Friday, 19 August 2011

Playing: Not just for kids?

I’ve been rereading The Happiness Project for my book club and I’m at the bit where Gretchen is trying to instigate more play in her life.

Playing? As serious, professional, grown up adults? Yep. And we should all be doing more of it in my opinion.

I’ve been thinking about play a lot lately, not least because I still have three weeks of summer holidays left and the kids are starting to get googly eyed with boredom. I want to find things that we all enjoy doing together, not grudgingly dragging them along to the park because I feel that’s what I should enjoy.

Having kids is a great excuse to play but so often it’s the only time adults allow themselves to do it. Grown-ups get so hung up on the idea of value; value for money, value for time. What we spend our precious free time on needs to be valuable, something that needs to be done or at the very least it should be a legitimate recreational activity, and if we actually enjoy it that is just a bonus. But maybe many of us have simply forgotten what we truly enjoy doing.

I said to the man this morning “I’m thinking of giving up my blog. I’m not getting many comments; people aren’t engaging in it, I don’t know if people are enjoying it.” “Hold up,” he said. “You started this blog for YOU, for fun, for an opportunity to write, why are you suddenly getting hung up on other people?” He is right of course. As the months have gone on, and in the process of trying to be a better writer, I had taken the joy out of something I was doing purely for the fun of it. I put a lot of hours into my blog and my grown-up brain was starting to look for some added value, totally forgetting that the value comes in the sheer fun of writing it, if one person reads it and enjoys it, it should be considered a bonus, not a reason to do it. 

The man says that he loved working with cars, until he became a mechanic. That’s probably true for many people and their jobs. But maybe that’s less about not enjoying the work, and more about forgetting why we chose to do something in the first place, because we enjoy it. We’re looking for that value again.

Anyway, back to playing. Watching my kids play totally unconcerned with value inspires me to play myself. They don’t care about getting money or recognition or “getting things done because they need to be”. They don’t even think about it.

As adults many of us play games consoles, do crosswords or Sudoku in our free time. All legitimate play options for adults, they encourage fine motor skills, keep the brains working, some console games could even be considered physical exercise. But one of the things I love is those mosaic sticker books. I haven’t had one since I was a child but recently I have begun to crave the quiet pleasure of neatly sticking little coloured squares into dedicated boxes to create a funky picture. I eventually found one online. My mouse has been hovering over “add to cart” for weeks now, I just can’t seem to justify spending £3 on something that is actually just a “toy” (and not even one for the kids). Why? There is nothing wrong with a 33 year old enjoying sticker mosaics, or colouring in for that matter (as long as it’s with nice pens and on good quality white paper, there is very little fun to be had with broken crayons and scratchy grey paper). What makes Sudoku, crosswords or Xbox any more “legitimate” than mosaic stickers? Why should I care anyway?

If someone had said to me 6 months ago that they were trying to play more I would have said how lucky they were to have time to spend on something so decadent. I think there is a certain amount of martyrdom that comes with being an adult, especially a parent. We all think we should be spending our time ‘working’. Childhood was time for fun, adulthood is time to get serious and stop wasting time.

But playing isn’t wasting time, it’s a serious business. Just ask son number one, he quite often tells me he has to get his playing done, it’s his ‘job’. I’m lucky enough to be working my way into a job that I also consider ‘playing’ and I hope I can retain this sense of fun as my career progresses. In the meantime, my mosaic sticker book has finally found its way into my shopping cart.


  1. I always read your blogs but don't always leave a comment so thought I should this time. I am glad you have bought your mosaic sticker books. It is brilliant to have what you call play time! I use my time to do sudoku, exercise or just chilling reading your blog! Please don't stop your blog, I would greatly miss it.

  2. Ah that's great to know thanks Noush, it's nice to know people are enjoying it, it makes it even more fun knowing people are reading it and enjoying it. I always think of you when I see Sudoku, I remember you having loads of them cut out of papers in Ibiza! Can't wait for my sticker books to arrive! x

  3. Hey... don't you dare stop wrighting your blog u will have me for sure banging at your door having a word.. Lol, The 'man' talks wise words, I thought the same thing in regard to my work my hobby is working on projects/cars/bikes etc, I know if I did that as a full time job It would take the fun and enjoyment out of  it. I think it's best to do what u enjoy part time... As u can do as much or little as u like without the stress and hassles taking all the fun out of it. Maybe I have this wrong and I'm sure there's plenty of ppl out the who love there full time job. Just when u are in doubt remind yourself why you started doing what u do.... Because you have great talent and love what u do. 

  4. Thank you, that's a great comment! Nope, I won't be giving it up, I do enjoy writing it, added pleasure knowing that people are enjoying it! Do you really think if you made your hobby your full time job you wouldn't get any fun out of it any more at all? I can see how that could happen but all jobs have an element of dullness (otherwise I suppose they wouldn't be called jobs!) about them, doesn't doing something you love for a job help make up for that somehow? Or is it just inevitable that we all start to hate what we do? See, in my (possibly idealistic and childish) world view that would be the point when I would say to myself "right I don't enjoy this any more time to move on" or at least look at ways to bring the spark back? Or should we all just put up with it? Tough one x

  5. Definitely don't stop the Blog - I love reading it and am amazed that you find something interesting to write about every week - it's your play-time, so hold on to that dearly. I only wish there were more hours in the day!

  6. Thanks! Yep I wish there were more hours in the day but as long as we make the most of the hours we have that's the main thing x