Why do we forget how to play in adulthood?

“Play is quite easy to know and get and yet it is the most personal and complicated thing at the same time which is so wonderful about play." Tine Bech

When we talk about play, we are often talking about children. Play is a vital pollination that enables young minds and bodies to flourish and grow. It feeds and nourishes. This is particularly acute when the deep circuits of the mind are impressionable and so unsure, of so many things. Play allows learning to occur in a natural rhythm, in a multitude of ways and speeds, sometimes concurrently, each strand a different melody of its own creation.

Throughout our lifetime, play continues to be intrinsically linked to our development like the nutrients we source from food and water. There is a sophistication to play. Scholar, artist and world expert in play Tine Bech explains on ABC Afternoons with Clare Bowditch why play is an important fibre of our being, especially when we are young and as we age. Social interaction and emotional intelligence can be procured from play. We can dip into what Tine refers to as ‘flow’, a state where we enter the task with natural ease; the outer world with its myriad of distractions quietens.

While locking oneself away and studying for considered hours leads to vast knowledge and remnants of wisdom, there is no replacement for the learnings of play based activities. It is part of the human condition. To share. To observe. To question. To fail and to succeed. To wander in nature is a powerful mode of play. To touch a leaf or run your fingers through a stream; to listen to a songbird or taste fresh fruit or smell a flower in Spring. To communicate with the world around us and the humans who cohabit the space with us is fundamental to our survival. Play gives us meaning far beyond that four letters it denotes.

It is both simple and intricately complex, in ways we may not notice or scarcely know.  

In adulthood sport is a fantastic outlet that enables us to enter a state of ‘flow’ and play freely without any over eclipsing self-awareness. Opportunity to dance at the pub or create dishes in the kitchen is another form of adult play. Experimenting and being curious exercises the brain and allows for new learning and discovery to take place. Tine Bech points out that play allows us to be innovative and most strikingly adaptive- it wires us with coping mechanisms to deal with the unpredictable and the unplanned. She backs this up with research that attests that play keeps the brain active and highly functioning.

While the focus remains on our precious children and their need for play, bear in mind that play is working wonders on the parents too.

Clare Bowditch begins, “At what point do we stop playing and why do we stop playing? When does life get too busy? What do we lose when we no longer play?”

Listen to the intriguing interview below (24mins:58seconds):

Tine Bech’s ‘Colour Me Beautiful Exhibition’ is about to begin as part of QV’s laneway series (Free installation)


 Visit www.tinebech.com to discover more about Tine and he work.