Why don’t adults play?

Why when we become adults is there a decline in our engagement in play? Why do we let it go? Often it is because we become too busy “adulting” and too worried about what others may think. We end up saving play only for vacations or what we can justify as an appropriate time. Life gets in the way and we become content to muddle through each day instead of experiencing each moment of the day and embracing what brings us joy. I have witnessed so many adults who truly have forgotten how to play.

In his book Play, author and psychiatrist Stuart Brown, MD compares play to oxygen. He writes, “…it’s all around us, yet goes mostly unnoticed or unappreciated until it is missing.” This might seem surprising until you consider everything that constitutes play. Play is art, books, movies, music, comedy, flirting and daydreaming writes Dr. Brown, founder of the National Institute for Play.

The only way to fully engage and enjoy PLAY activities as an adult is to not care what others think, to not be bothered if someone stares or makes a snarky comment. If you are comfortable in your own skin and secure in the relationships of those that you are with, then your joy from play will be nothing short of blissful!! I find that adults always have great plans and ideas of ways to enhance this area of fun in their life but they are not following through. The real success, growth and joy will come from the actual execution of your plans and ideas. Or maybe you are stuck on the fact that certain activities are not meant for adults…you could not be more wrong!!!

Let me ask you this: What is PLAY to you? If I gave you a homework assignment to make a list of what you enjoyed as play as a child to get you thinking, what would be on that list?  Now that I have you thinking, what is it about those happy memories that made them fun, that brought you joy, that makes you smile? If you aren’t doing them now, why aren’t you? What would be one thing that you would LOVE TO DO under the umbrella of PLAY but the thought of what people would think, your age, or perceived ability would hold you back?

Bottom line is this:  age is a number and old is a mindset. The definition of adult does not state you cannot play anymore, and the definition of play does not state it is only for children. Our sources of joy and what we enjoy doing will expand, grow and change through our various stages of life…just like they do as we grow up. The key to “adulting” is to hold on to what makes you happy. If you enjoy it, find a way to do it. Aging gracefully does not mean becoming stagnant or complacent in your everyday. Do what you enjoy. Try something new. Step out of your comfort zone. Experience life. Enjoy relationships. PLAY!

If you need some help getting started, here is a list of 35 PLAY activities for you to engage in with friends and/or family, and embrace your child within.

  1. Water Balloon Volleyball
  2. Kite Flying on the beach at dusk or in an open space
  3. Dancing Class (try out a ballroom dancing or other fun dance class)
  4. Picnic with games (lawn darts, badminton, horseshoes, etc.)
  5. Game Night (bring out the games you loved as a child or play some fun adult board games)
  6. Cards
  7. Wine Tastings or Vineyard Tours
  8. Snow Tubing or Tubing on a River
  9. Cooking Class (take one or host a cooking night at your home with friends – everyone brings an ingredient and you have to make a meal with what everyone brought)
  10. Boomerangs and Balloons
  11. Explore a museum
  12. Discover a Zoo or Aquarium
  13. Jacks Tournament or a Marble Tournament
  14. Rock Climbing…inside or out
  15. Clay Throwing Class (think the scene from Ghost…LOL)
  16. Painting Class or set up your own outside
  17. Self Defense Class
  18. Whitewater Rafting or Canoeing
  19. Bowling (I love a good themed night…especially 80’s night!!!)
  20. Miniature Golf
  21. Segway Tour
  22. Roller-skating or Ice skating
  23. Haunted Hayrides (or other any activity that is holiday/season specific)
  24. Visit a playground
  25. Take a road trip (It can be a day or a weekend…and it can be planned or spontaneous)
  26. Batting Cages
  27. Lego Night (We did this at a couples night…I bought small Lego sets and each couple got one….then we raced to see who could finish first!)
  28. Color Run or other themed 5K (many you can walk or run so everyone is able to participate)
  29. Polar Bear Plunge
  30. Bike Ride
  31. Scavenger Hunt
  32. Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives Weekend (find the places from the show that in your area)
  33. Backyard Campfire (with S’mores of course!!!)
  34. Volunteer Activity
  35. Karaoke (even if you don’t sing…it is fun to go for a few good laughs)


Taralee is an educator, advocate, philanthropist and a published author. She has passionately contributed to the fields of special education and early childhood education since 1998, meeting her student’s and client’s needs in the home, school and community. She excels at recognizing each child’s unique gift and successfully ignites their love of learning through exploration, discovery and play. It is through this work that "Inspired Education" was born. As a philanthropist, Taralee served as the President and member of the Board of Trustees for the Southern Regional New Jersey Early Intervention Collaborative for 8 years.


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