“Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children play is serious learning.” -Fred Rogers
Play is so important to optimal child development that it has been recognized by the United Nations High Commission as a “right of every child”. It may seem absurd in a modern first world country that lack of free-playtime could be a problem. The US established child labor laws nearly a century ago.But today, the issue is in the over-structuring of small children’s lives. The ‘play’ of which we speak is NOT structured activity organized and led by teachers or adults, we are also not talking about video games or organized sports. The play we are referring to is non-structured, child-led, imagination-driven play.
Not allowing individuals to play in their childhood can be damaging to them as adults. It affects their decision making abilities. If you examine what is going on in the brain when you play, you will will see: imagination, creating characters, creating worlds, creating scenarios, ongoing game development, problem solving, and role playing. When you hear a child say the words, “‘tend like…”, you can be sure that active learning is in progress.
Heck, most of the creative adventures (aka. artistic career ventures) we have taken on as adults have started with some version of that same utterance…”‘Tend like we run an arts publication. ‘Tend like we’re hosting an art show…’Tend like…” Well, you get the idea. Ricky Gervais said, “The best advice I ever received is, ‘No one else knows what they are doing either.'” Instead of saying, “I’m not qualified.”, “I’ve never been trained in that so I probably can’t do it…”, “I don’t have any experience,” the adult well versed in ‘tend-like play has developed the skills to take on these challenges they have never faced before without overwhelming fear, or self defeat before they even try. Play gives us faith in our ability to figure it out.
One might think that play goes against work or productivity, when in reality (and in particular for creative people doing creative work) play FUELS and feeds productivity. Down time can actually speed up our work.
So WHAT IS PLAY for adults??? I can tell you some of the negative ways people who are starving for play do it. They create drama for themselves and others. They engage in ‘partying’ to the extent that it becomes unhealthy and addictive. Better to embrace play and playfulness as part of a healthy lifestyle. One of the more straight forward ways for adults to play is simply to play with the children in your life. Let them lead you into other worlds. Some adults become “collectors” of all sorts of glorious geekery that nourishes their inner child. Some people get into role-playing games. Some take improv class. For some people, pursuing their hand at creating art can actually fulfill and nourish that need for play. Decorating your home can be an act of play if you free yourself from your need to impress or fit in and simply let yourself create an environment that nourishes your creative soul!
Find a way to make PLAY a part of your every day.