The Importance of Play'For You

family counselor child help

'We don't stop playing because we grow old,
we grow old because we stop playing.'
--George Bernard Shaw

As a lover of companion animals, I recently purchased a book titled "50 Games to Play With Your Dog" by Suellen Dainty. She states in the introduction, The dog is one of the few animals that plays into adulthood; usually baby animals play to learn survival skills, then, as they mature, turn those games toward the serious adult business of living in the wild. She adds that a healthy, properly stimulated dog will often play into old age. Five of my six dogs are geriatric. I noticed that two of my oldest dogs, Bill, a golden retriever mix, age 11, and Emma, a blue heeler, age 10, both became much more active when a Cocker Spaniel puppy, Gabe, entered our lives a year ago. After romping with the puppy, they are happily exhausted.

Once I read the book's introduction, though, I began thinking about how we human animals are like most others in that most of us don't play into adulthood. We turn our games into the serious adult business of survival'just as the book said most animals do. Once we finish our education, pursuing our career, paying bills, obtaining material possessions, rearing a family etc. dominate our lives. With all the stress and pressure of modern living, we probably have forgotten how fun play was'and how healthy it could be in reducing stress and providing us joy.

When our children are little, we play games with them: hide and seek, board games, playing catch and checkers to name a few. As they move into the teen years, if we allow it, they say they are too busy with friends to participate with us in family fun. Or they act bored by the planned events so we quit trying to introduce fun into family life. This shouldn't happen'family fun should be done weekly until they leave home!

In addition to the family playing together, parents should have some play in their lives. I don't know what hobby you used to enjoy or what sport you gave up when you became a 'serious' adult or what you've always wanted to do but never made the time, but I encourage you to have your play time too! Even though I lack rhythm and have no musical or dance background, I began ballroom dancing classes a few years ago. It's been fun, challenging, relaxing and I'm proud to say I can do a mean cha cha cha!

Planning your play time is separate from the family fun as this one is just for you. Some of you are already feeling guilty even thinking about taking relaxing, fun time for yourself. Please realize that is not a healthy thought'put it out of your mind'you will be a better parent and spouse if you have energized yourself with fun time of your choosing. So begin now to daydream about what you can do to play. And as Nike says, 'Just do it!'

Copyright 2018, Sharon Scott. No reproduction without written permission from author.