15 Concrete Ways to Play


Picture yourself around 2:30 on a work day. The mid-afternoon lull settles in – the time when you reach for a cup of coffee, a distracting snack, Facebook updates, or the time you tend to get up and simply wander the halls as long as you think you can get away with it. Maybe you’re bored with what you’re doing. Maybe you’re feeling tired, frustrated, crabby, or just confined. You look out the window (if you’re fortunate enough to have one) and mentally wander into the land of 10,000 things you could be doing right now instead of work. Myriads of enjoyable and inspiring ideas lead you down tempting mental paths of play all in wondrous childhood proportion. Eventually, you come back to reality but vow to make your weeknight/weekend/coming vacation all about the visions you’ve just had. Problem is, when the time comes, it’s hard to recall the ideas let alone the enthusiasm.

Enter simple strategy… When the kids were little, we kept an idea jar – just some old container where we put slips of paper with good ideas – the ideas we knew we wanted to do with the kids but knew we would never remember in the usual haze of regular parenting days. How about we call this the beginnings of a Primal play receptacle? Be kind and add to it! (Hat tip to W.J. Purifoy for the inspiration for this post. Not knowing how to play is, unfortunately, a very common problem among us adult types!)

1. Create – and enjoy – a human agility course in your backyard.

Why should dogs have all the fun? “Collect” natural materials (e.g. boulders, logs) from gracious friends or neighbors (no late night yard robbing, please) as well as ropes, pulleys, tires, and whatever else suits your fancy.

2. Find mud.

There is no limit to what you can do with and in mud. The only rule is you must be dirty enough to make Mr. Clean cry.

3. Create music – your own – preferably with others.

Your guitar is sick of sitting in the case. The piano is dying a slow death of abandonment. Even your kids’ old recorders, harmonicas, and bongos are begging to be of use again. Round up the kids – even if they’re sullen teenagers at this point. Call the neighbors or your brother. March down the street with the little ones, or sign up for an open mic night. If you can’t play anything, sing or dance. Doesn’t matter. The idea is participation in something live and living.

4. Do a moonlight hike.

Why do we feel the need to flee indoors the minute the sun sets? Some of the best times I’ve spent outdoors have been at night. There’s something about night hikes (and night trail runs) that just leaves me energized. Call it the right blend of quiet and vigilance. A lot of local parks and outdoor clubs organize full moon hikes – especially in the summer. (Look for full moon snowshoeing come winter.)

5. Spend an entire afternoon in water.

Not an hour – an afternoon. Give your mind time to relax. Give your imagination time to reclaim its wild, Primal, kid depth and dimension. Swim, splash, float, explore, fish, chase, wade, paddle, revel. Be amphibious. I promise it’s fun.

6. Scout every park and preserve in your area for good tree climbing.

What are you favorite trees to climb? Can you answer this question? If not, consider it an invitation to get out more. Pick up an area map of nearby parks and preserves. Establish a weekly outing for just this purpose (with a Primal picnic afterward if you need extra incentive), and make the rounds.

7. Sign up for an art or craft class.

This could mean everything from pottery to carpentry. There’s just something therapeutic about absorbing yourself in an art or craft. One dear friend got through the first year after her husband’s death by learning to wood carve and chair weave.

8. Buy a bag of army men at the dollar store and place them in strategic spots throughout your work place (or roommate’s room).

Because why not.

9. Spend a day working with rocks and sand.

Make a labyrinth, a human-sized Zen garden or just funky rock configurations in your yard. Get a special delivery of from your favorite landscaping supply company, and go to town. Can you imagine a better Primal workout?

10. Go rock hunting.

I’m not suggesting pillaging fragile ecosystems. Follow laws and logic. Beyond that, consider it more cool stuff for your Zen garden!

11. Create your own Amazing Race style competition.

Do you have an adventurous group of friends and acquaintances? (If not, make a Meetup!) Whether you make it an urban challenge or a foray into the wilds of a larger park or preserve, you gotta love the head rush of a good competition.

12. Spend the day with a shelter pet.

Some shelters allow people to volunteer as dog walkers. See if they’ll let you relax the rules and take the dog for a whole afternoon. Go to the beach, the local trails, your cousin’s farm – wherever fun and adventure can be had. You’ll benefit from the good you’re doing, and at the end of the day it will be a toss up who showed whom the better time.

13. Revisit Primal WOW workouts.

Primal Skirmish” or “Brave the Weather” anyone? Think fractal, intense, messy, taxing, exhilarating, and sometimes a wee bit competitive.

14. Perform stupid human tricks, deranged relay races, or mad feats of strength.

I’m sure everyone here could come up with enough ideas to stock a book in and of itself. Hmm…maybe something to that. Think farcical sprints like pushing a wheeled office chair down the street back and forth as fast as you can. If you can get friends who are up for a race (with riders in said seats – helmets, please), it would be so much better. See how high in trees or over roofs you can throw old shoes. Hurl tires in the yard (be sure to grunt). You get the idea. Nothing like keeping the neighbors guessing…

15. Take your kids – or friend’s/family member’s kids – on a nature day or (if you’re brave) a camping trip.

See a trail or open field through young eyes again. Sticks will quickly become swords. Mossy logs will turn into fairy houses. Streams and ponds will be inevitable afternoon detours. Many things will be “gross,” but just about everything will be endlessly fascinating. Trust me – you’ll all sleep well when the day is done.

Favorites – and additions to the list? How are you getting out and playing in new ways since going Primal (or going deeper)? Thanks for reading, everyone. Have a great end to the week.

About the Author

Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending more than three decades educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates flavorful and delicious kitchen staples crafted with premium ingredients like avocado oil. With over 70 condiments, sauces, oils, and dressings in their lineup, Primal Kitchen makes it easy to prep mouthwatering meals that fit into your lifestyle.

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