Play is important and it’s not just for kids. It helps our brains form neural pathways, it helps us solve problems. It is creative and relaxing. Also it’s fun. Fun is good.

Doing things the same way again and again may be efficient but if you want to grow you have to change something. Even one small change can make a big difference.

It turns out that we humans are unusual. We love that, don’t we. How special are we? It’s called “neoteny”. It means that, even as adults, we are a lot like baby animals. Our faces and bodies remain soft and baby-like. We stay super-cute (well, sometimes). Our brains are flexible. We find new ways to do things. We play.

According to Stuart Brown MD, author of Play: how it shapes the brain, opens the imagination, and invigorates the soul, we need to continue playing as adults or we start to vegetate.

Our distant cousin, the sea squirt has a similar (though basic) brain to us in infancy. Baby sea squirts move around and explore the world. It’s all so interesting and new when they’re young.

Then the sea squirts grow up. They find a good rock, settle down, eat a lot of potato chips and watch way too much sea squirt TV. After that, they don’t move at all, they stay in the same spot forever, refusing to get up off the couch. When they get really bored they dissolve their own brains. Creepy.

Use it or lose it. What do we have left in the fridge? Got nothing, we’re all out. Oh look, there’s my brain. Haven’t used that in a while. Let’s eat that. It’s easier than going to the shops.

We need play to feel good. We need to be silly, explore, tinker, move, make, create. We need to do these things just because we’re human and we don’t want to go the way of the sea squirt.

The idea of play is that it’s not productive. You’re not trying to get a result. You’re just playing. As you do this though, it does feed your imagination. It shows you different ways to see the world and offers solutions as a by-product.

Playing reminds you that the point of life is not just to make it safely to the end. Enjoying life is highly recommended, if at all possible.

We all have different ways we enjoy playing. Think back to your early interests. What did you love to do for hours as a child?

  • did you like fixing or tinkering with things?
  • did you create characters or play dress-ups?
  • did you sing, dance or drum pots and pans?
  • did you make models, sew, stitch, paste, sculpt or draw?
  • did you like tag, chase, climbing, running, riding, swimming?
  • did you bake or make weird food-related concoctions?
  • did you like puzzles?

Maybe there were things you wanted to try but didn’t. It’s not too late. I now own a slinky and am considering purchasing a pot of that green slime with worms. How I coveted that at age nine.

Bring back a little bit of play. You know you want to. Now you have an excuse. It’s good for you. It’s the definition of being human.

Don’t go the way of the sea squirt. What are we having for dinner? Brains. Get out and play.

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