The opposite of play is not work, it is depression.
The line above comes from a TED talk by Stuart Brown, a pioneering play researcher.
I come from a school of thought that values children’s independent play. RIE encourages attentive observation of our children and sportscasting. Magda Gerber’s philosophy can be more or less summed up in the following quote from Magda herself: “Do less, observe more, enjoy most!”
RIE does not discourage parents from interacting playfully with their children, of course. However, for the last six months or so (since I found RIE), I’ve been consistently wondering how I can maximize the time my daughter, Summer, will play independently, without considering how we both might benefit if I just got down and played with her.
The benefits of play for adults are numerous. Play is a flow state, meaning we experience the following (if we can quiet our “grown up” brains and get properly silly):
Involvement – Complete focus and concentration, either due to innate curiosity or as the result of training.
Delight – A sense of bliss and positive detachment from everyday reality.
Clarity – Great inner clarity and a built-in understanding about the state of affairs.
Confidence – An innate sense that the activity is doable and that your skills are adequate to the task. Additionally, you don’t feel anxious or bored.
Serenity – A sense of peace and an absence of worries about self.
Timelessness – Thorough focus on the present and a lack of attention to the passing of time.
Motivation – Intrinsic understanding about what needs to be done and a desire to keep the moment of play moving.
I forgot how good it feels to lose myself in play. I have been deliberately not playing for the last 20 years.
As a child, I was the instigator, the insistent one, the one who always wanted to play. An only child at the time, I would hassle my cousins until they relented, and we found the dress up box and dived in. I wasn’t interested in video games or TV. I wanted to make cars out of boxes and build worlds for toy animals. I wanted to pretend I was in the army and scale fences. I wanted to make up words and teach my Grandma’s dog to jump obstacle courses.
I was, then, the person I want to be now.
In all areas of my life, I have been trying to force a “reset”. I’ve been dieting for 15 years, so now I’m Eating The Food. I’ve been failing at relationships for 15 years, so now I’m opening up. And I’ve been working for 15 years, so now it’s time to play.
I hope Magda doesn’t turn in her grave. It’s piggyback time.