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The Importance of Play

finding-happiness-cartwheelWith a full-time job, errands and responsibilities I often overlook the importance of integrating play in my life. After all, play and play therapy is for children, right? But when I take even a few minutes a day to play in the sand, draw or dance, I don’t regret it.

Play allows for the abstract, another means to express our thoughts and feelings. Do all of our adult daily activities have to be goal-directed? Is there a value to integrating play into our adult lives?

Play allows for creativity and freedom, enriching our fast-paced, hurried, highly organized lives. Play is yet another medium to enhance and improve our relationships with self and others. Individual play can allow for freedom of expression, increasing self-confidence and promoting emotional well-being. Play with others, including our animals, can provide and create stronger bonds with those with whom we share our lives.

Structured and unstructured play allow for self-expression and freedom from the confines of our daily lives. Structured play includes a format and rules (such as a board game). Unstructured play is open and free.

Engaging in active, not passive, play increases our social and emotional well-being. I recently attended a play therapy conference and took a three-hour course on sand tray therapy. This is often used with children in a therapeutic setting. I was asked to complete my own sand tray, in which I would create my own microcosm.

I was skeptical at first. The empty sand tray lay before me. Myriad plastic and metal objects filled the room, waiting to be carefully chosen and placed. I was instructed to display my life as it is now. As I wandered the room and grabbed a dog, a flag, and other assorted items to place in the tray, I began to examine my life in a new light. I carefully placed the objects and told the therapists what I was thinking and feeling at the time I created my world.

I experienced a change in perspective while engaging in this form of therapeutic play. I can easily talk about how I feel, my life and my goals, but playing in the sand and engaging in sand tray therapy myself, I saw my life laid out before me in a new way. I saw my family, my career and my personal relationships. The unconscious became conscious through the use of sand.

Play is not just for children. We too can dance, sing, color, draw, or play in the sand. We can express ourselves, discover new aspects of our lives, and grow through play. When did our lives become so busy we stopped making time to play?

The Importance of Play

Elizabeth Grasher, MS, LPC, LMFT

Elizabeth Grasher, M.S., LPC, LMFT, is a counselor who has worked in a variety of settings including juvenile detention, non-profit drug and alcohol and outpatient practice. She assists clients with relaxation and mindfulness techniques and also practices them herself.

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APA Reference
Grasher, E. (2018). The Importance of Play. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 26, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018 (Originally: 28 Apr 2015)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.