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Source: The Conversation (Au and NZ) – By Cathy Hope, Associate Professor, Faculty of Arts and Design; Coordinator, Play, Creativity and Wellbeing Project, Centre for Creative and Cultural Research, University of Canberra

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Why don’t grown ups play like us kids do? Annie, aged 7, Canberra

Hi Annie, this is such a clever question.

What led you to ask this? Did you notice this at a playground, where kids seem to do all the playing – the climbing, swinging and sliding, while grown-ups just hang around, pushing swings or texting on their phones?

In fact most grown-ups don’t play in playgrounds, which is weird because playgrounds are so much fun.

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Play is so important, but why?

Most kids are experts at play. This is because play is one of the best ways to learn about yourself and the world around you.

Play helps you move better, think better, imagine, solve problems and play with others.

This leads back to your great question. If play is so good for us and so fun, why don’t grown-ups play like kids?

There are lots of answers, but I will share two of the big ones.

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Curious Kids: if our bodies are happy at 37℃, why do we feel so unhappy when it’s too hot outside?

Grown-ups have a lot to take care of

First, grown-ups have to pay for lots of things, like food, transport and somewhere to live. This means they have to go to work to earn money. And if they have kids, they have to look after them.

So grown-up life can be stressful and busy. And one thing about play is they have to feel like playing to have fun. If grown-ups are tired or have too much serious stuff on their minds, it makes it hard to feel like playing.

Yet, grown-ups need to play too, and for many of the same reasons as kids. But grown-ups also need to play to let go of stress and worry.

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Curious Kids: Why do tears come out of our eyes when we cry?

Grown-ups play too

So – and this is the second answer to your awesome question – adults have found grown-up ways to play. This gets them moving, thinking and problem solving, while also hanging out with others.

Once they can no longer squeeze onto the slide or swing at the park, grown-ups may take up a hobby like sewing or skydiving. They might also like playing games with friends, like sport or board games. They can even play with their friends online with a computer or phone.

Three adults laughing and smiling at the camera.
Adults find ways to play too.

In fact, grown-ups like playing so much they have games and parties where they dress up and play with lots of other grown-ups. Older grown-ups also have their own playgrounds.

So the answer to your question is adults don’t always play like kids do because they can be busy and have lots of other things to do. But they do actually play, even if that’s sometimes in a different way.

Keep playing and being curious Annie.

Hello, curious kids! Do you have a question you’d like an expert to answer? Ask an adult to send your question to

The Conversation

Cathy Hope has received research funding from government and industry to identify community aspirations for play and playful spaces, and to design and deliver playful activations in public spaces.

ref. Curious Kids: why don’t grown-ups play like kids? –