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11 Ways to Play at Any Age

“All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” It’s a saying for a reason, people and if you’re like every adult over the age of 40 I know, you probably aren’t getting enough play.

children jumping for joy

In fact, you may view it as unnecessary, undignified or just plain silly. But if you think playing as an adult sounds like a bunch of hooey, think again. Even the science community knows that play is necessary to our happiness & joy. Take this quote from the book on the science of Play by Stuart Brown:

“When play is denied over the long term, our mood darkens. We lose our sense of optimism and we become incapable of feeling sustained pleasure. There is laboratory evidence that there is a play deficit much like the well-documented sleep deficit.”

At a loss for how to play anymore? Here are eleven ideas to get you started.

1. Take a Joy Ride.

On a Bike. There’s something about riding a bike that takes all of us back, no matter our age, to the wonders of being kid and having newfound freedom. Zipping through the neighborhood, the wind at our backs, can’t be beat. It’s also great exercise and easy on the knees & feet.

In a Car. And if you can’t do the bike thing, take a different kind of joy ride, take your car out for a spin along a picturesque country road, or highway. Your favorite tunes, a pair of sunglasses and an “I’ve got nowhere to be” attitude can make a little jaunt just the thing to get away from it all for an hour or two.

2. Make a Mess. Forget the rules, forget neat and tidy.

In the Garden: Fool around in the garden, just for fun. Plant something pretty or grow some vegetables. Getting your hands dirty and making a mess outdoors is scientifically proven to improve your mood and make you healthier.

In the Kitchen: Throw some flour around in the kitchen. Make pasta, bread or a big batch of messy muffins. Or anything else that grabs your fancy. Bonus points for getting other people involved, play is always better with our favorite people. In fact, playing together promotes social bonding.

Artistically: Make a mess and try flower arranging, or watercolors. Throw on some old “play” clothes and try your hand at throwing a pot. How about getting crafty? Decorate a fun keepsake box, or make a wreath for your door.

3. Play Experts: Team up with Animals.

Anyone with kids knows that they are enthralled by animals. And animals can often teach us a thing or two about play.

Dogs & Cats. Spend some time playing with your pets. Not walking or training, but just throwing the ball, or playing a little tug-of-war. Follow up with some cuddles for extra de-stressing benefits.

National Velvet. A lot of little girls loved horses. If you were one of them, you can revisit that childhood wonder today. There are many places that offer rides on beautiful trails, lessons or even a little horse whispering, i.e. learning how to bond with horses by joining up with their energy.

Spring Chickens. At this time of year, the farm stores are usually filled with spring chicks. Look out for signs advertising and go take a gander. Seeing those little chirping balls of fluff (without having to actually take care of them) can be all you need to give you a lift.

4. Find the Thrills.

As kids we lived for thrills, as adults, all too often we avoid them. But playing with a little risk, can leave us feeling breathless and joyful (even when we fail).

Swing. Now, you can sneak off to the local playground to find a swing or a slide, right around twilight is when pretty much everyone has gone home. But those swing seats are smaller than you remember. I recommend you invest in your own. Every house needs roomy porch swing to take us back.

Water park/Amusement Park. If you have a child or someone game how about an afternoon at kid paradise, a water park, an amusement park, an arcade or even the local fair? Feeling like a kid again can do wonders for your spirit. Try a waterslide, or a rollercoaster (maybe the smallest one). Or how about a ferris wheel?

Double Dare Someone. A little competitive fire in the spirit of fun never hurt anyone. Next time your making pasta or playing cards with someone, up the ante. Bet the last glass of wine on a hand, or on being able to roll out more pasta than your neighbor.

5. Go Outside and Play.

What your mother always told you when you were underfoot in summers past, still holds true today. Vitamin D and some friends to relax with can be one of the best ways to spend a nice day.

Lawn games. Invest in some lawn games to enjoy after a barbecue. Think badminton, horse shoes, bocce ball, or croquet.

Go for a picnic. Why not head to the park, the beach, or somewhere beautiful and set up a spread? Have a potluck and ask people to bring a dish, themselves.

Beach games. If you’re lucky enough to have a beach, why not head there? Volley ball, kite flying, a bonfire, or even a little easy does it dune buggy ride might be just the ticket.

6. Play well with others (Inside).

When it’s too hot, or too rainy to be outdoors, why not invite people over for some good old fashioned indoor fun?

Board games. Bring out your childhood favorites and let the good times roll. Think Clue, monopoly, Life, or even Jenga. Or try a more adult game like Cards Against Humanity.

Card games. Or how about a low stakes card game? Whether it’s Gin Rummy, Uno or Old Maid, nothing brings out the competitive spirit and the laughs like playing a hand with friends and family.

7. Get lost in Wonder.

When you’re little it’s easy to get lost in the magic and wonder of things. So much around us is larger than we can comprehend, and far more mysterious. As an adult it’s easy to forget that completely. So why not revisit that feeling?

In Nature. When was the last time you checked out the night sky? Or stayed up late to watch a comet? Or went to visit a natural wonder near you. Took in a forest or a prairie filled with flowers? All to often we forget how much nature can fill us with a sense of fun & wonder.

In Art. But nature isn’t the only place to get lost in wonder. There are plenty of manmade places that can leave us feeling breathless too. Check out a Museum near you. Go to a beautiful church for a tour, or some other gorgeous architecture near you. A lot of beautiful places also hold concerts and symphonies in them, and what a great way to get a double dose of wonder!

8. Host a Play Date.

When was the last time you did something with a friend or even friends? Thought so. How about making it a point to go out and actually do an activity with the people you love the most? It’s play and it’s gives you something to talk about besides the weather, relationship woes, or the kids.

Take a class together. Try a Cooking class, glaze some pottery together, or be silly with attend one of those Paint and Sip Wine classes that are so popular right now. Try a wine tasting class.

See a movie together. Check out an independent movie at that cute little locally owned cinema you love. Or see a drive in movie. Every once in awhile even larger movie theaters will have an throwback night where you can catch a classic black and white on the big screen or even a blast from the Eighties.

Dinner with friends. Organize a potluck. Or check out an all fondue place with the gals, a dim sum joint, hot pot place or even a Spanish small plates diner. Or forgo dinner altogether for an Afternoon tea. Extra play points for wearing hats. ;)

9. Get out of the Ordinary.

As kids there are often plenty of opportunities to escape the humdrum domestic routine. Everything from Summer Camp to Family Vacations. As adults in can feel indulgent to get away at all, even when we’re overdue on our vacation days. Why not change that? We’re more fun and more playful when we’re able to get away for awhile.

Weekend Retreat. Why not take a weekend to get away to another city for a couple of days? Head to a picturesque town a couple of hours away from yours and live it up in a Bed and Breakfast. Or fine the nearest city to yours make it a get away in the city. Is there wine country near you? Or beaches? Head there for a scant 2 to 3 days. Almost all of us can swing that, no matter how busy we are.

Go to Camp. Go camping or glamping. Rent a cabin. Ski resorts in the summer are glorious and often empty. You can get great rates, and find plenty of room to play. Try an adult version of camp, find a retreat in something you love, like a Yoga Retreat, or language immersion.

10. The Greatest Show on Earth.

Go see the kind of razzle-dazzle colorful show that would appeal to the kid in you, which may not be the circus at all. Instead try these ideas.

A musical. Think Lion King or Aladdin. Or how about the Phantom of the Opera?

Other shows. Why not try Cirque du Soleil, or even a dinner theatre show, where you can be a part of a wedding gone awry or even help figure out a murder mystery? Magic shows may be for kids, but watching a Mentalist work can be very entertaining as an adult.

11. Get Silly.

Dance party. Put on the tunes, draw the blinds (if you must) and go crazy. Dance like no one is watching.

Build sundaes for dinner. My personal favorite? A waffle sundae. Perfect crispy Belgian waffle, studded with chocolate chips, Ice cream on top while it’s still hot so it gets all melty, and a little home made strawberry syrup over that. Decadent!

Put your feet in the grass or sand. Run through a sprinkler when no one is looking. Put on an impromptu hula hoop competition with a significant other.

Little daily and weekly doses of the magic of being a kid, i.e. playing and being rule-free can do wonders for your sense of adventure and joy.

Don’t let another joyless week of stuffing every waking moment with activities from the “To Do” list pass you by without sprinkling some fun in it. Believe you-me, the "To Do List" will still be there for you when you get back and you’ll be all the happier for having put it on hold for some fun.

I hope that helps you to add more play, and definitely more joy to your day and to the week ahead. And with that, I'm off.

Playfully yours,

Desirée Sommer


Desirée Sommer is a former Interior Designer, and a current Writer/Speaker who helps people just like you Style, Beautify and make their lives Fun again!

She happily resides in the rural beauty of Idaho with her pet pooch Bree, where she gets to take epic hikes, and plot her next big adventure/road trip/travel destination.


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