Are you still having fun in your midlife? Our society tends to dismiss play for adults. Most of the time we are so absorbed by our daily routines that we forget what a huge impact the art of playing could have on our wellbeing. Play is perceived as unproductive, petty or even a guilty pleasure. The notion is that once we reach adulthood, it’s time to get serious. And between personal and professional responsibilities, there’s no time to play.
Now, a new exhibition in London – Play Well- from Wellcome Collection pitches the idea of play as “not just inherent, but also a necessary element for culture.”
‘Play Well’ explores how play transforms both childhood and society. Using displays of historic toys and games, artworks and design, this exhibition investigates how play develops social bonds, emotional resilience and physical wellbeing. From video games, playing blocks, comic strips and images of children playing in different environments such as playgrounds in the 1950s or refugee camps, to a play space by Adam James, it examines the relevance of play in the adult world and its vital role in fostering imagination, enabling independent thought and challenging the status quo. It also features the work of early education philosopher Jean Jacques Rousseau and other theorists, as well as a chart that traces the evolution of LEGO ® products and pioneering playground designs by Dutch architect Aldo Van Eyck.
It’s not an exhibition necessarily aimed at children – says the curator Emily Sargent– though we think children will get a lot out of it because it shows their experience writ large, but it feels important that it is an environment that takes them into account
Artist Adam James, in particular, examines the importance of LARP (live-action role play) in adulthood. A way to immerse ourselves in fictional worlds and experience how others might live the same experience. A way for empathising with and being other than yourself. Remember that play is important for all aspects of our lives, including creativity and relationships. Give yourself permission to play every day: it can add joy to life, relieve stress, supercharge learning, and connect you to others and the world around you.
PLAY WELL runs to 8 March. Wellcome Collection, Euston Road, London NW1