The Importance of Play

Sometimes I like sitting on the bus without headphones and listen to people. Mind you, on the bus in Norway everyone is usually very silent, except the teens and the foreigners. The locals speak to each other in low voices. One morning, however, I was lucky to hear an interesting talk. A guy was telling about his master thesis: a role of play in learning. He told how the first year of school was first meant as a transit from the everyday playing of kindergarten to the school life. And how it changed nowadays with the prevalence of testing and result-oriented study from the earliest years. “I don’t want to call it play, it is a little bit scary to use this word” – he said (and I smiled internally. Norwegians’ choice of words can be funny sometimes. Maybe, I will write about it one day). “I would better say “learning through exploring” instead of playing”, he continued. And I thought: Bingo!

Because my blog’s name is about exploring, that’s why 🙂 No, not just that. Because I also had been thinking about the concept of “play” – applied to our adult life. Sometimes I ask myself: how come we adults become so boring?

the Importance of Play

The quote to think about today is: “We don’t stop playing when we get old. We get old when we stop playing”. And I agree 100%! When we play, we see possibilities, we take chances, we approach life more light-heartedly. We seem to be more curious, open and creative. When does the switch click and we choose to become more serious? It almost feels like we become heavier (it is also scary to use this word, but I will use it anyway:)) It seems that playing and taking new chances helps to keep our minds young ( and the neuroscientists seem to support this point). And we become old not because of the years – but when we take over this view: “I have seen it all, I know it all. Nothing new out there”. Among the techniques to keep the mind young (to build new neuron pathways) there are some like playing computer games, learning a foreign language, doing crosswords. Dancing helps a lot too, because the brain takes a lot of new decisions on the dance floor (which it doesn’t while doing repetitive sports like jogging and skiing. That’s why dance is said to be the only form of sport to prevent dementia).

So that quote seems to make a lot of sense. It is not the age that makes us old, it is when we start thinking and acting like old people. The behavior defines and creates the being. I have known people who seem old in their early thirties – and young and cheerful 60-year-olds. I am sure, you know some too. There are a lot of reasons why we need to get serious about playing – now 🙂

Though I consider myself a serious person, carrying the whole world on my shoulders, my life choices have made me play more 🙂 I grew up like a little adult, being very responsible about everything, going to school like to work. I didn’t have many friends, was a shy best student in the class, books and mom being my best friend through my teens. I also hated sports because my PE teacher was constantly making fun of my poor results – something I felt traumatized by for years. Hence no love for team games. But I worked with kids for a great part of my life, starting as a baby-sitter for neighbors, a Sunday school teacher, a summer camp teacher, later as au-pair for several years and a primary school teacher. It seems that the older I got, the more childish I grew. It took me some years to unwind and learn to play again. And such a valuable experience it has been!

I also wonder if that’s the reason why some adults need to get their own children – so that they can learn from their kids. Yes, right. The kids learn from the parents – but the parents also learn from the kids. They discover this childish look at the world when everything seems new and magical, they learn to play-pretend, use their imagination, to be totally in the moment, in the importance of play.

I am attracted to people who are playful. Who have learnt to take this life less seriously, are creative in their choices, who design their own lives with a light heart. This is also my intention for now: to develop my playful side.

When are those moments of getting lost in the play? For me they are: dancing, taking pictures, flirting (my guilty pleasure). I love humor and word games and I am still not so fond of competitive games, but I try to take it easier. I enjoy guessing games here in the blogs. And I also love teaching because it lets me be creative and add some playful element. I don’t know about the students, hehe, but I am having so much fun when the class chemistry is right, and we can be laughing and doing some little games.

What is your relationship with play? What are the activities that make you playful?

And let’s get serious about playing!

The wall said it too

17 thoughts on “The Importance of Play

    • High five ✋, fellow flirter 😉 I have friends who don’t understand it – and I don’t understand them 😆 after many years in customer service I have learnt to flirt with anyone: kids, older ladies, I mean not only men!
      Traveling to dance events (and flirting there🙊) is a good thing too 😉 do you go to salsa festivals?

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      • Yesss flirting is so fun! My friend who’s been in a long-term relationship also does it–we are quite the dream team! 😛
        I do lindy hop events–it’s a type of jazz, swing dancing. I can do salsa but I found professional/ festival type salsa dancers to be very intimidating and not as much fun.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Haha, good to have a partner in crime too 😉
        Wow, sounds so cool! I just asked about salsa because the Croatian salsa festival is just around the corner and I wondered if you were going. It would be fun to meet a fellow blogger there 🙂 Ohh, there is so much dancing styles, I hope I will live a long life to cover them all :)))

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  1. A fun post! I agree! And I never thought those things about dance but you are absolutely right! 🙂
    I had an interesting experience when I was unemployed for a while (intentionally, I wanted a break from work life)… suddenly my creative mind came to life! An epiphany: when I am working 9-5, I am too tired and work-consumed even after work to be creative. My mind has no energy to wander. But when I was momentarily freed from my robotic existence as an office worker, I started getting ideas and inspiration! So much inspiration! I started this blog then, but I also did things like origami!!! Origami was soooo much fun! I looked up videos on the internet and started folding! My best one was a cool 3D lotus flower which I then started doing variations of with different colored and textured papers. I gave them away as decoration on gift wrapping whenever someone had a birthday. (Gift wrapping became a form of art, too!) Anyway, here in Finland origami are considered something only children do. So boring these adults are! 😉

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    • Thank you for joining in with ideas! Origami and all that paper art is so much fun! I loved making things like that as a teen, while my peers were smoking and dating 🙂 It is underrated just bc it is not trendy. Like that adult coloring books. Suddenly they were everywhere. We, adults, need to be cool all the time, haha. But it is so healthy to do smth new! It revives our brain, I think.
      And dance does it very well. I read it somewhere (if you can trust Facebook sources nowadays) that about preventing dementia. Dance is not like any other sport: it needs you taking new decisions every second.
      Ahh, getting free from the A4 life can really help to explore your creative mind. It is like I said again, the behavior defines the being. Boring work -> boring mind. That’s why I appreciate my teaching experience at primary school. Though I was stressed a lot, but it was never boring, haha.
      And I must add that freedom can work both ways. The creative get more creative, but some get just lazy. I have also read that the creativity is often prompted by the necessity. While we are searching for absolute freedom, it maybe not always the best precondition. So the balance is important too 🙂

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      • Maybe ”necessity” is necessary, but it can also come from a strong desire, in my opinion. And yes, boring work, boring mind! It was always SO important to me to have an interesting job (different aviation jobs were that to me) but now… with the kids… suddenly I need to be practical and smart about job choices, and ”fun” isn’t the most important criterion anymore… And as for paper art not being trendy, I think you must be right! One day everyone will start doing it for a short phase. Then move on. Maybe. 😊

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      • there is this saying in norwegian “the necessity taught a naked woman to spin”, and in Russian there’s smth similar too. So I believe that there must be some push to be creative. If one is too comfortable, why create? But the push may come from different places. Some are passionate from the inside too.
        Kids reshuffle the options. But there must be a way! Like I mentioned, teaching is available to parents, and to me it seems to be a very creative, never boring job. Not for everyone, true. But there are other options, I guess. You will find!

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  2. I love all you say in your post but not the flirting bits in the comments (sorry, just being honest for a change, considering how the internet community generally acts). I hate to see the word ‘flirt’ and ‘children’ together in a sentence. It sounds like manipulation to me. Maybe it’s just the word choice that bugs me. Probably you engage children with cool ideas, rewards, inspiration and the like, and not how you would a grown man to buy you a drink. It can’t be all the same! There is cool and there is sleazy and there are miles between. Anyway… Your post was about playfulness and I agree that it’s the only way to be.

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    • Thank you for the honesty, Manja. There must be space for that too, no matter how internet community usually acts 🙂
      Maybe, for me the word “flirting” itself is not dangerous. It is not something that happens often to me in Norway. Here people are either too shy – or straight on when drunk. No flirting in between, haha. I picked up this word from my boss at the shop who used to say: “yes, it is our job to flirt with everyone: old, young, women, men, kids”. She was good at it – establishing a contact with a customer, laughing, being personal but not private. This is what I like in shop works. You get to talk to strangers. In the country where it is a no-no :))) So my flirting is of a different kind than those in the bars with drinks etc. I just love meeting new people and start joking with them. Some ask “why did you flirt with that guy?” – but I was not “flirting”, I was chatting while making him a coffee, when I worked as a barista. So this is me, flirty to my bones – or which other word would you choose? 🙂 Verbally playful, if you want :)))

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      • Well, it’s all quite debatable, isn’t it. I’m not sure if I’m up to it. 🙂 I can only tell you my opinion. Why flirting is frowned upon often is because not everybody understands it the same way. When exactly does innocent flirting stop and something else begins?

        I have a distinct feeling that there is a vertical line that looks something like this:
        – barista
        – hairdresser
        – hooker
        – priest
        – shaman
        – psychoanalyst.
        I might have missed some professions (like sellers). The only difference? The amount of money they make. They all provide more or less the same service.

        Disagree? 🙂 I’m just playing around, but this is something I have felt all my life. And in a way our choice is only where exactly we wish to insert ourselves on this list and what kind of “flirting” is required for success in each field.

        My aversion is personal, of course. I needed years and years and years to learn how to talk back to men who starting to ogle me much too early for comfort. Result: 10 years of regular card tournaments with 200 men and 10 women. For most of these men, even the 10 women proved too many. 😀 It was hard not just to talk but to stay alive in there! No wonder that now I’m very happy to barely say a word all days until amore comes home. And to shop (the little I do it) and have my coffee without chit-chat. 🙂

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      • Oh, I don’t know if I should feel mildly offended or not :)) I have worked both as a barista and a seller, and find those two in the same line as a hooker (and a shaman)… well well. With the only difference being the money they make? I disagree 🙂
        It would be too simplistic, no? What about a teacher, a politician and a terrorist? Are they the same too, bc they want to influence people? :))

        What about the card tournaments? Was it an experiment of yours? A hobby?
        I had an experience of being severely alone for many months in Norway, with no talking for weeks, and it felt like a torture. so I appreciate every chit-chat I can get these days 🙂 It seems that the Nordic part would suit your choices, btw 😉

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      • No no, nothing personal, please, don’t be offended. This is my profession ladder and I’m not stepping off! 🙂 It needs to be further developed though. And no, neither of the profession you mention belongs here. A good teacher is a true altruist, while the other two serve their own ends. But I don’t wish to continue with this here, I might write my own post about it one day.

        Card playing was a hobby with the side of getting my fill of winning over men. For some reason I felt I needed it. 😀 To prove my worth or something. Ten years was enough – it had to stop when I moved to Italy since the tournaments were throughout the year all over Slovenia. My record was winning 7 tournaments in one month and a half (but they were local, rather than national).

        Indeed, I wouldn’t mind Nordic introvertedness at all, but I would mind lack of joie de vivre that lack of sun brings. That would hit me hard. I say that if we live long enough and are lucky, we find the spot under the sun where we feel just right. And if we’re even luckier, we find the profession too.

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      • No offense taken, Manja, I am just kidding around. Do write your post about it! I would come and argue that they don’t serve the same need. And the level of professionalism is also different, what about psychiatrist and a hooker? :))) There’s also some altruism to the barista work: you just want people to drink the best coffee, haha.
        Thought provoking system, I appreciate it :))

        Wow, great experiment! Did you get your desire to be winning fulfilled?
        I used to be a (fighter) feminist, shouting my throat out in the discussions with boys (again, Scandinavia being my reference point). I felt I didn’t know that nation, boys, at all. I didn’t feel a desire to win over, but to establish my position. But since I started dancing, I have learnt the philosophy of leading, following and collaborating to create a beautiful dance. That has helped me to get over my insecurity around men, and also traveling and meeting a lot of people did that too.

        Yeah, the Nordics do miss the sun and that joyful energy. And such a wise thought about finding your spot under the sun! I join it!

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