Play Is Important

I loved dressing up as a little girl.

I’m in graduate school working on a master’s in Family and Child Studies. Once a week this semester I get to observe three-year-olds in the university’s Child Study Center. Let me tell you, it’s magical. For an hour and a half on Thursdays I’m in the very real world of play and imagination that takes place in the lives and minds of these bright and curious children. There is an energy (and I’m not referring to stamina) that is noticeable; a buzz that comes from the creativity of unfettered play. I leave the class each week wondering, How can we as adults keep just a little bit of that magic from childhood–that inner compass we seem to be born with that tells us that play is healthy, that it’s important to hold on to all of our lives–even while raising families, paying bills, dealing with illness, and loss?

In child development, play is a child’s work because it’s important in the child’s cognitive, physical, social and emotional growth, as well as learning new skills. But I don’t think the need for play stops at childhood. In fact, many workplaces are recognizing the benefits of play for their employees–an increase in productivity, creativity, and health–physical and mental.

As a reminder to myself to get out from in front of my computer and play a little each day (and that can mean different things to everyone), I’ve posted a picture on my bathroom mirror of myself when I was a little girl dressed (or partially dressed) in bloomers, a big hat, and sunglasses. I loved dressing up as a kid; I remember the worlds I created when I put on my grandmother’s dresses and high heels. That’s probably not the way play looks like for me today; it looks more like gardening, going to the driving range, or writing. But there is something almost meditative about stepping away from obligations for only 30 minutes or an hour to do something that isn’t “required” of me but does allow me to be present. I come away with more creativity for work and an improved attitude about my life in general.

How about you? What do you learn from play?