“We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.” – George Bernard Shaw
When was the last time you played just for playing sake?
For most people, the answer to that question will be “not since I was a little child”. Adults around the world are flocking to the playgrounds of their childhoods in search of relaxation and release. Not surprisingly, an entire cottage industry has subsequently sprouted up to help them satiate their inner child.
- In Brooklyn, an adult preschoollets office workers and executives participate in arts and crafts, and re-enact schoolyard favourites like “show and tell.”
- In the United Kingdom, a design studio opened a ball pitjust for grown-ups
- While laughter clubsin India offer a form of both spiritual and physical exercise for disgruntled citizens.
- And recently, the two best-selling books on Amazon were “adult colouring books”
Research has shown that people of all ages benefit from unstructured play time as a respite from the grind of daily life. Play can relieve stress, boost creativity, improve brain function, and improve our relationships with other people by fostering trust with others and a lack of play time is seen as a major health obstacle for children and adult. Playing is on the decline and that has negative consequences for kids and adults alike. For instance, since about 1955, children’s free play has been in continuous decline, partly because adults have exerted ever-increasing control over children’s activities, and over the same period that play has declined, the mental health of children and adolescents has also declined. So, by abandoning play, we’re abandoning an important part of ourselves. Play isn’t just important for kids, it’s beneficial to our society. It’s time for adults to take it seriously, both for their sake and for their children.
There are three main characteristics that must be met:
- It’s voluntary in the sense that you’re not obligated to do it.
- It’s flexible and can be changed or manipulated, like Play-Doh for your life.
- It is enjoyable and fun.
When you think about it, there’s not enough of enjoyment and joy in our lives these days because:
- It’s a problem of our modern, work-obsessed society:
- We’ve lost play in the hustle and bustle of our lives.
- We spend our time between our jobs, our kids, being on Twitter and Facebook to catch the current trends.
Why is play so important for childhood development?
- First, play doesn’t have consequences in the same way that real life does:
- When we want to blow off steam, this is the way we do it without having trouble.
- Play is how children explore the world around them and themselves.
- It helps give children the capacity to make decisions, to solve problems, to build and experiment and transform.
- More generally, for both children and adults, it really gives us a chance to build our imagination.
It is during playing that the fantastic becomes real, the real becomes fantastic and we can try out a new hypothesis without consequence.
This one thing that we’ve lost in our society is the understanding that exploration, understanding, and creative thinking is what got us to where we are, that’s how we invented the car and the air plane. It’s because we had people who weren’t afraid to try out ideas and fail along the way and have the grit to stick with it — and learning that comes from play.
Does this change as we get older?
Play matters, no matter how old you are. The only thing that has changed is the stigma. We associate play with childhood, and therefore associate playing with childishness. Think about the world we live in, you’re supposed to answer your emails within 30 seconds, or you’re considered negligent. If somebody asks “How are you?” the appropriate answer is “busy.” It also doesn’t help that we basically have a sedentary nation. Some say sitting is the new cancer. We’re not an active nation anymore. People do better when they’re acting and moving rather than just sitting and staring. A lot of play has become centred on screens. Technology has taken over a lot of our loose attention. It is part of the sitting phenomenon, we are constantly facing a screen.
The Benefits of Play for Adults
By giving yourself permission to play with the joyful abandonment of childhood, you can reap the myriad of health benefits throughout life such as:
- Relieve stress
- Improve brain function
- Stimulate the mind and boost creativity
- Improve relationships and your connection to others.
- Keep you feeling young and energetic
“THE DEFINITION OF ADULT DOES NOT STATE YOU CANNOT PLAY ANYMORE, AND THE DEFINITION OF PLAY DOES NOT STATE IT IS ONLY FOR CHILDREN.”