Designer's introduction to Vol. 38




Your inner kid wants you to come out and play


I just brought a ten-week-old kitten home from the SPCA, so writing about the theme of play feels fitting, as that’s mostly what this little creature is all about right now. He’s climbing all over me as I try to type with one hand, while my other hand dangles a feathered toy in front of him.

Ordinarily, I’d have a hard time dedicating so much of a Sunday to simply playing with a kitten, as I’d be battling my desire to be productive and get things done. But because I’m multi-tasking—playing and working at the same time—it feels somehow acceptable to me. Really, though, this strong desire to be perpetually accomplishing things is worth relinquishing from time to time. I think it’s time we all embraced frivolity more often.

Play is commonly defined as an activity that is self-directed and done for its own sake, without any objective other than the enjoyment itself. We play freely as children without hesitation; it’s a crucial part of our development. But we lose the ability and inclination as we get older. There are obvious reasons for this: we’re busy, we have long to-do lists, and play can feel like a waste of time. But that’s all the more reason to make space for it. Play encourages us to reconnect with our inner kid, and is a wonderful way to connect with others. It can help us break out of our well-worn ways of being, and offer reprieve in times of chaos. That’s how it feels for me.

I recently read an article about incorporating more playtime into a busy adult life, and the suggestion was to recall ways you enjoyed playing when you were young. If you enjoyed climbing trees, maybe take up rock climbing. If you were fond of Play-Doh, consider a pottery course. I think rock climbing and pottery are great pursuits, but how about just climbing a tree, or messing around with Play-Doh? We’re averse to activities that seem silly and childish, but I think there’s something to be gained by not looking for the grown-up version of something and letting go of the serious, adult version of ourselves for a while.

If you have small children in your house, then you’re probably already immersed in “childish” activities involving things like trampolines and Play-Doh, and your free time is in even shorter supply. But I’m talking about playing on your own terms, without any children necessarily present.

My partner has held onto his childhood trampoline. He loved it as a kid, and he loves it as an adult. He hasn’t looked for the grown-up version of this activity; he does it purely for the enjoyment (though he is working on some tricks, and saves his best ones for when a neighbour is walking by). It’s his favourite post-work stress reliever. Sometimes I’ll join him; we’ll talk about our day while bouncing together. It might only be for five minutes, but it feels great.

We’re lucky to live in a place with so many opportunities to enjoy ourselves—in the forest, on and in the water, and in the mountains. The Comox Valley is a recreationist’s dream. But even when I’m trail running or swimming in the river, I’m often still mindful of a result: I want to run a certain distance, or keep up my exercise regimen. But I’ve been trying to make more time for intrinsically motivated activities: the sillier, the better.

Speaking of which, this kitten is asking for my full attention. My to-do list can wait.