Each of us has an inner child that’s waiting for a tweak to come out for some playtime. Yes, play — as in doing silly things, running, jumping, telling jokes, laughing, and having fun.
As adults, especially as older adults, we often forget about play. Play is for kids! But what about the kid in each of us? Don’t adults need the joy of doing things purely for ‘fun’? Adults take things seriously approaching each day with purpose, a ‘to do’ list, and goals to meet. Setting aside time for fun and laughter becomes a distraction or wasted time.
The right to enjoy ourselves
What feelings of joy we miss when we dismiss our playful side! If we feel that the right to enjoy ourselves is selfish, we miss the joy and happiness of letting the playful side of our personality emerge.
Our inner child reflects the true self. It’s the playful child that dwells inside each adult. The inner child wants and needs to react to the world just as a child reacts. Because children are given the right to enjoy themselves, why shouldn’t adults give themselves the same right to enjoyment?
When younger we had all kinds of games involving balls — softballs, hard balls, tennis balls, beach balls, and basketballs come to mind. We jumped rope, bounced on trampolines, got wet in lawn sprinklers, and pumped our bodies on swings. We rode bicycles, skated on frozen rivers, and skied. Many of these activities involved other people or teams of others. Often the play happened outdoors.
Are we afraid of playtime?
It seems that sometimes adults prefer the misery of work and purpose instead of indulging in the luxury of playtime. We might be scared of how people will react to our silliness. We might feel that play is wasting precious time. We might be shy to laugh out loud — or sing off tune, or dance clumsily. We worry about how people will judge us.
It’s easy to forget that joy and happiness are the best antidotes for the unpleasant sides of life.
Perhaps we need adult playgrounds to nurture our inner child. Adult playgrounds focus on fitness with outdoor gym equipment and fitness courses. Maybe we need a summer camp for adults to replicate the joys of being outdoors, meeting new people, sleeping in cabins, singing at a campfire, eating in a dining hall, and making arts & crafts.
Our daily/weekly schedule needs to include time for fun. It can be scheduling an exercise class at the gym with a friend. It can be a weekly game of cards or a stimulating activity such as singing in a choir.
Having fun doesn’t need a lot of time. Play can happen in little chunks. It might be singing as while clearing the table and loading the dishwasher. It might be goof-off time with your spouse/partner/roommate accompanied by laughter and silliness. It might be dancing alone to a current pop song on the radio.
Re-engaging in the fun activities you enjoyed as a younger adult can awaken the inner child. Long-buried memories will certainly bring on a smile!
What we can learn from kids
Little kids know a lot about play. Whether it’s building a fort with blankets over dining room chairs, climbing ever higher on the monkey bar spider’s web, repeating silly ‘knock-knock’ jokes, or skipping down the sidewalk because it feels good — kids instinctively know how to play!
Playtime may be organized or unstructured. Perhaps it’s playing a game with others or simply playing ‘pretend’.
What’s more, kids are totally absorbed in their play. They forget time. They ignore extreme temperature changes. Often they are completely tuned into their activities that they don’t hear outside noises. Kids move into a state of ‘flow’ when playing. They become involved with the activity and block out external inputs while focusing on mastery and/or completion.
Often there is a level of risk-taking. Sometimes kids get a bit scared as they learn to overcome fears. Facing the fears of running faster or reaching higher instills courage. Risk-taking leads to greater self-confidence. It inspires creativity. Cooperation develops with games such as dodge ball. Skipping rope improves balance, motor skills and coördination.
Grand-children are excellent tutors in helping older adults enjoy playtime. Silly play with a three-year-old is never an embarrassment. Happy feelings come from hearing a child’s spontaneous giggles from repetitious ‘silly’ activities.
Benefits of Playtime
Taking every opportunity to enjoy playtime builds resilience in older adults including a zest for life. Having fun brings a sense of mental well-being. It stimulates creativity, curiosity, and imagination.
Taking a break from serious routines provides stress relief. Playing with a pet provides benefits of exercise as well as stress relief.
Social interactions during card games or competitive sports such as tennis build connections with others with the by-product of a happier perspective and improved mood.
Resolving to bring more play into your life involves learning how to let go of adult seriousness. With spring turning into summer in most of North America, it’s an opportune time to go outdoors, do something playful, and nurture your inner child with some silly and fun experiences!
Thanks for reading my post. You can share your thoughts on how we can let go and nurture our inner child with playtime by leaving a comment. If you like postworksavvy, please consider becoming a subscriber to receive an email when I post a new article.