Why do we forget to play?
Life can get so hectic, so commitment and work driven, that we stop playing. When we stop we try and zone out. We watch the TV or computer or do social media but this isn’t the same as playing.
We need downtime with our partner, friends, pets, children, work colleagues. In playing together we connect and communicate in a different way and it can be hugely enjoyable provided it doesn’t get too competitive. Play is not being idle, it is nothing to feel guilty about. Rather it is to be embraced as part of our lives.
I enjoy playing with my grandson. He is seven months old and I bought us a soft ball to play with. He loves it. He has learnt to reach out for it, hold it, shove it away from him towards me, make it fall on the floor out of sight. Oh the joy on his face when I magically make it reappear and gently throw it towards him. He can play this game for ages. It is a wonderful way for the two of us to connect. We don’t have words, noises yes, he can’t do much on his own yet, but this way we connect and relationship is built. When he comes to our house, he relaxes and gives a huge grin of delight when the ball is held out to him. Delightful.
I think I am playing with him in order to teach him. In reality he teaches me. He gives me so much.
- He is stress relieving – I think about nothing else other than the sheer enjoyment of connecting.
- I know it stimulates his mind and gives him ideas, but it does the same for me. I find it profound and energising.
- It definitely improves my relationship with him. We laugh and smile at each other. We converse through play. Sometimes he is so excited he just has to scream. I love to feel excitement like that, I used to. I would like to again. He’s teaching me.
- It improves social skills because there is a rule. Once you have the ball you have to give it back. Okay maybe not immediately, but you do have to let it go. We share it. I don’t shove as much of it in my mouth as he tries to, but eventually he makes himself let it go and kick it away.
- So we have to co-operate with each other. Heard that one before? How lovely if we could all learn that we are on the same side, working together, to make where we are better for all.
If I feel sad for any reason I can’t stay sad. His smiling face, his abject delight, melt into me and soon my spirit is cheered. All those endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals start rolling around in me.
Playing is important for all these reasons and more. Doesn’t matter how young or how old, it is still delightful to connect with another human being in some sort of game. Get out the board games, retrieve the balls in the cupboard, shuffle those cards, and play.