“Sometimes grown-ups forget to play, but not kids. Kids always remember to play.” – Abby

My Little Sister – Big Brother Big Sisters, not my actual sister – said these wise words years ago. At the time, we were at a packed playground at the Point Defiance Zoo, and I was standing on the side watching her play. Abby’s words still pop into my head when I’m taking life too seriously. “Don’t forget to play.”

See? Not taking golf too seriously.
See? Not taking golf too seriously.

Like yesterday. I took an aerial yoga class. It’s basically a swing hanging from the ceiling. You can lay in it, do flips from it, hang upside down. Hello, playtime! Yet this class was focused on stretching. It was quiet and serious. Boooooring!

I’ve been really nervous about the soccer team I signed up for. It starts Sunday. I signed up for the super casual league, but some of my teammates seem really serious. “We should focus on defense since we’ve never played together before.” “Who wants to play goalkeeper first? We should all take a turn.”

Way to stress a girl out! Goal keeping? I’m not even sure I know the rules of goalkeeping! I spent a couple days really wanting to quit and checked the league site to see if it was too late for a refund. Then I was at the gym, playing at aerial yoga class and was thinking about how fun it will be to lace up my cleats and run around the field. It’s a game. It’s summer. It’s the beer league, not the Premier League! It’s OK to be there to play!

Abby is right. We need more play in our lives. Science says!

Dr. Stuart Brown researches play, and he says play is more than fun, and it’s not just about kicking a ball or rolling down a hill. Play can be humor, games, flirtation, roughhousing, fantasy, etc. “Plenty of play in childhood makes for happy, smart adults — and keeping it up can make us smarter at any age.”

According to his research, when animals are deprived of play, their brains don’t develop properly. The opposite of play is not work. It’s depression, Brown says. We’re designed to play through our lifetime.

In Brown’s Ted Talk, he encourages participants to think back to their own play history. When it was wholly up to you, what were you doing? What made happy? What sticks out in your memory? He said this can be key to finding the right career for you.

When I think of my own play history, it was centered around the cool playset my parents built us. It had three swings, a ladder, an upper level, a slide and a sandbox. My cousins, siblings and I spent hours playing together out there. We could also run around the entire backyard. I don’t know what that means to my career, but running around playing with friends sure sounds a lot like the soccer field I’ll be on on Sunday afternoon, right?

Now I’m curious. How did you play? Inside with dolls? Creating things on the computer? Drawing on paper?

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