In my quest to make my life “lighter” I’ve begun to identify what kinds of things make me feel “light”. A book I’ve been wanting to read for a while, and I finally got to read, has helped me see that those things that I’m doing that feel “light” is actually the way that I “play.”

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I’ve had Dr. Stuart Brown’s book, Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul on my list of books to read for a while. I finally got a copy from the library and dove in last month. After all, it seemed like a good idea to read a book on why play is important!

I found it incredibly illuminating. Not only for the new things that I learned, but also for the clarity it gave me about the things I had already begun to learn on my own journey. For example, every time I was noticing something that made me happy, or “light,” what I was actually noticing is my own personal mode of play.

But let’s back up for just a moment. Why is it important to play? And not just children, but adults too? Through his observations and research, Brown proposes that:

“[Play] is a basic biological drive as integral to our health and functioning as sleep or nutrition. When we play, we are open to possibility and the sparks of new insight and thoughts. Play provides the glue for our relationships and fuels our creativity. In short, we are designed by nature to flourish though play.”

Did you catch that? Play is as important as sleep and nutrition? Could that be why I feel out of sorts when I don’t make time to do things that constitute “play” for me?


Next question, of course, is: What does “play” mean for me??

Brown has an answer to that too. In fact, he has determined that there are 8 Play Personalities and that each of us can find our form of play in one or more of them.

Further, he suggests that to best discover what our personal play personalities are, that we consider how we naturally played as a child. That makes beautifully perfect sense to me!

Boat Siblings
Me and three of my siblings at play on a camping trip.

I decided to follow his recommendation and consider each play personality and see how it aligns or not with the kind of play I naturally did when I was a little girl. What I found was incredibly illuminating! I highly recommend this exercise.

Just for fun, I’m going to walk through mine here, both to share what the 8 Play Personalities are, and to illustrate how to find what your play personalities are.

Dr. Stuart Brown’s 8 Play Personalities:

  1. The Joker: This play personality focuses on jokes and nonsense. This one is not me. Haha! This is more like my husband who finds great joy in slapstick humor and wordplay, and specifically making someone laugh with him!
  2. The Kinesthete: These are people who play through movement. Running, swimming, tumbling, or in my case, dancing! As long as I can remember, moving to music (either out loud or in my head) has been fun for me. And even more fun was creating my own choreography. My next door neighbor and I started choreographing dances and performing them for our neighborhood when we were as young as 7! Moving my body through dance is definitely a way I play.
  3. The Explorer: For these people, exploration becomes their avenue to play. When I was a child, I often daydreamed of being an archaeologist, a NASA scientist, or an overseas humanitarian worker.  I would often hop on my bike and ride into a new section of my neighborhood, just to see what was there. My parents took us on lots of camping trips and I was always exploring through the campsites. Dr. Brown further explains that this exploring doesn’t always have to be physical, it can also be mental exploration, and discovering new things. That’s something else I have always loved to do as well.
  4. The Competitor: This player loves to play to win! Nothing excites them more than the joy of competition. This can be competition in the sports arena, work place, creative contests, etc. This play personality is not me! While I do like to play board games, and I will sheepishly admit to being a little on the competitive side, I’ve never really enjoyed the knock-down, drag-out fight to be number 1.  Though I do know a few people who revel in playing this way!
  5. The Director: Do you like being in charge of the action? This may be your play personality. It encompasses any kind of directing, planning, and organizing. I’m pretty sure I came programmed this way, but being the oldest child in a family of 5 kids probably sealed the deal. As long as I can remember, I was directing the imaginative play of whomever would play with me. I planned my sister’s 3rd birthday party when I was 12. I directed a talent show for the teens in my church group when I was 17. And it shouldn’t be a surprise that the job I loved the most was directing elementary school plays.
  6. The Collector: The joy for this personality is the fun of collecting objects or experiences. It could be coins, cars, shells, or shoes. Or it could be visiting every one of the 10 tallest buildings in the world. Hmmm… As a child, I collected things from time to time. And I do really like to organize and curate things… but I’ve also learned that I don’t like stuff. Especially large amounts of stuff. And collections, for me, fall into this category.
  7. The Artist/Creator: This personality plays through making things. Painting, woodworking, pottery, knitting… there are an abundance of ways to create! Yes, I certainly enjoyed creating as a child. And while the ability to draw or paint managed to lay its magical finger on almost everyone else in my family, it did not touch me! I’ll do it for fun, but I’m not good! The one way I did create, was sewing. My mom plopped me on her lap when I was old enough to not stick my finger in the needle, and let me watch her while she sewed. As soon as I could, I started sewing my own creations. Doll clothes, shorts, purses, prom dresses, anything! I loved to play with fabric and create something new from it.
  8. The Storyteller: These are the people whose greatest play comes through their own imaginations. I’m pretty sure the greater part of my childhood was spent inside of my imagination. I mentioned before that I was constantly directing imaginative play. I was also writing my stories down, creating plays, reading novels insatiably, and performing stories any opportunity I could get. I absolutely love to create and share stories.

And those are the 8 Play Personalities! Aren’t they fascinating? Did you find the ones that match your own personality?

I really enjoyed taking a look at each of these areas and seeing where I fit. I now have a more clear picture of how I liked to play as a child! And presumably, how I still like to play.

But now what?

Well, Dr. Brown encourages us, once we understand what our play personalities are, to find ways to incorporate play into our current lives.

Doesn’t that sound fun? I’m game!

For me, I thought about the play personalities I identified with and considered how they might fit into my current season of life. Here’s what I came up with for myself.

  • Kinesthete: Just dance! Not just the tap class I’m taking Monday mornings (which is one of my favorite hours of the week) but turning on music when I’m home and dancing while I’m cleaning the kitchen. My body has fun when it dances! I need to give it opportunities to dance.
  • Explorer: Take time to explore! This can be a local adventure to places I haven’t been yet, or planning summer trips to farther off places. It can also include diving deeper into topics that interest me (like PLAY!) I want to be deliberate in allowing myself time to explore new places and things.
  • Director: Find opportunities to plan and present. Maybe one of these days I’ll get back into directing theater, but in the mean time, I’ve been planning activities and events for the women’s group at my church and having a wonderful time! I want to be open to opportunities that come up for me to put on my director’s hat.
  • Creator: These are some of the things that I’ve taken notice of lately that make me happy. Baking a creative cake. Designing a rose garden. Whipping up a pair of pint-sized kilts for my boys for a costume party. I’m so much happier when I take the time to include creation in every single day.
  • Storyteller: This really is the very breath of my soul. My deepest play and greatest joy come in the creating and telling of stories. This is why I write. This is why I do voice overs. This is why I perform. When I don’t find time for my inner storyteller, I wither and waste away. As much as I insist on sleep and food to survive, I need this kind of play to live.

Wow. I’m stepping back here and making sure this big list of things to do doesn’t suddenly overwhelm me. I mean, I’ve got a lotta work to do everyday! Dinner doesn’t get made by itself!

But then I realize (and remember) that play and work are not the opposites of each other. They can coexist quite nicely. In fact, they have the potential to synergistically make work and play even better. Nifty!

Dancing while cleaning. Creating while baking. Telling a story while waiting. Exploring while trying to get back on the right street (don’t ask me how I know about that one.)

Play not only can fit into a busy working life, it is meant to fit.

I forgot that.

But I’m remembering it again.


Understanding how I intrinsically play has been eye-opening. It has brought genuine play (for me) back into my life in a greater degree. And more play has brought more joy.

And that has made my life so much lighter!

Have you figured out how you play? And how you can play in your life right now?


4 thoughts on “Play!

  1. What a fascinating book! I’m glad you shared the eight different types of play. It was interesting to identify just how many I can relate to. Now to think of ways to incorporate into my days…

    A couple years ago (probably more like 7), I found a quote that talked about whatever made you happy as a kid, will still make you happy today. I was really struggling at the time and began reflecting on my childhood. I’d forgotten how much I loved to create and explore. So even though I knew I wasn’t an awesome artist, I started drawing and painting again – just for the joy it brought me. And I started living in the moment with my kids in their play. I learned that I love to explore right along with them.


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