The Importance of Play

The Importance of Play | The Fresh Exchange

Do you remember the days when you were little and learning consisted of recesses spent making up adventures with friends and lots of coloring and drawing? Those were the days, huh? Somewhere along the way the days full of crayons became less and less frequent, art class became elective and not a daily occurrence, and then we had so many papers to write, scholarships to apply for, internships to get, and the list goes on that somehow we left behind the fun of just having time to play.

Heading into parenting Mike and I have been reading a lot about the importance of play and unstructured time for children, which ultimately led us to asking ourselves why can’t we experience more of this as adults? I don’t think this is a creative person’s need, I think this is a human need no matter what your day job is.

When we were at Circles Conference this thought about the importance of play came back to the surface. Most of the stories people told about their careers had one common theme of how they arrived at success; they began playing. They took what they were thinking about creating and made it happen, some sucked at it at first, but over time their play turned into something real and ultimately shaped their career to where they are now. It fascinated me to watch this story be told in various ways over and over again. One of my favorites was watching Kelli Anderson share about her work during her Adobe Creative Residency. It was incredibly curious, playful, fun, and had no purpose besides she wanted to try something new. When was the last time you created something just because you wanted to see how it worked or how an idea would play out no matter of the outcome, but just to explore?

I have said quite a bit that the blog is “Our Creative Playground”. It began that way and though at times it has slipped into containing more work at times than play, it still lives as a creative release for us. I love giving the blog that name and definition because it reminds me to keep playing, to keep trying, and to remain curious.

To reinstate the importance of having a space to play, I could recount all the ways people have found us through the work we do for fun and not the work we do for pay, but I think there is a deeper reason for why you should make time to play. Our brains are meant to be stimulated not just by day-to-day work or even by a good sweat session at the gym, but by solving puzzles, painting, drawing, writing, making music, and more. The important part is doing these things in a way that is unstructured, without expectation, and just to play. Just like those times where you would entertain yourself in your bedroom or in the yard while your mom cleaned the house or cooked dinner after you got off of school.

Now you may say, I don’t have time like that anymore after working, fitting in a workout, making dinner, have drinks with a friend, or whatever else your weeks consists of that leads you to simply wanting to hit play on your favorite show at 10 PM. I get it, I am there too, but even as your favorite show plays grab a sketch pad and write, doodle, and go back to what it felt like to have childlike curiosity before you try to numb off the day. I promise greater things will come from you giving yourself this time than watching another rerun of Friends.

One of the ways we have helped bring in this mentality to our life is by selling our TV. We don’t own one and haven’t for almost three years now. We play music in the morning and at night. We have our iPad if we want to watch one show to ease out of the day, but I decided a long time ago that TV wasn’t going to be a center of life for us. It may seem radical, but any other way I would be far too tempted. It has always drained my creativity and taken my focus away. I find much more calm when we play music while we make dinner or relax in the evening reading, drawing, thinking about new ideas. It helps us to find calm and space for play. Some of my favorite posts have come out of these evenings at home that I really treasure now. Even this one one now.

Though we have been made to believe as adults we no longer can play or that play looks more like going out drinking and dancing (which is okay too) than it does to playing a game with friends or trying a new recipe for the first time. The play part of your day, just like recess should be what you look forward to at the end of the day. It should be your release and where you allow yourself to imagine and dream. This week find time to play more. See what happens to your mood, your mind, and how you view your day.

Do you incorporate play into your day-to-day? How do you already do it? If not how do you think you would like to? I want to hear your thoughts.

Leave a comment

  1. This is such a great thought provoking post! I commend you for seLling your TV and focusing more on your creativity. When i started my blog it was meant as a way for me to find my Voice, get back to writing, and as a creative outlet. It has encouraged me to try new things, like taking a calligraphy class for fun or do a DIY project. Finding time for play in your life is important and it just might open a whole new world to something you had never thought of doing before.

    http://www.livinginsteil.com

  2. Hi Megan, I really enjoyed this post. Before my daughter was born I was an Interaction and Graphic Designer, now I am mostly Mom to my two-year-old. One of the things I treasure about being a parent is re-discovering the magic of play – watching your child play is a great reminder of how simple things can provide such joy and wonder. Just the other day I was painting alongside my daughter and before I knew it, I was absorbed in just playing with the colors as I described them to her. It was so liberating not to feel obligated to paint any particular object – to just enjoy the beauty of color on paper, experiment freely with the lines, and the calming feeling of the brush in my hand. I hope you get to experience some great playtime soon with your little one as well! And congratulations!

  3. I love this! I started yoga as a new thing to learn this summer, a way to play. Then this school year, I teach grade 6, I decided that every project I present in art class, I will do myself in advance. I have been wanting to do more art, but have always taken it too seriously and could never just enjoy. Since I see these projects as just fun and play it is so much more enjoyable!

  4. Yasss I so agree with everything on this post. I recently worked on a client branding project and I tried to give myself the goal of completing it in two weeks. but in giving myself that deadline I wasn’t able to really go deeper and spend some time “playing.” When I showed my client what I had done she said that it looked great but it didn’t really look like her. I went back to the drawing board and tried to approach it less rigidly and allowed myself to have fun and play. This changed the overal feeling I had everytime I worked on her branding and I ended up enjoying it more! Needless to say the project was not completed in two weeks but I think that’s okay. 🙂