Grace Community Church Women's Ministries

If memory serves, virtually all of the class clowns in my elementary school were boys.

There are likely a few exceptions (I’m sure Tina Fey was hilarious as a child), but by-and-large, the boys were, and still are, the little scamps that risk life and limb to get a laugh from their peers.

A study conducted by some very smart psychologists sheds some light on this. They asked both men and women for the qualities they look for in a mate and learned that, while both men and women said they seek partners with a “good sense of humor”, the women surveyed were looking for a partner to make them laugh while the men surveyed wanted to be the source of the laughter. This explains so much. Have you noticed that any gathering of men produces a fair number of belly laughs? They totally crack one another up. Meanwhile, women’s gatherings tend to be more serious, focusing on talk about deep feelings, verbal expressions of worry, and lots of organizing.

And, men are better at play than women. It’s been proven that men play an average of 5 hours more each week than women.

Why is that? Are we too busy? Stretched too thin by all that we need to get done in a day? Have we forgotten how to play? Have our imaginations withered from non-use; replaced by too much responsibility? Or, are we worried that we’ll look foolish, lazy, or undignified?

My friend Janet thinks that we may not play as much as we need to because, deep down, it doesn’t feel purposeful. Research proves her right on this. Observations in U.S. Kindergarten classes show that little boys are more physically spontaneous, demonstrate more joy, and seem to prefer play with NO PURPOSE AT ALL. They aren’t driven to relate to one another on any but the most cursory level as they play. I’ve seen this firsthand. My son once spent a whole week playing from dawn to dusk with a neighbor’s visiting grandson and at the end of the week he couldn’t tell me his new friend’s name. He referred to him as the “kid in the blue shirt”. For a whole week. Really.

Back to the Kindergarten study…While the boys were pummeling one another and playing all Willy-Nilly, the little girls were drawn to dolls and dollhouses, painting, reading, sewing cards, and (wait for it…) the play telephone. We nurture, learn, create, and communicate. Unlike little boys who fling themselves around with abandon and can find pure joy in playing with a stick, little girls’ play is more controlled and purposeful. We tend to continue these patterns as we grow older.

But, listen up, Ladies. We are dying for a good laugh and we can get it if we can learn how to play like little boys.

Earlier today, I watched my 7 year old grandson celebrate like he’d won the World Series after spitting five cherry pits, one at a time, into the trash can from the other side of my kitchen (twice while I was slowly moving the trash can back and forth to up the ante on “degree of difficulty”). That’s what I’m talking about! Let’s take a page from that book. Let’s play more, laugh more, and challenge ourselves in silly ways.

If you can’t buy into the “play with no purpose” thing and need a good reason to have some fun, here you go:

  1. Laughter is good for us. It relieves tension and leaves our muscles relaxed long after the hiccups have subsided. Collapsing into a fit of giggles increases infection-fighting antibodies and protects against heart attacks and other cardiovascular problems.
  2. Did you know there is such a thing as “Laughter Yoga”? Apparently, it helps pregnant women raise their cortisol levels lest they pass their own tension onto their babies and compromise their tiny little immune systems.
  3. Play has been scientifically proved to be good for the brain. It stimulates nerve growth in the portions of the brain that process emotions and executive function.
  4. Physical play delays mental decline in our old age.

So, free up some time to play. Pull out some sports equipment, or a board game, or some craft materials, (or a bag of cherries) and play. Seriously. Go Play. It’s good for you.

There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance…

– Ecclesiastes 3:1-4