The Benefits of Play for Kids and Grown-Ups

What does it mean to play? As a parent, my mind goes right to my kiddos and all the ways they play — dress up, Legos, hula-hooping, a loud game of Sorry! — but I rarely think of myself when it comes to playing. 

I’m probably not the only adult who, without meaning to or even really noticing, ages themselves out of regular play. For children, the value of play is well-known, but recent research shows that play has real benefits for adults, too. 

Beyond the delight of getting goofy and having a good time, grown-ups who play experience reduced stress and enhanced overall well-being. In the workplace, play contributes to faster learning, decreased fatigue and increased productivity, creativity and job satisfaction.

So what exactly is play? In an interview with Mindful magazine, Dr. Stuart Brown, head the National Institute for Play says, “Play is something done for its own sake. It’s voluntary, it’s pleasurable, it offers a sense of engagement, it takes you out of time. And the act itself is more important than the outcome.”

Sounds pretty awesome. Ready to make play a part of your regular routine? Here are a few mindful tips to help you get started:

Say Yes to Play

Next time your child — or any child! — asks you to play, say “yes.” Tasks, to-dos, work deadlines, dinner prep or whatever’s holding you back will still be there when you’re out of breath and done giggling.

Schedule Time to Play

Just like you schedule time to exercise or time to work, schedule time to play. Literally put it into your calendar, write it on your wipe board or slap a sticky note reminder on your screen. It doesn’t have to take long. Even 10 minutes of play can release feel-good endorphins.

Find a Playmate

Kids are fantastic playmates, but there might be times you want to play with another grown-up or two. Recruit your partner, friends or family members for a play date.

Listen to Your Inner Child

Not sure what to play? Close your eyes: what games did you love to play growing up? Remember that feeling of delight, of time flying by, of not caring how you looked or sounded. Tap into that. 

Finally, don’t worry if you’re out of practice – there’s no such thing as playing perfectly! Just take a deep breath and be present. What’s important is the play itself. If you look or feel a little silly, no worries! 

Need a little inspiration? Here are some of our favorite ways to play: 

  • Go upside down
  • Ride bikes
  • Grab that empty swing
  • Family yoga
  • Blow bubbles and catch them
  • Dance party
  • Freeze tag
  • Water fight
  • Card and board games
  • Scavenger hunt

Try a Mindful Recess for a little playtime fun! 

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