I read a very interesting book on play that was written in the 1920's a few years ago. A quote from the author Caldwell Cooke stand out in my mind to this day: If a child can’t find a way to satisfy his need for play officially, he will do it unofficially.
This book was about the importance of play for children, but we are seeing more and more data on the importance of play for adults. We know play reduces stress, improves brain function and improves our social interactions with others. Yet we do not always ring-fence time to play. I am starting to believe that play will manifest itself whether we ring-fence time for it or not.
Our modern distractions, or toys if you will are hand-held. Phones, tablets, beer bottles. These all give us an opportunity to slide into a parallel universe and explore a reality different to our own. And whilst creating that alternative reality in our imagination can be healthy,repressing the impulse to imagine, create and exist in any way spontaneously is detrimental to our well-being. Even the time-slot in which we generally yield to our urges is often late at night, when our batteries are worn down and we are giving the barest nourishment to a hunger that is ever present, and rarely satisfied.
Play isn't the evil twin of work. Structured play is a staple of all early-learning programmes these days, where young children are given the freedom to try out different forms of play, such as role-play or object-play(Lego or other building materials). Play is now being encouraged in Primary Schools. Having facilitated workshops in companies and with groups, I see first hand how liberated and transformed people are when they take part in structured games. They still learn, they just happen to have fun doing it at the same time. And they play when their energy levels are at their optimum. So rather than play being used as a device to switch off, we can have play as an essential tool for any group to switch on, engage and transform.
We need to stop ignoring play as an essential part of who we are. It resides within each one of us regardless. The only differentiating factor between us is the degree to which we honour that part of ourselves through regular play. I feel joy when I play. I feel joy when I see others at play. It is literally infectious and can raise the spirits in any room. And rather than segment it to a token "day", why not embed it in the way we go about our everyday lives? Regardless of our stage of life?
We all play unofficially, be it Netflix, Facebook, or another drug of choice. Wouldn't it be great if we destigmatized play and recognized it for the gift to everyday life it is?