Remember when you were in elementary school and someone asked you what your favorite subject was? More often than not, it was recess!
Back then, you relished the free time and the chance to mingle with friends. The fact that it provided a much needed break from the rigors of academic subjects, a chance to be active, and an opportunity to learn how to manage unstructured time were not even considerations. Neither were the skills you were learning, like resolving conflict, sharing, leading, collaborating and negotiating.
Mostly you knew that you enjoyed recess; that is was fun! You probably didn’t even notice that your ability to focus and stay on task improved. Or that your memory was better. Experts say recess also helps children behave better, so best of all – you probably got into a lot less trouble after recess!
With the emphasis on teaching to improve test scores after No Child Left Behind was enacted in 2001 the number of minutes allotted for recess has been shrinking in elementary schools. With pressure to produce high test scores, more time is being devoted to teaching. Some feel it is a waste of time to be playing kickball when many are failing math or struggling to read.
Unfortunately, less time for children to take breaks and the added stress of all the tests does not create the ideal learning environment.
Today’s work environment has also undergone some changes with the addition of e-mail, texting, video conferencing, working from home, etc. making it difficult to escape work. Without deliberate effort, work can easily crowd out time for relaxing, being creative, getting exercise, and time to process all the information coming at you. Necessary things if you are going to enjoy a balanced life.
You know what they say: “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.”
I actually enjoy working. Without being intentional, however, I can grow dull like a child deprived of recess!
When God is trying to show me something, it just keeps on popping up. Lately what’s been popping up is the idea of play and being more child-like. There was this bit recently in Jesus Calling by Sarah Young:
“When you walk through a day with childlike delight, savoring every blessing, you proclaim your Trust in Me, your ever-present Shepherd.”
It came up again in a book I am reading called Approaching God by Steve Brown:
“You can know that your prayer life is grown when it has the flavor of childlikeness. Jesus looked at His disciples – their knowing sophistication, their need for acceptance, their concern with power and control, their measured words, and their adult ways.
Then Jesus looked at the children with their dirty faces, their clumsy walks, and their broken toys in their hands, and He said: “Let them come.”
He still says that”
As if those two messages weren’t enough, I tuned into the Today Show and the segment running was asking the question “Does the workplace need more play time?” Literally, recess at work! Message received!
I can be a very serious person. Don’t misunderstand me – I like to have fun, be silly, and play. In fact, that was one of the things I adored most about teaching preschoolers at church for some 20 years. They brought out my inner child. I can also be very focused and intense.
Just like taking breaks and playing has benefits for children, there are huge benefits for adults engaging in “recess”. Here are just a few reasons to make sure you are taking breaks and playing:
1. Play inspires your inner child
Being curious, having time to explore, and soaking in the wonder of life is energizing! It also invites you to view life from a different perspective. When you connect with your inner child, you are less inhibited and more able to be your authentic self. Your imagination has space to flourish so you can be more focused, innovative, and creative when you get back to work. Not to mention it is just plain delightful!
2. Play reduces stress
Stress is on the rise! Just about everyone feels it. Stress causes us to suffer physically, emotionally, and mentally. Rather than resort to drugs or suffering, why not incorporate more play in your day!
3. Play teaches you to slow down
You just don’t see children rushing through a pretend scenario or hurrying to assemble a Lego creation. Rather, they are present and fully engaged in what they are doing. Speeding through life is something adults do, and it is costly!
4. Play makes space for processing
If you watch children as they play, they are working out the things they experience in life. As an adult, while you may not work things out in the same “role playing” way, play time does allow you space to process the barrage of information coming your way.
5. Play enhances your mood
When you engage in activities that you enjoy, it gives your mood a happy boost! Leading or working can be discouraging at times. There are lots of ups and downs! Taking time to play can help you return to a more positive place in the midst of those ups and downs.
6. Play increases productivity
Play breaks do take time away from work, just like recess takes time away from learning. It also increases productivity when you get back to work, like recess increases concentration and
learning. It may seem counter-intuitive, but it works!
7. Play positively energizes a team
Those that play together stay together, and that is especially true when it comes to teams. If you are a parent or lead in any capacity, making time to play together will make working together a more positive experience. Play allows people to bond and see each other in a fresh way. It provides an opportunity to work together and communicate in less critical situations. The fun memories that are created help to knit your team together so they can work together more effectively.
Whether you lead yourself, or you lead a team, making time to play is a worthwhile investment. Perhaps the saying should be “Hard work and some play makes Jack shine!”
How much time do you invest in playing? When it comes to play, what activities would you like to engage in?