Thursday Pick-Me-Up: The Importance Of Play (a.k.a. The Great Grape Toss of 2016 )

Happy Thursday!

It’s almost the weekend, which has me thinking about play!  Did you know play is essential for both children and adults?

“The opposite of play is not work, it is depression.”  – Brian Sutton-Smith

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Are these babies? or monkeys!? ~ Photo Courtesy of Arianna Smith Counseling LLC

I have a vivid memory of this past summer.   I was at a going-away BBQ for a friend.  As the party neared the end, there were very few snacks left, except for a bag of red seedless grapes.  Spontaneously, a game began that entailed –you guessed it– throwing grapes.  Competition ensued:  how high could we throw a grape and catch in our mouth?  How far could we throw a grape to get in another person’s mouth?  Could we throw a grape at someone else and catch at the same time?

I’m fairly certain an hour or more passed of this entertainment.  I got a headache from yelling in excitement, as the game increased in complexity and risk.  I wonder what it would have looked like to an outsider?  What would you think if you saw a group of adults running around with their mouths towards the sky, shrieking with delight when their grape toss resulted in a successful catch?

What is play?

Here’s my personal definition, gathered from some very “scientific” web-surfing.  Can you see how the scenario above involved all of these elements?

  • Play is for the sake of play.  While there may be a common goal, the process is equally important, if not more so, than the end result.
  • It is enjoyable and pleasurable, even if it is challenging.
  • It entails anticipation, surprise, and spontaneity.
  • It is engaging.  It is not something you can sit back and passively watch (i.e. T.V.), but involves meaningful engagement with others and/or an activity (i.e. puzzles)

Play doesn’t have to be complex or always competitive.  It can be as simple as chasing your dog/child/friend/partner around the house, a card game, or dancing.

Play And Relationships

Consider this:

“Play refreshes and fuels a long-term adult relationship. In a healthy relationship it is like oxygen: pervasive and mostly unnoticed, but essential to intimacy. …Without play skills, the repertoire to deal with inevitable stresses is narrowed. Even if loyalty, responsibility, duty and steadfastness remain, without playfulness there will be insufficient vitality left over to keep the relationship buoyant and satisfying.”

– Dr. Stuart Brown, excerpt from his book Play, founder of the National Institute for Play.

My partner and I have a long-standing habit of playfulness.  Besides our never-ending game of Rummy, we intentionally take turns hiding random things (i.e. magnets, ticket stubs, trinkets, toys etc.) in each other’s bag, wallet, or clothing.  At one time, we took turn hiding the same item for months (until it was ‘lost’, but perhaps that’s just another sneaky tactic up my partner’s sleeve to let my guard down.)  Additionally, one of our favorite camping spots requires passage through a gate.  Whoever gets out of the car to open the gate will inevitably watch the driver inch the car away from them as they try to get back into the vehicle.  (This joke is a holdover from my childhood.  I blame my upbringing for finding this amusing.)  

I had no clue, until doing some research, this mischief-making was such an essential component of a healthy relationship–be it with a significant other, friend, or sibling.  So, next time my partner rolls her eyes as she finds, yet again, a random item hidden in the sleeve of her jacket,  I will remind her…it’s good for us.

Ready to start playing more?  Read this: 10 Ways to Have More Fun and Play More As Adults by Marelisa Fabrega

When was the last time you played?    Can you commit to do one thing this week that feels playful or fun?  

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