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November 3, 2010 / Katie

Adults should be allowed to play

I stumbled across this a few days ago and found it both funny and insightful:

a photo on the left of a child's playground with the words "where kids go to exercise" and a photo on the right of treadmills in a gym with the words "where adults go to exercise"  Below that, in larger font, "WTF"

Seriously.  I mean, I do enjoy swimming laps and going on the elliptical—truly, I do.  I put on some interesting podcast or rock out to (what I think is) great music, and blow off some steam.  I feel great afterward.   But lets just face it… it’s not nearly as fun as just goofing around on a playground.

I was a little on the old side when all of the tunnel/slide/ball pit things were going up, but I absolutely adored them.  I was a tween when they started to proliferate, but because I had younger sisters I had an excellent excuse.  I was having a blast myself, but to my friends who were too cool for school, I was like totally being forced by my completely unfair parents to watch my sisters.

That shit is fun. And there’s really no logical reason why adults shouldn’t be able to just simply play like that.  There’s no real reason—except social limitation—that we shouldn’t be able to immerse ourselves in gigantic ball pits, climb through tunnels with scratched-up plastic windows, swing and run and jump and do whatever catches our fancy.  There’s no real reason why all our games have to have “approved rules” according to some sports organization; no reason why our cardio has to be repetitive and boring.

All of this reminds me of something I found out about several months ago called The City Museum in St. Louis.  For those who haven’t heard of it, apparently it’s the creation of a local artist’s imagination and innovation.  A play space for people of all ages.  The website makes it look like a truly amazing place.

I haven’t been yet, but I will check it out someday.  Oh yes, I will.

Every city needs one of these.  Everyone should have local access to something like this.  Because adults need a place to play, too.  We need a place where we can let go of social convention about what “the rules” should be.  We need a place to forget about how many calories are burned in this particular activity of that, to throw out timers that tell us when to start and when to stop, and just let our sense of fun guide us.

Wouldn’t it be amazing if, instead of this:

Doctor: your blood pressure is a bit high and I’m concerned about your stress level.   You need to exercise more.

We had this:

Doctor: your blood pressure is a bit high and I’m concerned about your stress level.  I’d like to see you playing more!

Wouldn’t it be amazing if, instead of this:

TV Commercial: Are you planning to eat this holiday season?  Well you better watch those sneaky holiday pounds!  Come to Hercules Gym to burn off those calories!  If you join now we’ll waive our exorbitant joining fee, and throw in a free pedometer so you can track every single step you take all day long!

We had this:

TV Commercial: How long has it been since you had a kick-ass good time playing?  Come on down to Play Space, where we’re running a special offer.  All new members will have the joining fee waived and you’ll get to pie a friend in the face!

fast-talking lawyer at the end: free garbage bag and a 15 second head start will be provided for your friend

I gotta say that I believe that world would be a lot more body-positive, a lot more people would get more physical activity, and we’d all just be having a lot more fun.

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14 Comments

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  1. Carol Gwenn / Nov 3 2010 1:44 pm

    Yes, yes, yes! Adults NEED play just as much – if not more than – children do. My personal play wish? A moon bounce sized for adults – kids always look like they’re having so much fun; I’d like to play, too!

  2. Jenna / Nov 3 2010 1:55 pm

    Awesome post! If I had a play hour instead of a gym hour every day I would SO go! Frisbees, random games, running around, playing tag…. you are so right. this is truly needed for all ages.

  3. notblueatall / Nov 3 2010 3:17 pm

    My dream? A full, room-sized adult ball pit! That was always my favorite as a kid, the ball pits! So fun! Now that I’m a germaphobe though? Not sure I could do it. But in my mind, it’s still magical!

  4. Salix / Nov 3 2010 4:00 pm

    For what little it’s worth, the City Museum is 200% as awesome as you have been led to believe. :D

    (But, uh, your link doesn’t go to its website).

  5. ThePowerofMyth / Nov 3 2010 7:00 pm

    oh man I totally agree on this! This seems like such a better idea than working out at a gym staring at the tv or a wall. Seriously I miss playing on jungle gyms and play grounds as a kid! I always had a blast and it never seemed like work it was just fun!!! :)

  6. cicadasinmay / Nov 3 2010 9:17 pm

    I totally agree. When I was a kid I did so much imaginative play. I guess what is standing in my way is a newfound sense of body shame (I didn’t care what I looked like when I was five years old) and a need to maintain roughly as much dignity as everyone else. Which is again tied into what other people will think when they see you doing things. I blame adult culture?

  7. G / Nov 4 2010 3:07 am

    Do those big tunnel/slide/ball pit complexes still exist? (In my neck of the woods they were called Discovery Zone.) The absolute best first date I’ve ever been on was when I was in high school a guy took me to one of those places and we crawled around in the tubes for a couple hours and goofed around. It was so fun! I hope they’re still around, I would definitely go for a workout there– much more fun than running on the hamster wheel.

  8. aliphil / Nov 4 2010 4:42 am

    I never got to go in a ball pool when I was little and I *so* want to try it. But what I’d really love is bouncy castles for adults. I’d “exercise” on one of those till I dropped! And there should be climbing frames and slides and death-slides and – everything!

    • Layla / Nov 4 2010 11:31 am

      YES! Oh man, I SOOOOO want that. I always joke “if I win the lottery, I’m so getting a giant, duplex bouncy castle obstacle course with a slip n’ slide at the end!”

      I’m totally not joking either. Lol. Bouncy castle obstacle courses are the best. We had one at my college for the end of the year stuff and it was such a good time. I kept going back in every time I’d get through because it was so much fun! Adult bouncy castles totally exist, there just aren’t nearly enough of them in the world :)

  9. tolonda / Nov 4 2010 5:48 am

    two words, baby: flying trapeze.

  10. ~annie / Nov 4 2010 6:49 am

    What burns me up is that it’s socially more acceptable for men to really play. Anybody ever think twice about seeing a group of guys shoot hoops, toss around the pigskin, bat a few balls? Maybe even guys still wearing their shirt and tie after work or at a wedding or whatever. It’s stuff they’ve been doing since they were little kids and it’s fine for them to do as adults as well. No argument from me on that, but when was the last time you saw a group of women take a break and play a game of hopscotch or jump rope? Or even any of the above mentioned activities?

  11. Twistie / Nov 4 2010 12:46 pm

    Oh man, this is the world I want to live in.

    Once a friend of mine and I came up with a cool business idea that we never did look into making happen. It was sort of a comfort zone for stressed out adults where they could come and hold teddy bears and drink hot chocolate and clutch security blankets.

    I think adults need more socially acceptable bouncy castles and security blankets. Ooh, and those cool merry-go-rounds that used to be in every playground. Those were AWESOME!

  12. the fat nutritionist / Nov 5 2010 9:58 pm

    I love that picture so, so much. For years, I have had fantasies of an adult playground.

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