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The Importance of Play

I often tell my little girl (5yo) and little boy (4yo) “don’t get any bigger – stay small so I can scoop and snuggle you up!” My daughter laughs and says “no mummy – I’m going to get bigger than you, and I can’t wait!”. I love this dialogue. We repeat it often, throughout the week, as we laugh and cuddle on the sofa.

However, on one occasion it was different. She didn’t say she wanted to grow up. She said she wanted to stay small. “I don’t want to get big either mummy. It’s boring. All you do is jobs, jobs, JOBS!” I have to say I was quite taken back. But she was right. I hadn’t given it much thought before – but my children mostly see me rushing from one thing to another. One job to another, without much of a pause and certainly very little play. How rather boring.

So, why is it that we don’t play anymore? We get to an age when we just stop. We feel that play is unproductive and frivolous. Why play when I have a business to run, a house to keep, 2 children and a husband to take care of?? What would it mean if I had time to play – would I be lazy? I should be productive all the time… right?

Researchers Stuart Brown and Brene Brown describe play as time spent without purpose. I wasn’t sure if I liked the sound of that. To me, productivity is everything. I like fast and efficient. But in all honesty, we know this can lead to exhaustion, and it’s not sustainable. Research shows time and time again that play is essential. Doing something because it’s fun – and not because it will help achieve a goal – supports our creativity and innovation.

Play is subjective and can mean scrapbooking, reading, dancing, sport or playing computer games; it’s anything that makes us lose track of time. Play is being silly without feeling self-conscious. Laughter is paramount, as is the feeling of being detached from your usual tasks.

I do see the value and return in play and now ensure that it’s something I engage in on most days – even if for a short while. I model silliness more often now as I want my children to grow up knowing it’s OK to play, no matter how old you are. In fact, it encourages us to rest and feel rejuvenated, and well… feel young again.

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