Play is an important part of childhood, as well as a key component of adulthood. Research has shown that embracing your playful side can help you become both more productive and more creative. While so far in this series we’ve focused a lot on why you should play more, today we look at how you can go about doing just that.
Play can be a means of escaping the stresses and pressures of life. Soccer icon David Beckham plays with Lego, recently building his five-year old daughter Harper an amazing Lego fairy castle. When he was UK Prime Minister David Cameron admitted to being a big fan of the hugely popular online app Angry Birds. It passed time on long journeys and helped him to unwind. Playfulness is an opportunity for fun and enjoyment, and can take many forms. You just need to work out what fun means to you.
1. Mystery walking
We all know that walking for 30 minutes a day or more on most days of the week is a great way to improve or maintain our overall health and fitness. But you can add an element of fun to your walk, especially if you are in a group, by flipping a coin at every street corner or road junction, with heads signalling a left turn and tails signalling to go right, and see how far it takes you, or how far you dare to go.
2. Play on words
They say everyone has a book in them, and while most people at one time or another will have come up with the idea for a gripping novel, few ever commit it to paper, or to a memory stick. Writing does require some discipline, so set aside 30 minutes every day to devote to your ideas. You could start by writing some poetry, funny stories for kids, or twist in the tale stories for adults. Who knows, that idea you had for a book could turn into a bestseller.
3. Go racing
Most people cannot resist the challenge of a race, and it is a great way to encourage playful competition whilst getting some exercise. You could turn a walk round the park or in the countryside with friends into a race, with strictly no running, or a full on sprint to the nearest tree. If you are feeling particularly playful, organise a three-legged race, and make it strictly fancy dress.
4. Colourful play
This is an adult play activity that has gained huge popularity in recent years. It’s relaxing to do, especially if you are also listening to music, and in way is a sort of meditation, calming your mind, occupying your hands and focusing your attention on simple, repetitive tasks. If you haven’t done any colouring since you were five, you are in for a pleasant surprise - the fine motor skills you’ve now developed as an adult allow you to produce some amazing results. And there is something deeply satisfying about not going outside the lines. It’s a great way to relax, express your artistic side, and produce something worthy of hanging on your own fridge door.
5. Connect with kids
Children are the experts when it come to play, so try to spend more time around the kids in your family and friend’s circles, nephews nieces, official or unofficial, grandchildren, even get your neighbours’ kids together. Spend time with them, watch them as they play, listen to their chatter and connect with their amazing imaginations and trains of thought.
6. Dance like nobody’s watching.
One of the best ways to shake off the stresses of the day is to dance, alone or with friends, in any style and in any place. All you need is the right music. Join a ‘zumba’ class or sign up for ballroom dancing lessons and follow in the footsteps of your favourite ‘Strictly’ celebrity. It’s a lot of fun, a great social activity that helps you keep fit, and it’s impossible to dance and worry at the same time.
7. Host a games night
Invite friends round to play by hosting a games night. Forget bridge and poker, and instead get into teams to play charades, Twister or silly board games, or organise a fun quiz night. Make it a regular event with friendly competition between the teams, supper included, and with just one golden rule; mobile phones and TV must be switched off.
If you think you’ve forgotten how to play, simply delve into your memories and try to recall how you liked to play as a child, and then experiment with what sounds fun. Whether it’s painting, singing, roller-skating, crafting, storytelling, or playing a game of tug a war with your dog, you’ll forget that you’ve discovered an effective stress buster because you’ll be having too much fun.