Nourishing Holistic Aging with the Playful Inner Child“Play is the highest form of research.” – Albert Einstein

8 years ago….”Grandma Boom, let’s see how many ways we can make the train cars CRASH!” My preschool age grandson beckoned to me as he caused a derailing that registered 9.5 on the living room richter sound scale. Having been a 60’s headband-wearing, jean skirt-donning kind of gal, I raised my own children with fishy squirters. Crashing toys, even if they were sturdy metal little tanks, never entered my mind. Ever.

Times have changed for this baby boomer. Grandma Boomhood has presented new opportunities. I either hop on the play train or let it pass me by. Back then, the choice: crash train cars or keep them on track to deliver monkeys and lollipops to the zoo. What would be the prime drive: connecting with my preK grandson through his eyes!

“The creation of something new is not accomplished by the intellect but by the play instinct.” – Carl Jung

Strengthening the ‘muscles’ of spontaneity, flexibility, play and fun with my grandchildren became central keys. Decision was made with full steam ahead into a new adventure in crashing. Something new unleashed in this baby boomer body. I was so creative that my crashes were louder with more comprehensive derailing than I thought possible. My grandson gave me two thumbs up! It was crash heaven ecstasy!

Research on play is taking shape in child development as well as aging factors. When considering the best type of play for kids, indications are that free play is the answer. Why? Free play is when kids are allowed to do what they want in their imaginations and learn problem solving. Experts say that engaging in this type of play strengthens brain development and maintenance at all ages.

“Imagination is more important than knowledge.” Albert Einstein

Similarly, youthful play is not just kid stuff, but actually provides youthful nutrients for the adult aging brain, psychological well-being and creates endorphins. Many benefits for the young and old are elevated through play.

When possible, connect with children and be IN the play instead of directing them. Playing involves exploration and feeling, spontaneity, being out-of-the-box, freeing the cognitive mode of thinking. Do some deep breathing, stretching, exercise to loosen up the gray matter that is so responsible. Free yourself to explore. Judging yourself wondering what others will think is a play killer. Remove barriers, be silly, dance somewhere new like in the forest or the kitchen.

“It is a happy talent to know how to play.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Play helps prevent Alzheimer’s disease. The Rothfeld Cr. For Integrative Medicine recommends playing 3D video games. In their study seniors improved working memory and sustained concentration. Play an instrument, do puzzles, dance, do dress-ups!

Free form activities like art and pretend play, sports, pool volleyball, board games can prevent or at least forestall the development of Alzheimer’s disease by releasing brain-derived neurotrophic factor, which spurs the growth of neurons and encourages them to make new connections.

We know that children learn best when they are playing. And the best part is that principle applies to adults, too. When you approach a task in a relaxed, playful way, it’s easier and less stressful to focus and learn whatever is needed.

“Do not keep children to their studies by compulsion but by play.” – Plato

Playing games reduces stress and offers a whole new experience for social time with friends. Have fun sharing the experience of playing in a new way that taps your inner child creativity instead of always relying on a structured manufactured game. Those are fun but call on a different aspect of the brain. Share the nostalgia of playing with a toy you played with and enjoyed as a kid. See what that shakes loose with friends!

Watch children pick up two twigs and go to town with a whole scenario, using their active imaginations and totally losing themselves in their creativity.

“Play is the work of the child.” – Maria Montessori

When playing, I feel free. When I teach, I include play. It opens minds and hearts to feel confident learning when having fun. With play, rigidity and tension dissolve like a puddle on a sunny day. Play is medicine. It brings us back to something innately wonderful about being childlike with that soul salve of innocence where wonder and magic live. Playfulness will take you to a space that is timeless.

Here’s your prescription, refills automatically: P L A Y daily!!

“We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.” – George Bernard Shaw

Play funshops available with Janai. Email: