Play, how do we define it and what benefits does it bring?

When you think of ‘play’, chances are you associate it with children. When we become adults we’re not usually encouraged to play, to mess around and just have fun! Things become ‘serious business’ – work, family, mortgage etc.

When was the last time you… somersaulted into a pool, played a board game, computer game, ran around a field/court in a sports team or bantered with friends? Some of us might do these types of things regularly, others infrequently, or not at all.

Play can broadly include activities that we enjoy and do for the sake of it. We’re absorbed, engaged and time flies when we’re playing! Different types of play may overlap and include:

  • Imaginative (creative/pretend)
  • Body (e.g. jumping into a pile of leaves)
  • Independent
  • Parallel (beside others but not with them)
  • Social
  • Object (use of toys/stimuli)
Photo by Scott Webb on Unsplash


Apart from the obvious – having fun! Play brings opportunities to practice life skills such as:

  • Developing social skills
  • Defining boundaries
  • Building relationships
  • Exploring the world
  • Expressing emotions
  • Problem solving

Who Benefits?

There’s a growing desire to change the automatic association of ‘play’ with childhood. Many believe that play can bring multiple benefits to adults too, including reducing stress and improving overall well-being.

Before you cringe at the idea of being asked to play tag or hide and seek with your friends at the weekend, there’s many other ways you can incorporate more opportunities for fun and humour in your week that suit you. They don’t need to be childish in nature – although… having personally played kids’ games in a playground with 8 other adults the other week (including some very questionable cartwheels) I can report back that it’s really not that bad! You may find yourself laughing and in possession of an unexpected, fiercely competitive side…

What do you currently do for recreation? How does it make you feel and can you block out more time in your week to do more of this?

Thanks for reading!

Further Reading

BBC, (23 July, 2019). Adults get chance to develop their messy side

Brown, S. L. (2009). Play: How it shapes the brain, opens the imagination, and invigorates the soul. Penguin.

Cohen, L. J. (2008). Playful Parenting: An Exciting New Approach to Raising Children that will Help you Nurture Close Connections, Solve Behavior Problems, and Encourage Confidence. Ballantine Books.

Hicks, 2016. What’s behind the infantilising trend for adult ‘play’? The Telegraph

National Institute for Play

NHS – Why play is important

Published by Improve My Well-being

Laura is an experienced mentor and teacher, with a MSc Applied Positive Psychology (Distinction). She enjoys living and working in multicultural environments and is passionate about promoting social well-being. Blogging is her outlet to share and explore well-being initiatives and practices with as many people as possible.

5 thoughts on “Play

  1. Very interesting post Laura. I enjoyed listening to Stuart Brown and like the idea of infusing our life with play! Just letting you know I could hear the audio but no video played. Others might not experience this problem, could be a problem with tech from my end. I hope all your study during Nanowrimo payed dividends! I’d like to reblog your post, if that’s ok.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great that you are spreading the message that playing is not just for kids! It’s crazy that we forget how to play as adults, when it’s just so much… fun! I’m playing with nature this weekend. The kids don’t know it yet but we’re going to pick up leaves and moss and fircones and go home and create some creatures with our finds. And then, and then… we’ll play a board game or something. You’ve inspired me!

    Liked by 1 person

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