Photograph by Judy Bruner of JBruner Photography www.judybruner.com
Play is good for us. At all ages.
It’s bad enough that many adults don’t understand the essential value of play for children and how play is a child’s language but it’s just as disconcerting to see how many adults don’t play! Children naturally play wherever they are ( the dinner table, in the grocery store, during nap time if not tired) because play is the means through which children explore and express. It’s an essential part of their brain development. As we grow up we often get so wrapped up in the responsibilities of life that we forget to play. Often we may forget HOW to play!
The fact is play is good for us. At all ages. Play is how we connect with others. It produces feel-good chemicals in the brain. It lifts depressed mood. It alleviates anxiety. It can be a means to keep the physical body and brain in good shape.
I’ve written on this topic previously and I suppose I will write on this again because it’s just so important. So, how do we get out of the rut of heavy responsibilities weighing us down and get to playing? Here are some simple ideas below. And before you glance at this list and dismiss these ideas as “silly” please just give them a try.
- Bubbles. Blowing bubbles is something I personally often do between therapy sessions to relieve stress, to shift gears and to enjoy myself if only for 30 seconds. Keep bubbles on hand. In your bag, In your car. Watch what happens if you start blowing bubbles among a group of children. It elicits giggles and chasing, popping, jumping about Great fun. Let’s learn from the children how to embrace the moment.
- Play Dough. Not only is playing with play dough a great stress reliever there is something magical about the feel, the smell, the experience of rolling, smashing, squeezing the brightly colored stuff.
- Dance. Crank up the tunes and go crazy in your living room or office. Move your body freestyle. Invite others to join you in the office or at home. Dance while you cook dinner. Dance on the back deck. Dance in your car seat.
- Sing. You need not have a great singing voice to enjoy singing. Singing along with the radio or belting out a tune while chopping vegetables is fun and it’s good for you.
- Follow a child’s lead. One of the things I LOVE about providing play therapy for young children is they show me endless ways to play and I follow their lead. You need not be a play therapist to do this. Join a group of kids on the floor and let them show you how to build a Lego tower or jump into a game of tag with the neighborhood kids in the back yard.
- Watch a kitten or a puppy. Kittens and puppies know how to play. It’s their nature. Join in the fun. Grab a string and engage a kitten in a game of chase and pounce. Roll around with a puppy in the grass.
- Game Night. Designate one night game night for your family or your group of friends and commit to playing a new game each week or at least rotating. Get a group together for a game of Trivia. Join a Bunko club or a Bridge League. Schedule some fun and enjoy!
Play at all ages is key to our mental, physical and social health. Play helps us build relationships with others and keeps our outlook optimistic. From infants to elderly, play is an essential part of the human experience and we must work to keep this part of us alive and well.