Back in the days before our idea of relaxing was zoning out in front of a television, we played. Recess consisted of games such as tag and red rover, and after-school activities included pick-up basketball, dressing up dolls and good old-fashioned games of catch.
But somewhere between childhood and adolescence, we stopped playing and started working. We became too busy to play; we had assignments, work, studying and any playing we did consisted of structured practices and competitions where one of us ultimately lost.
Eventually we transitioned into adulthood and all instances of play were abolished. The theory of “adults don’t play, they work,” has become practically ingrained in current generations’ mindsets – much to the dismay of many researchers who believe adult play is just as vital to well being as childhood play.
The National Institute For Play is a non-profit corporation dedicated to exploring the benefits of play for all ages. As children, playtime fosters a wealth of important skills that carry on as a child develops. The role of “purposeless” fun boosts creativity by utilizing imagination, a skill so many adults lose as they age and take on mundane jobs.
While the importance of play for children is generally undisputed, its role in adulthood and even adolescence is often highly disregarded as the necessity to work harder and produce better results inundate our mindsets. But researchers aren’t so sure this “all work and no play” attitude is beneficial or productive.
Author and psychiatrist Stuart Brown, MD, has spent decades studying the role of play and its effect on people of all ages. Through his research, he linked reduced play with higher instances of aggression, depression, reduced productivity, failed relationships and even criminal behavior. And while he’s not suggesting adults start playing with dolls again, he does note that play time can equate to anything and is different for everybody.
This adult play time can consist of physical activities, reading, walking, knitting or anything that an individual thoroughly enjoys. Of key importance though is the lack of competition involved.
Researchers note childhood play where very rarely do children determine “winners” and “losers.” They often continue the game indefinitely or until recess is over. There is no winner in dressing up a doll, and a simple game of catch doesn’t even require rules. It’s only when parents get involved that children are forced to compete, and it’s this competitive mindset that often transforms the “play” aspect of an activity into a “work” aspect.
Taking time to play with others not only eases stress and boosts creativity, but it also helps foster a number of real-life skills such as communication, teamwork, trust and cooperation, which affect social, work and romantic relationships.
So the next time your children come home from school, join them in a game of tag or kickball. Or round up a group of friends for a game of catch. Just remember that if you are going to play a sport, don’t keep score, focus on having fun!
-The Alternative Daily