Tuesday, October 26, 2010


I've noticed that the way kids play changes as they grow older. The other day, my 11-year-old daughter was babysitting a couple 3-year-old children at our house, and right there in front of my face, it was obvious that 3-year-old play is different from 11-year-old play. My daughter did a great job of watching these kids, and a great job of playing at their level. But the things they did were things she hasn't done on her own for years.

Play changes as children grow older. Now obviously this isn't news to most people. However, it made me start thinking about whether adults still play ~ and if we do, then how.

As adults, so much of our world revolves around work. Those of us with 'regular' jobs (meaning that we go to work and receive a paycheck) seem to highly value our downtime, when we get to relax. Often this involves relaxing while watching television or reading a book or sitting in front of a computer. Also, for many, it involves having a drink or two with friends after work.

Beyond the day-to-day, most of us with those 'regular' jobs tend to highly value our vacation days and weeks. Those times are when we get to 'get away from it all' and really relax.

Whether it's the daily relaxing, the annual vacations, or the weekends, all of that relaxing still revolves around work. Either we're relaxing after work, getting away from work, or resting up to go back to work. And since I believe play must be for it's own sake, those don't count.

And those who work in the home, either running a business or working as a housekeeper, have it worse than we who have a job away from home ~ you never really get away from your work. It's surely much more difficult to take a break, since the place where you live and the place where you work are the same. I've never been in this kind of situation, so I don't know what the challenges are. But the question remains; how do we play?

Watch small children play sometime, and you may notice that they're completely absorbed in what they're doing. It's as if the world around doesn't exist, or if it exists, it doesn't matter too much. This is what I think of as play; when a person can become so completely occupied in something that brings them joy.

Like I mentioned, the way my kids play has changed as they've grown. What I've notice recently is that the way they play is starting to overlap the way I like to play. Last winter, I spent a number of days completely absorbed in skiing with my daughter, and realized that's play. Last week, I went biking with my son. We weren't going anywhere, we were just riding through the park, up and down hills, splashing through mud puddles, and slaloming through the gaggle of geese.

I only understood later that we were playing, and I realize that many of us adults don't recognize those things that bring us deep joy, and don't take enough time to do simply for their own sake. I hope I'm wrong.


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