Learn 4 Skills to Keep Your Brain Alive

How a Playful Mindset Led to the First Powered Flight

Your children are begging you to play with them. Playing is not your first preference…you would rather mow the yard, clean the gutters, make dinner, take out the garbage. Admit it, you’d rather clean the toilets. As long as you don’t have to play!

- Young Wilbur and Orville never forgot the day that their father brought a helicopter toy home. -

– Young Wilbur and Orville never forgot the day that their father brought a helicopter toy home. –

Learn why adults are so intimidated by play and how avoiding play allows our brains to… well, shrivel up… peacefully.

Bishop Wright couldn’t have known what an impact that little toy helicopter would make on his sons, Wilbur and Orville. A simple wooden toy with propellers, this flying toy would help to inspire the Wright Brothers to invent powered flight.


As adults, we don’t pretend. For us, playing with the helicopter would most likely be limited to seeing how high we could launch it. Pretending is a form of active learning, and both action and learning are hard.

Wilbur and Orville were completely fascinated with their flying toy. After all, toys were extremely rare when they were children. Like typical children, they may have pretended that they could ride on their helicopter; and like typical adults, their parents could have laughed and said such a thing is impossible.

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Next time your child pretends something “impossible,” try not to laugh to yourself. Instead ask, “Could I make this possible? If so, how? If not, why?”


You may wonder what wandering has to do with play. While much of classroom play is structured, children need informal play time where they create their own activities and toys. My son loves to wander outside where sticks become guns and stones become balls.

Adults also must take time to wander. A walk in the park is a chance to clear our minds and see things differently. Wilbur and Orville taught themselves the principles of flight by watching birds fly in the wild. Stepping away from your routine may give you new insight too.


Kids love Play-dough, rubiks cubes, rubber bands and LEGO – things they can manipulate out of shape before making something new. In fact, a company called “Flexo” has created a line of products combining two of these fun favorites.

Flexo uses a unique rigid construction brick and flexible tendon that allows you to create designs you never thought possible.

Flexo uses a unique rigid construction brick and flexible tendon that allows you to create designs you never thought possible.

LEGO has been launching little plastic toys with rubber bands for years, but it took a truly flexible thinker to integrate plastic bricks and rubber bands. The result is a flexible toy that children and adults can enjoy alike. Visit Flexo to see a brick bow and arrow, bouncy ball, catapult and trampoline!

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It was the Wright Brothers’ idea of “wing warping” that allowed them to make the first successful powered flight. Testing a model airplane they had designed in a homemade wind tunnel (an open-ended box with a fan at one end), the brothers learned that they could steer their aircraft by flexing the wings.


Are you enjoyable to work with? If you don’t know the answer, enlist a child to work alongside you. Kids love to dream about the big beautiful cake they are about to bake or imagine what the new cupboards will look like when dad finishes them in the shop.

By communicating an exciting vision for what you want to accomplish, you can combine work and play while becoming more productive than you ever thought possible.

- The Wright Brothers loved anything that could fly. -

– The Wright Brothers loved anything that could fly. –

Even in their 30s, the Wright Brothers got excited when they came across a new flying toy. While visiting France, the brothers discovered a new game that consisted of a cord and a spinning disk. By yanking the cord at both ends, they could launch the disk into the air. In a sense, the Wright Brothers spent their lives playing while doing one of the greatest works of the twentieth century.

Question: Maybe you disagree with today’s post. After all, it seems many adults don’t take life seriously enough. Please leave us your thoughts! You can leave a comment by clicking here.


Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Amy

    Although I’m not as good at it as I’d like, I agree that play is a valuable learning tool, even for adults. There must be an element of creativity or imagination though. The adults who “don’t take life seriously enough” are often those who merely allow themselves to be entertained most of the time. This is not play, but leisure…amusement. And, by the way, “amusement” means no thinking – “a” = no/without, “muse” = thought. Creative play requires a lot of thought, and offers a great way for us to invest in our kids! Win, win!

    • I agree wholeheartedly – which goes along with play being hard work. That reminds me… it’s time to take out the garbage!