For many of us, “play” evokes mindless childlike freedom, lack of stress, and even nonsensical or immature behavior, but it’s much more than that. In many cultures, play has been an expected part of the human experience throughout adulthood. Play is voluntary and imaginative, appearing in many forms, from physical games with structured rules to language games, sports, improvised collaboration, and fantasy play. Whether simply expressing exuberant joy at life, developing particular physical and mental skills, exploring social boundaries and relationships, or providing an outlet for normally restricted behaviors, play is a crucial part of human development. We suffer as children if our unstructured play time is limited, and we suffer as adults if we ignore this crucial expression of our human experience.
We’ve all seen the happiness on the face of a child while playing in the school yard. Or the blissful abandon of a golden retriever racing across a lawn. This is the joy of play. By definition, play is purposeless, all-consuming, and fun. But as Dr.