Why Play?

Why play matters for children and adults too!

Happy Friday Families! Or as I like to call it Fun Friday - Going from weekday to the weekend (or spring break) can be a tough transition for families, especially for kids with diverse needs. It helps to keep things fun and playful butI haven’t always known why play is so important. Hint..it’s not just about the kids, it’s a key for stress reduction.

Let’s go back to 1990 when it all started. 

Here’s me, my mom, and in the middle my little sister playing with her first Discovery Toy. She was born with significant cognitive and physical disabilities and these educational toys were recommended by professionals. I'm so thankful for those SLPs (Speech and Language Pathologists) and OTs (Occupational Therapists). Because of them and my sister, I already had a collection of great resources when I started working in the field. But it wasn’t until I was doing my Early Childhood Education certification that it really came together for me on why play matters!

As I learned in the big play textbook¹ “During early childhood, children spend most of their waking hours discovering, creating, laughing and imagining as they acquire the skills they will need. They chase each other and attempt new challenges while developing their bodies. They play with sounds, words, and ideas that all contribute to developing their mind. They invent games, dramatize, and create romanticized fantasies while learning social skills and moral rules throughout their play.”

There's so much value in play for kids. According to the big book, "If you expect two young children to sit quietly, or think logically, you'll be disappointed." 

As Mr Rogers says “Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children, play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood.”

Great, we know that kids are suppose to play. But then you grow up, right?! 
At Hornby Island Play we are passionate about sharing why play matters for everyone.

Brené Brown’s book Dare To Lead² expresses this point - that play matters! She says “that we have convinced ourselves that downtime - like playing with our kids, hanging out with our partners, napping, fooling around in the garage, or going for a run is a waste of precious time. Why sleep/play when you can work?”

She references the work of Dr Stuart Brown, a psychiatrist, clinical researcher and the founder of the National Institute for Play³. He says that this lack of downtime and play has an effect on our work.

In our desperate search for happiness, we have missed the memo - if we want to live a life of meaning and contribution, we have to become intentional about cultivating sleep and play. We have to let go of exhaustion, busyness, and productivity as a status symbol and a measure of self-worth.

I don’t know if you are like me, but I am definitely guilty of overworking at times. That’s when I break out in a game of hide and seek, tickle time or a dance party with my son for a chance to move our bodies, laugh, and connect. As a teenager, he's less inclined to join me, so I turn up the music and start moving my feet! Then, more often than not, he joins me.

Our society has put value on overworking and not playing, even when the evidence points to the benefit that play brings. Play shapes our brains, fosters empathy, helps us navigate complex social groups, and is at the core of our creativity and innovation.

Brené talks about the value of bringing play into the office and the workplace. Bridging work and play. She encourages people not to celebrate working through the weekends as a badge of honour. Stuart Brown says, “The opposite of play is not work. The opposite of play is depression.” 

Phew. That's heavy.

Overworking and not playing is unsustainable behaviour and has dangerous side effects for all. These include burnout, depression, and anxiety and it creates a culture of workaholic competitiveness, truly detrimental to our society.

As a parent, we can get so caught up in the stress and the busyness that we do forget to play. Then I remember the ways I love to play, like going barefoot in my garden. I love playing in nature.

I find a lot of value in chatting with friends and our community about how they like to play. I like asking people the uncommon question, instead of "how are you today?" I ask "What fun thing did you do today?" Hearing how you play inspires me too!

Pop in the comments below - How did you play today? Or what are your weekend play plans?

Check back for next week’s blog on my top 3 steps for a playful house while getting stuff done.
Keep living playfully!

Amanda Raichelle Perry


P.S. If you're interested in working with me or chatting to see if we're a good fit, you can book a session or a free connection call here.

Today's links:

¹The Developing Person Through Childhood And Adolescence

²Dare To Lead

³National Institute for Play