When you’re a kid you play, it’s a given, it’s your thing and adults around you give you the space and approval to do it. And for good reason, it serves an important role in development, play is powerful.
It boosts cognitive, physical and social skills and improves emotional well-being. It allows kids to understand their strengths and helps them to develop areas in which they can improve. A kid doesn’t pick up a Barbie and think “This will be a great opportunity for me to develop my motor skills and prompt me to express my thoughts and emotions. Instead, they’re probably thinking, ‘Yup, gonna cut her hair into a bob and colour the ends in with a felt-tip pen”. But through that imaginary trip the the hair salon with Barbie, brilliant things are happening.
So at what age does play become something we leave behind? Because adults ‘grow up’ right, and we stop ‘playing’? We mature into having hobbies and suddenly play often has an agenda so we feel productive. Playing football to improve your health, painting for mental wellbeing. Personally and from talking to others grown-ups’ play can also leave us feeling guilty, because we should be doing something more important (which is probably not ‘fun’).
As an adult, I think I play quite a lot, maybe more than your average full-fledged grown-up human. I love to indulge in anything creative, from cooking, painting, drawing, making things and planting things. I’m also a bit fan of board games and jigsaws. But lately, I’ve been struggling to enjoy these things as much. I have that huge sense of guilt about all the stuff I should be doing. So I cleverly made some of the fun things in my life into my to-do list. Which meant I slowly sucked all the fun out of the things I loved. It came about the achievement of finishing rather than enjoying the doing. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “It’s not the destination, it’s the journey”.
Whatever your thing, whether you love painting Warhammer models, creating music, baking beautiful bread or building Lego houses. Whatever it is, do it. Because it IS important. Unfortunately, all that adulting still has to take place at some point. I’m just here to say, play is also important so leave space for the ‘I’m just wasting some time having… fun’. Plain and simple, unadulterated play.
Why, because it’s important. For all the reasons we encourage kids to play, we adults need that too. Einstein himself said: “Play is the highest form of research.” It gives you the freedom to explore and experiment, learn new things, process stuff and enrich your brain, body and soul. So let’s stop feeling guilty about it.
So if you’re an adult who needs to add a bit of play back into their lives, step one is finding out what type of play personality you are. Click here to take the Play Style Quiz. Developed by Stuart Brown M.D. in his book PLAY: Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul) and beautifully illustrated by Lindsay Braman.
I was surprised by my result and it’s helped to not only understand what I find fun and why, but also how I can trick my brain into enjoying the boring adulting stuff more.