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Creative Play – Unproductive or Essential?

Published on 3rd February 2022

The role of play in adult health & happiness

Contrary to popular opinion, play is not just only an essential part of development for children and teens. Adults of all ages can benefit from creative play as it can serve as both a source of relaxation and brain stimulation.

The function of creative play is vital to child development as it can shape their behaviour in later life:

  1. Creative Play can improve and fine-tune our gross motor, promoting connectivity in the frontal lobe, which plays a critical role in planning and decision making.
  2. Creative play improves intelligence, learning, and memory – Studies have shown significant relationships between play and divergent thinking, which is our ability to explore the various possible solutions for any given scenario.
  3. Creative play stimulates creativity and imagination, helping individuals discover innovative methods and approaches to having a more spontaneous, and entertaining outlook on life.
  4. Creative play develops the brain’s executive functions; how we plan, organize and focus. Executive function allows us to learn from our past experiences to understand what to do in the present, with various studies demonstrating its importance in improved academic function and lifelong success.
  5. Play is Vital for Improved Cognitive Development as well as developing social skills, problem-solving, and academic success (i.e., math, science, and literacy).

But what does this mean for adults?

While play is crucial in the early stages of child development, studies have also shown how it is beneficial for people of all ages, both physically and mentally.

Playing and laughing more for adults can tackle stress as it triggers the release of the feel-good hormone endorphins. It also facilitates happiness, wards off depression, and lowers the risk of developing age-related diseases. Play can also improve our body’s vitality, increasing our energy levels and improving cognitive health.

Additional benefits also include improving our verbal communication, which can in turn help us develop stronger relationships due to an increased level of cooperation and collaboration.  Research has also found that creative play can serve to enhance empathy and increase your emotional intelligence. Developing a playful nature can assist you to relax, helping you rest and reset to consider creative solutions.

As we reach the joys of adulthood, play is often considered unproductive or even a ‘guilty pleasure’, but the reality is very different.  Creative play can facilitate personal development and adaptive pathways in goal achievement. So don’t let preconceived notions of play hold you back, make time for yourself and add a little more play in your life and see how it can benefit you.