Growing up, my mom had a fridge magnet that said, “We don’t stop playing because we grow old. We grow old because we stop playing.”
From a kid’s perspective, life is unimaginable without play. As grown-ups, we have a terrible habit of thinking that making space to play is somehow a waste of time.
The folks at Lego would like to change all of that by promoting the Zen of clicking bricks to adult stress cases. To entice Gen Xers to come out and play, for the cost of a handful of yoga classes, you can grab yourself a nostalgic set like the Central Perk cafe from Friends or a 1989 Michael Keaton-era Batmobile.
The message of these adult-oriented kits? Peace of mind included.
Kid ’n play
Marketing aside, the toymaker isn’t wrong about the benefits of play. After all, Lego hails from Denmark, routinely ranked at the top of the list of the world’s happiest countries. A big part of the reason is something the Danes call “flexicurity,” which integrates flexibility and security into its labor market. People are encouraged to take time off to pursue hobbies, go on vacation, and play sports.
Back in the US, there’s plenty of research that supports playfulness as a stress reliever and coping mechanism. Dr. Stuart Brown, founder of the National Institute for Play, has for decades promoted the idea that play isn’t just about fun; it’s also a scientifically proven way to boost endorphins, improve brain function, and stimulate creativity.
In other words, play literally makes you feel younger and more vibrant.
The building blocks of mindfulness
While there are many ways to play, the type Legos provide, “object play,” gives your brain a great workout. As Dr. Brown points out in his TED Talk:
The human hand, in manipulation of objects, is the hand in search of a brain; the brain is in search of a hand; and play is the medium by which those two are linked in the best way.
Any repetitive leisure activity, like knitting, crafting, or, of course, clicking together plastic bricks, builds a bridge between relaxation and engagement — in other words, mindfulness. AFOLs (Adult Fans of Legos) find another aspect of the toy extra gratifying, as a college math teacher notes:
It’s fun to zone out and follow someone else’s instructions. It wasn’t until I got older — and had a job and more money — that I saw value in that.
So make yourself a play date, and don’t stress about the $799.99 price tag of the Lego Millennium Falcon. Your wellness is worth it.
Lego Sets its Sights on a Growing Market: Stressed-Out Adults (Washington Post)