Play & Adults

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Play and Adults (It’s just kids’ stuff…or maybe not)

First, a short video…


One thing you discover, if you own a toy store, is that adults secretly love toys. I stopped counting the number of folks who stopped long enough to push the small wooden trains around the track, moved the peg leg pirate from the deck to the crow’s nest and back, flew the sample balsa airplane across the room, built new structures with the blocks, and attributed their behavior to “testing” the products. Their smiles indicated something else, something far more fundamental. Inevitably, they walked up to the counter and commented on “how I must enjoy my job.” The comment was often accompanied by a wistful sigh, as though they, themselves, wished they had the same excuse.

Before owning a toy store (and a publishing company specializing in scale modeling books–a different kind of play), I worked as a county planner. I kept toys on my desk, a fact that often amused the folks who came into my office. The toys were there as calming tools. They helped with writer’s block, a method of decreasing frustration when the point to the report I was writing refused to translate onto paper.

There are very few toys in the store that wouldn’t work equally well for children and adults: blocks and building sets, jacks and marbles, puzzles and magnetic mosaics, art kits and science projects. I have a weather station at the apartment end of the depot. I am endlessly fascinated by the weather, so it made sense to try one of the weather kits. I have a jigsaw puzzle on a table in the living room, a mosaic kit on the kitchen table, a Keva Planks set in my studio. All are forms of play.

Retirees and grand parents understand play. I stopped counting the number of jack sets and balsa airplanes we sold this year, not to children but to grandparents who remembered loving the game as children and who are beyond the age where appropriateness dictates behavior.

We are programmed to believe, somehow, that play is the purview of the very young and the very old, but is inappropriate for working adults, yet invention and creativity are both the bi-products of play. We forget that play, or experimentation, leads to other things, to new perspectives, to new solutions. When we don’t play, we dull.

Next time you wander through a toy store, or through the toy aisles at the local big box, stop and buy something for yourself. Buy something that looks like fun. Buy something you have always wanted to try. Here are a few suggestions to get you started:

  • A science kit…you can’t tell me that you haven’t always wanted to build a volcano on your kitchen counter or wanted to try tossing an airfoil out your third or fourth floor office window just to see what it might do….
  • Art supplies. Pick up a coloring book, or some Sculpey, or a blank tablet and some colored whatever. Doodle, color outside the lines, create something with clay, play with the images. If you are working on a project, try thinking about your project in color, in squiggles and splotches…..
  • ABC blocks. Enjoy stories? Try creating stories using the letters or images from randomly drawn blocks (ours come with a bag to make it easier)…
  • Keva Planks…go to your office or kitchen table and build something. Not sure where to start, try something in the book and then try variations on the theme.
  • Pick up a puzzle…
  • Or a game….
  • Or a puppet…
  • Or a robotic toothbrush head
  • Or a yo-yo

Whatever you do, don’t wait until you are a grandparent to discover play.

If you want to know more about the benefits of play for adults, check out these resources:



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