Playfulness is a gift.

And author/fun theorist Bernard De Koven invites you to receive it!

Welcome to A Playful Path: The Book, the Spirit, the Experience.

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Esalen Institute
Playful Play – part three

Wherein I describe how I changed my focus from theater to games, and from children to adults. When I was studying theater (I have a masters degree, don’t you know), my very favorite classes were in the art of improvisation. I seemed to be learning as much about acting as I was about, well, life. […]

Playful Play – part two

In which we explore the connections between Playful Play and New Games, Loving Competition, and the freedom of choice In sports and formal, traditionally adult pastimes, playful play is so rare as to be non-existent. Some playfulness can be sometimes found in the after-effects of well-played games, but not in the games themselves. The sobriety […]

Playful Play – part one

Playful play (as distinct from the broader biological category of play) is accompanied by a particular positive mood state in which the individual is more inclined to behave (and, in the case of humans, think) in a spontaneous and flexible way. – Patrick Bateson and Paul Martin, Play, Playfulness, Creativity and Innovation Playful play The […]

cries of exultant commitment

The opposite of play is not work, it is depression. – Brian Sutton-Smith That insight, one of Brian Sutton-Smith’s most enduring moments of pure pith, can be found in his book, The Ambiguity of Play. The pith thickens even further when one reads it in context: “One of the biases of an information-oriented age is […]

picasso play sculpture

Paige Johnson, in her article about the kind of play going on on The untitled Picasso sculpture on Richard Daley plaza in Chicago, notes that “Chicago’s official response to its appropriation as a playground has moved from forbiddance to annoyance to tolerance to acceptance to finally reflectance of the public’s chosen use with the installation […]

childhood is not just preparation for ‘real life’ – and neither is adulthood

In her article in the Atlantic, “Leave Those Kids Alone,” Christina Schwarz lends a lucid voice to our ongoing campaign to help people understand that play is an end in itself (which is another way of saying autotelic, which is more or less precisely the same thing that psychologists call “intrinsically motivated“). I quote at […]

The entrance to your playful path is wonder.

Get inspired listening to selections from Bernie’s books and articles, and then more inspired playing games from Bernie’s huge repertoire of deeply playful games.
The Experience

Readings from A Playful Path:


Kudos, kindness and kittens!!
(just kidding, no kittens, but more reviews here →)


"This volume should really be titled A Guide to Being Human. I recommend you read only a page or two at a time. Let it sink in. Apply it. Revel in it."

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"Now, finally, we come to Bernard DeKoven’s new book, A Playful Path. It is, for me at least, the best self-help book I’ve ever read."

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Playfulness opens you. It lightens your heart

“A playful path is the shortest road to happiness.”

‐ the Oaqui

"I know that if we only let ourselves out to play we would rediscover ourselves and reunite with the world."




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