We all know that play-time for kids is an essential part of their development. They learn new skills, such as problem solving, how to connect with others and also keep fit and healthy running around playing games of tag and hide and seek.
It shouldn’t be too much of a surprise then to know that adults can also reap benefits galore from adding some play and fun into their lives. While it may seem unimportant in today’s busy world, play has an important part in to play in the grown-up world.
I was talking the other day to my friend about how having a young son means I actually feel younger myself. You get involved with their day-to-day life, which let’s face it is much more fun than our boring grown up one, and suddenly you realise you’ve spent half a day drawing Buzz Lightyear or learning how to do keepie-uppies!
The benefits of play for grown ups
If you still need persuading that it’s time to get playful, here are just some of the benefits us grown ups can get from acting like a kid.
It’s a stress reliever
Anything fun helps release those feel-good chemicals endorphins. They act a bit like a natural shot of morphine, helping to reduce pain and raising your overall sense of wellbeing. They’re great at banishing anxiety and can also help you sleep better. Since becoming a mum, I’ve learnt a whole host of new skills including skate-boarding and how to play Fortnite and I swear learning new things helps to kick stress and anxiety into touch.
It makes your brain work harder
This is especially true if you’re playing anything that involves a bit of strategic thinking, such as chess or completing puzzles. My son is really into word games – crosswords, anagrams, Scrabble – and I’ve come to love them just as much, as I feel my brain really ticking into gear while we’re coming up with answers.
It’s a social thing
Whether you play in a local netball team or just enjoy a games night with friends, having fun with other people is a great emotional boost. Social events have also been found to foster confidence, trust and intimacy with others, which are all great for your sense of wellbeing.
It helps problem solve
Have you ever come up with a solution to a difficult problem while in the shower? I know I have and that’s usually because you’re giving your brain time and space away from your busy life to think about things properly. The same goes for having fun. Stepping away from your usual every-day situation and doing something fun allows your brain to wander away with itself and come up with solutions you may not have already thought about.
It keeps your feeling young: As a relatively older mum, I know I probably feel younger than some of my childless peers. Playing hide and seek, learning the words to the latest hits, attempting to conquer Fortnite all ensure I keep young at mind and soul. I’m also super active – there’s no time to sit on your butt when you have a busy 9-year-old.
It helps foster creativity
I’ve always thought I was quite creative, but since having a craft-loving boy, my creativity has definitely come out full flow. Whether it’s drawing Sonic the Hedgehog or trying to recreate a Viking with a balloon and papier mâché (Blue Peter watch out!), life since my son came along has been much more fun and creative. Children often learn best in a relaxed, playful environment and the same goes for adults.
How to add more play into your life
You can see the benefits of having more fun, but how can you incorporate more playful activities into your life? While you’ve probably got rid of your Barbies and hide and seek doesn’t float your boat anymore, there are still plenty of ways to make your everyday life a bit more playful. Here are a few ways I’ve been inspired to add play into my life:
Play in the park: Get on a swing, kick a football around, throw a frisbee or play a bit of badminton - they’re all great relievers. I often head to the park after a busy day for some al fresco fun - it’s a great way to wind down and reconnect as a family at the end of the day.
Plan a night out with a difference: Escape rooms, interactive theatre, quiz nights, karaoke – I love a night out that is more than just a couple of drinks with pals. They really bond you and you’ll be talking about them for months after.
Get colouring: There’s been an explosion in the popularity of colouring books for adults for a good reason. Not only is it a great stress reliever, but it also boosts creativity and can help you become more mindful.
Put on your dance shoes: I seriously adore my weekly Clubbercise class where I dance in the dark with glow sticks to club classic. I mean, what could be more fun? Not only are you getting a good ole cardiovascular workout while you dance, but as your mind is focused on following a routine, you are literally dancing your troubles away.
Do something just because: Jump in a puddle, eat a huge ice cream by the seaside, sing at the top of your voice in the car. Stop worrying about schedules and what you should be doing and let loose. It’s what kids do all the time. My son even turns a visit to the supermarket into an intergalactic alien race - we ‘race’ our trolleys against the unsuspecting aliens (or shoppers). It sure makes food shopping that bit more fun!
Arrange a games night: Get the snacks out, pour the drinks, break out your board games – a games night really is a good laugh. Hey, we even have a trophy that gets passed onto the winner of the latest games night.
Spend time with kids – or dogs! It seriously is the best way to have fun, without feeling self-conscious. No will question why you’re pretending to shoot alien beings (see above) or spinning around on a roundabout when you’re with little ones. Dogs are just the furry equivalent – playing tug of war, talking in a goo-goo baby voice all helps restore that sense of child-like fun and wonder.
So go on, try and add a little bit of play into your life today and you may be surprised at just how young and happy it makes you feel!