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Playing Is Not Just For Kids

For kids, holidays are a time for playing, freedom, loudness and most importantly, mucking around. I can attest to this after finding a secret stash of opened candy cane wrappers in a drawer the other day. All of the above was happening at a rather high amplitude.

The thing about kids is that most of them know how to have a good time. They are spontaneous, imaginative and don’t care who is watching. They think about what they want to do for amusement, and then they simply do it.

Most of us adults become the fun police as we grow up. We get all serious and stuff. We regard play as something for kids, a waste of time and most definitely unproductive. Play is perceived as childish, childlike and a tad ridiculous.

But hey, what’s so wrong with that?

Acting like a child now and again and engaging in play is something that us adults should be doing more of. So much so that many organisations are engaging people to teach adult play to their teams, as well as incorporate a sense of play into office design.

Over the years us adults have taken the fun out of everything and we have to relearn how to do what came so naturally to us when we were small.

Play has been shown to increase happiness, momentarily as well over time when we build more of into our busy schedules. It’s hard to engage in worrisome thoughts when you’re in the middle of charades or getting dumped by a wave when you’re boogie boarding (or maybe that’s just me).

Play has also been shown to improve relationships, as it aids in connection with the people in our lives. When you’re playing you are totally in the moment with that person. Even if the person happens to be just yourself.

But if I have to get a bit more serious (because us adults like to be serious), people tend to perform more professionally when they’re in a state of play.

Despite what most people think, play makes us more productive and successful. It energises workplaces and refreshes the people in them. Engaging in playful activities, lights up the right hemisphere of our brain and gets the creative juices flowing with fresh ideas, innovations and new ways of solving problems. The offices of Google have it right with employees riding around on scooters or shooting down tube slides.

For most of us grownups, play is seriously missing in our life. I often ask teams to purposefully prioritise play in their lives. The sad thing is, many draw a blank on where to start.

The term play is hard to define, because there’s no one-size-fits-all play. In an adult world that revolves around outcomes, achieving and competing, play is anything but. It's about pleasure and doing something that has no other purpose than just that.

Watch the energy shift within yourself and the people around you when you start getting a bit more playful. It might mean getting yourself a hobby and scheduling it into your week so it’s as important as that work meeting. If you don’t have large amounts of time, then purposefully stuff around. Drop into impromptu dance moves in the kitchen, crack a joke in a meeting, belt out a tune off-key in the car or pull a face over the dinner table (highly recommended).

If you have some time off over the festive season, make some time to muck around. Life doesn’t have to be so serious all the time, so don’t let kids have all the fun.

As Roald Dahl said “Life is more fun if you play games”.

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