Play Isn’t Just for Kids: The Importance of Play for Adults
As we get older, we stop prioritizing play in favor of work. But all work and no play is detrimental to our well-being, both physical and mental. Incorporating play into our lives isn’t a luxury, but a necessity to maintain good health, improve relationships — personal and professional — and boost productivity.
Like many things considered childish, the value of play for adults is often overlooked, despite being one of the best ways to keep our minds sharp and our bodies healthy. In fact, recreation time is known to prevent kids from turning to illegal activities while also developing their interpersonal skills and providing them with the opportunities to succeed.
What Is Play?
Play is described as any activity that is done voluntarily, for fun, and that brings us joy. It’s something that’s done for its own sake — play for the sake of play — and the act of play is often more important and useful than anything that results as a product of play.
Though playgrounds and schoolyard games come to mind as the quintessential definitions of play, the activity can vary from person to person. Not all children get the same thrill out of a crowded playground; some prefer quieter activities, like playing dress-up or doing crafts, and use these activities to gain the same benefits and skills.
Play isn’t a word often used to describe activities involving adults, but the reality is that adults do play as well — and more importantly, it’s crucial that they never stop playing. The importance of play for adults goes beyond just recovering the ability to have fun; it’s a noted way to improve cognitive and physical health.
Barriers to Exercise for Adults
Constantly being on the go is the norm in today’s society, making it difficult for many people to prioritize their health. Physical health is particularly overlooked, as carving out time to go to the gym or to fitness classes is easier said than done. And if the time exists, sometimes the funds don’t.
Cost and accessibility are two of the biggest barriers to exercise for adults, making the Centers for Disease Control’s recommendation of 150 minutes of physical exercise every week, plus strength training at least twice a week, almost impossible for many. Couple that with a lack of time or motivation, and you get a large percentage of adults who are unable to reap the benefits of exercise.
The Rise of Playgrounds for Adults
Outdoor gyms and recreational equipment have been the norm in many European and East Asian cities. It’s free to use and resembles kids’ playgrounds but with the emphasis put on exercise rather than play. However, they have the same goal as kids’ playgrounds: to get people active.
Instead of doing exercise for the sake of exercise, playground equipment for adults is starting to remind us that play for the sake of play is an all-encompassing concept that helps develop or sharpen our mental and physical skills. The same reasons kids’ playgrounds are great for children’s development are the reasons why playgrounds for adults are considered beneficial.
The Benefits of Play for Adults
The childhood desire for fun and novelty never really leaves us as we grow. Instead, we tend to prioritize other things we consider to be more adult, like work and relationships. We forget how playing in schoolyards with our friends actually helped us develop into functioning human beings by teaching us how to solve problems and puzzles, develop our cognitive skills, and learn how to socialize with our peers.
We need to keep practicing all those things even as we get older, which is why adults need to play, too. In addition to those skills, some other benefits of play for adults include:
- Promoting good health
- Improving relationships, both personal and professional
- Boosting creativity and productivity
Playfulness, especially humor and laughter, can aid convalescence and is used as a type of therapy for people of all ages. And being happy and in a good mood helps us be better in all aspects of our lives. It’s also an excellent way to manage stress and keep from becoming overwhelmed.
1. Good Health
Adult playground equipment has the benefit of allowing adults to exercise the same muscles they would at a gym but without the fees or the pressure. Equipment like swings, slides, and monkey bars all exercise muscles in the legs, arms, and core as a side effect of sheer fun and enjoyment. And it helps release endorphins, which improves our overall mood.
With things to climb and balance on or jump to and from, playground equipment for adults aims to provide the same sort of energy and activity as playground equipment for kids. But it’s the added notion of playing that really makes it different since it doesn’t feel like work. Working out on equipment designated for exercise is neither for nor accessible to everyone, but incorporating play into our daily lives can provide us the same benefits as a regular weekly workout.
Playgrounds for adults invite us to relive our childhood and remember how fun and carefree it was. The notion that we can no longer be carefree when we’re adults is faulty and tends to hold us back. Sure, we can’t be as carefree as we were in childhood, but we can still capture some of that joy of play in our adult lives — and take advantage of the physical benefits it naturally affords us.
Designated playtime also helps relieve stress and prevent us from burning out. It encourages us to invest energy and attention to simply being alive. It’s known to keep us energetic and feeling young while also boosting our cognitive skills. Regularly taking the time to enjoy puzzles and other problem-solving activities helps stimulate our brain, keeping it sharper for longer. It’s also known to alleviate some symptoms of depression and anxiety.
2. Improve Relationships
When we play with others, we inevitably build or strengthen our bond with them. By playing, adults can let their guards down and interact with others.
In personal relationships, playfulness can help alleviate some of the awkwardness and embarrassment that’s inevitable in the early stages of romance. For relationships that are long past the early stages, playfulness and humor help keep the connection vibrant and exciting while also increasing intimacy.
In platonic relationships, a sense of play is valuable in creating a bond and encouraging trust. Play helps children develop social skills, and it helps adults maintain and sharpen those skills. Games like sports and video games require players to work together to come up with a plan to win, which is a skill that comes in handy in all aspects of life, including our careers.
Children are another reason why adults need to play since, by playing with kids, we’re helping them and grow while we sharpen our own skills. Playing with trusted adults helps children develop their cognitive, social, emotional, and physical skills. Creative play develops the imagination and is great for adults who feel they’ve lost some of their creativity.
While playing doesn’t have to be limited to physical activities alone, including physical play with puzzles and board games shows kids how to live a life that’s balanced with activity and rest.
3. Boost Productivity
Many dot-com companies have included play as part of the workday. With games like foosball and table tennis, fitness classes and regular recess-like breaks available to staff, these companies understood the positive impact that play can have on productivity.
Playing allows us to sharpen our creativity and innovation skills, which makes us more productive and less stressed. Being in a state of play and relaxation is great for work, helps us perform better, and is a notable way to solve problems. Stepping away and playing, which can be anything from doing a puzzle or watching some TV or playing a sport, allows us to turn off the part of our mind that’s critical by stimulating the creative parts of our brains.
When we return to work after a break, we can look at the problem with fresh eyes and think more creatively about possible solutions. In workplaces that rely on teamwork, having time specifically for fun, especially group fun, can be a boon for business thanks to the natural camaraderie that forms among employees and the productivity that follows.
Job satisfaction is another value of play for adults since employees who are relaxed and enjoy coming to work are less likely to seek employment elsewhere, which reduces staff turnover. The quality of work a person does is highly dependent on their own well-being, both physical and mental. Incorporating fun in the form of staff parties, games, and play structures for adults allows employees to better manage their stress, which prevents them from burning out.
Other Benefits of Play
The aforementioned ways are the most notable benefits of play for adults, but the list doesn’t stop there. Incorporating play into our lives also has the following perks:
- Improves memory: Another way play improves cognitive function is by growing the cerebral cortex.
- Releases endorphins: Like exercise, play boosts our mood during and after.
- Handle stress: Though regular play should help keep us from getting stressed, sometimes it’s inevitable. In that case, play can actually help us better deal with stressful situations.
- Attracts others: A playful and energetic personality can influence who we attract. Flirtation is a form of play and while it can often be harmless, it can also be a way to develop romantic relationships.
- Generates optimism: With the increase in endorphins and the overall positive benefits, it’s no surprise that play can also give us a generally positive outlook of things.
Creating Opportunities to Play
Knowing that we should incorporate more play in our everyday lives is one thing, but figuring out how actually to do it is quite another. Most of us likely already have ways of incorporating play into our everyday lives without even realizing it. When we take time to watch trashy TV or daydream, we’re indulging in play. We’re also indulging in play when we play sports for fun or when we play with our pets.
Make Time to Play
If your workplace doesn’t have ping-pong tables and yoga classes available for staff, find a way to make your own fun. Keep a little notepad or coloring book at your desk and do some sketching or coloring on your break. Take time to shoot a few hoops during your lunch break or take a walk with your camera.
Find ways to be creative and fun during your breaks, especially with your coworkers. Even telling silly jokes in the lunchroom or playing card games can do wonders to make your day go by more quickly and make you feel more accomplished and pleased by the end of it.
If possible, see if your workplace is willing to invest in some fitness and play structures for adults to encourage more play and activity for staff. It’s important to set time aside for play — without any distractions, ideally — and really lose yourself in the joy of playing.
Play With Your Kids
Playing with kids has multiple benefits for both you and the children. Learning how your kids solve problems, what sort of games they think up, and what they do and don’t enjoy is a great way to help them develop more trust in you and opens the door for more open communication and sharing. If you’re worried that you don’t know how to play with children, here are some options to start with:
- Crafts: Arts and crafts are a great way to let the creativity flow and provide the perfect situation in which to chat and learn about each other.
- Outdoors: Throw a frisbee, have a game of tag, or spend some time exploring a playground with your kids to get some physical activity in.
- Puzzles: They can be either jigsaws or board games, but working out a puzzle together is a great way to hone problem-solving skills and creativity.
- Games: Hide and seek, tag, follow the leader — these and other classic childhood games are timeless, don’t have an age limit, and can be played both indoors and outdoors. You can even gather a group of your own friends to play these childhood games. Or invite your kids to make up a game for you all to play, no matter how wacky it may be.
- Costumes: Putting on plays or performances can be a great way to exercise everyone’s creativity and, if you’re an adult who is usually very reserved, can be an opportunity to break out of your shell for a little while. If costumes aren’t available, be creative and use household linen or put on a puppet show with stuffed animals instead.
When you play with kids, you’re forced to be flexible and to embrace repetitiveness, depending on the children in your company. Set aside time every day or every week to do nothing but play with your kids and give all your attention to playing.
Family game nights can be a great way to get everyone to unwind and have some lighthearted fun. Even if you don’t have kids, game nights are a great way to gather friends and family to have an evening of carefree fun.
Modern games have come a long way, so it’s not necessary to meet in person if it’s not possible. Online games and video games and the advancements in technology make it easy to play with people all over the world, both strangers and friends alike.
For some people, the traditional game night is the best, and it does have its perks. Seeing and interacting with people in person and having the opportunity to show physical affection can all be beneficial.
Develop Your Playful Side
Many people consider playfulness to be the same as childishness, but there’s nothing wrong with being childish once in a while. Many professionals recommend it because it has a ton of benefits.
It’s natural to be a little nervous about letting loose if you’re not used to doing it, but the secret is just to do it. The more you play, the easier it will be to keep on playing.
Developing your playful side doesn’t have to be a massive transformation, either. It will happen gradually as you allow yourself to be more and more playful. Some great ways to incorporate small ways to be playful in your day include:
- Chat up strangers: Make small talk with the person waiting for the bus with you or the cashier at a cafe.
- Do some tricks: Learn some card tricks or simple magic tricks to entertain friends and coworkers.
- Schedule time for a hobby: It can be anything from crafts or team sports to spending some time on the swings at a playground — just find a way to make yourself laugh and experience joy.
- Make playful friends: Surrounding yourself with playful people will help you embrace your own playful side. Friends who share your sense of humor or your love of magic tricks can be a blessing.
- Pick up a hobby: Getting in touch with your playful side is a great opportunity to pick up a new hobby, especially something that you were previously too nervous to embark on, such as standup comedy or pottery.
Use Community Playgrounds
If you’re really stuck on ways to be playful, take a walk to your local part or community center and enjoy the multigenerational recreational space. The value of play for adults isn’t limited to so-called adult games and activities. Try a couple of climbs up a jungle gym or a few minutes riding a seesaw with a friend. The traditional playground can still be a source of fun and laughter for adults.
Multigenerational recreational spaces aren’t limited to parks or schoolyards. Businesses, faith organizations, and homeowners’ associations can all use commercial playground equipment to create areas for people of all ages. They make a perfect way to enjoy quality playtime with kids, allowing everyone to get some good exercise at the same time.
Offices can use playground equipment or fitness equipment to both encourage employees to take the time to play and let off steam while also encouraging them to stay active and healthy.
Bring out Your Playful Side With Little Tikes Commercial
At Little Tikes Commercial, we’re dedicated to helping everyone find their playful side. With freestanding equipment for parks, daycares, schools, and more, our playground and fitness equipment can help you find more ways to play and stay healthy.