Unless you’re a die-hard traditionalist you’ll already be aware of the importance of play in children’s lives, both at home and at school. As Play England explains, “Play is an essential part of every child’s life and is vital for the enjoyment of childhood as well as social, emotional, intellectual and physical development.” Play is a chance for children to follow their interests, to do things in their own way and to make decisions about why they are doing what they are doing. While adults may facilitate play for children, it’s their autonomy when at play that can be so beneficial.
It’s not just for children
So what about adults? If play is so beneficial for children (countless studies tell us this, and children’s right to play is even enshrined in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child), surely adults can benefit too? There’s no doubt that being active and taking part in sport is beneficial for us, and those of us enjoying the almighty talents on display in the Rio Olympics right now might be benefitting from just watching others! But actively seeking fun through play may be just what we need on a regular basis. A chance to forget pressures and stresses and relax, not to mention gain benefits such as improved social skills, cooperation, improved emotional awareness, better brain functioning, more energy and creativity as explained here. Why wouldn’t we commit to it?
All work and no play… and all that…
This Melbourne Institute Working Paper, Use it too much and lose it? The effect of working hours on cognitive ability shared in the Guardian recently explains that “there is a non-linearity in the effect of working hours on cognitive functioning”. In other words, once we reach 40 and over, working up to 25 hours a week has a positive impact on cognitive functioning. But if we work over 25 hours a week, there’s a negative impact on cognition. Now we all know that full time teachers work many more hours than 25 each week and that most of us cannot afford to retire before the age of 40, so doesn’t that make our leisure time all the more important?
If we are spending too much time working, then saying we need to make time for play may simply add to the stress. If we have too little time for play, we need to create opportunities such as a night out doing something like bowling or singing in a choir (don’t feel limited by these suggestions!). It can be anything that helps us to feel connected with others and that we enjoy doing. It also helps to make sure we have people who enjoy play in our lives. They are more likely to encourage us to join in at times when we feel bogged down in other aspects of life. Traditional board games can remind us how to be playful too and might even be enjoyed at school. Lunchtime staffroom shuffleboard contest, anyone?