Satisfy the Hunger and Thirst for Play
We are born with 100 billion neurons in our brain… and they are hungry to learn. In fact, they thirst for knowledge from the moment we’re born until we pass away. Surprising to some, one of the most powerful ways to feed our brain, to give it the nourishment it needs to grow in knowledge and wisdom, is through play. I’m not talking about adult managed and structured play. No. We’re talking about sensory-experienced play—playing in the mud, splashing water, banging the Tupperware, climbing the tree. This play fills the brain with hands-on, sensory information through touching, hearing, seeing, smelling, tasting, and “propriocepting” (Sorry, I made that word up). We’re also talking about imaginary play (which, by the way, often encompasses these senses). Children’s brains not only hunger and thirst for play, but they also thrive on play. They are wired for play. Literally, they need play in order to grow in a healthy way (see Scientist Reveals Essential Activity That Boosts Child’s Brain Development (newsweek.com)). When immersed in sensory, exploratory play and imaginative play, a child’s “brain starts to… light up with joy as connections between neurons make impressive progress,” according to Dr. Jacqueline Harding (Playful Brains: Early Years Play Shapes Children’s Futures – Neuroscience News). They develop neural pathways that can influence them throughout their lives, even into adulthood.
When we minimize our children’s opportunities to play, we hinder their development. Also, when we “forget to play” or stop playing as adults, we hinder our own continued development and brain health. We become like the adult Peter Pan in “Hook,” joylessly bound to the worries and stresses of adult life. The only way to reignite our joy and to express the full depth of our love for our children and spouse is to regain our sense of play (or, as Toodles learned, our happy thoughts and purpose). Our children need the opportunity to play in order to develop in a healthy manner. Our children also need us to play so we can develop our “happy thoughts” of our lives with them. They need us to play so we can continue to develop in a healthy manner with them. Don’t just let the children play. You play as well. In fact, let the children play. Let yourself play. Let the whole family play… and satisfy your brain’s hunger and thirst for play.