During my preparation for a talk on play and child development, I couldn't help but wonder: how many adults make room for play in their lives?
It is likely that you, as parents of young children, might be found assembling a lego motorcycle or eating a play food feast from time to time, but I'm talking about play for you. When educators discuss the benefits of play to support development, we basically can support the power of play with neuroscience and evidence of healthy child development as a play byproduct.
What about the benefits for grown-ups?
Stuart Brown, a psychiatrist and leading researcher on Play, describes play as a process that takes us to an altered state that leads to feelings of joy and engagement. Play takes many forms: body play (swimming for the fun of it, dancing, rollerskating, etc), object play (frisbee, golf, frisbee-golf), imaginative play (storytelling, making, tinkering), social play (flirtation, games), spectator/ritual play (viewing pro sports or similar). The hallmark of all of these forms is that the play does not have a particular purpose or competitive element. Although lacking a specific purpose, play can serve as a catalyst to seek out the same feelings or flow state in our work, relationships, and in our recreation. This leads to increased happiness and decreased stress levels, resulting in overall better mental and physical health.
But the real truth is: play is fun. It is a joyful expression of our inward experience. I challenge you to visualize the last time you felt truly playful and connect it to your life right at this moment-- can we, as adults, create more space for more play in our lives? I believe we can.