How Do I Play?

My 2019 vision board had a new element of “PLAY”.   When I think of the word play I think of children or sports. Given there are no children in my life (no kids, no grandkids) and I’m not a big fan of competitive games, I don’t think I play on a regular basis. I began to wonder what PLAY on my vision board means for me.

I had explored the concept of leisure in the past, and wondered if PLAY was similar or different. My past framework for Leisure had 7 different elements of types of activities. I have added a number of these activities into my life (and plan some additional ones in the future), but am I truly playing?

Leisure Framework:

  • Creative Expression – Personal Artistry – writing, painting, making music, dance, jewelry making, crafting, cooking, etc.
  • Physical Activity – Exercise & Beyond – walking, biking, hiking, SUP, tennis, Zumba, golf, dance lessons, running, cardio work out, strength training, martial arts, etc.
  • Intellectual Stimulation – Learning New Things/Skills – chess, birding, cooking class, architecture, new language, study mysticism, astronomy, learn to swim, learn to sail, OLLI, etc.
  • Social Interaction – book club, dining out, happy hour, team sports, etc.
  • Solitary Relaxation – yoga, journaling, reading, crosswords, coloring books, gardening, etc.
  • Spectator Appreciation – art gallery walks, theater, following sports, craft shows, etc.
  • Travel Experiences – stay-cation activities, big trip travel planning, vocation vacation, RoadScholar, etc.

On line research gives the definition of PLAY a slightly different feel than just Leisure Activity. Play is choosing to engage in an activity for enjoyment of doing it rather than a serious or practical purpose or the endpoint. The characteristics of play all have to do with motivation and mental attitude, not with the overt form of the activity. Two people might be throwing a ball, or pounding nails, or typing words on a computer, and one might be playing while the other is not. It is not about what they are doing, but rather their attitude toward it. Play can be defined with 5 elements:

  1. Play is self-chosen and self-directed – there is a sense of freedom in choosing to do it. It is something you want to do, not something you feel obliged to do. You also have the freedom to quit at any time.
  2. Play is activity in which means are more valued than ends – enjoyment of the process, not the importance of the endpoint.
  3. Play has structure, or rules, which are not dictated by physical necessity but emanate from the minds of the players.
  4. Play is imaginative, non-literal, mentally removed in some way from “real” or “serious” life. It often takes place in a fantasy world rather than the real world and the ends do not have immediate consequences in the real world.
  5. Play involves an active, alert, but non-stressed frame of mind. Because play is more about the process than the outcome, there is less fear of failure.

I found a few examples of play very compelling to consider adding to my future thinking:

  • Constructive play – the playful building of something. There is the goal of creating the object, but the primary objective is the creation of the object, not the having of the object once it is built. While there are the ideas of building a sand castle on the beach, or raking a pile of leaves for jumping in, there is also creating a craft or making art. A friend recently took up sketching and uses the backside of old reports because she tosses out everything – the fun is in the creation. I’ve thought about turning found objects into crafts before… perhaps that is my new play outlet?
  • Competitive play is directed toward the goal of scoring points and winning in a game. When the activity is truly a play one, it is the process of scoring that matters to the player, not some subsequent consequence of having won (or lost). A recent evening of shuffleboard was certainly this! I’ve never considered myself competitive and now I understand why – I like the process of playing the game but hate the winner/loser element. Where can I add in more non-competitive game playing this coming year?
  • Physical play – Children do this regularly – run, jump, and play games such as hide & seek or tag. How might I add in more physical play with others into my life?

The big learning about play for me is the enjoyment of the process, not the outcome! So whether it’s playing shuffleboard, making crafts, completing puzzles, coloring, or writing a blog, it’s about the journey… not the destination. Now I understand why PLAY came into my vision board this year!

How do you play?

27 thoughts on “How Do I Play?

  1. Hi Pat,
    Just wanted to let you know that I revisited this post several times and ended up incorporating some of your insights into my latest blog post…with links back here, of course.
    Thank you for so much food for thought!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I almost had “play” as my 2016 word of the year (I chose “fun” instead)
    I struggle greatly with play. I am VERY competitive and do not like that shadow side – so I avoid any semblance of competitive play.
    I fear looking like a fool, so I avoid any play that is unfamiliar.
    I have several hobbies (writing, photograph, scrapbooking) … but I rarely allow myself time to experiment because I am focused on productivity.

    HOWEVER… I am convinced play is important and many of these anxieties are a result of faulty thinking. I hope to take baby steps toward playing for fun – regardless of results.


  3. Pat am I seeing a new theme for your blog now? I didn’t recognize it and you don’t have a name or photo in your profile at the side so it threw me for a minute!
    You always make me smile at how thought-out and intentional everything you do is. Even play is organized into areas to tackle! I’m a bit more laid back about it all. I have lots of things in my life that I do for fun (including blogging) and I just do what pleases me when it pleases me. I’m finishing work next week (for now) so play might become a bigger part of my life – especially in the weeks ahead while I defuse the timebomb in my head that work has created!
    Thanks for linking up with us at MLSTL and I’ve shared on my SM 🙂


    1. Leanne, My template theme was no longer “supported” so I needed to do a new one. I’m not sure I like the one I picked…but I’m leaving it a bit to see how others respond. My name/picture is at the bottom of the blog posts now.

      I had to chuckle at the “thought-out and intentional”. Some might call is over-analyzed and anal. 🙂 I do tend to think about things a lot. I love structure and definitions and then saying “so what” with the knowledge. This allowed all of that, so it was fun. Some of my thinking is also allowing me to have some internal validation for my life, versus external validation. Kinda the “do what pleases me when it pleases me” and feeling OK about that versus guilty. Thanks for continuing #MLSTL… I really look forward to it every week.


  4. I used to play a lot as a teacher with young kids – especially those who were newly arrived in Australia and had little or no English. Then I retired and cared for young grandkids some days while their parents worked and play was the essence of every day. There is a play part of me in some things I continue to do: splash at the beach, use art just for the sake of it and sing to my heart’s content in the car.

    Denyse #mlstl

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Denyse, Art for the sake of it, the enjoyment of the process of doing art, is what I hope to do based on this new thinking for me about play. That and maybe build a sandcastle at the beach this summer. 🙂


    1. Janet, You are very welcome. I love frameworks and definitions and I’m glad others found it helpful as well. We did some jigsaw puzzles this snowbird time and enjoyed it. I think it’ll become a standard thing here at the cottage.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Hi Pat, we all hear about how we should bring out the inner child or incorporate Play in our lives but I think you are one of the first to actually give us an idea of how to do this. I have learned to play again with my grandsons. Ethan showed me how to slow down and enjoy watching ants, pretending to be on a sinking pirate ship or just jumping on the trampoline. Children can help us rediscover play and I enjoy every moment. Thank you for being part of the #MLSTL and sharing your post with us this week. xx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sue, Since I did not have grandkids to show me the way, it was helpful to explore it and realize that I do have play in my life. And some ideas to add in more. Thanks for #MLSTL… I enjoy linking in every week to see a whole bunch of posts.


  6. Thank you, Pat, for giving me pause to think about what play is. I like the focus on enjoyment of the process. By that definition, at times my workouts are play; other times not so much. Playing Yahtzee is play for me, but participating in any kind of sport would not be. I do not enjoy playing sports. Hiking is play. Riding a bike is not. I will be giving this some more thought as I plan for my retirement. #MLSTL

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Christie, I’m glad it caused you to think about things a bit different! It was insightful for me as well. And I realized I played more than I thought I did. And helped me think about approaching some creative art as play, which I hope to do this year.


  7. Playing certainly changes as we cycle through our life changes. I physically played well into my thirties with outdoor and indoor sports (tennis, racquetball). But by my forties I let those go in favor of simply being fit, and I suppose I made the gym my “playground.” Now I consider being able to read all the books I want to be my endless playing because for so long I dreamed of having the time to do so. I still consider the gym “playing,” but intellectual pursuits are equal to it. – Marty

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Marty, “Being about to read all the books I want”…isn’t that lovely? I’ve found that here (snowbirding in FL), not only am I more active and spending more time outdoors, but I read more too. How is that possible? Ah well, to each his own (play).

      Liked by 1 person

  8. We have two grandchildren, but they live on the west coast, so we don’t have regular interactions with them, so no play opportunities there.

    I’d say my primary “play” as you define it is golf. Of course, you do keep score and you do try to get better, but it’s mostly just an enjoyable, outdoor physical activity with your buddies.

    I play Boggle with Friends and Words with Friends and a bit of Sudoku as well as occasionally tackling a NYT crossword puzzle.

    I also do some photography which really falls into the play category because there is no goal other than to capture or create pleasing images.

    I sing in a choir and even though we have a goal of making good music, the process of learning is really like play. Two more musically oriented activities on my retirement to-do list are to learn to play hammered dulcimer and piano purely for personal fulfillment.

    Almost all of my other activities are goal-oriented even though they might be enjoyable, such as cooking, working in my shop, working in my yard, working with my trainer, etc.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Bob, I knew you’d have a whole list of things you play at! I wasn’t aware of the photography though…although you have posted nice pics to FB – food, wine, wood crafts. I would have thought you would put cooking high on your play-list because of the way you approach it. The process, structure and rules but full of imagination and enjoyment. Just thinking about play a bit differently has opened my eyes to more things that I do that are play!


  9. I’d describe my morning routine as play. I sit in my reading chair with my iPad and read emails, check Instagram and Facebook, sync my Fitbit and play four games. I sometimes feel guilty about it because I’m not accomplishing anything but now I know I don’t have to think about that. I’m going to simply enjoy the process of playing!! Thanks for pointing that out. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Linda – My morning routine sounds similar! I get my coffee, sync my Fitbit, check the weather, and then do my morning journal in my reading chair …followed by email and reading The Skimm. I never thought about that as play-time, but I love how it sets up my day. I never had a morning routine focused on “me” while I was working…. I really enjoy it now.


  10. Hi Pat,
    I’ve recently gotten into some “constructive” play. After many years I have picked up knitting again. I have done several small projects in the form of dishcloths to practice stitches; then I felt brave enough to tackle an afghan (in a simple stitch) for my niece’s wedding shower gift. It ticks a lot of boxes: creative, constructive, self-chosen and self-directed, relaxing, alert but not stressed. I think that this applies to many arts and crafts.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Nancy, I’ve never done any knitting but many of my SILs do it…one makes baby caps and socks for the local maternity ward. It’s wonderful you have that skill. too. Getting into some type of craft is on my “to-do” list this year. Being OK with just enjoying the process and not worrying about the outcome will be a mindset shift for me!

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Some of the things I would call ‘play’ in my life are to read a book, take a walk, sit and daydream, make a snowman. I do have grandsons and we have a lot of playtime together. Hide and seek is one of their favorites. They never get tired of it. There seems to always be a new twist to how we hide even the the same, familiar places. I guess anything that sparks creativity for me feels like play, but sometimes taking a break in the afternoon to eat a piece of chocolate and watch something mindless on TV feels like I’m getting away with something now that I’m retired. It’s a delicious way to play!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Molly, As I have no kids in my life, it took this analysis to realize that I do spend a lot of time playing…which is a good thing. I’m still in the process of letting myself be OK with not being “productive” all the time…to just enjoy what I’m doing.

      Liked by 1 person

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