How to Justify Play as a Grownup

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Study after study has shown us that children learn through play. Children learn what their bodies can do by running and jumping and climbing. Children learn how to relate with their peers by playing let’s pretend and tag and hide and seek. Children learn physics from building with blocks, and language arts from telling stories.

If play is so good for children, why don’t grownups do it? Do we think we know everything there is about how to get along with our peers? Do we feel our bodies need a fitness regimen rather than free play? Or is it that play has a reputation as something childish, so if we play as adults we have to call it something appropriately serious, like prototyping or scientific investigation?

Stuart Brown, MD, author of Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the  Soul, and founder of the National Institute for Play, doesn’t see play and work as opposites. Instead, he sees depression as the opposite of play. He writes “The beneficial effects of getting just a little true play can spread through our lives, actually making us more productive and happier in everything we do.” Further, he claims “(play) is the basis of all art, games, books, sports, movies, fashion, fun, and wonder – in short, the basis of what we think of as civilization. Play is the vital essence of life.”

The next time someone suggests a game to play at work, or comes up with a way to play together for team building, rather than rolling your eyes and wishing HR would stop it with the stupid forced socialization, see if you can find something fun in it. Someone is trying to inject a little bit of fun into the work world, and there might just be some benefit to you in that.

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