How to Become More Playful as an Adult and Why it is Important
The benefits of play as an adult an why you need it.
It’s no secret that play is an incredibly important part of any child’s development. It’s how they explore the world around them and how they practice using both their motor function and their imaginations. We know just how important play is for kids, but how often do we appreciate what play does for us as adults?
Being involved in your child’s playtime can be incredibly rewarding. You are able to spend quality time with your kiddo while witnessing firsthand their learning and imagination. Not only that, but taking the time to play can be beneficial for adults as well.
Studies show that adults with higher degrees of “playfulness” often have less perceived stress — meaning that the same stressful event would have a lesser effect on someone who has a higher degree of playfulness and adversely would have a greater effect on someone with a lower degree of playfulness.
As we grow up, though, play is no longer the main event in our lives. Older kids start having to focus more of their attention on school and chores — and eventually, those kids become adults who have work, bills, and kids of their own to focus on, and play gets moved to the back burner.
So, how do we learn to become more playful?
Learn how to play from the pros
The best way to re-learn how to play is by watching the experts — your kids. They already know what they’re doing when it comes to play, and they know what works best for them.
Child-led play is an incredibly beneficial practice for kids. When your child is the director of playtime, they feel more in control of their environment and it helps increase their confidence.
Try to pick up on what they like to do. Does your kiddo like to play pretend? Is there a lot of physical play going on? Maybe your little one is doing a lot of exploring their environment. All of these types of play serve different purposes, and observing what kind of play your kiddo gravitates toward can help you meet them at their level.
For example, if your kiddo likes to spend their time role-playing and doing dramatic play, then join them in their make-believe world. Join them in what they are already used to doing.
This also helps you learn how to engage with them. By taking your kiddo’s direction, you are showing them that you trust them to make decisions and helps foster a sense of independence and leadership.
Engage by asking questions about your kiddo’s choices in play — allowing them to explain their choices fosters a sense of confidence.
When engaging in child-led play, be sure not to introduce new ideas. You are there to learn and take direction, not direct. Allow your child to make the rules on their turf, so to speak.
Remind yourself how to play by taking a walk down memory lane
Though we don’t want to interrupt a child-led play session, beginning a play session is a great time for you to show what you know when it comes to play.
Pulling out a childhood toy or game and sharing your memories is a great way to help you access the playfulness you had as a child. This can help you refresh your memory on what it’s like to be playful and what you loved to do as a kid.
By sharing memories of you playing as a child, it can also help your kiddo see you as an actor in their play space, not just as their grown-up. This fosters a sense of trust and makes your child much more likely to ask you to join them when they’re playing.
Sharing games or other play activities that are new to your kiddo can help them broaden their horizons when it comes to play. And, for all you know, you may be introducing them to their new favorite game.
If it doesn’t seem to be piquing their interest, however, don’t force it. Play is your child’s thing, not yours.
Become more playful by being in the moment
While play may not be the most important thing to us as adults, it is for our kiddos. Children mirror their adults, so it is incredibly important to prioritize play.
This can be hard for us to do, especially when we have other things we think are more important than play, so we multitask.
I have a tip for you — no one is good at multitasking, even though we all think we are. When our attention is not fully on one thing or the other, we lose out on both. Anyone who has tried to get work done while trying to calm a screaming baby can attest to this.
Sometimes, we need to put down the phone or turn off the TV and focus on the task at hand, whether that be playing princesses or making a sandcastle. This shows your kiddo that you are prioritizing their play — and, in turn, them.
This also helps you engage completely in the play, and therefore, helps you learn more from your kiddo.
Make it a goal to prioritize play
Prioritizing play doesn’t just mean putting down the phone. Prioritizing play means setting aside dedicated time in your week to play and sticking to it. This looks different for all families.
Maybe it works best to schedule a family game night or to play together on Saturday mornings. For other families, maybe it looks like setting aside a half-hour per day to play. No matter what it looks like, what’s important is sticking to your plan.
By making it a goal to play, you are reinforcing the idea that your child’s play is important to you and that it deserves your attention and time.