Playing Is Not Just For Kids

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I saw a great piece on the news last night about a new pensioner’s playground which has been built next to the under 5s playpark.  Basically, it’s designed to encourage the over 70s to participate in some gentle exercise, working on their hips, toning their legs and their upper body.  However, the by-product of this ‘gentle exercise’ is laughter, and this to my mind is actually far more important.  If you click on this link, it will take you to the BBC story where you can watch the news clip of elderly men and women trying out the equipment, and they look like they’re having an absolute ball!

It started me thinking though, that it seems like the only time in one’s life when it is appropriate to play is if you are under 5 or over 70. What about the 65 years in between! One of the (many) reasons why I home educate, is that I don’t think our education system emphasises enough the importance of free play for a child’s development once they’ve hit primary age (5+).  There is a programme on CBBC at the moment dramatising the education department’s attempts to close the boarding school Summerhill, which is a very special place where the students devise their own curriculum and there’s no obligation to attend lessons.  In other words if a child wants to spend the whole day at free play, then they are more than welcome to.  This is exactly how I (un)structure my own children’s education.  It is a child focussed approach with an emphasis on free-play.  (More on this here)

However, I also believe in the value of playing for those who have left their childhood behind and made the move into the world of work and responsibility.  There are so many ways to make room for playing in your life, and while you, or perhaps disapproving others, may think that it’s a ‘waste of time’, you may find that the resulting benefits render play anything but a ‘waste of time’.  Just for starters, taking the time to play:

  • Facilitates the learning of new skills.
  • Develops a keen curiosity about a wide variety of topics.
  • Encourages creativity and innovation.
  • Increases productivity by aiding concentration.
  • Creates new perspectives.

Some of the ways I like to play include taking photographs, brainstorming for new imaginary projects, making voice threads, drawing big colourful mind-maps, writing blog posts (!), colouring in, planting seeds, trying out new social media (Twitter, StumbleUpon, Facebook), making origami cranes, devising new recipes, winning at Cluedo, beachcombing for shells, thrifting through vintage clothes, going on the swings at the playpark, feeding the ducks, and foraging through the local woodland.  For me, playing is all about discovery, innovation, and enlightenment.  How could it possibly be a waste of time?

How do you play, and what benefits do you see from integrating play into your day to day life?

For more fun, follow me over to Tumblr.

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January 31, 2008. Creativity.

15 Comments

  1. Penelope Anne replied:

    I play any time I physically can with the kids…in the snow, tag, and so much more. We have to play to stay young at heart.
    Good idea for the playground though.

  2. Kelly replied:

    How fantastic is that new park! I hope they get those here… I’d go!

    I, too, let my kids have play days. They spend their time between legos and strategy games they play with their dad. How can they not be learning?!

    My playing includes making jewelry with beads, collecting post cards, walking on the beach, blogging, oh and coloring in my fairy coloring book. I love that!

    Great post as usual!

  3. Linda R. Moore replied:

    I play at Markeroni: I get to go around cities with a stuffed penguin and photograph it on historical markers and places. 🙂

    I also like to colour mantras and doodle and ride my motorcycle, which is as playingy as it gets. Whole hours of whee! 🙂

  4. Upper Body Exercise Equipment replied:

    […] Playing Is Not Just For Kids […]

  5. Kelly replied:

    Hey I wanted to mention I took a pic and wrote a bit about a game I made up for my little guy to help him work on his “sight” words. It is titled Pictures of Fun, Snow, and Learning on my blog. It incorporates learning, physical activity and fun… he loves it!

  6. amypalko replied:

    Completely agree, Penelope Anne, we do need to play to remain young at heart!

    Playing is vital to learning, isn’t it, Kelly. Great post, btw, on the reading game. Looks like your son’s having a great time! Associating good fun with reading can only be a good thing, in my opinion 🙂

    That sounds like lots of fun, Linda! You clearly appreciate the importance of integrating play in your everyday.

  7. nouveaufauves replied:

    Laughter is so good for increasing that serotonin level we need to keep going. When I feel low, I increase my vitamin B intake, I go for a swift walk, clean something or organize my studio and the best trick of all is to either rent a funny video or force myself to laugh. Faking it works too.

  8. Fiona replied:

    What a fantastic playpark! I once went to a taster class for adults which was based around the kind of games we used to play during school P.E. lessons; bean bags, hula hoops, skipping – we all felt a little self-conscious at first, but by the end we’d laughed so much and had a fantastic time. I wish someone would open a soft-play centre for adults – I’d definitely go!

  9. Damien Riley replied:

    Great article. Almost everything I have earned online or on the guitar has been learned through playing. I’m a big believer in it.

  10. amypalko replied:

    Faking it till its real is often a difficult task, Nouveau Fauves, but it is certainly one that works!

    That sounds a fabulous taster, Fiona! If you hear of another one, let me know, and I’ll come with you 🙂

    I think a lot of the world’s most successful people know the importance of play, Damien, so I’m not surprised that you found profit through playing. So good to have found another believer in its power!

  11. Nicholas replied:

    What a brilliant idea!

  12. amypalko replied:

    It is isn’t it, Nicholas! I think we need a playpark for the years in between childhood and retirement though, don’t you?

  13. Nicholas replied:

    We do! I remember feeling very left out when I became officially too old to use the playground in Regents Park near where I used to live in London.

  14. amypalko replied:

    I’ll let you in on a secret, Nicholas… I still go on the swings when no-one’s looking!

  15. Blog Stew: 09 February 2008 replied:

    […] Less Ordinary has come up with a couple of gems. Check out this playground for seniors–playing is not just for kids! Then look at these shells, most ordinary […]

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