I think there’s a Fred Roger’s quote out there that talks about how play is the work of kids. Usually it’s used in the context of not putting kids to work and interrupting their play, because play is exactly what they should be doing when they’re young. It’s how kids learn about the world.

If you also subscribe to the idea that kids are whole, fully formed individuals; not undeveloped but with wonderful brains that don’t need to be taught, play becomes the way kids gain experiences interact with the world and how they form opinions and thoughts. Incidentally, this seems to also be how adult brains work as well. We learn best when we are engaged in meaningful activities that we enjoy, just like the kiddos.

Unfortunately, meaningful activities can be few and far between if you’re stuck in a 9-5 grind where you’re forced to sell your body and labour for a wage. As grown ups, activities that might be considered as play like hobbies or vacations all too often get shelved so that we can become productive in society and earn a wage to be able to afford basic necessities. What’s worse: many of those activities we might consider adult play cost additional money that anyone with a lower income might not be able to afford.

If we truly believe that kid and adult brains function the same way, what does that mean for adults who don’t have the ability to make room in their lives for their own play? For their own rest? Earning income, childcare, and general capitalist grind culture not only doesn’t prioritize play and rest for adults, but it makes them near impossible to achieve for anyone but the wealthy.

By prioritizing play for kids up until the age of say 10, we’re doing the right thing by allowing them leisure time, allowing their brains to learn and grow at their own pace without stress or anxiety. But for those kids over 10 and into adulthood, we remove that priority and find that anxiety, stress, depression, and general mental health deteriorates pretty quickly. When the capitalist system refuses room for our brains to relax, to enjoy – we see a cultural shift that puts profitability before mental health and financial gain over wellness for all.