Out of the box thinking – Neoteny

Anyone who reads this blog regularly will know that I’m a big fan of us adults learning from kids, and this post is about one of the most obvious things we can learn from them…. how to play.  Some of us never lose the knack of how to play…… Ricky Gervais springs to mind.  But many of us have play educated out of us and find it difficult to be really playful as adults.

Monkeying around

Monkeying around

But play has many benefits for all of us.  Not least, it’s fun; and aside from that it is a great way to access creativity, to stimulate laughter and to look at things differently.  Play can also help us think strategically about problems (think of playing more advanced strategy games), and open us up to new learning experiences.   Quite apart from the fact that it builds relationships and social skills – in adults as well as children.

So, what has neoteny got to do with it?  Well neoteny is the retention of the ability to play into adulthood.  We are not alone in this, many animals retain the ability to play.  In fact we are probably unusual in that in the modern world we seem to have dismissed it’s importance.  We have formlised play into set games – like cricket, football, tennis and thereby taken much of the fun out of them.

I challenge you to watch your kids at play this week – guddling in a stream, “being” someone else, telling stories to themselves, laughing and giggling with each other, tusling on the sofa… whatever it might be….. and then think about how you might bring more play back into your lives.  (Note:  I need to take up this challenge as much as anyone, and I’ll be updating you as to how I get on in the comments below).

This talk was inspired by the TED talk here; for once I wouldn’t really advise watching it, it’s very specific to Bulgaria though the principles of play are the same the world over and I did learn the word “neoteny” from it…. but you won’t have to watch it now to learn what neoteny is.

If you like this post you might like to read these other posts about creativity:   Out of the box thinking, and Being Creative.



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3 Responses to Out of the box thinking – Neoteny

  1. kathleen ( says:

    Fab post! Big fan of playing here. Lots of wrestling and play ‘fighting’, jumping on sofas, role play. OH and I embrace it all and I think people think we’re a bit weird for it but hey it keeps the boys happy!

    • nlpmum says:

      Absolutely nowt wrong with weird….. we’re with you on that one. We’ve taken a decision not to get decent furniture/wallpaper etc until ….. well I was going to say until the boys aren’t wrecking it any more…. when do they leave home nowadays? ……. I’m def not a tiger mum either ;-)

  2. I saw that Ted Talk (dig Ted!)… inspired me as well to write about running as a video game…


    I certainly keep neoteny alive and well in my healing arts’ work, my music, my photography. Neoteny fuels me as a creative multi-potential. Thanks for sharing and keep on playin’! : )
    Hamid Shibata Bennett, LMT, CAMT recently posted..Running is like a video gameMy Profile

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