Health & Fitness
Why Do We Play?
That was one of the topics at last week’s conference at Columbia University on Learning & the Brain.
Some neuroscientists discussed the transmitter dopamine, a chemical that helps control the brain’s reward and pleasure centers and regulates emotional responses. Any reward increases the dopamine levels in the brain. When we feel joy we want to continue having that feeling.
The sessions on emotions and education made me think about making Funny Food with our granddaughter, Daniela.
She has been making fun, healthy snacks with her grandfather since she was 2 years old.
At first, Grandpa Bill made amusing snacks for Daniela. She loved observing Bill create fanciful characters out of fruit, cheese or other goodies. Over time she began to tell him what shapes to cut so she could assemble her own whimsical plates.
Now five, Daniela uses a plastic knife and makes amusing snacks on her own. She is very focused and works hard to create what she will eat up in seconds after it’s made.
In the process of making a “fancy” snack, Daniela is playing and having fun with her grandfather. This is fostering her connectedness to a loving adult while learning what foods are good for her body.
Daniela is learning self-control- because she doesn’t eat the food until she has completed the desired image on her plate. I have seen her stop and look carefully at her creation and I think she’s finished and then she might add a hat or shoes, or an interesting pattern around the edges of the plate. Finally she is done and chows down!
Learning self-control at an early age is so important. She learned to control her behavior in order to reach her goal- creating the image that pleased her. It’s exciting to think that even at age two Daniela was in an early stage of mental growth, the inhibition of behavioral impulses.
Daniela was obviously getting pleasure and satisfaction from the creative process. When the dopamine is released it increases attention and motivation.
In terms of her brain- the increase in dopamine fueled her pleasure in playing with the food and allowed her to control the impulse to just grab and eat the snack.
So why do we play- because it’s fun! And, fun helps us learn and remember.
More Funny Food!