Playing isn’t just for kids—it’s for adults too! Psychologists Tell Why


The idea of play and games is almost always associated with kids. But what if one is to say that play is as important for adults as for children, and that it works wonders? Adulthood comes with a baggage of responsibilities and obligations, and the idea of play often takes a backseat. Play, though, is not limited to children. Robinson et al. (2024) also suggest that the importance of play extends to individuals of all age groups. Playing can bring happiness, reduce stress, improve one’s ability to learn, and foster relationships with other people and the environment. Incorporating play into the workplace may also boost happiness and productivity. Whether enjoying playing alone or with a pet, it is more likely to be beneficial when shared with at least one other person, preferably away from electronic gadgets like TVs and smartphones. 

Speaking over the importance of play in physical health as well as mental health, Clinical Psychologist, Aditi Solanki says, “If we’re talking about physical games, they’re essential, especially in today’s digital age where everyone is constantly glued to screens. Engaging in physical activities not only benefits our physical health but also stimulates the brain of adults. Being in an open environment and socializing while playing can have a positive impact. When we discuss play, we often mean team sports rather than individual indoor games. Playing as a team fosters social interaction and teaches individuals patience and turn-taking. This kind of interaction in outdoor sports enhances social skills, patience for turn taking and calmness which are often neglected due to excessive screen time.”

Meanwhile, you can also read: Role of Play in Child Development and Emotional Expression

Dewey (1913) described the intrinsic nature of play when he stated that play encompasses activities “which are not consciously performed for the sake of any result beyond themselves; activities which are enjoyable in their execution without reverence to ulterior purpose”. This means that the pursuit of play is valued more for its inner happiness and sense of fulfilment, rather than for any external goals or outcomes. There are several benefits associated with play for adults. Some of them are listed below—

Psychological Benefits

One of the obvious benefits of engaging in recreational activities is that it reduces stress by allowing an individual to take a break from the monotonous routine activities. In addition to this, it encourages creativity and imagination, innovative thinking and problem-solving skills. By providing a therapeutic outlet for expression and relief, play contributes to our overall mental health and well-being.

Social Benefits

Human beings are social beings, and one cannot escape the social elements of everyday life. Play is social by nature; it is not merely solitary. Participating in leisure activities improves interpersonal bonds and develops a feeling of acceptance and community. Play strengthens social bonds and creates enduring friendships by encouraging collaboration, communication, and a sense of camaraderie through games and shared experiences. Joining a sports team, going to game evenings with friends, or taking part in community activities are a few examples of how adult play promotes empathy and understanding while bringing people together. 

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Betters Cognitive Health

Not only does play bring enjoyment, but it also has major cognitive advantages. Playing demands concentration, whether it’s adhering to complex game rules or solving difficult puzzles. This improves an individual’s capacity to focus for lengthy periods, resulting in an increased attention span. Moreover, play is an effective tool for education and information acquisition. People who engage in playful activities are constantly exposed to new thoughts, ideas and knowledge as well as intellectual stimulation. Skills like problem-solving skills, spatial awareness, motor skills and strategic thinking contribute to better cognitive health. 

Physical Wellbeing

Physical health never remains unaffected by any sort of behaviour. Along with the psychological and social advantages of play, it also helps maintain physical well-being. Our health is exposed to considerable fluctuations, especially in middle and late adulthood. And our bodies are at a greater risk of developing chronic illnesses. But play has health benefits for the body in addition to the mind. Playing sports, dancing or going on outdoor activities increases physical fitness overall, strengthens the heart, and develops motor skills. People can lower their risk of developing chronic illnesses and preserve their vitality and wellness by including play regularly in their adult lives.

Strengthening Relationships

This is quite interesting. Playful interaction is a good way to maintain freshness and excitement in relationships. The importance of play in strengthening relationships is also evident in the workplace. Many companies have now implemented the idea of bringing play into the workplace. By scheduling weekly activities such as art classes, yoga sessions, or games, these companies have observed increased job satisfaction among employees and reduced staff turnover rates. Similarly, play can also strengthen the parent-child relationship. By initiating games with children, parents can not only facilitate their child’s learning but can also possibly build lasting emotional connections.

Work-Life Balance

While adulthood is greatly focused on career growth and workplace responsibilities, it is of no surprise that individuals are also burdened with household responsibilities that involve taking care of both children as well as older people. In current times, maintaining a work-life balance has become a necessity. This is why play, amongst others, is an important part of daily life; it reduces stress, keeps people from burning out, and makes life more meaningful. Play revitalises the spirit and reestablishes balance, whether it is through engaging in hobbies, spending time with loved ones, or just letting go and relaxing.

Read More: Self Care: What It Is And What It Isn’t

Embracing Your Inner Child

The concept of inner child healing is relatively new, and an evolving topic of discussion. Being in touch with one’s inner child is both important as well as healthy. As put by a poet, Ijeoma Umebinyuo, “so many broken children living in grown bodies mimicking adult lives”. Even though we have grown physically, socially and mentally, we are still a kid at heart! We often try to find subtle ways for emotional expression, and playful activities can give us that opportunity. It helps us reconnect with our inner selves and lets us embrace our inner child. 

According to Clinical Psychologist, Vini Jhariya, ” Connecting with our inner child through play is crucial for adult well-being. Play ignites creativity which helps in reducing stress and fostering a sense of joy and spontaneity. It’s like hitting a refresh button for our minds. It’s a chance to explore and have fun without worrying about being grown-up. Through play, we rekindle a sense of wonder and imagination, vital for mental and emotional balance. By embracing play, adults rediscover innocence, resilience, and a fresh perspective on life’s challenges. It is not just about fun; it is about tapping into our authentic selves and nurturing our spirits. As a Child Psychologist, one believes in the power of play to make us feel truly alive and connected to our inner selves.”

In modern times, work takes precedence over play, but it’s time for adults to rediscover the pleasure of leisure. Play has always been an essential component of our culture. The ancient societies incorporated play into their daily activities, rituals, and ceremonies because they recognised its importance in adulthood. But play became less important due to fast-paced modern lives. It is important to understand that play is essential to human well-being and is not a frivolous activity. Embracing playfulness can help us de-stress, build stronger bonds with others, improve our creativity, and help in psychological growth and overall development. Thus, play isn’t just for kids—it’s for all of us. So, go ahead and feel free to embrace your inner child!

References +
  • Olya. (2024, April 20). The Importance of Play in Adulthood: Why you should let loose. Positivitysparkles.
  • Proyer, R. T. (2012). Examining playfulness in adults: Testing its correlates with personality, positive psychological functioning, goal aspirations, and multi-methodically assessed ingenuity. Psychological Test and Assessment Modeling, 54(2), 103–127.
  • Robinson, L., Smith, M., & Shubin, J. (2024, February 5). The benefits of play for adults.
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