It's not just for kids
How play benefits your health and relationships in adulthood
The benefits of play in children is studied, researched, and well documented over the past several decades. While we understand and agree on the importance of play in children, the benefits of play in adulthood is often overlooked. Somewhere between childhood and adulthood, we begin focusing on work and to-do lists, forgetting how to play. It’s important to remember that just because we’re adults, that doesn’t mean we have to take ourselves so seriously. Finding the playfulness in our lives can enrich it more than we realize.
Unlike the results-focused activities of our daily lives, when we can focus on the experience of play itself we fuel our imaginations and creativity, problem-solving abilities, and social and emotional well-being.
Play in Relationships
Play is one of the most effective tools for building new relationships and strengthening the bonds we have in existing relationships. Through regular play, we build our trust in one another and learn to feel safe, while enabling us to open up to new ideas and experiences, building intimacy. By incorporating play into daily life, we can improve the quality of relationships in romance, work, friends, and family.
Social skills can develop and improve through play, beginning in childhood and carrying us throughout adulthood. As children, we learn verbal communication, body language, social cues, boundaries, cooperation, and teamwork during free play. As adults, we refine these skills through playful communication.
Particularly in adults, we can heal emotional wounds through play by engaging in activities that build and reinforce positive beliefs by creating positive brain pathways. We can build from the strength of others, by spending playful time with those who share different positive traits as ourselves such as emotional security, confidence, and courage.
Play at Work
An increasing number of employers have recognized the link between a fun workplace and productivity, and many offer playful options such as foosball or ping pong, yoga classes, and play equipment throughout the office. Maintaining a sense of play among coworkers builds those bonds, leading to greater productivity and an increased sense of ownership for the success of the company.
Success isn’t measured by the time you spend at work, but rather the quality of work produced. When a project you’re working on faces a glitch, taking a few minutes to step away and be playful engages the imaginative side of your brain. This also quiets the psychological barriers in your brain that would otherwise inhibit innovative thinking. When returning to the project, you are more likely to have the ability to view the challenge with fresh eyes and develop creative problem-solving strategies.
Play with Children
Establishing regular, uninterrupted playtime with your children is equally important for you and your child. Play is essential for child development and play with parents boosts skills like vocabulary while building the bonds you share.
Letting your child take the lead in pretend play provides a sense of leadership and creativity for a child, often opening the door for parents to ask questions and become drawn into a fun world of play.
Finding appropriate play for your child’s developmental stage is important for safety, but also to offer challenging activities that boost confidence and teach children how to assess and manage risk.
Finding play in your life
As adults, we often struggle to release the fear of judgement from our peers. Find ways to infuse joy and laughter into your day through play, whether at work, home, or out and about. Unplanned activities will lead the way to creative play.
Encourage your friends to play, and lead the way with confidence. Adults are typically more likely to feel comfortable being silly when someone else leads the way, to squash those fears of rejection or judgement. Add music to your playtime with a song that you can't help but dance to, or a playlist full of nostalgia that takes you back to your own childhood.
Set aside time to unplug from devices and be spontaneous, perhaps seeking an activity you loved as a child but haven’t enjoyed in years. Give yourself time to set aside your inhibitions and explore, for a change of pace that you can enjoy. And have fun!