3 min read

The Value of Play

The Value of Play

Let’s talk about what it means to play.

By ‘play’, I mean the type of life-affirming activity that can spontaneously emerge in the company of friends. Where one person starts talking as though they were a cat, then the other person a dog, and another as a meerkat. Where three people huddle up on the ground and start crawling towards each other like miniature tanks until they crash into each other because, well…no reason, really.

True play requires no reason.

In true play, everyone is present. They’re malleable, saying ‘yes-and’, dropping any preconceived notions of what should or shouldn’t happen. Play, in this sense, doesn’t happen with any intention to win or lose; they play for the purpose of continuing the play. Everybody wins when everyone can play – and why stop when everyone’s having a good time?

Play can often be confused with partying. Isn’t a dizzying night of booze-induced mayhem playful? Well, there is some overlap; all of that booze can help foster a feeling of freedom in social interactions so that we feel less inhibited to flail our bodies about when we hear that new David Guetta song blaring through the speakers.

But there are other paths to play.

We know this because children – unaided by any substances (with the exception of grape soda) – are so good at it. Children can look at a broom and instantaneously enchant it with the power to fly. They can turn into a cardboard box into, well, anything. (My go-to was always a heat-resistant rescue raft in a sea of lava.) They can even take disparate pieces of legos and build entire villages, metropolises, worlds.

If you’ve forgotten how children see the world, leave this essay right now and start following Recess Therapy like rn

And play is not just for kids, it’s a fundamental need at every stage of our lives.
“Play is the way we make sense of our lives,” writes famed relationship psychologist Esther Perel.

Only, we don’t do enough of it.

Why? Some of this may be due to cultural factors that see play as silly, unproductive, or risky. It’s not seen as having a tangible outcome that we can measure and affix to our KPIs and OKRs.

And so, as we get older, we learn to hone our inner critics. We learn about standards of appropriateness and how to conduct ourselves with others. A broom is just a broom, a cardboard box goes straight to the recycling bin. And don’t deviate from the instructions written in that box of legos.

This pattern of becoming rigidly fixed on ideas leads to become psychologically inflexible. We seek to control rather than adapt, suppress and not allow, hold on when we should just let go.

And this has consequences for our relationships.

"Psychological flexibility is the greatest predictor of success in a relationship,” Perel continues. "When we’re able to be psychologically flexible – play – we move from a rigid space to one that can explore the possibilities that aren’t necessarily directly in front of us."

But we never really forget how to play – so long as we seek out ways to be reminded.

We could, for example, escape to an island paradise where bags of money fall out of trees and a talking raccoon can approve us for a mortgage.

You'd best pay Tom Nook those bells...or else.

Or we could find an empty playground and break out into a spontaneous choreographed dance to a Weeknd song.


Thank you all for 1M followers 💕💕 #blindinglights #family #dancers

♬ Blinding Lights - The Weeknd

Or we could even put on a costume for 30 minutes and transform our voices so that it sounds like we’ve inhaled a balloon full of helium (Try to have a serious conversation in helium – I dare you!).

After all, there is but one infinite game.

How do you like to play it?