Which is probably why two Quora questions caught my eye recently.
1. Why don't they build playgrounds for adults?
2. How can adults have fun at the playground?
(You know -- in addition to questions like, "Why don't adults play tag?" and "How can I become more playful as an adult?")
Last week, in Kids' Games Are Getting More Dangerous - And It's Entirely Their Parents' Fault, I wrote:
Children are hardwired to explore. Risk-taking (or, at least, the perception thereof) is fun for them! It's in their nature. These risks tend to manifest themselves in one of six ways:
1. Exploring heights
2. Handling "dangerous" tools, such as scissors, knives or hammers
3. Being near dangerous elements, such as water or fire (or, as was the case in Stand By Me, a dead body)
4. Rough-and-tumble play (which, as I mentioned above, is a way for kids to learn to negotiate aggression and cooperation)
5. Speed -- e.g. cycling, skateboarding, ice skating at a pace that feels too fast
6. Exploring on their own
- Experience seeking (going to the theater; visiting a museum; whale watching; birdwatching; nature hike; etc.)
- Thrill and adventure seeking (skydiving; surfing; scuba diving; motorcycling; etc.)
Less than ideal:
- Disinhibition (getting high; getting drunk; becoming part of a faceless mob; etc.)
- Boredom avoidance (doing something because you'll be bored otherwise, vs. because you really want to do that thing)
Playing on the playground, for children, is a form of thrill and adventure seeking. So how can we, as adults, experience the joy of a playground?
It takes heights, speed, dangerous elements, exploring on our own, and rough-and-tumble play.
In fact, I always know I've met a great guy when we don't need to go anywhere to have fun. All we need is some green grass to tumble around in, and we can have the best time of our lives! "Traditional" dinner-and-a-movie dates seem boring and uninspired. All we need is ten or fifteen minutes together, and our hearts will be pounding a little harder for the rest of the day.
After all, as I wrote in Everything's Always Worth It: Reclaiming the Fifteen Minutes, recess used to be fifteen minutes long. And that was enough time to line up in a single-file line, walk outside, pick teams, and play a whole game of kickball before the whistle blew!
So why do so many adults struggle to experience the same joy as children on the playground?
First, because we get less silly and more self-conscious. "Will people think it's weird if I go run up that slide?"
Second, because our bodies develop, and playgrounds become less challenging. The heights are too small. The speed is too controlled. And, let's face it -- we've now been to more playgrounds than we can possibly remember.
There's a very simple solution to this problem. You have to redefine and recreate your own version of the adult "playground." In this post, I share some suggestions and ideas of how I've done it. And in the comments, I want to hear yours!
I wrestle with people I'm friends with. I wrestle with dudes who annoy me at parties. (It's pretty satisfying to pin some sexist dick in front of all his friends.) I wrestle with my dog. And I wrestle with my nieces and nephews. Obviously, I use different amounts of skill and aggression based on context, but it's still really fun.
Also -- have you wrestled anyone lately? It's exhausting! I was offered several DI full-ride athletic scholarships. I've competed in national championships and rowed all over the world. And I feel like play wrestling is some of the best exercise ever. You don't even realize how hard you worked till you're done.
So next time you want to feel joyful and exhilarated... try to pin one of your buddies. Sneak up on them on from behind. Or approach from the front, if that feels more sporting. Or maybe set up a mini tournament thingy. (Just, if you're indoors, make sure you have someone watching out for sharp table and furniture corners.)
(And, because you're only human, the odds of anyone getting hurt -- even if you fall -- are incredibly small.)
Luckily, such structures are everywhere!
And! Climbing is another one of those "greatest workouts ever." When done properly, you're using your legs and core in addition to your arms and back. And, personally, I think that when you feel strong and you feel like a badass, you're much more likely to #ChooseBeautiful. But maybe that's just me.
If you've got bad a bad knee or ankle, just roll, baby, roll.
5. Race back up.
1. It will literally take your breath away.
2. It's a great opportunity for rough-and-tumble play -- if you grab onto someone or knock them down, they're basically already crawling, anyway, so it won't hurt.
3. Humans love striving.
4. When you get to the top, you can jump/roll/fall back down again!
Use the wheels you already use -- perhaps to commute or exercise -- differently. Perhaps by making a real-world Mario Kart battle course.
People -- especially women -- tend to drop out of team sports by or after high school. Which I get. Adults are worse at making new friends than kids. (Here's why.) We feel "awkward" approaching a group of people we don't know. Our focus shifts from "having fun" to "getting in shape" or "getting ready for swimsuit season."
But, honestly, if you suck it up and just do it, you'll almost certainly have a great time. I play pickup basketball several times a week. Basically, if you want to get in on a game, just find a gym with a basketball court, call the front desk, and ask when people play pickup. (While you're at it, ask about adult basketball/volleyball/whatever leagues. Then put your own team together, or sign up as a free agent.)
Or! If you see someone walking around with a volleyball, frisbee or basketball (or whatever) -- ask them! "Hey, were you just playing volleyball? Where?" This is a great way to make new friends -- especially when you travel!
This post is getting pretty long and media-heavy. But I think you get the idea. There's a chance I'll publish a Part II in the future. But in the meantime, please! I'd love to hear about your adult play behavior! How do you "build" your own adult playground? Share in the comments, or reach out on Facebook or Twitter.
Or, if you want to learn more about this, check out The Playful Adult: 500 Ways to Lighten Your Spirit and tickle Your Soul, by Sue Baldwin.