Note: This is an ongoing project. Check back for new stuff.
Play and Adults (It's just
kids' stuff...or maybe not)
First, a short video...
One thing you discover, if you own a
toy store, is that adults secretly love toys. I stopped counting the
number of folks who stopped long enough to push the small wooden trains
around the track, moved the peg leg pirate from the deck to the crow's
nest and back, flew the sample balsa airplane across the room, built
new structures with the blocks, and attributed their behavior to "testing"
the products. Their smiles indicated something else, something far
more fundamental. Inevitably, they walked up to the counter and commented
on "how I must enjoy my job." The comment was often accompanied
by a wistful sigh, as though they, themselves, wished they had the
Before owning a toy store (and a publishing
company specializing in scale modeling books--a different kind of
play), I worked as a county planner. I kept toys on my desk, a fact
that often amused the folks who came into my office. The toys were
there as calming tools. They helped with writer's block, a method
of decreasing frustration when the point to the report I was writing
refused to translate onto paper.
There are very few toys in the store
that wouldn't work equally well for children and adults: blocks and
building sets, jacks and marbles, puzzles and magnetic mosaics, art
kits and science projects. I have a weather station at the apartment
end of the depot. I am endlessly fascinated by the weather, so it
made sense to try one of the weather kits. I have a jigsaw puzzle
on a table in the living room, a mosaic kit on the kitchen table,
a Keva Planks set in my studio. All are forms of play.
Retirees and grand parents understand
play. I stopped counting the number of jack sets and balsa airplanes
we sold this year, not to children but to grandparents who remembered
loving the game as children and who are beyond the age where appropriateness
We are programmed to believe, somehow,
that play is the purview of the very young and the very old, but is
inappropriate for working adults, yet invention and creativity are
both the bi-products of play. We forget that play, or experimentation,
leads to other things, to new perspectives, to new solutions. When
we don't play, we dull.
Next time you wander through a toy store,
or through the toy aisles at the local big box, stop and buy something
for yourself. Buy something that looks like fun. Buy something you
have always wanted to try. Here are a few suggestions to get you started:
A science kit...you can't tell me that you haven't
always wanted to build a volcano on your kitchen counter or wanted
to try tossing an airfoil out your third or fourth floor office
window just to see what it might do....
Art supplies. Pick up a coloring book, or some
Sculpey, or a blank tablet and some colored whatever. Doodle,
color outside the lines, create something with clay, play with
the images. If you are working on a project, try thinking about
your project in color, in squiggles and splotches.....
ABC blocks. Enjoy stories? Try creating stories
using the letters or images from randomly drawn blocks (ours come
with a bag to make it easier)...
Keva Planks...go to your office or kitchen table
and build something. Not sure where to start, try something in
the book and then try variations on the theme.
Pick up a puzzle...
Or a game....
Or a puppet...
Or a robotic toothbrush head
Or a yo-yo
Whatever you do, don't wait until you are a grandparent
to discover play.
If you want to know more about the benefits of play for adults, check
out these resources: