We have spent the last few days on the highway between Oklahoma and California.
My husband and I decided to drive out to our farmhouse, which took three days each way. We don’t mind the time it takes. Sure, there are moments we wish we were in a plane seat instead of a car seat. This is especially true when Baby J gets impatient with the ride. But the time it takes to drive allows us lots of time to talk about all kinds of things plus see a lot of beautiful country you can only witness from ground level.
One of our conversations was sparked by an article I read on Facebook about giving children vacations rather than toys. The article touted that when children received experiences, it boosted brain development. The writer talked about how our PLAY and SEEK systems in the brain often go unexercised in day-to-day living, but when we step outside the routine and go exploring, the brain’s cognitive functioning grows. Things like problem-solving, emotional expression, memory, language, and judgment all improve. And the cool part, the more the PLAY and SEEK systems were exercised the stronger the benefits became leading to greater happiness and well-being.
I don’t think this is just for kids. I think PLAYING and SEEKING have the same effect on everyone. Taking time to explore helps the brain work better and when we get back to everyday life, we are less stressed and more positive. I have found this to be true over and over in my own life. When I return from an adventure, no matter how small, I am more hopeful, more creative, and much more satisfied with life.
There is an added benefit beyond brain growth to all this ‘playing’ around. When we engage in having fun and discovering things together, stronger relationships emerge. I love those ‘remember when’ moments that come up later as we look back fondly at the fun we had. The remembering invests in the relationship, strengthening it even more.
Isn’t it amazing that when God designed us, he included play and discovery to be part of how we are “fearfully and wonderfully made?” Not only is playing fun, but it is also necessary to our well-being. So, I say, make time to wander, be amused, have adventures, and just spend time together playing. It will make you smarter and more connected. As for me, I plan to never miss an opportunity for fun. Life is too short to miss out on the good stuff.
“For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.” King David, Psalm 139:13-14