Playtime was the foundation of childhood, and with good reason. Those hours spent climbing trees and kicking cans were critical to our healthy growth and development. Then, we grow up and everything changes. Perhaps it shouldn’t. Research suggests adults need play just as much now as we did then. Some experts even consider it a fundamental human need. Here’s why—and how—to rediscover your love of play.
Grown-Up Play: Why We Need More Recess, Fewer Meetings
“It’s a problem of our modern, work-obsessed society: We’ve lost play in the hustle and bustle of our lives,” psychologist Kathryn Hirsh-Pasek, director of Temple University’s Infant and Child Laboratory, told the Pacific Standard earlier this year. “We spend our time between our jobs, our kids, being on Twitter and Facebook to catch the current trends. Who has time to breathe, let alone to be outside and be active, right?”
Note the word “problem.” Dr. Hirsh-Pasek is one of many researchers advocating for more playtime for everyone, including adults. This movement follows years of research into positive impact unstructured play has in many different areas of our lives, including our physical, cognitive, and emotional well-being. Here are just a few of the ways play benefits adults and kids alike.
The Benefits of Play for Adults
It is great exercise and improves blood flow to the brain (Generations United)
It improves reasoning and problem-solving skills (Psychology Today)
It makes you more creative and innovative (Creativity Research Journal)
It helps you make better decisions (Psychological Science Journal)
It fosters can-do-attitudes and grit (Pacific Standard)
It boosts collaboration (PsychCentral)
It prevents Alzheimer’s disease (Huffington Post)
It makes us more productive (The Guardian)
It helps us connect with our loved ones and ourselves. (The book of life.)
We challenge you to carve out time to play—with or without the kids—every day for a week. Feel free to consider sharing your experience in the Wonder Nook’s Grown-Up Play Challenge Facebook group.
The 30 Ways to Play
Take the challenge with you with this handy PDF! Download
These 30 Ways to Play are meant to inspire, not guide. Get creative. Be spontaneous. Have fun.
- Find the perfect puddle and hop in. It’s liberating.
- Invest in a coloring book for adults. It will reduce stress and improve concentration.
- Make something amazing out of cardboard, like a castle, fort, or rocket ship.
- Start an idea book and add to it between meetings or errands.
- Look for an adventure or adult-friendly playground in your community.
- Camp out in the back yard with your kids or friends. S’mores and ghost stories are welcome.
- Go to a tinker or makerspace and have at it.
- Build a blanket fort, i.e. the perfect reading retreat.
- Doodle during meetings. It improves attention and memory.
- Swing high enough that you feel weightless, if only for a moment.
- Design the perfect obstacle course. Invite the neighbors.
- Make a mud pie.
- Invite friends or co-workers to a friendly game of kickball.
- Collect fallen sticks and see what you can build.
- Play meets chores: Clean your shower or siding with a Super Soaker.
- Leave the path. Explore.
- Go fly a kite in the best way possible.
- Even better: make the kite first.
- Create something with play clay or dough.
- Lay in a patch of cool, dewy grass and watch the clouds pass.
- Organize an epic game of tag or hide-and-seek.
- Sit outside in the dark; make up a story based on the sounds you hear.
- Find a worm for your garden.
- Spend date night at a skating rink, arcade, or laser tag zone.
- Design your dream house, car, or spaceship with Lego.
- Find or start a local flag football, dodge ball, or ultimate Frisbee league
- Visit an area children’s museum. Rejoice.
- Invent a game.
- Low-friction floor. Dance.
- Rediscover paper ninja stars, footballs, or cootie catchers (aka: fortune-tellers)