Often when we think of playing, we think of children. Once we reach adulthood, we trade in those care-free times for our careers, housekeeping and taking care of others. Let this blog post inspire you to uncover ways that playing, even as an adult, can enhance your wellbeing, relationships with your neighbours, and the communities we live in!
The way our communities are designed can influence how often and how freely we play
While many parks have playgrounds for children, the extent of infrastructure for adults tends to take the form of seating. While benches certainly are valuable, they are not particularly engaging or exhilarating, (well… usually).
Typically with play structures, one thing is clear: these things are designed for children. So, exactly how do we get adults outside to play? It’s a simple concept, and one we hear over and over – think “if you build it, they will come”. A quick google search will let you know that adults are playing outside in several cities around the world, try the Chess Pocket Park in St. Louis, for example, where community members rallied to build a park in an underused area, supply tables, chairs and a few chess pieces – this place is now regularly packed with chess players, hosts tournaments, lessons, and is a hub for socialization and entertainment.
Bryant Park in New York City is no stranger to encouraging adults to play either, with over 50 games, ping pong tables, ice skating, mini putt, sing alongs and more, people of all ages and abilities are able to engage in some good clean fun. What we can learn from these places is that if we are simply provided with the option to participate in a particular activity, we are automatically more likely to engage in it than we are in the absence of these activities. Take William H. Whyte’s observation from The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces for example, if seating is simply provided, people find a way to use it; in its absence, people won’t.
Playing outdoors reminds us that public spaces exist for us to use
Here’s a friendly reminder: public space belongs to the public! Yes, that means you! Commonly, we feel like intruders in public spaces. We’ve become so used to seeing “No Loitering” signs, a lack of seating, or any form of encouragement to entice us to stay in a public space for long. This makes us feel weary of overstaying our welcome. The good news is: these places exist for us, therefore there should be activities available for us that help us connect to these places and feel at home in our communities. Poor quality or sterile environments lead to a sense of placelessness and alienation among residents and park users, leaving us feeling like strangers in our own communities. Designing spaces with the interests and needs of the surrounding residents in mind helps to foster a sense of ownership and pride, leading to greater use of the space. Let’s remember that these spaces are created for our enjoyment.
Did you know? It is believed that Town Squares have existed for at least 6,000 years? The places were originally designed for community gatherings and as a place to exchange ideas, goods, and hold conversation within a public context. – http://www.pitlanemagazine.com
Playing makes us more productive and better neighbors!
The benefits of recreation are endless; couple that with spending time outdoors, making new friends and tightening your sense of community; successful public spaces really do form the backbone of strong communities.
Spending more time playing allows us to lower our stress levels, improve our brain function so we can focus more clearly when needed, stimulate creativity and help us break through mental blockages. This is great news for anyone overwhelmed by their workloads, or looking to sharpen their focus for greater work productivity! Imagine taking your lunch outdoors to a local park, chowing down with others, and engaging in a game or conversation! Sparking a bit of imagination and creativity mid-day can help you return to your office with a clear mind and a positive attitude, both of which lead to greater productivity and life satisfaction!
Beyond mental impacts, playing helps us become better friends and neighbors as it helps us improve our relationships and connections to others through sharing and learning from one another. By continuously engaging with others, we improve our social skills and break down social barriers that may be setting us apart by getting to know and trust our neighbors.
Did you know? Communities where people are active and social have lower levels of crime, greater social capital, prosperity and community cohesion?
At PBJ Design, we seek to activate public spaces in order to gain greater community use of these spaces. Do you have a public space in mind that could use some creativity? Let us know!