The power of play

PlayWe’ve all watched children playing and marvelled at their energy, enthusiasm and curiosity. They play with passion and then, once too tired to go on, cry with equal passion before sleep takes over. Their bodies are limber, minds clear, and worries non-existent. It sounds like the perfect antidote to the pressures of modern life.

Through the years of growing up, play becomes ‘too childish’ for the average teenager, who turns up their nose at the idea. Girls especially are prone to suffer this fate. Their appearance takes priority, and it’s simply not cool to look hot and sweaty after a good play session.

This lack of participation continues into adulthood where, if we’re lucky, it makes brief appearances when we interact with children, but on the whole we spend more time sitting than standing, and more time standing than being active.

What if we introduced play into our adult lives? What would it look like?

I went to a 40th birthday party once that was held at an indoor play centre. Obviously it was after hours, and typical 40th birthday party food and drink was on offer. The later the hour, the more play that occurred. We were hot and sweaty and energised and delighted and sore (those tunnels are not made for adult-sized people). We laughed a lot and compared bruises. We drank some more and did it all again.

Obviously this type of opportunity doesn’t arise very often, but we could take a lesson from the experience.

Try taking some time each weekend to be a child:

  • Walk along the low garden retainer walls – holding someone’s hand if you need.
  • Throw a tennis ball against the garage wall.
  • Put on your old clothes and roll down a hill in the park.
  • Kick up the autumn leaves.
  • Lay in the grass and watch the clouds go by.
  • Jump in puddles.
  • Tickle someone – preferably someone you know!
  • Play back-yard cricket.
  • Throw a Frisbee.
  • Go for a bike ride.
  • Take a ball to the park.
  • Make mud pies.
  • Play on the swings.
  • Climb a tree.
  • Ask “Why?” or “Are we there yet?” repeatedly.

Get active, be a bit silly, laugh a lot, and feel better. No wonder children are happy little souls.

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