Art is older than production for us, and play older than work. Man was shaped less by what he had to do than by what he did in playful moments. It is the child in man that is the source of his uniqueness and creativeness. ~Eric Hoffer
Do you remember the childhood excitement of getting gifts and toys around the holidays? You couldn’t wait to get the toy out of the box and start playing. Or you couldn’t wait until you got off of the bus after school and run around with your friends outside. When is the last time you felt that type of excitement from playing?
At some point in our lives, we lose sight of the things that truly matter. We get caught up in grind, waking up to an alarm clock, cruising on autopilot as we go to work, finally to come home where we sit, in a trancelike state in front of the television. Days, months, years pass by.
You think to yourself, “Where did time go?”
Maybe you think that you’re too old for shenanigans, that you have too much work to do, or that playing is childish. Don’t be fooled. Play is a vital part to the health of ourselves and our relationships.
Don’t let your ego, more commonly known as the “Fun Police,” get you. The Fun Police will say “Whoa buddy! You’re having too much fun here. You better scale it back or people are going to judge you for that.”
But if a 95-year young man can put himself in his great grandchild’s imaginary world, playing “Pirates” or “Cops and Robbers” or “House”, with a gigantic smile across his face … that teaches us something. He made it to 95 years with a smile for a reason.
The excitement of child-like play is still in you.
We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing. ~George Bernard Shaw
The Benefits of Play
Dr. Lorraine Peniston, learning disability specialist, lists numerous research-proven benefits of play (from The Primal Blueprint):
- perceived sense of freedom, independence, and autonomy
- enhanced self-competence through improved sense of self-worth, self-reliance, and self-confidence
- better ability to socialize with others, including greater tolerance and understanding
- enriched capabilities for team membership
- heightened creative ability
- improved expressions of and reflection on personal spiritual ideals
- greater adaptability and resiliency
- better sense of humor
- enhanced perceived quality of life
- more balanced competitiveness and a more positive outlook on life
That sounds like health to me! Not to forget that most forms of play will get you off your bum and moving!
8 Ideas for Play
Play can take many forms. From verbal communication to physical brawling. Here are 8 ideas, some better for playing with kids, others better for playing with adults:
1. Board games: Simple and easy. The game drives the fun for you so that no excess effort is needed. Some of my favorites include Apples to Apples and Cranium, because they can be played with many people and they give you the opportunity to learn about others on a deeper level.
“You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.” ~Plato
2. Wrestling: Can be done with almost anyone. I’ve wrestled friends, girlfriends, brothers, sisters, and parents. And when you add exotic moves from wrestling as seen on television, you take it to a another level. Just last week, I put my 10 year old sister, Ali, in the Boston Crab. Once Ali submitted to my dominance, she pinned my 7 year old sister, Lea, to the ground and said “Chris, Lea wants the Boston Crab!” So I gave it to her. It was awesome! She submitted too, of course.
3. Telling jokes: Can be told at home. Or in the car. Or on a walk. Always good for a quick laugh. You can add to your joke arsenal by googling “jokes.”
One of my favorites …
“What does the olive say when it falls from the tree?”
Get it?! Because “I’ll live.” sounds like “OLIVE!” HAHAHA!
4. Making fun of others: It’s just fun to pick on people. Especially when they make it easy. Take advantage of those opportunities when someone is clumsy, asks a weird question, or does something silly. Just as when boys in elementary school pick on girls that they have a “crush” on, it is also an easy way to let someone know that you like them.
5. Drinking games: While I don’t condone drinking into oblivion like I used to, playing games when drinking alcohol can bring levity to an environment that wouldn’t be there otherwise. I remember thinking that my mother was the coolest person on earth when she said she wanted to play beer pong with my friends and I when I graduated from college.
6. Sports: playing catch, softball leagues, ultimate frisbee, soccer, pick up basketball, tennis … An easy way to get exercise without the apparent effort.
7. Tag: Especially fun with children because they can’t laugh and run at the same time.
I had the privilege of growing up on a street with 10-15 other kids, something that most children today don’t seem to experience. One of my friend’s fathers used to play tag with us and chase us around my house. To this day, I have extremely fond memories of Mr. Mustardo for pretending to be “just one of the kids.”
8. Improvise (play dodgeball with your sisters): Ali and Lea were sitting on a couch different than the one I was sitting on. Next to me was a ball. So I threw it at them. The ball smashes into the side of Lea’s head … and she laughs! It’s great … you get to win in another game (another stroke of your ego), and they get to have fun and spend time with you. It’s win-win!
No one ever said, “I wish I’d spent more time at work” on their deathbed.
Working hard allows you to live in society and support your family. Playing hard allows the health of you, your family, and your friends to thrive. Don’t let the Fun Police get you. Neglect play at your own risk.
What is your favorite game or type of play?
Many Thanks to Billy Gregson for help editing this post. He sprinkled pixie dust on my head so that my head (and the ego that it houses) didnt blow up to the size of a melon.