Do you want to Play More?

Do you remember the moment when you “grew up?” That freeze-frame moment in your life when you became “too mature” to be silly? I think you lost something there. When I was beginning grade school, I remember how I felt stuck in childhood. All the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grade classes were confined to one corridor in my elementary school. Time was moving too slow. I used to look at the 5th graders around the corner and think, “one day, I’ll be grown up.” I positively ached for it.

Now time flies by. There’s no time to unplug and relax. If you are a parent, do you hide behind your phone, checking your email, when your kids want you to get down on the floor to play? Do your actions say, “I’m too cool for that”?

In your head you may think, “I don’t have time for silly stuff” or “I can’t get this suit dirty” or “I’m too old for dolls or Play Doh.” Do you hear yourself saying, “grown ups just don’t do that, sweetie”?

Working with kids has kept me young at heart. I still often forget what play is for, rushing through my day. Working with kids reminds me why acting silly, sitting on the floor, and playing pretend are important.

Psychologist Kathryn Hirsh-Pasek, Director of Temple University’s Infant and Child Laboratory explains why play is important no matter your age, where the whole stigma comes from, and clears up what play is and isn’t. Play is the experimental space, the practice for real-life decisions that got us where we are. “The fantastical becomes real, the real becomes fantastical; we can try out a new hypothesis without consequence.”

How short-sighted are we being to throw “play” away like a disposable raft? If we can’t find our way back, we will definitely lose something important. We’ll be stuck on this no-fun Island for Grown-Ups until we all die of smile starvation.

In a real-life example that proves this point, the busiest woman in show business, TV mogul Shonda Rhimes, describes her fear of play in a powerful TED talk. Over a year when she challenged herself to say “yes” to everything that scared her, nothing was a greater challenge than one of her daughters saying, “Momma, come play with me!”

Here are four ways you can insert some play into your day (from “Laugh More, Yell Less: A Guide to Raising Kick-Ass Kids”):

If we let ourselves have fun, we feel like we are slacking off or being lazy. Believe it or not, play can lead to some surprisingly intense performances. The most amazing feats of extreme athletes and inventors happened because people dove headfirst into their passion, lost a sense of time, and settled into a period of intense focus. Try it out:

1. let yourself get totally immersed in something you enjoy doing.

2. savor the moment, find the beauty around you or the silence, or the perfect angle of sunlight through the window.

3. create something, even if it’s just drawing with crayons or building with LEGOs, without a model or plan in mind.

4. pick out a moment in time and take a picture in your mind. Notice everything about it, remembering the tone of people’s voices, focusing on the details of the setting.