Why You Should Play More

Playing is more than just an activity. It's more of an approach to life. Its essence lies in prioritizing fun and exploration, without necessarily having to suffer long-term worries over performance. In fact, in many cases, the opposite is achieved.
Why You Should Play More
Sharon Laura Capeluto

Written and verified by the psychologist Sharon Laura Capeluto.

Last update: 18 April, 2023

Playing has existed in all corners of the world since time immemorial. It’s an enjoyable activity that consists of moving freely, adopting roles, creating worlds, thinking strategically, and solving problems in an innovative way. In fact, playing is learning while having fun.

This habit tends to decrease as you grow older. When you were a child, you played for a large part of the day: at home, at school, or in the park. It was the main and most important aspect of your life at this time, whether you played with friends, siblings, or other family members. Nevertheless, as you got older, your playing became more sporadic, and you started to perceive it as ‘a waste of time’. In fact, after the age of 20, we all tend to have more responsibilities and our non-working time is often reduced to watching tv.

However, playing gives you much more than fun. The benefits you get from it are truly significant and promote a healthy quality of life. Therefore, it’s an indisputable fact that adults should play more.

Young people playing soccer
Playing in adults promotes socialization and reduces stress.

Playing in childhood

During childhood, playing is one of the main and most significant elements of physical, cognitive, and social development. Playing promotes curiosity and imagination, favors social skills, and exercises concentration. In addition, it allows children to understand their environment and develop skills to adapt to it. In turn, it also becomes a channel through which they express their needs and emotions. It’s also really valuable in therapy.

Through playful activities, children get to know the outside world, and also themselves, in a voluntary and enjoyable way. At the same time, they display a series of skills that benefit them for the rest of their lives.

It should be noted that any playful activity contributes to brain development. That’s because they stimulate the creation of new neural connections in the prefrontal cortex of the brain. For this reason, from a pedagogical point of view, playing has important educational potential. Preschool and school-age children learn through an activity that takes place in a non-threatening, low-pressure context, that of spontaneous play.

Great figures in the field of psychology have considered and written about the importance of playing. For example, Erik Erikson described children’s games as a means for children to gain autonomy. Vygotsky highlighted its weight as a regulator of behavior. Melanie Klein gave it a fundamental role in the psychotherapeutic space with children. In fact, she considered that a child’s playing is equivalent to the free association of the adult. A psychoanalytic technique par excellence.

The importance of continuing to play

Although many people understand playing as an exclusively children’s practice, our playful aspects don’t disappear with age, but are transformed. Instead, other forms of play appear, generally aimed at establishing bonds between our peers and negotiating the demands of the adult world.

Sports, certain video games, chess, and other strategy games make up the group of socially accepted games as a form of entertainment for adults. That said, there’s nothing wrong with playing more exciting games. After all, messing up your hair and laughing out loud won’t make you any less of an adult.

Of course, the form that playing takes tends to change according to the chronological age and particular interests of each individual. Nevertheless, your need for playfulness is maintained even when you’re responsible for a job and a family. Through play, you gain well-being, learning, and growth. In fact, playing as an adult isn’t only worthwhile, but recommended.

“It is in playing and only in playing that the individual child or adult is able to be creative and to use the whole personality, and it is only in being creative that the individual discovers the self.” 

-Donald Winnicott-

Young people playing video games
Play in adulthood stimulates imagination and creativity.

The benefits of playing

When you realize how many benefits there are to recovering one of the most pleasant experiences of human existence you’ll see it’s more or less a necessity. Here are some of them:

  • Stimulates imagination and creativity.
  • Promotes socialization.
  • Reduces stress and anxiety.
  • Helps you connect with yourself.
  • Helps exercise and preserve memory.
  • Improves your emotional regulation.
  • Enhances your tolerance for frustration.
  • Promotes conflict resolution in an innovative way.

Unfortunately, you tend to underestimate the value of playing once you become inundated by the obligations of the adult world. In fact, you’re only really interested in investing your time and energy in activities that you consider to be productive. You don’t realize that productivity isn’t only related to generating money or solving problems.

When you stop being a child, playing is no longer a way to get to know and experience the world, because you already recognize a large part of it. Therefore, at some point, colors, textures, animals, and everything that surrounds you in your everyday life stop surprising you.

Nevertheless, playing allows you to get closer to realities that you still don’t know. It also encourages you to challenge yourself and move away from your comfort zone. Furthermore, playing is a wonderful tool that helps you feel happier and less stressed. That’s because the ultimate goal is to enjoy the present moment, not just the results. So, what are you waiting for? Start including more playful activities in your daily life today.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Gálvez, M., Rodríguez, N. (2005). Jugando Juntos: un tercer lugar para niños de 3 a 6 años y su familia (Tesis de licenciatura). Universidad de las Américas.
  • Meneses, M., Monge, M. (2001). El juego en los niños: enfoque teórico. Educación, 25(2), septiembre 2001, 113-120, Costa Rica: Universidad de Costa Rica.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.