Playing on Vacation

One of the great things about my current gig is an extended summer vacation. It allows me some time to not think about anything more taxing than what to do with my day at the beach.

Last week, mom and I went to an art studio to play around. It was so much fun, not worrying whether the art was good or bad, just mushing paint into canvass. I felt like I was five again. My friend Paul recently told me that the most creative minds are those of children, because they aren’t self-censoring or judgemental.

Taking the time to reach into my more creative inner child has been fun. The more I do it, the more confident I feel that it doesn’t really matter if it’s “good” or not. The hard part has been getting rid of the adult voice on my shoulder whispering “That’s not very good”.

Perhaps it is as important to our thinking processes to not think for a while. I often find that when I put a paper away for several weeks and then review it, that it gets better. That period of not thinking about it actually improves my later thoughts.

Scientific American Mind recently published an article on the importance of play for children’s cognitive development. Free play, that is unstructured play, appears to be essential for personal development. It uses imagination and requires more creativity than structured games. Play also appears to help children reduce anxiety and stress. It may make kids smarter and improve problem solving.

Perhaps workplaces should consider more time for unstructured play. It appears to have many social, emotional and intellectual benefits. Workplaces strive to increase innovation, creativity, group effectiveness, problem solving. All of these objectives appear to be influenced by free play. Introducing recess to our work day might not be such a bad idea.

For me, my vacation has been enlightening. I’ve decided that I need to spend more time playing. Not only does it seem to make me happier, it also makes me more productive. So, next week, I’m headed back to the art studio for round two of the joy of painting.


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