My thoughts? I am totally, completely on-board with Camp Grounded, a "digital detox zone" where adults participate in activities like:
Archery | Water Color | Origami | Mask Making | Loom & Weave | Physics 101 | Rockwall | Poetry | Crochet | Non-Violent Communication | Charcoal Drawing | Mindfulness w/ Technology | Solar Carving | Capoeira | Pickling | Improv | Potato Printing | Tie-Dye | Laughter Yoga | Acro-Yoga | Drawing 101 | Candle Making | Intro to Pranayma | Beadwork | Beatboxing | Mobile Making | Pinhole Photography | Songwriting | Creative Writing w/ Typewriters | Superfood Truffle Making | Baking | Nature Hike | Hip-Hop Dance Class | A Capella Harmony | Basket Weaving | Ballroom Dance | Stilt Walking | Sign Language | Shadow Puppet Theatre | Thai Massage 101 Tea Tasting | Ukulele 101
But let's get one thing straight. There is a huge difference between adult play... and infantilizing adults.
Anyone who's spent any time watching children play knows that children play like it's their job. They play hard. They squint with concentration when they're coloring or molding clay. They mutter to themselves as they stack blocks (psychologists call this private speech or "self talk," and kids use it self-guidance and self-regulation during a difficult task). They run so fast they fall and start tumbling breathlessly down the hill. And they love every minute of it!
Because in order to achieve "flow," (a term used in positive psychology to describe a mental state of operation in which a person is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement and enjoyment in the process of an activity) a person must achieve the right level of challenge and mastery. If something is too hard, it will be frustrating. If something is too easy, it will be boring. Think of it this way:
So please, playful adults of the world -- don't waste your $333 (or more!) on "adult preschool." Here are some awesome adult play experiences that you can try instead:
You're an adult. You know how to stay inside the lines. So spend your time and money on supplies and lessons, so you can learn a fun, challenging new skill. Then knit sweaters for all your friends! Make an awesome birthday cake -- or, at the very least, an epic fail of a birthday cake:
A quick search of "Things to Do" in San Francisco revealed:
- $55 for a 3-Hour Surf Lesson at Adventure
- $25 for a 3-Hour Painting Class for One or Two at a Local Bar
- $149 for Glass Fusion, Glass Casting, Jewelry Making or Metalworking at The Crucible
- $79 for a 6-Hour BBQ Grilling and Smoking Class for One or Two
- $59 for a 2-Hour Ethiopian Cooking Class for One or Two with Spice Starter Set and Spice Book at Cafe Colucci
And literally hundreds more.
- $89 for a 1-Hour Flight Lesson for One, Two or Three from Positive Rate Gear Up
- $55 Registration for Rugged Maniac 5k Mud and Obstacle Race
- $29 for a 2-Hour Paintint Class at Tipsy Crafts
- $35 Room Escape Adventure for Two, Four or Six at Can You Escape?
- $45 for a 2-Hour Wheel-Throwing (clay) Workshop at La Mano Pottery
- $49 for an Exotic Car Drive or Ride-Along at Velocity Driving
And hundreds more.
Instead of finger painting, try music making or improv.
Let's talk about improv for a second. It's probably the closest thing to imaginary play adults can get. Typically, improvisers get a prompt for a place, object, relationship or situation -- and then they "act" out a scene on the spot. There are also opportunities for improv in music -- in rock, jazz, rap and other genres.
Scientists at Johns Hopkins University recently put jazz and rap improvisers into MRI machines and had them play either scripted or improvised music. The brain scans showed that, even when improvising simple scales, the musicians' brains behaved very differently. The dorsolateral pre-frontal cortex (PFC), which is responsible for self-censorship, decreased in activity. The medial PFC, responsible for creativity, self-expression and intuition, got more active.
In other words, improv changes how your brain works!
And if you're terrible at it now... keep at it! You'll definitely improve as you practice more and learn "the rules." Yes, "rules." Just as children's imaginary play is guided by rules that they establish at the beginning of play (e.g., "I'm the mom, and you're the baby," "We're fairies, and we can all fly!" "You're the shark, and we are swimmers -- but that table is the island, and you can't get us there!"), so is musical and spoken improve guided by a set of mutually-understood guidelines. For example, in spoken improv, an actor is never supposed to say no. Any gesture or suggestion by another actor must be followed-up with a "Yes, and..." In musical improv, different scales, rhythms and rhyming schemes help performers create relatable, collaborative music together on the fly.
And! It provides many professional and psychological benefits, including:
- Improved ability to think on your feet
- Improved ability to collaborate with others
- Building self-confidence and shedding certain inhibitions
- Learning how to turn "mistakes" into opportunities
- Making statements, rather than asking questions.
- A possible bi-directional relationship between creative insight and working memory
- And more!
Tina Fey (the brilliant mind behind The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and creator of some of the best possible advice for women ever) wrote some insights about improv that I feel must be shared:
Whatever the problem, be part of the solution. Don’t just sit around raising questions and pointing out obstacles. We’ve all worked with that person. That person is a drag. It’s usually the same person around the office who says things like “There’s no calories in it if you eat it standing up!” and “I felt menaced when Terry raised her voice.”
MAKE STATEMENTS also applies to us women: Speak in statements instead of apologetic questions. No one wants to go to a doctor who says, “I’m going to be your surgeon? I’m here to talk to you about your procedure? I was first in my class at Johns Hopkins, so?” Make statements with your actions and your voice. Instead of saying “Where are we?” Make a statement like “Here we are in Spain, Dracula.” Okay, “Here we are in Spain, Dracula” may seem like a terrible start to a scene, but this leads us to the best rule:
THERE ARE NO MISTAKES, only opportunities. If I start a scene as what I think is very clearly a cop riding a bicycle, but you think I am a hamster in a hamster wheel, guess what? Now I’m a hamster in a hamster wheel. I’m not going to stop everything to explain that it was really supposed to be a bike. Who knows? Maybe I’ll end up being a police hamster who’s been on “hamster wheel” duty because I’m “too much of a loose cannon” in the field. In improv there are no mistakes, only beautiful happy accidents. And many of the world’s greatest discoveries have been by accident. I mean, look at the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup, or Botox.” Read more >
Finally, no matter HOW musical you are... there is probably a place for you at karaoke.
Or, if you want to know more, learn how to "build" your own adult playground. And if you want to re-capture the joy of recess, read this.