Put the PSHE [ˈfish] on the table

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Authors Yesim Kunter, Anna Kollenbrandt

In our article about New Playground “AI” we have been spoken about the importance of play types:  “In addition to using “Play Types” in general, we see the need to embed different play types within the AI Playground/Digital Worlds to foster imagination, new ways of engaging and seamlessly integrating digital and physical worlds.”

Fostering imagination for us means, “learn to unlearn” on a continuous basis. If we take into account the rapid development of computation in the past decade, we can figure out how Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, etc. will impact human life. A continuous learning impulse is required to reflect changes of e.g. new work environments, our new ways of connecting to family and friends or the way we play. 

Since the beginning Curiosity, Exploration, Communication, Empathy, Making Sense and Adaptation are all fundamental ingredients of “continuous learning” where imagination is the fuel to continuum. Without these qualities and skills humanity wouldn’t be able to adapt and evolve to the new environments. As Stephen T. Asma, professor of philosophy and cofounder of the Research Group in Mind, Science and Culture at the Columbia College Chicago, suggests:  “[…] I want to suggest that imagination, properly understood, is one of the earliest human abilities, not a recent arrival. Thinking and communicating are vastly improved by language, it is true. But ‘thinking with imagery’ and even ‘thinking with the body’ must have preceded language by hundreds of thousands of years.” [1]

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Photo by Chris Malinao Burgett on Unsplash

Creativity happens because of imagination. If we observe children playing; they get lost in their own world by e.g. creating stories or building a brick empire. If we look at an adult playing (and if you haven’t watched or read Human Playground: Why we Play [2] this is a clear recommendation to do so), we see the same level of creativity in climbers, wild water swimmers or entrepreneurs. By playing we sharpen our sense of creativity and therewith our imagination. 

From 14 to 16 November 2022, the World Conference on Early Childhood Care and Education (WCECCE) is being held in Tashkent, Uzbekistan; some of the highlights were that we need to encourage Soft Skills for the future of learning. The mission of this conference is to urge the nation’s equal quality early childhood care by 2030. So why is it important? As UNESCO concludes; “Maximum return on investment into child and family development, to transform society and build better communities” [3]

Making the connection to the ability to learn to unlearn as a key skill for the future, we had a look at playful learning itself and its range. 

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Photo by Robo Wunderkind on Unsplash

Let’s take STEAM, if we look into its ‘Play Anatomy’ ; we would find a range of play types (New Playground “AI”) such as symbolic play where children can code, active play where they construct their models, object play where they create mazes and develop its rule system. STEAM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math which is analytical and convergent thinking. So far so good. Of course to be creative we need analytical thinking however ‘Creativity’ does not only happen in abstract thinking, creativity is much deeper and versatile than that. We need the Soft Skills, Divergent Mind Set to be able to start to use many powers of imagination. We need to prepare the right tools for children to be able to anticipate, relate, understand, be inspired and to be able to inspire others. 

The first time we read Alone Together [4] by Sherry Turkle, we were fascinated by the fact how interactive toys play a role in our emotions. Or how they can play with our responses. Her research on the interactions children develop with Tamagothci or Furby, consisted of understanding how digital pets become digital “creatures” and how children’s responses change during play. Turkle explains; “If a Tamagothci makes you love it, and you feel it loves you in return, it is alive enough to be a creature” “When a digital “creature” asks children for nurturing or teaching, it seems alive enough to care for, just as caring for it makes it seem more live.” [5]

Almost 25 years later after the first Tamagothci (96) and Furby (98) we see similar reactions when children have dialogues with Siri , Alexa or other kinds. Human Beings are social beings, we need the social skills to connect and learn. In our intrinsic need to interact whether it is real or not our core impulse will always be in making connections. In the early years, children start with Fantasy Play, Role Play or Imaginative Play to understand the abstract concepts better to find their own space within the social structure. 

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Photo by Clark Tibbs on Unsplash

So we need to understand better what Future Skills are needed? In 2020 World Economic Forum published the Future of Jobs Report 2020 [6]. Skills they covered within this report were: Active learning and learning strategies, creativity/ originality/ Initiative, emotional intelligence, resilience/ stress tolerance/ flexibility, resilience, critical thinking were among the top. Some of these traits go under “Soft Skills” with the combination of interpersonal skills, empathy, understanding others, communication and listening, personal traits, attitude building, stress management. All enable people to be able to navigate in their environment, engage and perform well with others, being able to imagine possibilities and achieve wellbeing. The skills we sometimes take for granted and forget about their hidden value. The values that are irrevocable.  

The education system understood the need for intensifying learning about future skills to support a healthy childhood and prepare children and young adults for future challenges. One subject which summarises the “Soft Skills” and more above is called PSHE. 

First, the obvious question: What does PSHE stand for? PSHE stands for Personal, Social, Health and Economic Education. The acronym PSHCE is also sometimes used, where the ‘C’ stands for Citizenship. 

PHSE is part of the school curriculum in the UK and other countries. The importance of teaching how to understand emotions or what makes you happy, avoid bullying in schools, learn what makes a healthy diet or why money matters is obvious if we look at increasing mental health rates, overweight rates by more than 50% or tense financial situations of many households. 

Beside the curriculum of private or public schools, also online learning platforms such as Khan Academy[7] spread the information to a wider audience. 

Also toy companies reflect the need to learn about wellbeing or nurturing [8] within their play-sets. 

Let’s summarise what’s written, let’s put the PHSE [ˈfish] on the table. Whether it is in an AI platform, another space in Metaverse or Web 3.0, a playground, classroom or an office we will always need to connect to each other, get inspired, learn from each other, imagine possibilities and develop ways of solving issues from product proposals to our own mental issues… Children need both The STEAM to get better on their analytical skills but PSCHE type of tools and toys to understand their emotions, craft their story telling skills, negotiate their ways, be curious to their surroundings, get better on evaluating their environment and be open minded. Let’s imagine we would have put the PHSE [ˈfish] and STEAM on the table, as if these disciplines have always been linked to each other, maybe our focus would still be in place and not be stolen. [9]

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Photo by That’s Her Business on Unsplash

Humanity will always go through phases of technological expansions (from axes to printing to digitalisation ….) as it has done many times over its timeline. In order to survive and evolve and adapt, we have to create safe and trustable pathways and equip future generations with the tools/ skills that they can transform to their needs during their journey to the unknown territories. 


Yesim Kunter has twenty years of experience in Toy Industry, Play Research, Guest Lecturing, Future, Scope and Playful learning implementation.

Anna Kollenbrandt knows how to handle dynamic and complex projects from toy to space industry, deliver dedicated solutions to achieve common goals.


[1] Stephen T. A sma (2017): Imagination is ancient, https://aeon.co/essays/imagination-is-such-an-ancient-ability-it-might-precede-language 

[2] https://www.humanplayground.com

[3] WCECCE (2022): World Conference on Early Childhood Care and Education (WCECCE), https://www.wcecce2022.org/en/about-us

[4] https://www.sherryturkle.com/alone-together

[5] Turkle (2011): Alone Together, p.31

[6] https://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_Future_of_Jobs_2020.pdf

[7] https://learn.khanacademy.org/khan-academy-kids/

[8] E.g. National Parent Product Awards (2022): Wiltopia Animal Care Station, https://www.nappaawards.com/product/wiltopia-animal-care-station/

[9] Worth to read – Hari (2022): Stolen Focus: Why You Can’t Pay Attention

 #softskills #play #playfulness #futureskills #creativity #STEAM #STEM #coding #stemeductaion #learning #education #philosophy #socialskills #ai #future #toys


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