Play is everything, we all do it, all the time!
This concept came to me from my Dad, an artist, who once told me “everything is art”. And it is… If you choose to see it that way, which I do!
I believe art is play, they are the same thing.
Playworkers define play as “Freely chosen, personally driven and intrinsically motivated.” – PlayScotland
Art is defined as “something that is created with imagination and skill and that is beautiful or that expresses important ideas or feelings.” – Webster’s Dictionary, 2018
Play and art are creative outlets which can be executed using different mediums and tools. I think it’s safe to say they would still exist if they weren’t being observed, judged and evaluated.
In fact, I would argue that if you remove observation, judgement and evaluation you have them in their purest forms.
They are a human need.
Children’s play and adults’ play: are they different?
In some ways, yes.
However the reasoning behind it is exactly the same: to enjoy life, learn and develop.
An example of adult play could be gambling.
When you hear the word ‘gambling’ you probably think of a casino in Las Vegas, smart suits and skimpy dresses, with bad hangovers and wasted money.
This is all true. However adults ultimately gamble to fuel adrenaline, you take your chances and see what happens.
Wait for the rush!
Any situation in which you don’t know the outcome but invest anyway is a gamble!
Children do this all the time!
-Can I jump from here to there without falling?
-When I mix two different colours of play dough what colour will it make and will they be mixed forever?
-If I shout at you will you stop playing with me?
Many methods of ‘adult play’… that you would in no way associate with children, can be translated into a child’s world.
Especially when it comes to why the play is taking place.
- Adults use alcohol to change their mood; children use sugar.
- Adults play cards against humanity to laugh with friends; children play snap.
- Adults go to clubs to find companionship; children go to the park.
They’re all fundamentally the same.
When you’re a child you play with sand and you add water.
You see and feel the differences in texture, colour and consistency. You want to do it again and again to see if it happens every time.
It’s like magic.
You can make patterns and shapes, you can manipulate it differently in each form and it’s interesting to touch… just by adding water!
I don’t know about you but I still love going to the beach. I love playing in the sea and in the sand; splashing, digging holes, building sandcastles and sculptures, decorating them with shells.
The only difference between an adult enjoying these activities and a child is that to a child it’s new, they often want to take it further, and test it.
When a child is free to take it further and test it, they’re in a world of their own exploration.
–Is there more it can do?
–If we add glitter and feathers and paint and glue, what will we get?
A boring adult might answer “a mess, you get a big mess”.
In reality you get a creation, a potion, a medicine, or a stew.
Your imagination is your only limitation.
Why do many adults see play as a diminutive act?
Alas, society flicks its wand and to a certain extent, we all conform. That’s life.
According to western society we have a list of things we need to achieve and if we don’t we’re lacking some part of the big picture.
Before I go into a list of clichés I have to say the world is changing and I don’t believe the following list is guaranteed to make you complete or happy. You can probably tell by how it’s written…
(But I also appreciate the need for stability, money and love which these things can provide.)
How to be a functioning member of society:
- Decide what you want to do FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE, as young as possible. Preferably academic or at least high paid with little risk.
- Prove you’re a good test taker by getting high grades in school.
- Get into debt by going to university.
- Get a job straight out of university and pay back the acquired debt with a job that may or may not have actually required you to have said degree in the first place.
- Get married – Preferably to the opposite sex.
- Get in more debt with a mortgage – buy a house.
- Be the epitome of health.
- Have children and expect the same conformity from them.
- When you’re old and useless; sit quietly in a room and don’t make a fuss, until you die and your hard-earned (and taxed) cash – which is now your children’s inheritance – can be taxed yet again.
I could go on, in a never-ending list of contradictions and stereotypes.
That’s just how the world goes ‘round, right?
The only reason I say NO! so dramatically is that no two people are the same, so this idealised life we’re taught to adhere to isn’t going to make everyone happy.
It could in fact make you miserable and forget what actually makes the world go ‘round: Science.
Just kidding, it’s PLAY, obviously it’s play!
The beauty of play in childhood is that you don’t realise you’re playing because it’s so natural.
I think we need to carry this on as adults more mindfully.
If play is natural then that must mean we are taught to stop playing…
We are told to stop doing something that’s inherent to us as humans, not even as humans, but as living beings; all species play.
Yet, we are the only species to shame it as we age. Why?
If we learn through play yet discourage play after a certain age, in a way, aren’t we discouraging learning?
As an adult I have a different and fresh appreciation of events in my childhood.
I love being with my family and talking about things we did and places we visited ‘back in the day’.
The conversation would end by saying “I’m gonna do that with my kids, it was so much fun!” or “We should go back and do it again!”
I think we sometimes forget the things we once did could still be happening if we just did them!
How can I hold on to the joy of play in adulthood?
Look back on your childhood and see yourself through their eyes…
Would they like you?
Would they be excited to spend time with you?
You are still that person – you’ve just had more experiences. Let your experiences shape you for the better, without losing your inquisitive love of life.
I have another list of clichés for you. A few do’s and don’ts for embracing the joy of play:
- Embrace natural pleasures. Just being outside could fill you with joy; fresh air, sunshine, birds singing, trees that need climbing and stones to be skimmed.
- Make time to do nothing. Do what you enjoy, what you feel like. Take time away from ‘the man’ (this term is used to describe society’s harsh demands and is in no way sexist… men are lovely).
- Be more spontaneous. Life is often very structured and there is an appointed time for everything. Once in a while just say “let’s go on a drive” or “let’s go to the park” – and actually go. Have an adventure!
- Don’t take yourself too seriously. Laugh at yourself. You will enjoy life so much more. Just trust me. I make fun of myself way more than anyone else. Some people test that statistic, but I win every time and in more ways than one because I’m happy, I know and embrace my flaws.
- Don’t spend time thinking about other people. By this I mean don’t spend your time thinking about what other people are thinking about you or what they want of you. Say it with an attitude: you do you, flaws and all. Those that love you will love you because of those things or regardless of them.
- Find your passion! Just keep trying different things that seem cool until you get that light-bulb-moment of… ‘Ah, ok, yeah…this is it’. You might never find it and that’s fine. Just learn as much as you can.
These things can be hard to achieve, but it’s possible!
What’s more important to you:
-Being a genuinely happy person or having a million likes on Instagram?
-Having a happy and healthy child or what the neighbour thinks about your parenting?
You could have it all, but you still have to prioritise and work on what’s important to you.
Some may say adults don’t need to play because they’ve learned everything they need to learn through play.
We are constantly learning and therefore playing!
Play is anything you do for fun, anything you do because you’re fascinated or curious.
Why is it that if you see two women in their mid 40’s sitting in a café chatting, they’re having a catch up, but if you saw two 8-year-old girls doing the same thing they’re playing?
It’s your own perception of what is taking place, try to see it for what it is.
Are the two older women playing or the two young girls having a catch up?
Free tip: You could get home from work and watch a few hours of TV… OR you could go to a class and learn something new. Take a drive to a place with no one around and watch the sky change. Go bowling with your friends or to a new restaurant for dinner or simply take a walk.
The list is endless.
As I said at the beginning, I believe that “we all do it, all the time” (we play).
I think it’s the word itself some people have a problem with rather than the act.
Which makes sense…
The definitions of words as broad as play or art are perceived differently person-to-person and that’s ok… as long as you’re aware of your biases.
I am biased because I love to play, I also love learning about play and the many different aspects of it (risk, psychology, health, disability and social interaction – just to name a few).
So, I’ve set up camp in my bias bubble, but it’s transparent and I invite you to come and share your biases and we can learn and understand each other.
Wrap it up!
Play is just as apparent and complex in adults as it is in children. It’s just that adults are (generally speaking) less open minded and have lots of opinions, which combined with a ‘my way or the high way’ attitude is a quick way to end a potentially great conversation.
If you don’t take yourself too seriously and unwind, you will be happier, less stressed and free to play!
As my sister would say “get over yourself”!
Do what makes you happy, learn as much as you can, listen to other peoples stories and share your own!
I hope you enjoyed reading this post.
Please share it with like-minded people and ask any questions you may have in the comments, let me know what you think.
Yesterday I went to ‘Ilbung-sa’, which is a temple in my town, Uriyeong, and my favourite place to go in korea.
I saw beautiful lilly pads, architecture, paintings and people showing their respects.
The art work is incredible, the statues and wood work are all carved and painted my hand.
It blows my mind every time I go!
I like to lie down on the floor of my favourite temple and marvel at the intricate design of the ceiling and the stories it tells.
I also saw a group of monks perform a ceremony for the people there. The drums and chanting were calming and surreal.
How did you play today?