I was updating a class on stress when I ran across a great article called “Why Play Matters for Adults” at Helpguide.org. It had some great information I want to share with you, so I have summarized the article below. Most of us think that we have outgrown playing. We look at play as something for children. According to this article, play can benefit all of us in many ways.
When you play, you may learn new things or how to do things in new ways. Play stimulates creativity and can provide a wonderfully stimulating challenge. Play can provide a simple escape. It can be calming and bring focus. Some love the competitiveness and others like the cooperation. Play can bring simple joy.
There are many kinds of play, from sitting down with a crossword puzzle to being on an ultimate frisbee team. Active play has all the benefits of regular exercise, stimulating mental function, muscular function and even neurological function. Active play can relieve stress by the release of endorphins, the body’s chemicals that make you feel good.
You can learn new things in active play or sedentary play; both stimulate the mind and boost creativity. You learn best and are more productive when you are relaxed and especially when you are in a playful mood. Problem solving can come easier when you’re more relaxed and able to see things objectively. Many computer programing companies and dot-com companies have recognized and embraced this idea. Company policies that include play breaks are becoming more common. Some companies even have areas for play with pingpong tables, foosball tables and basketball hoops where employees can take a break and play. These companies have found that play breaks increase productivity, creativity and employee longevity.
Sharing play or sharing in play can greatly improve your connection to others and your relationships. Incorporating more fun and play into your life can improve the quality of your relationships, as well as your mood and outlook. Play and laughter help you keep a positive, optimistic outlook through difficult situations, disappointments and loss. Sharing laughter and play can foster trust, empathy and compassion. It doesn’t have to be a specific activity; it can also be a state of mind. A playful nature can help you loosen up in stressful situations, be able to work with strangers, make new friends and form new business relationships.
Play can help you feel younger and more energetic. In the words of George Bernard Shaw, “We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.”
Many of us believe that we are too old to play. But it is never to late to allow yourself to play or to find your humorous side. You may be self-conscious or worried about how you look to others. But it may be time to find the child in your heart again. The more you play, the easier it will be to let go and reap all the benefits of playing.
Helpguide.org advises you to clear your schedule for an afternoon or evening, then turn off your phone, TV, computer and other devices. Give yourself permission to do whatever you want for the time you’ve allotted. Be spontaneous, set aside your inhibitions and try something fun, something you haven’t done since you were a kid, perhaps. And enjoy the change of pace.
Helpguide.org also advises that rolling on the floor with your baby or getting down on your knees to play with a young child is vitally important — both to your child’s development and to your own health. While children need time to play alone and with other children, playing with their parents is also important.
Play is essential for developing social, emotional, cognitive and physical skills in children. In fact, far from being a waste of time or just a fun distraction, play is a time when your child is often learning the most. Whether it’s an infant playing “peek-a-boo,” a toddler playing make-believe or an older child playing a board game, play develops social skills, stimulates a child’s imagination and makes kids better adjusted, smarter and less stressed. As well as aiding your child’s development, play can also bring you closer together and strengthen the parent-child bond that will last a lifetime.
So establish regular play times. Give your child your undivided attention during this time. Let them do something over and over until they are ready to do something different. Let your children take the lead, becoming a part of the game rather than trying to run the game. Try not to force play; let it happen. Let your children bring out the child in you. Go play with your friends or family no matter what age and be the better for it.
Marsha Munsell is a Youth, Family and Community Development program assistant for the Cooperative Extension Service, a part of the University of Alaska Fairbanks, working in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Contact her at 907-474-2429 or firstname.lastname@example.org.