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The Power of Play

Updated: Dec 31, 2022

“We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.”

George Bernard Shaw

Our society tends to dismiss play for adults. Play is perceived as unproductive, petty or even a guilty pleasure. (“He’s not serious enough!”) There prevalent notion is that once we reach adulthood, it’s time to get serious. And between personal and professional responsibilities, there’s no time to play.

“The only kind [of play] we honor is competitive play,” according to Bowen F. White, MD, a medical doctor and author of Why Normal Isn’t Healthy. But that attitude is slowly changing, because as study after study concludes, play is just as pivotal for adults as it is for kids.

“We don’t lose the need for novelty and pleasure as we grow up,” according to Scott G. Eberle, Ph.D, editor of the American Journal of Play. And play brings joy. It is also vital for problem solving, creativity and relationships. In his book Play, author and psychiatrist Stuart Brown, MD, compares play to oxygen. He writes, “…it’s all around us, yet goes mostly unnoticed or unappreciated until it is missing.” This might seem surprising until you consider everything that constitutes play. Play is art, books, movies, music, comedy, flirting and daydreaming, writes Dr. Brown.

In the office… Yesim Kunter play expert, creative strategist and toy designer observes that because most adults spend the bulk of their waking hours working, making sure you experience some type of play there is crucial. “A lot of offices are sterile and ‘unplayful,’ so it could be simple and subtle playful things like using colorful pens on your tables or having posters with nice inspirational quotes on your desk wall,”

Here are five ways Kunter says you can easily incorporate play into your office space:

  • Keep simple games, like Jenga, in your office. You can play solo or invite your colleagues to join you during breaks.

  • Have colorful pens, pencils, cr ayons and large paper on the walls, where you and other people can freely draw or write.

  • Put up posters or quotes of the day with humorous sayings or entertaining cartoons.

  • Keep playful objects like a spinning top or a crystal prism on your desk to relax your mind, keep your hands busy during conference calls and reignite creativity.

  • If your office is so austere that none of the other suggestions will fly, take a break from your work throughout the day to play with juxtapositions, metaphors and analogies in your mind.

For remote teams… The same benefits exist, but we need to move into a virtual space. Check out this link for more than 2 dozen games to play!

Play aids mental wellbeing, sparks creativity, reduces cortisol in the brain, creates an environment that employees speak about (think “Great Pale to Work” or “Employer of Choice”) and helps build cohesive teams.


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