In my experience, part of why adolescents struggle with the transition to adulthood is tied to the balance between work and play. The cultural pressures to academically succeed to ensure future financial independence and stability doesn’t create a whole lot of space for play. In addition, they watch their parents struggling to make time for self-care and play. The future that they see doesn’t look too appealing and certainly not fun. So, it’s no wonder that they might resist leaving their childhood behind.
Therefore, I think it is important for all of us to embrace that play is a universal human basic need, regardless of your biological age. It is mission critical to create time and space for play as the balance it brings invites joy and peace into not only our lives, but the lives of those around us.
Therefore, below are some ideas for inviting more play into your life:
- Observe. Children and animals innately know how to play. So, consider taking some time to simply watch and learn. You might notice their natural curiosity and/or how present they are in the moment. You might also notice that children haven’t learned how to worry about what others think of them yet, so they might act silly. So observing can help us to reconnect to that part of us that didn’t care what others thought of them and were so focused and curious that they allowed themselves to simply be silly!
- Play Journal. When you notice yourself smiling and/or laughing, perhaps consider opening your journal and starting a “Play” section by writing it down. Keep adding ideas as you observe others at play, especially any activities that remind you of when you played as a child that brought you joy. Maybe it was dancing, playing cards or board games, and/or coloring or painting.
- Move. The human body was designed to move. Like the Tin Man in the Wizard of Oz, we will rust and stiffen if we don’t move. Therefore, consider going outside to simply move. It might be to take a walk or a run in the neighborhood, a hike on a nearby trail, a stroll at the beach or through a botanical garden, or it could be to participate in an ecstatic dance class. Perhaps afterward, reflect on how moving your body shifted something in your mind and heart!
- Join In. If you might be up for trying something new to feed our natural need for novelty, consider joining a local group. Not sure where to start, try MeetUp for ideas. Some options include rock climbing, museum visits, escape rooms, croquet, singing, knitting, meditation, quilting, yoga and so much more!
- Game Night. If you are more inclined to stay closer to home, consider organizing a neighborhood game night. Perhaps bring up the idea of making game night a monthly activity, where each person gets to pick the game of their choice, so everyone has the opportunity to try something new.