Who Stole My Swing Set? How to Get It Back

“We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.” — George Bernard Shaw

Growing up as a kid my mother’s frequent cry was “go outside and play.” My sister and I spent endless hours playing in our back yard, or playing with neighborhood kids in green areas around our house. These were magical times. We were heroes, we were villains – we played out every imaginable story. Summers were most often spent at our local beach, building sand castles and often whole cities, frolicking in the ocean, or roller skating to the local park to feed the ducks and spend endless hours on the swings. 
Play just seemed natural, it wasn’t anything we consciously thought about, it was just a given part of life.

We let our imagination run wild, took on new personas, and learned the pecking order of our local group of kids. We learned leadership, teamwork, and creative problem solving without guided instructors and staged “fall back into my arms – trust me” scenarios.

From Play To Competition
In high school play changed to sports. I loved sports but the nature of play had changed. I played field hockey and was on the swim team. Now play became competitive and team work was critical. We had real life opponents. For both field hockey and swimming, play now became about honing your skills, working hard to “play” better.

From Competition to Upkeep
When I finished school and moved into “real life”, play morphed again. It now became more serious. Now it was the grown-up version of being responsible. “Exercise is good for you, it’s important to your health.” It became a matter of doing it to keep myself healthy and to keep looking good. But it also became another thing to pack into a busy schedule.

From Upkeep to Preservation
When my own kids were young I again re-connected with play but even then it was from a different perspective. Now, while engaged, I was the gatekeeper and caregiver. I needed to ensure my kids didn’t maim or kill themselves, or set the house on fire (somehow, I didn’t quite keep my son from checking this off his list!).

What happened? When did we become so serious? Did we leave our imaginative self on the doorstep of adulthood?

As adults we don’t believe we need to play anymore. In fact, many of us shun play as childish, stupid, or are afraid of being perceived as such. For children, play is much more than just fun – it is how they socialize, how they learn new things, and how they find their identity. As adults we still need these things, yet rarely explore how the lack of play is negatively impacting our lives and well-being.

Change how you think about play
Play gives us an opportunity for pleasure and novelty in our lives. It helps reduce stress, increases our spontaneity, and stimulates our creative self. It helps us connect with others in new ways, and we know that laughter is indeed great medicine. Give yourself permission to play frequently. It can be as simple and inexpensive, or as elaborate as you wish to make it.

10 Things You Can Do to Get Your Swing Set Back
1. Make a list of things you loved to do as a kid. Revisit those activities.
2. Go out and blow bubbles.
3. Go tubing or sledding.
4. Grab some water guns and have a water gun fight with a loved one, family or friends.
5. Have a comedy movie marathon one night and make smores at home.
6. Invite friends over for dinner with a twist. Choose a county and find recipes from that country, cook a three-course experimental meal together.
7. Go fly a kite.
8. Have a snowball fight, make snow angels, and/or build a snowman.
9. Research your local area as if you are a tourist. Explore museums or exhibits that are free. Look for other free fun activities in your area.
10. Take a dance class, art class, photography class or some other creative class, even if you think you have two left feet or you can’t draw a straight line.

Dance like no one is watching, laugh loud and often!

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About The Author
Janet Burton is the Founder of Dynamic by Design. You can connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

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