When I began assisting in a kindergarten classroom, I was amazed at the lack of structured learning that seemed to be taking place. I kept thinking – how are these kids ever going to learn anything if all they do is play? However, it only took a couple days to see the educational properties embedded in the fun activities. While playing, they practiced cooperation, communication and creative thinking, among other things. (Get excited: these are all things that adults are asked to use in their professional and everyday lives!)
Children allowed to engage in both free and structured playtime have been shown to concentrate and perform better during formal lessons. Allowing students to use different parts of their brain for short periods of time encourages them to pay attention better. Furthermore, recent studies have investigated the role that recess plays in promoting and improving children’s fitness. As the obesity epidemic looms, every opportunity for kids to play in a safe environment is beneficial to our nation’s health as a whole.
Despite the growing demand that children be given time to play during their day**, the same expectations are not carried over to adult life: this is a shame. Even adult brains and bodies need breaks from work. Just like kindergarteners, grown-up playtime has two components that can improve the quality of your work and your health: physical activity and fun.
1. Inserting movement into your day can increase your productivity and your energy at work. Additionally, even 20 minutes of physical activity can help to improve health and fitness levels. Try walking up and down the stairs, walking around the block, or even doing jumping jacks during your lunch break, and start seeing a difference.
2. As valuable as movement can be in your break, taking time to laugh and enjoy yourself is a crucial component of playing. Let yourself relax, enjoy the company of others (maybe while you walk?), fill in a crossword puzzle--anything that gives your mind some transition time. Just like kindergarteners, when you come back you will be more refreshed and better able to concentrate on the tasks at hand.
It pays to play--at every age!