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Play is serious.  Bet you’ve never considered that as a fact.  How can play be serious?  Isn’t play just play?

Play is a universal language.  So yes, play should be simple.  Yes, play should be easy.  However, in today’s fast-paced, high-pressure world, things aren’t always as easy as they should be.  We need reasons why we should be doing things, data to back up and prove those reasons, and the time, energy, and commitment to do those things.  And play is one of those things.   So, it’s time to get serious about play.

The Three Things That Make Play Easy

1. Everyone can play.  That’s right, everyone.  Regardless of age or ability, everyone can play.  Play can be as complicated or as simple as the participants want it to be.  Large scale games can have elaborate rules and small scale activities can be drawing on the driveway with sidewalk chalk.  Anyone with a desire to have fun doing a self-chosen activity at their own pace — with or without others — is probably playing.

2. You can’t get play wrong.  There is no right or wrong way to play.  The only limits are the limits of the players’ imaginations.  Especially with children, play can enhance their creativity and let the children play how they envision is fun and fair, without strict adult guidance.  Play can be relaxed in nature or it can be vigorous and planned.  There can be lots of specialized equipment designed specifically for a game, or there can be loose parts — materials with no specific set of directions on their use, such as twigs, refrigerator boxes, cups, fabric, and even mud (to name only a few).

3. There doesn’t need to be an end goal for play.  Many time when we think of play, we think there must be a result.  For example, when we “play a sport” there is a winner and loser.  The goal is to more runs, goals, or points than another player or team.  When we play chess, the end is when the opponent has no moves remaining.  But most of the time, there is no formalized goal in play, except to have fun.

The Only Two Reasons You’ll Need To Play

1. Play makes you healthy.  The obesity epidemic in the United States is no secret.  The majority of children and adults do not get the recommended amount of physical activity each day.  By engaging in most types of play, children and adults can reach their physical activity recommendation each day.  Physically active play helps children build strong bones and muscles and reduces the risk of chronic diseases and developing obesity.  Adults can benefit from physically active play, too: lower blood pressure, lower resting heart rate, strengthen bones reducing the risk of osteoporosis, and preservation of muscle mass are all key benefits for adults.

In addition to physical health, play also helps promote mental and emotional health in both children and adults.  Everyone — children and adults, alike — are subject to high-pressure situations regularly, whether at school or at work.  While situations provide a lot of stress in our daily lives, play can help manage stress and physical activity and play can help reduce depression and anxiety.  Play also helps children gain cognitive skills, while at the same time delays mental decline in older adults.

2. Play makes you happy. Play helps boost our self-esteem.  Play helps children make new friends and learn how to be friends.  At its core, play is boundless, limitless, and endless and play can go to any stretch of our imaginations. When we are just exploring without goals, without rules, without pressure, we are having fun.  And that is what makes us human.  We’ve all heard the saying “all work and no play makes you a dull boy.”  We need play to make us happy.

Play is serious, and it’s time we take ourselves not-so-seriously.  That’s the only way the seriousness of play will work.


Featured Image: Play by ThomasLife   CC BY-NC-ND 2.0