"I could not, at any age, be content to take my place by the fireside and simply look on. Life was meant to be lived. Curiosity must be kept alive. One must never, for whatever reason, turn his back on life." — Eleanor Roosevelt
What do a playground and some sliced-up cantaloupe have in common?
Lately I've been thinking a lot about aging and curiosity—how as our numbers of years on the planet increase, for many of us, our curiosity and excitement over trying new things (or rediscovering old things) fades away and we become more rigid about what (we think) we like and dislike.
For example: I hate cantaloupe, and swinging has always been my favorite playground activity.
But wait a second, are those things still true?
The thing is, our tastes change over time. This is certainly true of our favorite flavors, but is it also true of our other "tastes"? Our favorite hobbies and activities? Our favorite music and art? We might think we change and adapt until we reach some perfect, unchanging state of adulthood, but that's not really how it works.
I've always hated cantaloupe. But is that still true? Maybe not. About once a year, I pick up a cantaloupe and slice it up to find out. Do I like it now?
Yes, swinging has always been my favorite playground activity, but now, if I ride a swing, I get dizzy. It's not as fun as it used to be. Playing around with my daughter at various playgrounds, I've found out that climbing is my favorite playground activity now. But will it be tomorrow?
We have a big, ongoing problem in this country with wellness. Too many people are inactive. Too many people are succumbing to the chronic diseases associated with inactivity. And turning this around is no small task. But how do you get people moving who "hate exercise."
Experts agree that the best sorts of "exercise" are the kinds of movement an individual really enjoys. It's got to be engaging, and it's got to be rewarding and fun. Otherwise, why stick with it? And what's engaging, rewarding and fun is going to be different for everyone. But wait a second: How do we know what we find engaging, rewarding and fun?
Something happens as we age. We think we know what we like already. We get less curious about exploring new tastes, new activities. But if we can reignite that curiosity, we often find out that something we'd placed firmly in the "dislike" category can become a new favorite.
The playground? When designed well, a playground is the ultimate lab for curious kids to find out their favorite ways to move. Climbing and swinging. Playing ball and tag. Quietly engaging with nature. Every kid's different. And playground manufacturers are well aware of the power of their product. They get involved in intense scrutiny of the ways children play, and are continually developing creative new ways for kids to play. We feature some of those innovations in our feature story.
Yes, every child is different. But every adult's different, too. So how do we encourage people of all ages to get curious? To explore new activities? To discard their ideas about "likes" and "dislikes" and give something new and different, or something old and familiar, a chance?
Stay curious, readers. Give yourself a chance to continue to grow. And if you've found ways to get around the closed-off minds and encourage curiosity in all ages—to provide "playgrounds" that allow people to discover their favorite ways to move and engage with the world around them—let us know what's working for you!