This weekend is one of my favorite weekends of the year at our local zoo. This weekend is the Great Pumpkin Smash–when all of the animals at the zoo have the opportunity to play with pumpkins. The lorikeets will eat them, the otters will throw them about in the water, the gorillas will punch holes in the side to get at the meat, and the elephants will scoop them up whole and smash them with their trunks. A great time will be had by all–including me. I think that one of the reasons that I love the Pumpkin Smash so much is that it is the pure embodiment of playing. None of these animals need the pumpkins. They all get fed regularly. But the pumpkins are a special treat, and special treats bring out playful responses–whether you’re a grown-up human or a busy otter.
The Pumpkin Smash reminds me that we all need play in our lives. In fact, research has suggested (and the popularity of adult coloring books seems to support) that adults need play at least as much as kids do. Taking time to play is how we increase our ability to cope with the tough moments that life inevitably throws at us. Play is a natural resilience-booster (plus it’s FUN!!)
Here are some of my favorite ways to play:
- A fierce game of cards
- A satisfying board game
- A turn on a flying swing
- A walk through crunchy leaves
- A full-tilt game of Capture the Flag–preferably staged around a giant playground
- Re-watching the Princess Bride
- Hiking a new trail
- Bike races
- Roller skating
- Trampoline bouncing
- Great concerts
Have you played recently? If not, what is holding you back? Are you worried about your dignity? Have you lost touch with your sense of play? If any of that is true, I’d love to invite you to find a way to play this weekend. If you’re here in Kansas City, come out and watch some pumpkin smashing. If you’re not–try a turn on a local swing set.
Care to share how you play? I’d love to hear in the comments.