Game on: Fueling creativity and solving problems through play
Sparks & Honey’s Alison Bracegirdle takes a look at the childlike activities being produced for adult consumption.
Start playing around. Seriously. Adults behaving like kids is a thing right now and will likely continue to be, the longer we digitally isolate ourselves.
Sure, some kids never grow up. We even laugh at or make excuses for friends and colleagues at the pub, in meetings or crawling around like a wild animal at house parties. ‘Awww, he’s just a kid!’ Well, maybe the rambunctious are right.
This spring we’ve seen a barrage of seemingly unassociated childlike activities being produced for adult consumption. We call it ‘kidult’ or simply adult playtime. It’s any gesture designed to capture childhood bliss and savour the mental benefits of this joy.
For installations, London has played host to many of late, including an adult-only minimalist white ball-pit and a soft play monochrome art project ball-pit by Marvin Gaye Chetwynd at the Abbey Leisure Centre in Barking. Continuing the spherical tradition, artist Charles Petillon revealed his exhibition called Invasion featuring white balloons bursting out of houses, forests, basketball hoops and more.
And as for the printed word or squiggles? There have been a number of children’s books written for adults including Hurry Up and Wait about the art of not being busy and Secret Garden, a 96-page intricate colouring book for adults, now a global bestseller.
But why? ‘Why not’ is the correct, and childish, answer. OK, to be more specific, it’s modern psychology being increasingly challenged by our workobsessed and digital natures, argues Jared Keller in The Psychological Case for Adult Play Time. Tracking many of the same trends we’ve noticed, Keller ties these trends back to science.
Since 1955 children’s free play time has been in continuous decline, due to parents exerting increasing control over children’s activities. Boo. Fast forward to today. Here we are in adult life, desperate to dive head-first into a room of balls or cuddle up with colouring books. Sparing the very serious psychological impact on children who do not receive enough play time (yes, there have been links to murderous behaviour), as adults, the need doesn’t go away. Our bodies get bigger but our mind expects the same opportunities.
Play is something you don’t have to buy. It can be free. It’s generous to play with others, but most importantly, it’s how we fuel imagination, solve problems and feel free enough to make mistakes.
Although most of these examples are artistic, some brands are jumping into playtime. Reebok created a wonderfully rewarding game for adults to play, through surprising activity challenges, while waiting for the tube.
If your brand has a playful bone in its boardroom, perhaps both parties can win by creating an activation that simply lets adults play. It’s proven to relieve stress, boost creativity, improve brain function, and improve our relationships with other people by fostering trust with others.
So go on. Get outta here. Put this down and go play! Or help your brands facilitate their own playful experiences. Everybody wins