For the most part, kids are happy. There are exceptions, of course, but collectively they’re pretty upbeat compared to their timeworn counterparts. They smile a lot, they laugh a lot, they find humor in the most mundane of circumstances and conjure up magic out of almost anything.
They also spend a lot of their time playing.
We prioritize playtime for kids, but somehow our society seems to think the concept becomes completely frivolous once we’ve passed our prime (aka age 12). Meanwhile, who needs playtime more than stressed-out, overworked, unhappy adults?
Bring back four square; change the world.
I’m not just spouting silly string. Play has been shown to stimulate nerve growth in the parts of the brain that deal with processing emotions and executive function — plus delay mental decline, help us solve problems and teach us how to negotiate, among other positive outcomes. Oh, and it’s fun. Can we ever have too much fun?
As it turns out, science suggests play is as important for our well-being as sleep and food. No wonder so many adults are unhealthy and unhappy. When was the last time you played something other than beer pong? Or the Powerball?
I wish we’d all play on the regular. I wish there was more whimsy and less seriousness about adult life. I wish games were everywhere — not just at bars and in pro stadiums. I think everyone would be so much happier, if we could just play a little (or a lot) more.
Think back to your childhood parties. Remember when everyone was totally into hide and seek and fingerpainting? The excitement factor for Pin the Tail on the Donkey was off the chain. As grown-ups, parties aren’t even an option without enough social lubricant to fill a swimming pool. And playing? Other than flip cup and Rihanna, there ain’t much.
Play could easily be incorporated into so many humdrum elements of adult life. The DMV, for instance. Why the hell don’t they have a running charades game? Or during a board meeting — why no Jenga? Jury duty would be ideal for Cards Against Humanity. Imagination, y’all. It’s a thing.
We need more laughter, more lightness, more positivity in our lives. Play inspires all of these in spades. And yet we rarely do it, and it’s certainly not integrated into our lives as an imperative pastime. The funny thing is, people adore play and silliness and whimsy. We know this because the world can’t get enough of Where the Hell Is Matt?, April Fool’s pranks and dressing up like Doctor Who.
So why isn’t there more tomfoolery in our lives? More play = more happiness. No question.
Playing is often when we’re at our most relaxed, creative and happy. No agendas, restrictions or expectations. Just playing, like we used to, before life got complicated and our brains got overthrown by all things mundane and monetary.
I’ve rediscovered a lot of my childlike dalliances recently — making art, climbing trees, watching bugs — doing silly, playful stuff that has no aim or agenda or expectation of productivity about it. It’s the greatest. But what took me so long? Little Hannah has a lot to teach me.
I just need more playmates. Who’s game?