The Importance of Play
Recently I’ve been thinking about the importance of play. Did you know that one of the most important aspects of play is that it is purposeless? That’s right! Once you try to get something out of play or try to be productive during play time, it ceases to be play. But it turns out that this sort of unproductive activity is vital in the lives of both kids and adults because it “shapes our brain, helps us foster empathy, helps us navigate complex social groups, and is at the core of creativity and innovation.”
In The Gifts of Imperfection, Brené Brown says that play is a huge part of leading a “wholehearted” life, but that it can be incredibly difficult to make time for play in today’s society ::
In today’s culture—where our self-worth is tied to our net worth, and we base our worthiness on our level of productivity—spending time doing purposeless activities is rare. In fact, for many of us it sounds like an anxiety attack waiting to happen.
I realized that I hardly ever make room for playful activities in my life. Especially during my day-to-day life, productivity is a huge value. In fact, I’ve often complained that Valentine doesn’t play very often, but just follows me around all day as I work around the house. And that’s when I realized that when I don’t value play, Valentine won’t either.
During a conversation about it with Logan, we decided that it really was important to us to be a playful family. Logan’s actually really good at this already, but I’ve started finding time to play now, and if Valentine is around I even say, “Mama is going to play for awhile.” As I have started making time on a daily basis for things like painting and sewing or just building a block tower with Valentine, I’ve been surprised to find how restful play can be. I feel restored afterward in a way I wouldn’t if I’d just taken a nap or watched TV.
Honestly, I know lots of people who are really good at this. I see Logan figuring out melodies on the piano or playing puzzle games on his phone or making up stories with Valentine. My friend Maria builds pirate ships out of boxes and makes pretty weavings out of scraps of yarn. There was a gorgeous mobile DIY on Decor8 the other day and as I looked at the pictures I smiled to myself because I thought, “This woman was just playing with little scraps of things that she found beautiful.” You could tell she knew the art of play. :)
What about you? Do you play? Do you spend time on purposeless activities for the fun of it? What do you do? What do you love about it?
P.S. Here’s a TED Talk on the importance of play.