishment learning, and gaining mastery and control.

7. I’m Cozy

Even kids like to kick back, relax, and snuggle in. This is just about being comfortable and lazing around.

8. I’m Proud

This is about benevolence, defending others, nurturing others, and protecting one another.

9. I Stand Out

As kids get older they enjoy performing and expressing themselves more. This kind of fun is about identity, performance, and creativity.

10. I Dare

Shore says this is the kind of fun that kids would have a lot more of if there weren’t such a thing as consequences and getting caught. This is bold, defiant fun. It could be mischief, shenanigans or any other rule breaking.

In looking at all these different kinds of fun, I have to admit, they all sound pretty good to me. I’ve been trying to come up with the essential elements of fun for myself – what has to be in place for me to have fun? – and I’ve discovered that the biggest factor is willingness. Am I willing to have a good time? And if not, what do I need to get out of the way so that I can be willing to have fun?

Another TED presenter I listened to, Dr. Stuart Brown, says that if you’re feeling down, just get up and wiggle your body around. Jump up and down. Flail around. This kind of body play can really prep the mind for being able to have more fun. (So forgive me if I have more typos as I’m flinging myself around while I write this.)

One thing that seems to be missing for me in Shore’s list of 10 is the element of connection – not just belonging to a group, but really connecting to someone else on a very human level. Maybe it’s a little bit of all of them, or maybe it’s something that’s less important to kids. Or maybe it’s implied in the connection between the kid and the toy. But fun for me is hard to have without connection, either to my surroundings, someone else, or myself.

Think about things that you do that are fun: which elements are involved? Let’s say you love shopping. Is it the ability to go to whatever store you want and try on whatever you want that is fun? (Freedom) Is it imagining yourself at the ball wearing the gown you’re trying on that makes you smile? (I Dream) Or is it finding that chartreuse-and-puce argyle sweater that makes you squeal with joy? (I Stand Out or I’m Wacky)

If you’re down and not having fun, first, start wiggling, and then pick an aspect and try to live it up. Start dreaming. Join a group. Snuggle up with a good book. And see what happens.

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