Let down your guard and let your imagination run wild — according to an expert, it’s good for you.
This year, it’s a toss-up between Hillary Rodham Clinton and a Ghostbuster.
That is to say, I haven’t conclusively decided what I’m dressing up as for Halloween. But like every other year, I will be out in full force, flitting from party to party and socializing with the likes of Captain Jack Sparrow, Elsa from Frozen and various Minions.
For the record, I am 35 years old.
But but but! I am a successful business owner. I hit the gym three times a week and visit the dentist every six months. I splurge on fancy bourbon and good wine (not that I can drink much these days — it gives me a headache).
I have an accountant, various lawyers and diligently file my taxes every year. I am, for all intents and purposes, a responsible adult woman. But every October, I am overwhelmed by the urge to don a wig and eye glitter, or a shiny cape and tights.
“Child’s play” has always been a dismissive term, referring to the simplest of tasks or activities. But literal child’s play is everywhere now. Perhaps it’s a reaction to our work-obsessed hyperdrive culture that adults are embracing the kinds of play formerly reserved for children.
From adult colouring books to puzzle escape rooms, board game cafés (Snakes and Lattes, Castle) and 24-hour arcade bars (Night Owl), embracing your inner child is not just socially acceptable these days — it’s certifiably in vogue.
“Play is something that’s done for its own sake,” says Dr. Stuart Brown, founder of the National Institute for Play and author of Play: How it Shapes The Brain, Opens the Imagination and Invigorates the Soul.
“The experience is more important than the outcome. You’re not doing something to win or to gain points or to learn. You’re doing it because it’s fun and it engages you and because it comes from deep within you. And it occurs from infancy to death, if we allow it.”
According to his research, play is integral to healthy brain development and social cohesion. Benefits of play include an increase in memory, engagement and learning capacity as well as myriad physical and mental health benefits, such as mood elevation. But that’s only the tip of the iceberg.
“(Play is) a fundamental aspect of being human,” says Dr. Brown. “It has profound effects on a lot of elements of who we are as social humans, in particular.”
He explains that dressing up for Halloween is only one pattern of play. He calls it “celebratory or ritual play. But there’s body play, imaginative play, narrative play, rough-and-tumble play, there’s construction play; these all evoke, in the player, a sense of engagement and involvement that leads to a higher and more masterful next step.”
Hear that, everyone? No need to surrender your LEGO collection to your nieces and nephews just yet.
What I love most about the widespread playfulness I participate in every Halloween is how it erodes Toronto’s social barriers.
This city has a reputation for being “cold,” but on Oct. 31, every stranger becomes a potential friend. When you’re playing the role of somebody else — often a beloved fictional character — shyness goes out the window.
And everyone can think of something to say to the guy dressed as Batman. Even if it’s just “You’re Batman!”
All work and no play makes Toronto a dull city. So go forth and play!