Isn’t Play Just for Kids?


 I have a great family, wonderful friends, and a good job. I eat right (most of the time), exercise, get enough sleep and have a nice work/life balance.  I think I am doing everything right, but I still feel blah and I’m not sure why. What am I doing wrong?  Not only have these words escaped my lips on more than one occasion, but I often work with clients in therapy around this subject.

I was listening to Unlocking Us, my favorite podcast on my way to work.  Brene Brown was chatting in a sister series about her book, “The Gifts of Imperfection.”  The sisters were razzing each other about Brown’s 10 guideposts and more specifically about number 7: Protect Your Play and Rest.  One of Brown’s foundational beliefs based on her years of research is cultivating play.  Her extensive data shows that play is at the core of creativity and innovation.

When I arrived at work, I shared with one of my amazing coworkers (shout out to Kristie Wurglitz) the idea of play and Brene’s guidepost.  She started talking excitedly about Elena Aguilar and her book, Onward.  In it, Aguilar shares that play relieves stress, improves relationships and it improves brain function.  Play stimulates the mind and boosts creativity.  Play keeps us feeling young and energetic. Aguilar defines play as something we do because it is fun and not because it helps us reach a goal.

 Brene and her sisters joke that they have been able to prioritize rest,  but they have not been doing any playing.  One sister talks about how she is going to get out all of her washi tape and start journaling again.  The sisters on the podcast share some examples like, drawing, music, pickleball (is that really a thing?), scrapbooking (is that still happening?), jewelry making, and more.

Are all of my friends playing and I don’t know about it? Is there a secret society that I don’t know about?

I reached out to my personal friends and to The Branch Moms in Naperville and received hundreds and hundreds of answers and ideas!  I was completely flabbergasted to see so many people getting in good, interesting, creative play.  I hypothesized that  I would get a bunch of wine night posts and a few book clubs (what does that say about me?!).  But, I’m deeply impressed, moved and motivated by the responses of  everything from gardening to pottery to roller derby to Improv to hip hop dance classes to bunco to kayaking to baking.  Where do I sign up?!

The comprehensive list included hundreds of ways women in our community are playing!  Many even shared specific information that I have organized below in a categorized list because of the overwhelming number.

Here are a few of my favorite Facebook responses:

“I work in a haunted house…lol.  About 5 years ago I needed to find something that I could kind of find out who I am and get out of my comfort zone.  I had a friend that worked at a haunted house and would post pics and it looked like a blast!  So, I decided to audition and started working at Hellsgate Haunted House in Lockport.  Talk about getting out of my comfort zone!! It was a blast and the following year I wanted to learn to do FX makeup so I started on their makeup team and learned silicone applications and then moved to their airbrush makeup.” -Jenn Brennar

“Aerial! I teach aerial silks/hammock and have also started taking lyra and pole classes.  It is the only thing that has kept my sanity intact these past couple years.  The world seems much more right side up when I am upside down.” -Cristy Kumfer

“Perform improv!  When I took my first class I felt like a kid all over again.  Pure Play!” -Meagan O’Brien

For a full list of PLAY ideas in a variety of categories, click HERE for the article in its entirety.

Results are in.  There is no lack of play in Naperville, IL.  We have forest preserves, a concert hall, a comedy club, skate parks,  tennis and pickleball courts, running paths, nature centers, a beautiful downtown area, swimming pools, rock climbing walls, dog parks, and every kind of jazzercise, hip hop, and dance class imaginable.

How do you choose from all of these amazing options?  Stuart Brown encourages, “go to the most clear, joyful memory that you have from childhood, whether it’s with a toy, on a birthday, or on a vacation.  And begin to build on the emotion of that into how that connects with your life now.”

I always thought play was something kids did to learn about how to socialize in the adult world.  Who knew that play was supposed to be part of our whole lifespan and it’s really one of many components to a joyful, fulfilling life.  It seems like the way we have prioritized nutrition, exercise and plenty of rest has added another component, play!


Stacy Colgan is a licensed clinical social worker and the owner of Watervliet Counseling in Naperville, IL.  Her focus is on helping those who are in the helping profession: teachers, nurses, stay-at-home mom’s, doctors, first responders;  working through secondary trauma, anxiety and depression.

In 2005, Stacy graduated from Loyola University with her Master’s Degree in Social Work.  She started her career as a school social worker, followed by a district administrator and has most recently worked in private practice.  After years of burnout in the school system, she has created and identified a process for helping those in the helping profession to stay present and intentional.

Stacy resides in Naperville, IL with her husband Tom and two children, Katelyn and Griffin.  In her free time she enjoys watching Ted Lasso and Schitt’s Creek, reading Harry Potter and Brene Brown, listening to Hamilton, and watching her athletic and creative kids in activities and sports.


Thank you to The Branch Moms in Naperville and all of my personal Facebook friends for their amazing insights, stories, ideas and willingness to connect and share with not only me, but others in our community. 




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