The Power of Play

Apr 30, 2024

The theme for the 2024 Artability Art Show & Sale is PLAY. Read what Artability Program Coordinator and Teaching Artist Tessa Weyhe has to say about the importance of play in our daily lives.

Sometimes when I am leading art groups in our facilities, I can sense a real heaviness in the air.

It’s relatable. At times, we all can feel weighted down by our lives, stuck in monotony, or struggling to feel a sense of meaning. When I pick up on these hard feelings in my groups, I know that it is important to inject some levity into our projects.

This is where play comes in. Play is just as important for adults as it is for children! Among its many benefits, adult play can boost your creativity, sharpen your sense of humor, help you cope with stress, and contribute to your overall wellbeing.

It’s easy, however, to get stuck in the cycle of obligations and routines, and so it’s important that us adults be more intentional about bringing play into our lives. In general, anything we do recreationally that brings us joy can count as play, but if you need some ideas to kickstart your fun time, check these out:

  1. Collect things. When my son was little, I started a “cabinet of curiosities” for him in which he could save and display anything he found in nature that interested him. This includes rocks, shells, cicada shells, interesting leaves, etc.
  2. Play games. Occasionally we will host a game night and invite over friends and family for a little competition.
  3. Make things, or make things work. This could include sewing, woodworking, baking, etc.
  4. Become a tourist in your own neighborhood or city, whether that means finding a new nature trail to follow or checking out a shop or café you’ve never visited before.
  5. Turn up the tunes and dance in your living room or take a walk through a park.
  6. Listen to or create stories. I’m a big fan of audiobooks and podcasts, but you could also write your own.
  7. Mix up your routine. For example, if you like to lift weights for your exercise, try a rock-climbing gym once instead.

Spending time doing things that bring you joy and pleasure has a relaxing effect that counteracts stress. A 2013 study found that playful adults reported having lower stress levels. Play also helped them use healthier coping styles like acceptance and positive reframing. The authors found that even though more playful and less playful adults were equipped with the same coping skills, playful adults were more likely to use them effectively.

So how will you incorporate playfulness into your busy adult life? Be sure to come see this concept in action at the 2024 Artability Art Show & Sale, happening on October 25th and 26th at the Union Depot.

If you would like to take a look at additional research on play, please check out these studies:

The Playful Advantage: How Playfulness Enhances Coping with Stress: Leisure Sciences: Vol 35, No 2 (tandfonline.com)

Have adults lost their sense of play? An observational study of the social dynamics of physical (in)activity in German and Hawaiian leisure settings – PMC (nih.gov)

The importance of having fun: Daily play among adults with type 1 diabetes – PMC (nih.gov)

Written by Tessa Weyhe, Artability Program Coordinator and Teaching Artist