When was the last time you played? You engaged in a purposeless act, something needless, something that was fun, pleasurable, with no goal or outcome intended?
It wasn’t long ago, when my work was all consuming, that someone said to me, “you don’t have any playtime in your life.” I begged to differ. I defensively stated I went to spin class 3-4 times a week, and that was my “playtime”. Their response? “That’s not play ~ that is a planned activity where you are following specific instructions with the goal of burning calories and reducing stress.” Oh.
It’s pretty easy to see what play looks like. Just go to any park and see children playing on swings, climbing on a jungle gym, randomly running from one spot to the next. You see joy in their face, freedom in their movement, and well, you see play. I experienced this in abundance last year, as a volunteer at the Charleston Parks Conservancy Teddy Bear Picnic. This free event brought hundreds of families to Hampton Park where they were emersed in fun through face painting, yoga, hip hop, dancing, storytelling, music, crafts and even a station for Teddy Bear first aid. And while the children were in full play mode, you also saw joy and elation in the faces of moms and dads, grandma, grandpa and the entire family. Turns out, kids can teach us something about play.
There is also some serious science about the importance of play in adults. Author, pyschiatrist and founder of the National Institute for Play, Stuart Brown, MD, states that for adults, “a little bit of play can go a long way toward boosting our productivity and happiness”. But if working out and competitive sports isn’t considered play, what is? Here are a few simple tips on finding play, (from psychcentral.com, The Importance of Play in Adults):
- Change how you think about play ~ play is important in all aspects of our lives, from creativity to relationships. Give yourself permission and time to play every day.
- Find your former play ~ what excited you as a child, what did you love to do? Find it and reconnect with the play you used to love.
- Surround yourself with playful people ~ spend time with your friends and family that love to play.
- Play with little ones ~ playing with little ones can help us experience the magic of play.
So what better way to get started with your own personal play plan, than with this year’s Teddy Bear Picnic, March 5th (1:30 – 4:30) at Hampton Park. Hosted by the Charleston Parks Conservancy for the eighth year, this FREE event promises to bring play back into your life! It’s open to kids young and old and if you feel a little awkard going without a child in tow, sign up to be a volunteer. This year’s event will also unveil a new children’s book published by the Conservancy titled, “Here, There and Everywhere with Parker the Bear”. In the book, Parker visits 10 city parks where he jumps rope with children at St. Julian Devine Community Center, sails a model boat at Colonial Lake, does yoga at Demetre Park, meets new friends at White Point Gardens and just has fun playing in the parks all throughout Charleston. This may be a children’s book, or maybe an adult guide to how to reconnect with your playtime.
The Charleston Parks Conservancy started the Teddy Bear Picnic with the intention of connecting children with their parks. If we grow up experiencing the parks in our community, chances are we will appreciate them more as adults.
And what if we also find our “playtime” right where it all started, in our very own parks.
The Teddy Bear Picnic is FREE but families can pre-register online and pre-order their copy of “Here, There and Everywhere with Parker Bear” to save time at check-in: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/t
The Charleston Parks Conservancy is a nonprofit organization dedicated to inspiring the people of Charleston to connect with their parks and together create stunning public places and a strong community.
Photographs courtesy of the Charleston Parks Conservancy and my collection from the 2016 Teddy Bear Picnic.