Even Adults Need Playtime

We need more playtime.

It doesn’t matter if you’re 5, 25 or 85, play is one of the most glorious parts of life—yet so few of us actually take the time to do it. One excuse after another, before you know it, freeform play seems like a trifle of the distant past.

There is this stigma about fun once we have grown up. It has to be “adult fun.” Maybe grab drinks with our friends, go on an occasional camping trip or perhaps dip our toes tentatively into an embarrassing open-mic night. But that isn’t playing. What happened to the creative drive we used to have as kids? The imaginary fire moats surrounding our feet? The castles we built out of food condiments? The kitchen pot rock bands? The Rube Goldberg-esque booby traps? The wide-eyed curiosity and ingenuity?

There is a dearth of creative play among adults and it’s no good for our creativity or our happiness. We simply don’t set aside time for pure, unadulterated play, and that’s a shame. The more responsibilities we pile on our backs, the more we commodify our time, the less room we seem to make for play. But if nothing else, we desperately need more playtime.

Photo used with permission of Whimsy Media

Photo used with permission of Whimsy Media

I was telling a good friend about a music video I created the other day. I took half a day with a couple of talented friends and we created a video for no other reason beyond the simple fact that we could. We had very little plan and simply allowed ourselves the space to play and create whatever came out. (It turns out, we created a music video featuring a stuffed giraffe named Marvin and the labyrinthal search through a warehouse to get him appropriate safety gear. Coming soon to a computer near you.)

The video is wonderfully absurd, but when I was explaining it, my friend ran one hand through his stress frazzled hair and barely blinked an eye. He said, “So you guys just set some time aside and played? Just for fun? Without any end goal?… That’s incredible… I wish I could do that.” It was a moment of shock and enlightenment… perhaps tinged with a little envy.

Well, guess what, you can do that. Life gets busy. Life gets real. It happens to everyone. But that doesn’t mean we need to drop the best parts of life, too . Here is my prescription for supplementing your playtime deficit:

Get out and play!         

There is no secret. There is no ‘set your phone alarm to remind you to play every hour’ hack or ‘buy it in bulk when it’s on sale’ tip. Just find a 3 hour chunk of time this month—you have it somewhere, keep looking—lock up all the distracting technology (Netflix is a playtime murderer) and do something you haven’t allowed yourself to do since you were 10. Maybe you want to build something out of all your broken bike chains and tubes that have been stacking up in your garage. Maybe you want to choreograph a dance to your favorite song. Write a silly story or poem. Make a fingerpainting! Allow yourself the time and space to be young and creative. Don’t worry about making something good or bad. Don’t worry about failing. Just experiment and get creative and allow your mind to flourish.

I recommend the full 3 hours, especially if you’re out of practice. It can take a little while to get back in the playtime swing. And you don’t have to do it alone! Set aside one afternoon a month where you and your playtime gang get together to play and create and have pure, blissful fun!

Life is too short to act old. Would you rather spend your free time worrying obsessively about whether you can afford to go on vacation this year or doodling out that comic book you’ve always wanted to create? Neither will really change the fact that you may not be able to afford vacation this year, but one of them will make you feel a lot happier, more youthful and a lot less stressed. That’s the power of play.

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