I believe in play. I believe in the therapeutic, rejuvenating, and uplifting power of play. I believe that it is a mistake that many elementary schools have done away with recess in order to gain a few extra minutes of instructional time. If I were making education policy for the United States the first thing on my list would be recess, I’d require it everyday, for all students. Play is powerful and so many important lessons are learned through play. Through play friendship skills and leadership skills are developed. During free, unstructured play, children develop conflict resolution skills, develop creative thinking skills and build healthier, stronger bodies. According to recent research, physically active play actually enhances the brain’s ability to communicate between hemispheres. The evidence is pretty clear that play actually improves brain functioning. As a school counselor at an elementary school, I consider promoting play one of my most important duties.
I believe play is just as important for adults as it is for children. I’m 45 and I don’t understand why many people feel play must be sacrificed on the alter of age. Play for folks my age is amazingly therapeutic, reminding one of the fun and freedom of youth and the joy of just being silly. I believe play has helped me maintain a youthful exuberance and an optimistic outlook on life. Too often I hear my colleagues, many of them 10 or 20 years younger than me, give inadequate excuses for why they don’t or won’t play. Some are afraid of getting hurt, some say they’re too old, and some (the saddest of all) just seem disinterested. It pains me to hear my friends and colleagues give up play so easily. Play is a quick and easy way for adults to feel better. Play relieves stress, raises low spirits, and improves self-esteem. Play reduces blood pressure, prevents bone loss and helps maintain muscle mass. Most importantly, I believe play simply and quickly injects fun into everyday life.
Because I play I believe I’m younger, in spirit, than most people half my age. I have been accused of refusing to grow up. I disagree. I have the responsibilities of a family and a job, but I take the opportunity to play often and with enthusiasm. I play with my own children, the students at my school, and my friends and will continue. It’s not that I refuse to grow up it’s just that I refuse to let go of the joyful experience that comes from play…running, jumping, climbing, tumbling play. Benjamin Franklin said, “We don’t stop playing because we grow old. We grow old because we stop playing.”
I don’t know if play will extend my life or anyone else’s, but I believe that regardless of the length of my life, play will make my life happier, richer, and more fun. I believe in the life-enhancing power of play.
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