Never Too Old For Play

BreAnn FennellBlog, Self Care Better, Teach Happier


  • “Play” is an activity that one chooses to do and that brings that person enjoyment.  
  • Play looks different for everyone. What might be considered play for someone might be work for another, and vice versa.

Another teacher/friend talks to me about play! Marie McCumber is a teacher of 5th graders at the Ohio State School for the Blind. Marie is a mom of two children, loves nature, writing, and cooking. In this blog post, Marie shares what play means in her adult life. 

What is Play?

I think there is a common misconception among adults about what “play” means. The other day, I was listening to a few adults having a conversation about play and how they need to make more of an effort to play.

When we talk about play, we conjure up images of children taking unstructured time and playing with toys, being active with abandon, or even participating in a game or organized sport. An adult then sees play as either childish or something they simply do not have time to do. However, that simply isn’t true.

Play, in its purest simplest form, is an activity that one chooses to do and that brings that person enjoyment. That’s it. The recipe to determine play is only two ingredients: choice and joy. And play for one person may become work for another.

Play, in its purest simplest form, is an activity that one chooses to do and that brings that person enjoyment. That’s it. The recipe to determine play is only two ingredients: choice and joy. Click To Tweet


For example, I love to garden. I love to grow vegetables, fruits, and flowers. I can stay outside for hours pruning plants, working soil, pulling weeds, and making sure my plants are watered and growing properly. To another person, this seems like a lot of work—especially the weeding part. The idea of being surrounded by different insects while getting my hands dirty is simply unappealing to some people (my boyfriend thinks I’m crazy for encouraging bees).

However, pulling weeds is very relaxing to me; getting dirty, sweaty, and freckled is fulfilling to me as I know that I have spent my day outside. And seeing my plants produce is incredibly satisfying. Gardening brings memories of my grandmother and working beside her in the vegetable garden behind her house. In this way, I can still feel close to her. It brings me great joy to garden so I choose to do it. (She also loves her hammock, guys!)


On the flip side, my sister loves to run. Like miles of running, training for races, wants to run a marathon running. She regularly chooses to run and becomes excited when she runs well. She loves to talk about running and has a treadmill in her front room which she actually uses, not just hangs clothes on.

I hate running. I have run in the past to lose weight and I was even on the track team in high school, but I really don’t enjoy it. Especially distance running—my lungs hurt and my legs get tired. I do not choose to run. As my father says, if I am running, something is chasing me and you should probably run, too. 

Working at It

Sometimes, our play can turn into work. I also crochet (I’m basically an old woman). Again, it is something I choose to do and I really enjoy it. I most enjoy that I can make things for my own children and they get so excited about it.

However, once I struck out on a particularly ambitious project: I made a lace tablecloth for someone’s wedding. It started out great and I was motivated to see it coming together…until I realized that my stitches were getting tighter the further along I went, which led to me ripping out squares upon squares of work to redo it so that it matched the rest of the piece.

Even then, the thing never did sit right on a table. As the project went on, I wanted to work on it less and less. I had to make a conscious effort every night to sit down and do a little bit so that it would get done. I did get it done and just in time. But by the end, I hated it and wanted nothing to do with it.

My play evolved into work. I no longer chose to do it—I did it because I felt committed to it—and it certainly didn’t bring me joy. I swore I would never do a lace project again. (Spoiler alert: I’m currently working on a lace shawl because I apparently don’t keep promises to myself.)

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The “Open” End

So the point of all of this is: Play doesn’t have to be this thing where we let down all our inhibitions and act like we did when we were children. I mean, you certainly can. One of my favorite things to do is dance while I’m cooking…or in the grocery store.

Play is probably the most open-ended thing in this world and will look different for every person, adult or child. As long as the activity you are doing is something that you freely choose to do and it brings you joy, then you are playing.

So knowing that information, what does your play look like? Do you have a way to play that is considered work for someone else? Share your ideas on Twitter #playyay! 

About BreAnn Fennell

Mrs. BreAnn Fennell is a first-grade and second-grade looping teacher in Ashland, Ohio. She has worked in both public and private settings and is passionate about providing exciting learning environments for students. Mrs. Fennell is a published author of children’s books including Play? Yay! and Choose Your Cheer. She is a mom to two energetic boys and a defender of play!