The Importance of Play

Friday, November 8, 2013

When I was a kid pretty much all I wanted to do was play.  Whether it was riding my bike, playing "teacher" or building things with tinker toys the majority of my days were devoted to playing.  Even as an adolescent I remember making up pool games with my best friend and spending hours coming up with silly competitions on the trampoline (one of which landed me in a cast!)  But somewhere around high school a shift began to happen.  Productivity became of utmost importance, and time spent playing was viewed as frivolous.  Creativity became restrained to school projects and silliness seemed go out the window the older I got.

Playing provides tremendous health benefits.  It releases stress, keeps cognitive functions sharp, encourages creativity, and provides exercise.  Yet for some reason many of us hold on to the belief that once we reach adulthood we need to "get serious."  Even if we don't hold this belief, many of us seem to simply not have the time for play.

My attitude about play shifted immensely when I went to college at Pepperdine, where play is encouraged frequently. (Puppies and bounce houses during finals week? Yes please.)  Tyler has been a wonderful influence to me to seek out childlike joy in ordinary circumstances, and to play every opportunity I get.

So I propose we all strive to make a bit more room for play in our lives.  You don't have to go out and buy a trampoline to do so (though I still would count that as an excellent investment!) You may simply need to shift the way you think about play.  Here are some easy ways to incorporate more lightheartedness into your day-to-day

Take up a new sport/ instrument/ hobby: Yes, knitting counts as play! Learning a new enjoyable skill is a great way to keep your mind sharp and bring novelty to your life.

Revert to your childhood: jump on the hotel bed, build a fort, play with swords in the toy aisle.  Things that takes us back to an earlier time can help keep us from taking ourselves too seriously.  

Learn a new board game: Games provide amazing cognitive benefits and are also a great way to foster community. (We're big time Settlers!)

Seek Thrills: From the time we reach adolescence we become hard wired to pursue risks.  For some this may include rollercoasters and skydiving; for others it may simply mean taking the plunge of being the first one on the dance floor.  Either way, it's important to step outside our comfort zones and seek out (relatively safe) activities that give us a sense of exhilaration.

Spend time with little ones: One of the best ways to stay in touch with your inner-child is to hang out with real life kids.  Volunteer with the Sunday school program at your church or offer to babysit for a friend.  When you spend time with kids who use their imaginations every day you will be shocked at how quickly you are able to reclaim your own.

What are some of your favorite ways to incorporate play into your life?


  1. I am trying to convince Tom we need a trampoline.

    1. Do it! I loved that video of your dogs on the trampoline!