Rob Blevins

Us adults have a problem. We really like to talk about how long it’s been since we’ve played with LEGOs, a baseball, a video game — played with anything, actually: “Oh gee, I haven’t thrown a ball since I was 12,” or “Golly, I remember my dolls. I haven’t used my imagination in over 30 years!” These are the same people who will tell you they haven’t taken a day off since 2011 or how many hours they worked this week. Listen, I’ve been that person, and I will be that person again because I’m not perfect. We are all imperfect.

words + photographs ROB BLEVINS

The Discovery Center's Rob Blevins poses with a faux astronaut while sharing the importance of play for adults and kids.

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. This phrase has been around since the 1600s, but the warning is more dire and more urgent than it’s ever been before. You see, I get to run a science center and children’s museum for a living. I know. It’s wild. I actually get paid to play and watch people play — or watch people not play. I see kids and teens on cell phones trying to capture the joy of being on their phones and forgetting to play with the things we have. I see adults on their phones trying to get out of noticing their kids breaking things — or maybe they’re trying to watch the videos of their kids who are posting videos of themselves pretending to play on social media, not sure. It’s all very weird to watch.

I like science, and, yeah, correlation does not equal causation, but it’s my educated guess, my hypothesis, that it’s harder to be unhappy while one is playing.

Of course, not everyone walks around in this haze. There are the happy ones. They are locked in and engaged, shouting excitedly as they bounce around a gallery, “Oh, cool! Check this out over here!” We don’t change the exhibits in between visitors. The same exhibits are out for both levels of engagement. How can two types of families be so different, then? Are the happy people happier because they play, or are they playing because they’re happier? I like science, and, yeah, correlation does not equal causation, but it’s my educated guess, my hypothesis, that it’s harder to be unhappy while one is playing.

Springfield-Greene County Park Board Chess Club meets monthly at The Discovery Center.

What it all really comes down to is finding and embracing more moments of happiness (I view happiness as a state of being, not an achievement). These moments of happiness are what make us better at living, better at loving, and better at everything we do.

Want to have more patience when your kid/teenager/employee/boss throws a temper tantrum? Go blow some bubbles! I know of a Gatling-style bubble gun I can recommend if you need something exciting. It blows thousands of bubbles per minute. Always wanted to learn how to play chess? I’d love to teach you, or my friend Rob Dean would love to have you through the Springfield-Greene County Park Board Chess Club. They play monthly at The Discovery Center. When was the last time you were in a pool and you did the washing machine or played Marco Polo? Go play in the water instead of just being in the water this summer!

Rob Blevins walks hand-in-hand with a young scientist at The Discovery Center in Springfield, Missouri.

We can do better for ourselves. We can do better for our families. We can be better humans at work, at church, and at home by making room for play and embracing our innate desire to live inspired, curious lives.

Happiness will be there each time we go to find it. RB