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Why Play Matters for Both Kids and Adults

By nature, humans are born to play. Playing is instinctive and fundamental to our existence. Playing helps us survive and thrive by connecting us to other human beings and to sources of energy and excitement within ourselves. Play is simultaneously a source of calmness and relaxation, as well as a source of stimulation for the brain and body. Playfulness helps us be more inventive, smart, happy, flexible, and resilient. A sure (and fun) way to develop your imagination, creativity, problem-solving abilities, and mental health is to play.

Play: It’s not just for kids
Play is often described as a time when we feel most alive, yet we often take it for granted and may completely forget about it. But play isn’t a luxury – it’s a necessity. Play is as important to our physical and mental health as getting enough sleep, eating well, and exercising. Play teaches us how to manage and transform our “negative” emotions and experiences. It supercharges learning, helps us relieve stress, and connects us to others and the world around us. Play can also make work more productive and pleasurable.

Despite the power of play, somewhere between childhood and adulthood, many of us stop playing. We exchange play for work and responsibilities. By giving ourselves permission to play with the joyful abandon of childhood, we can continue to reap its benefits throughout life.

The lifelong benefits of play
Play connects us to others. It fosters creativity, flexibility, and learning. Play is an antidote to loneliness, isolation, anxiety, and depression. It teaches us perseverance and makes us happy.

Play and relationships
Play is one of the most effective tools for keeping relationships fresh and exciting. Playing together brings joy, vitality, and resilience to relationships. Play can also heal resentments, disagreements, and hurts. Through regular play, we learn to trust one another and feel safe.

Playing at work: The key to productivity and innovation
Work is where we spend much of our time. That is why it is especially important for us to play during work. Without some recreation, our work suffers. Taking the time to replenish yourself through play is one of the best things you can do for your career. Play keeps you functional when under stress, refreshes your mind and body, encourages teamwork, helps you see problems in new ways, triggers creativity and innovation, increases energy, and prevents burnout.

Learning how to play again
Bernie DeKoven, one of the originators of the New Games movement, offers the following advice: “You don’t have to have rules or goals or a board or even anything to play with except each other. But whatever it is that you’re playing, there are two things you have to take seriously: being together and the sheer fun of it all….”

Authors
Gina Kemp, M.A., Melinda Smith, M.A., Berni DeKoven, and Jeanne Segal, Ph.D.
Find the complete article at HELPGUIDE.ORG