Play is essential to development because it contributes to the cognitive, physical, social, and emotional well-being of children, youth as well as adults. Play allows us to explore a totally different side of ourselves that gets to experience everything in the present moment — a state of flow.
Why Have We Lost The Art Of Play?
In my opinion, we have lost the art of play due to the extreme focus on work and obligations. Work and obligations have value but when taken to the extreme, the balance shifts towards the dysfunctional end.
As a culture, we are so obsessed with productivity, efficiency, work-life balance, emails, notifications, schedules, so on and so forth that we have lost touch with the side of ourselves that can play and just bask within the present moment.
A Definition Of Play
Firstly, let’s come to an agreement on the definition of play since defining where we stand is extremely important.
Play: To engage in activity for enjoyment and recreation rather than a serious or practical purpose.
Here’s a couple great questions that you can ask most people to understand where we are with play as individuals and a culture: When was the last time you just purely played by yourself or with a group of friends?
When was the last time you engaged in an activity for enjoyment and recreation rather than a serious or practical purpose?
In other words, when did you engage in an activity for its own sake?
In our culture, we seem to look at play as something that doesn’t matter — a mere waste of time from the perspective of many individuals. This can’t be farther from the truth because play is an inherent part of our biology. Play is a form of bonding that we have evolved in order to strengthen the cohesiveness of our group for the sake of our survival.
Our cultural operating system seems to run on the ideas of productivity and efficiency but towards what? A new car, house or watch? This is a matter of being focused on materialism and that brings a whole new set of problems to the playing field. It creates a vicious cycle of focusing on the meaningless and short term things rather than the meaningful and long term things.
A Call To Play
I urge you to start playing more in your life. The reason for this is because play brings you into the present moment and by being in the present moment, you gain a whole host of benefits that have to do with physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health.
Play is not a waste of time. In fact, it can be looked at as one of the most important and consistent investments that one can make within one’s life, especially for most people considering that they are stuck in a state of chronic stress.
The Role Of Play therapy
Play therapy is a psycho-therapeutic approach primarily used to help children ages 3 to 12 explore their lives and freely express repressed thoughts and emotions through play. Although, this can be a great solution to many adults these days as well.
Therapeutic play normally takes place in a safe, comfortable playroom, where very few rules or limits are imposed on the child, encouraging free expression and allowing the therapist to observe the child’s choices, decisions, and play style. The goal is to help children learn to express themselves in healthier ways, become more respectful and empathetic, and discover new and more positive ways to solve problems.
So, the question is, why don’t we apply this strategy to adults? I believe this would be an immense tool in the re-kindling of the art of play.
How Can We Rekindle The Art Of Play?
Firstly, let’s remember that play is to engage in activity for enjoyment and recreation rather than a serious or practical purpose. Following this definition, we can come up with some practical strategies that are suitable to the individual.
Let me go through a few ways of how we can collectively develop the lost art of play:
- Get in touch with lost interests and passions — Many of us have lost or simply let our old interests and passions drift away from us. I urge you to revisit these interests and passions because some of them might actually be an expression of play that you would like to get back into. For example, if you used to paint but stopped painting then start revisiting the expression of the paintbrush.
- Mindfulness — Mindfulness is simply the art of being in the present moment which is a major component to play. If you can develop your mindfulness muscle then you will be more successful when it comes to dropping into a state of play or in other words, flow.
- Get a dog — A dog is the purest expression of unconditional love and play. Getting a dog would be a wise investment as long as you consistently play with your dog. This will make you more playful in nature.
- Watch children — Watching children will give you an idea of what play looks like. Children are masters of the art of playing in their natural state because they enjoy the present moment for what it is and carry a sense of wonder everywhere they go.
- Develop a sense of wonder — Because we have grown older and become habituated to the world around us, we have lost our sense of wonder for the natural world and our environment. On your daily routine, start to develop a state of wonder for the things around you. When you see a flower, stop and observe the flower and bask in the wonder that it provides. Everything around you has the potential to make you drop into a state of wonder. This is the essence of being a child.
It’s very interesting that things tend to come full circle. In this case, we start as a child with a state of wonder and ability to play for the sake of play. But, as we grow older, most of us start to lose this beautiful part of life and tend to slowly move towards a state of chronic stress because of work, obligations, and the inherent suffering that life provides.
Now, in our older age, we find ourselves in a situation where we must consciously direct our attention to the rekindling of our childlike sense of wonder and this is where we come full circle.
Play is one of the great joy’s of life. Take advantage of it with the time you have left on this planet.