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The Importance of Play in Children and Adults

When was the last time you played? I mean really play. Fully immersed, using your imagination, emotions and ability to make believe? Where you lose yourself in the role you are playing, where you felt such a high from it?

Your answer to this might be based on your age. If you are an adult in your 30s like me, chances are you feel you really miss playing. You wish you had more time to play. But unfortunately you have so many responsibilities that play might be the last thing on your mind. There is also the caveat that play is only for kids.

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While play is definitely important for kids, play is also important for adults. To me, play is the moment where you bring many skills together and do something. But because you are playing and having fun, the incentive to perform and deliver is less. In fact, play is a laboratory where you can experiment and even fail without repercussions.

As adults we often feel that we do not have room to fail. With all the responsibilities set upon us, there is a need to constantly deliver our KPIs, our deliverables, to use an oxy-moronic term. Because of this, we feel the stress of performance and the anxiety of avoiding failure. Our desire to avoid failure sometimes drives us to undue stress, not realising that the human biology is not designed to hold on to stress for long periods. Our bodies were designed to hold on to stress while hunting or being hunted with an end goal to the stress in sight. But the modern person is under constant stress of a future which we will never reach because lets face it, if you allow yourself to – there are many things to always worry about in the future.

So ironically, play becomes a relief of sorts when we can play without repercussion. To fail and to laugh with our friends at our clumsiness, to behave erratically and to even exaggerate things we are normally afraid of doing in our everyday life. Play becomes effortless as a result as such play is reinforced with positive emotions such as joy and intense enjoyment.

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There is also something deeper at play (pun totally intended) when we play; If we allow our playful nature to permeate into our everyday world, if our playfulness seeped into our everyday world, we are also giving permission to others around us to be frank, candid, to feel more relaxed and to have room to breathe. Granted that there are jobs that are critical and important, such as the role of a fireman and police officer for example, these are very serious jobs. But even a fireman or a police officer has duties in which they could afford to be more playful.

Why do we need to be so serious all the time? Why can’t our default be trying to find opportunity to inject fun and play into our waking moments? What is happening in our everyday lives that we have to put a straight face and a front? As Shakespeare once said, All the World’s a stage and all of us are mere actors on that stage. If we are actors, then its all a role we are playing and if we are playing this role consciously, then we could also consciously opt to play and play with sheer indulgence.