Do you remember coloring? What about blocks or legos? How about riding your bike or pretending you were an explorer?  What about dress-up or playing catch?

More importantly, do you still do these things?

Playtime is one of the most essential experiences of being a kid. It’s the bread and butter of childhood, and experts have determined that playtime is an absolute must for healthy development. And its no wonder, kids at play are the spitting image of freedom and authentic happiness.

As we grow older, many of us unfortunately let go of playtime. We seek out novelty less and prioritize work and productivity more. But playtime is important for adults too! Adults who give themselves regular playtime experience lower levels of stress and a higher sense of wellbeing. Couples who engage in playful activities together experienced improved relationships.

What makes play, well, play? To be sure, play looks a little different for everyone, whether it amounts to collecting stamps, playing guitar, or tossing a ball around.  But playing is not just an activity, play is also defined by a mentality and a certain way of being.

Below, we’ve listed a few key characteristics of play. If you decide to start giving yourself more regular playtime, remembering these points can help you let go and truly make the most of your time.

Play Has No End Goal

When you were little, you played for the mere sake of playing. You never asked, “What do I aim to get out of this?” One of the defining aspects of play is that it is more about process than achieving a specific goal (how many times did you build a tower of blocks only to knock it down and start over?). As an adult, let playtime be a time in which you refrain from focusing on accomplishments (I will color at least three pages!) and instead just immerse yourself in the activity.

Play Is Value and Judgment-Free

As a kid you probably didn’t second guess or judge your playtime. You didn’t worry about whether you were good at playing, nor did you question its usefulness. As adults, it can be hard to refrain from assigning a value to our daily activities. Time after all, feels much more precious: many of us want to feel certain that we’re spending our time doing the right things and that we’re doing them the right way. Strive to make playtime the exception. No matter what your playtime looks like, let go of any need to evaluate it or your performance.

Play is Self Directed

One of the key aspects of play is that kids decide to do it for themselves. When you were young, no one needed to tell you to play or tell you how to play. You made all the decisions yourself (I’m going to play house or I’m going to make mud pies or I’m going to read a story). The most wonderful thing about play is that it is all about freedom and personal preference. Playtime comes down to what you want to do, not what you are required to do. You do it when you want and you stop when you want.

Not sure how to start playing again? It’s easy! Just think back to when you were a kid. What sort of activities did you like doing? Where you active? Imaginative? Did you explore or make art? Consider what you were naturally drawn to and open up space to bring those things back into your life. 

Playtime is all about what brings you joy. And joy knows no age limit. Schedule some playtime into your daily life, and you’ll feel like your younger self in no time.