When you're a kid, play isn't a goal or something you pencil in to your schedule every day.
It's something you just do. And it's fun.
But as adults, we rarely do things just because. We obnoxiously weigh the pros and cons of every decision and demand logical reasons for every choice we make.
What outcome will this have? How will this benefit me? Is it worth my time? Is it safe?
We're sticks in the mud before we reach 30.
If that sounds anything like you, then take a breath, let your hair down, and revel with me for a moment in these 9 little-known reasons to play with your kids every day.
1. Play puts you in a good mood
Research shows that playing games puts us in touch with emotions such as curiosity, optimism, creativity and love, and its effects can last up to 24 hours after we play.
2. Play helps you develop perseverance
As adults, we think we're oh so masterful at the art of perseverance -- we've had a lifetime to practice getting good at it. But have you ever seen a child searching for sand crabs at the beach or attempting those monkey bars for the umpteenth time?
3. Play gives you a sense of adventure
Between work, bills, laundry and getting the kids fed by 5, our days can feel void of adventure and spontaneity. But when you act like a pirate and climb around on that playset with your kids, it's almost impossible not to let your mind wander to adventurous scenarios that make the dinner schedule a non-issue.
"Watch children at play, and the benefits are so obvious: just look at those ecstatic faces, just listen to those joyful squeals." - New York Times Magazine, Taking Play Seriously
4. Play gives you an excuse to be a weirdo
Most of us take ourselves way too seriously. There's politics and mortgage and schedules to worry about, after all. Silliness just doesn't place high on the list of priorities.
But take 10 minutes to act completely and unashamedly weird with your kid, and my bet is you're going to see why it was so important to squeeze it in.
5. Play helps you become more ambitious
Studies have shown that winning a game -- even a small one -- aids us in setting more ambitious goals for ourselves.
6. Play reduces stress
You've heard that exercise reduces stress, right? Well, active play with your kiddo does the same thing. And it's way more fun than running a marathon.
"When we play, we are engaged in the purest expression of our humanity, the truest expression of our individuality. Is it any wonder that often the times we feel most alive, those that make up our best memories, are moments of play?" - excerpt from Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul
7. Play helps you solve problems and tap into creativity
Whole books and scholarly essays have been written on the benefits of play, and even as adults, uninhibited play time can help hone your problem solving skills and creativity.
8. Play can help you solve big problems
Have you ever experienced writer's block or the feeling that your current dilemma is insurmountable, but just keep staring at that blank page or running the same scenario over in your head hoping for a solution? Instead, get up and go play with your kids.
It's been shown that when we play, "dilemmas and challenges naturally filter through the unconscious mind and work themselves out".
9. Play is fun
"If its purpose is more important than the act of doing it, then it's probably not play." - Stuart Brown, Play researcher, psycologist
If all of the previously listed benefits of play fail to impress you, then you might just be one of those rare types who love play just for the fun of it.
And that's really the best reason of all.