Playtime is not just important for kids. Studies highlight the importance of play for all ages; there are institutes that study it and national days that celebrate it. So, how important is play in adulthood and what are the health benefits in embracing your inner child?
Join us as we define play, discuss the physical and psychological impacts it has on both body and mind, and take a step back in time as we explore five ways big and little kids can introduce some playful activity into a busy modern lifestyle.
What is play?
Adult life and that of a busy family is often structured, scheduled and stressful. With lunches to pack and appointments to keep, time is often limited when it comes to just relaxing and having fun. These restrictions can extend to the kids too, by the time you get them to school, the extra-curricular activities done, and food eaten, there’s often few minutes left in the day.
Play on the other hand is all about being unstructured. It isn’t time, day or weather specific. Play is spontaneous. It allows you to socialise, provides an outlet from stresses and worries and give relief from the craziness of life – at least temporarily! Play is for fun and recreation, an activity for pleasure, not purpose and perhaps this is why it is so important.
Play can be anything, something as simple as kicking through autumn leaves, daydreaming, singing at the top of your voice in the shower, or having a game of cards with friends. Anything that gives you emotional relief, brings you joy and lets you express yourself.
Physical and psychological benefits of playtime for all ages
The National Institute for Play in the United States (probably a fun place to work) identifies four key transformative opportunities in the play-sphere:
Personal health – playing often involves physical activity which is always great for the body, but play has its greatest effects on the mind. Play seeks out novelty, encourages spontaneity and promotes a sense of belonging. It also helps us to interact with others in an informal way, encouraging empathy and teamwork.
Relationships – having the time to play can reinvigorate relationships as it provides an opportunity to share in light-hearted activities. It helps us learn about each other without worrying too much about society’s constraints.
Education – When learning is fun and engaging we are more likely to keep at it, retaining more information and optimising the learning process.
Corporate innovation – The National Institute for Play aren’t necessarily saying we should all put our tools down and destroy productivity between nine and five, however there is something to be said about playful methods of working and how that both impacts creativity and fosters an innovative workplace environment.
Benefits of play for adults:
- Social interaction and sense of connection to others
- Carefree, structure free
- Nostalgia bringing back fond memories from our youth
- Great for reducing levels of stress and worry from a fast-paced and often hectic lifestyle
- Stimulates the mind
- Express yourself creatively
- Physical benefits as a result of increased movement, sunshine and fresh air
Here are 5 ways to play you might not have thought of.
A real life treasure hunt
If you’ve ever found yourself wanting to go on a treasure hunt put together by likeminded individuals, Geocaching could be for you.
For those of you who haven’t heard about it before, Geocaching is an activity which “combines outdoor play with team-building, problem-solving and other valuable educational outcomes.” You’ll need to use your brain for this one, a GPS device and map coordinates locate the ‘treasure’ or Geocache at the end. They are ranked by level of difficulty, taking factors into consideration such as the estimated time it should take, accessibility and terrain difficulty.
A level one geocache for example will be accessible for someone in a wheelchair or for young children, whereas a level five might involve anything from tree climbing to diving underwater! It’s a little out of the box, it’s unique and can be done at your leisure – why wait?
A bit of fun in the sun and sand is a great way to soak up some vitamin D, enjoy the sound of the waves rolling in and breathe some nice salty sea air into your lungs. Start by getting the heart racing with some sand duning or catch waves with a boogie board, splash around in the shallows and check out the local sea life during a nice ol’ beach day.
Feeling creative? Create a sand masterpiece, write a message in the sand or draw on the ground to your heart’s content, anything goes here which is precisely why it’s a great place for people of all ages to play.
Reach new heights
When you’re a kid, you don’t let fear get in the way of a good time. As adults common sense and prior learnings might interfere when considering potentially risky activity like tree-climbing, swinging around on playground equipment or flipping on the backyard trampoline, but there are still ways you can get the blood pumping and adrenalin racing. Think supervised high ropes courses, indoor trampoline parks or rock climbing centers. You’ll still get the same rush and even the opportunity to conquer some fears, all in a fun, safe and family-friendly environment.
Today.. Fun, Fun, Fun #polishboy #fun #enjoy #summer #time #trampoline #good #day #playing #sky #blue #love #it #smile #happy #fly #flyhigh #me #myself #garden #beautof #view #best #place #nature #jumping
A photo posted by Oskar Jele?nia?ski (@osaxdxd) on
Hiking, hide and seek, and picnicking
Sometimes simple is best and what better way enjoy a day in the great outdoors with the right combo of relaxation, indulgence and physical activity than with a fun hike to a picnic destination. Take a break from your usual weekend schedule and pay your nearest picnic ground, walking track or national park a visit for some crisp fresh air and the sounds of nature. A study found “group nature walks are linked to enhanced mental health and positivity”, reiterating just how important social time outdoors is for us.
Creativity through arts, crafts and colouring
The adult colouring book craze has swept the nation in recent years and it seems it’s here to stay. Despite the childish nature of colouring in, it has a number of benefits regardless of age. It’s an outlet for creativity and it has even been classified by some as a meditative tool due to the increased ability to zone out from the outside world.
Pretty cool, huh? Painting and crafty activities are also a great way to get your hands dirty away from the elements and express yourself without restriction, a great way to partake in play. So, next time you’re feeling like life is getting a little too much or you need an outlet, pull out a rainbow assortment of pencils and crayons and reap the rewards – they’re at your fingertips!
The only limit when children play is their own imagination, so what better way to fully embrace the essence of innocent, authentic play than to join in with the little ones! You could build a cubby house indoors, create something out of Lego building blocks, play shops with household items or host your own teddy bear’s picnic in the lounge room. You might even like to collect unwanted recyclables from around the house like old shoe boxes, egg cartons, bottles and cans and see how inventive you can be. No doubt the kids will be stoked to have some new playmates and you’ll have a bunch of fun in the process. If you don’t have kids yourself, visit nieces and nephews or even give your friends a night off by offering to babysit for them.
A photo posted by R.D-C (@r.10c) on
Regardless of the playful path you choose to take, we hope you now have a better understanding of the benefits of allowing the free-flowing, care-free and all round fun times that play provides and how simple it is to do so. No matter your age, stage of life or lifestyle, allow yourself to have some time and space to play, just like the good old days.