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Play, or having fun, is often defined as activity done for its own sake, characterized by means rather than ends (the process is more important than any end goal). Free play is a natural part of development, especially critical for children, as it is thought to bolster their social and emotional growth and provide them a means to learn as they explore the world. Playing, especially when unstructured, stimulates mental flexibility and creativity. Research has shown that engaging in play strengthens cognitive skills, like critical thinking and working memory, that are vital to learning. The benefits of playing don’t have to stop when childhood ends. Getting away from familiar locations or repetitive activity can help adults let their imaginations loose. Playing as an adult can also reduce stress, promote optimism, and strengthen one’s ability to take on other perspectives.

See: Movement & Sport.

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