The Relationship between Creativity and Play: Why Adults Need Playtime too


Welcome to a journey of exploring the fascinating relationship between creativity and play, and why it's just as important for adults as it is for children. You may think that play is just for kids, but in reality, incorporating play into your daily life can have a profound impact on your creative thinking and problem-solving abilities.

As a wise person once said, "We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing." It's time to embrace the notion that play is not just for children—it's a vital aspect of staying imaginative and innovative as adults.

Throughout this article, we will delve into the connection between creativity and play, uncover the benefits of play for adults, and provide practical tips for incorporating play into your daily routine. So, sit back, relax, and get ready to rediscover the joy of play and its incredible impact on your creativity.

Understanding Creativity and Play

Creativity and play are often associated with children, but they are equally important for adults. Creativity involves the ability to think outside the box, generate new ideas, and solve problems in innovative ways. Play, on the other hand, is the spontaneous and voluntary engagement in activities that bring joy and relaxation.

According to psychologist Dr. Stuart Brown, play is "as essential to our health as sleep and nutrition"1 . When you engage in play, your brain releases endorphins, which are chemicals that promote feelings of pleasure and reduce stress. This, in turn, can fuel your creativity and help you think more creatively.

Moreover, play allows you to explore new possibilities and experiment with different ideas without the fear of failure. This mindset can significantly enhance your creative thinking ability and open up new doors for innovation in both your personal and professional life.

It's important to understand that creativity and play are not just about artistic expression or leisure activities. They also encompass problem-solving, decision-making, and the ability to adapt to new situations. As a result, integrating play and creativity into your daily routine can lead to improved cognitive function, enhanced emotional well-being, and a greater sense of fulfillment in life.

By understanding the intrinsic connection between creativity and play, you can begin to appreciate the value of incorporating more playful activities into your adult life. This realization can ultimately lead to a more balanced and fulfilling lifestyle.

How Adults Benefit from Play

Engaging in play has various benefits for adults, not only in terms of relaxation and enjoyment but also in fostering creativity. When you allow yourself to play, you are giving your mind the freedom to explore, create, and think outside the box. Researcher Stuart Brown emphasizes the importance of play for adults, stating, "Play is something done for its own sake. It's voluntary, it's pleasurable, it offers a sense of engagement, it takes you out of time. And the act itself is more important than the outcome."

By engaging in play, you can experience stress relief, enhanced problem-solving abilities, improved cognitive function, and increased emotional resilience. These benefits not only enhance your overall well-being, but also directly contribute to boosting your creativity. As you allow yourself to play, you are essentially giving your brain the opportunity to make creative connections and generate innovative ideas.

One study published in the Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology found that employees who engaged in playful activities during work hours experienced higher levels of creativity and innovation. The study highlights the significant impact of play on adult creativity in a professional setting, further emphasizing the relevance of play in the lives of adults.

Additionally, play can act as a form of self-care, allowing you to disconnect from the stresses of daily life and tap into your innate creativity. As author Brene Brown puts it, "There is no innovation and creativity without failure. Period." By embracing play, you grant yourself the permission to take risks, make mistakes, and ultimately unleash your creative potential.

girl with paint of body
Photo by Senjuti Kundu on Unsplash

The Link Between Play and Creative Thinking

When you engage in play, you are not just having fun – you are also boosting your creative thinking. According to psychologist Dr. Stuart Brown, play is essential for developing creativity because it allows you to explore, experiment, and take risks without the fear of failure. He states, "Nothing lights up the brain like play" .

Play encourages you to think outside the box and come up with new and innovative ideas. It stimulates your imagination and helps you see things from different perspectives. By allowing yourself to be playful, you are giving your mind the freedom to wander and make new connections, which are essential for creative thinking.

Moreover, play has the power to break down mental barriers and unleash your creative potential. As Dr. Brown notes, "When you are playing, you are not afraid to fail. That lack of fear is absolutely critical to your ability to be creative" . This lack of fear allows you to tap into your creativity without feeling self-conscious or restricted by expectations.

In essence, play opens the door to creativity by fostering a mindset of curiosity, exploration, and experimentation. It encourages you to embrace spontaneity and take on challenges with a flexible and open-minded approach. As a result, you are more likely to come up with imaginative solutions and innovative ideas.

So, the next time you're feeling stuck or uninspired, remember that play can be the key to unlocking your creative thinking. Embrace playfulness as a valuable tool for stimulating your imagination, exploring new possibilities, and cultivating a creative mindset.

Types of Play for Boosting Creativity

When it comes to boosting creativity through play, there are numerous types of activities that can help adults tap into their creative potential. Here are a few examples to consider incorporating into your routine:

1. Improvisation: Engaging in improvisational activities can help you think on your feet, break free from self-imposed limitations, and foster a mindset of spontaneity and innovation. According to Tina Fey, the renowned comedian and actress, "Improvisation is an incredible way to be able to think on your feet, create and collaborate."

2. Mindfulness Activities: Practices such as meditation, yoga, or simply taking a walk in nature can help clear your mind and open it to new ideas. The renowned psychologist and mindfulness expert, Jon Kabat-Zinn, emphasizes the importance of mindfulness, saying, "Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally."

3. Creative Hobbies: Engaging in creative hobbies such as painting, writing, gardening, or crafting can provide an outlet for self-expression, allowing you to explore new ideas and perspectives. As bestselling author Elizabeth Gilbert puts it, "Your creative mind is wired to connect the dots between experiences and to present new perspectives."

4. Role-playing and Storytelling: Immersing yourself in role-playing games or collaborative storytelling activities can stimulate your imagination and help you see things from different angles. As author George R.R. Martin once said, "A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives only one."

By incorporating these types of play into your routine, you can tap into your creative potential and cultivate a more imaginative, innovative mindset. Remember, play is not just for children - it's a powerful tool for adults to unlock their creativity and approach challenges with a fresh perspective. Start exploring these types of play and see how they can help you unleash your full creative potential!

green and black dragon figurine
Photo by Aksel Fristrup on Unsplash

Challenges to Adult Playtime and Solutions

Challenges to Adult Playtime

As an adult, finding time for play can be a real challenge. The demands of work, family, and other responsibilities often leave little room for leisure activities. You might feel guilty or selfish for taking time for yourself, especially if it's not directly productive.

Additionally, societal expectations and norms can also play a role in discouraging adults from engaging in play. There's a prevailing belief that play is only for children, and that adults should be serious and focused at all times. This can create pressure to conform to these expectations, making it difficult to prioritize play in your life.


However, it's important to recognize the value of play, even as an adult. Psychologist Stuart Brown emphasizes the importance of play in his book, "Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul". He suggests that prioritizing play can actually enhance your productivity and creativity, making it a worthy investment of your time.

One solution to the challenge of adult playtime is to shift your mindset. Instead of viewing play as a frivolous activity, reframe it as an essential part of self-care and personal development. Take a cue from professional skateboarder Rodney Mullen, who believes that play is integral to creativity: "Play to express, not to impress".

Another solution is to integrate play into your daily routine. This could be as simple as setting aside time for hobbies or leisure activities. Researcher Brené Brown advocates for the importance of play in her book, "The Gifts of Imperfection"3 . She encourages adults to "let go of exhaustion as a status symbol and productivity as self-worth", emphasizing the need to make time for play.

By overcoming these challenges and implementing these solutions, you can create space for play in your life. This can lead to enhanced creativity, reduced stress, and a greater sense of fulfillment.

Real-life Examples of Play Enhancing Creativity

You might be wondering how play can actually boost creativity in adults. Let's take a look at some real-life examples that demonstrate the power of play in enhancing creativity.

Example 1: Steve Jobs and Apple

We all know Steve Jobs, the co-founder of Apple Inc. His creative genius has left a lasting impact on the world. Did you know that Jobs was a firm believer in the connection between play and creativity? In an interview with Wired Magazine, he said, "Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn't really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while."

Jobs' belief in the power of play can be seen in the innovative products that Apple has produced over the years. From the iPod to the iPhone, these groundbreaking inventions were a result of a playful approach to problem-solving and ideation.

Example 2: LEGO's Design Thinking Workshops

LEGO, the beloved toy company, is not just for kids. They have been offering Design Thinking workshops to businesses and organizations around the world. These workshops use LEGO bricks as a tool for fostering creativity and innovation in adults.

A participant in one of these workshops, John, shared his experience: "Playing with LEGO bricks helped me think outside the box and come up with unique solutions to the challenges we were facing at work. It was a refreshing change from the usual meetings and brainstorming sessions."

Example 3: Google's "20% Time" Policy

Google, known for its innovative and creative work culture, has a policy called "20% time", where employees are encouraged to spend one day a week working on projects that aren't necessarily in their job descriptions. This free time allows Googlers to explore their creative ideas, which has led to the development of products like Gmail and Google News.

One Google employee, Sarah, said, "Having the freedom to play with new ideas and projects during my 20% time has been incredibly beneficial. It has not only enhanced my creativity but also contributed to the company's success."

These real-life examples illustrate how play can have a profound impact on creativity, whether it's in the world of technology, design, or business. So, don't underestimate the power of play in enhancing your own creative potential.

Encouraging Play in Daily Routines for Adults

It's important to incorporate play into your daily routine as an adult, as it can have a positive impact on your creativity and overall well-being. Here are some simple ways to encourage play in your daily life:

  1. Schedule playtime: Set aside specific time for play in your daily schedule. As author Sherry Turkle said, "You have to create boundaries for yourself and rules around your work. After six o'clock, you shouldn't check your email."

  2. Try new activities: Take up a new hobby or activity that you find enjoyable and that stimulates your creativity. Consider trying out dance, painting, or even playing an instrument.

  3. Embrace spontaneity: Allow yourself to be spontaneous and go with the flow. As psychologist Stuart Brown remarked, "The opposite of play is not work, it's depression."

  4. Engage in social play: Spend time with friends or family engaging in playful activities, such as board games, sports, or simply having a good laugh together. As researcher Brene Brown noted, "There is something profoundly spiritual about laughing, getting lost in something, and feeling, if only for a few moments, that everything is just right."

  5. Take breaks: Don't underestimate the value of taking breaks throughout your workday. As psychiatrist Stuart Brown emphasized, "Play refreshes us and renews us. It gives us a fresh perspective on our surroundings."

By incorporating play into your daily routine, you can enhance your creativity, reduce stress, and improve your overall quality of life.


In conclusion, it's important to recognize the vital link between creativity and play, and the significance of adults incorporating playtime into their lives. As you've learned, play is not just for kids; it's a crucial element for adults too. Not only does play provide an opportunity for relaxation and stress relief, but it also stimulates creativity and innovation, leading to a more fulfilling and balanced life.

So, don't underestimate the power of play in enhancing your creative thinking. As Dr. Stuart Brown, the founder of the National Institute for Play, aptly puts it, "Life is more fun if you play games." By embracing different forms of play, whether it's through hobbies, outdoor activities, or simply incorporating more fun into your daily tasks, you can tap into your creative potential and solve problems more effectively.

Remember, it's okay to take a break and engage in play. As author and researcher Brené Brown emphasizes, "Until we can receive with an open heart, we're never really giving with an open heart." This means allowing yourself the freedom to play and be creative, without feeling guilty or frivolous. Embracing play can lead to a happier, more imaginative and innovative you.

So go ahead, indulge in some playful activities, explore your creative side, and let the benefits of play enhance your life in ways you never imagined.

yellow red blue and green lego blocks
Photo by Xavi Cabrera on Unsplash

1Stuart Brown, Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul (2009)
2Brown, S., & Vaughan, C. (2009). Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul. Avery.
3Stuart Brown, Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul
4Rodney Mullen, The Mutt: How to Skateboard and Not Kill Yourself
5Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection
6"The Genius Strategy" by Leander Kahney (2008)
7"Creativity, Inc." by Ed Catmull (2014)
8Sherry Turkle, Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age (2015)
9Stuart Brown, Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul (2009)
10Brene Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You're Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are (2010)
11Stuart Brown, Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul (2009)
12Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You're Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are (2010)