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  • Alice Tait

Playful Connections: Why Should We All Play?

During Maarten Koeners' session on 'Playful Connections', Maarten illustrated the importance of play and playfulness to build stronger and happier connections in our all aspects of our life. As we enter adulthood, we frequently forget how vital playing can be for our own happiness and for others’. The Kinder Exeter Festival wishes to remind its audience of how important play can to create kindness and compassion.

Maarten founded the Playful University Club to create a place that promotes a culture which can foster play and playfulness at the University of Exeter and beyond. The club has created a fantastic, inclusive community of students and staff members, in which compassion is truly at the centre. The club host monthly meetings with a range of speakers and guests with the aim to develop a compassionate environment using play. Ultimately, Maarten wishes to support students and staff integrate play and playfulness into their academic practice, learning and daily lives. Head over to to discover more about the project. Moreover, if you would like to become a member and/or get involved, please email Maarten Koeners:

When discussing where his passion for play stems from, Maarten outlined how he has always been playful and interested in compassion and connection. Physiology has always fascinated him and recently it has been something he has researched and written about in relation to play and education. Maarten’s ‘The physiology of play: potential relevance for higher education’ paper resulted in the Playful University Project at the University of Exeter. Overall, his biggest inspiration are his children, what he calls his ‘play experts’. Maarten’s two sons continue to teach him how play is an activity that increases joy with respect to oneself and surroundings.

The audience was challenged to think in playful and creative ways during the session, including the rainbow game and an adapted version of Circletales game. Maarten showed the audience how valuable play can be in bringing a group together and work together as a team. He concluded the session with the 'Lecture without lecturer', created by Andy Field, which in a slightly surreal and theatrical was addressed the lock-down related changes in education.

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