Adult Play Zones

How many of you remember Discover Zone? This giant room turned into a jungle gym where you could play and crawl in tunnels. It was similar to Kids Empire or Kids Mania, now often referred to as indoor parks. Growing up DZ was, at least for me, the original. I have always wondered why we haven’t created an adult version. Some of these indoor parks make it so that parents can enjoy them with their children, but what about an adults only version? Including adult beverages? I don’t know about you but that would be an awesome Bachelorette party or Saturday Night. 

I think it is because as adults we believe only children are supposed to play. Society has created this mindset that those of us who do “play” are “immature” or “not acting our age” but instead “acting our shoe size”, sound familiar? The reality is, believe it or not, we ALL need play, no matter what age we are. Most research you come across stresses the importance of play in children while the research for adults is anecdotal at best. It usually refers to parent-child play interaction or elder individuals in a therapeutic setting.

Play is a Mindset

We know that play is beneficial in memory management, stress management, cognitive development, and emotional regulation. Why hasn’t play been incorporated more into everything? What if it could be? The National Institute for Play  says play is a mindset more than it is about the activity in which you are participating in. It does a wonderful job breaking down how to help reset the mind, as well as how to discover your play personality. Did you know there are 8 of them!? Which one are you?

You can find other research pointing to the correlation in playfulness amongst college students and their ability to handle stress. This shows a significant relationship in individuals with high playfulness have better coping strategies for their stress. Which is important since stress in mild conditions can cause headache, fatigue and GI problems. In high stress conditions it can cause cortisol hyperactivity which can lead to more severe outcomes from psychological distress to deteriorating health conditions. *(Ganster & Rosen, 2013)

Don’t believe me?

We ALL have stress, you say, and you’re fine?! Story time! I had a boss, back when I was a parent educator, who loved her job and put everything she had into it. I figured stress was just part of the job, no big deal. Three months into being on the job, I was on the last day of my week out on my honeymoon. I got a call that she had not only experienced a heart attack, but also a stroke, WHILE SLEEPING. Thankfully, praise the Lord, she made a full recovery but was out for about three months in the process. Then it was like 6 months later her husband, also in a high stress job, was having some weird symptoms. They went to the hospital and the Neurologist managed to pinpoint an early Basal Ganglia Stroke. This helped to mitigate the effects of what could have been a very serious situation. Both were lucky to be alive and both of these were attributed to stress as no other underlying medical conditions could attribute to the situation. Eventually, they would both go on to slow down and take different jobs, primarily because they wanted to preserve their health. They have been a shining example to me on the importance of managing stress.

My Advice

If life has you down, if you feel burnout or are experiencing stress symptoms, it’s time to play or find a play mindset. Next time your kids ask you to play, say “Yes”, even if only for 10 minutes. You might notice that headache you have been battling all day has disappeared and it doubles as bonding time with the kiddos. Play with your partner, play with a friend, play with the dog. However you can find a way to play, do it for your health, if not just for fun. It might save your life.

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*Ganster, D. C., & Rosen, C. C. (2013). Work stress and employee health. Journal of Management, 39(5), 1085–1122.