Back to Basics: 10 Important Skills You Learned on the Playground – but Sometimes Forget

You didn’t know it at the time, but all those hours on the playground set you up to become the adult you are today. So many of the social rules that we follow now were learned on the jungle gym, playing tag and building sandcastles. Unfortunately as adults, the added pressures of work and family life can pull us away from what we learned so long ago. It’s time to get back to basics and remember these 10 important skills you learned on the playground.

Taking Turns

It’s something most kids don’t like to hear but parents find themselves repeatedly saying: Wait for your turn. Be it on the monkey bars or in the board room, it is so important to not only wait for your turn but also to fully take advantage of it when it is your turn. Don’t let someone else diminish or steal your spotlight just because they are impatiently awaiting their turn. You have waited patiently, so make the most if it!


Remember playing house? Someone had to play the mom, the dad and the baby. Without collaboration, playing house would have been a very sad rendition of a spinster’s life. Collaboration has changed the world as we know it. Think Orville and Wilbur Wright, the fathers of flight, or Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, the Ben and Jerry of the famous ice cream. How sad would our world be without these collaborative efforts?


When you’re young, everything is new and fresh and exciting. As adults, we can get cynical or blasé about new experiences. We feel safe in our routines and our habits and adventure doesn’t hold the same appeal as it did when we were 5. Children benefit from unstructured play and adults can too. Close your eyes, put your finger on a map and then go there. You never know, you may just discover your new favorite vacation spot.

Moving Your Body

No one had to tell you to exercise when you were young. Chances are you had a hard time sitting still. It was nothing to run, ride and play outside from sunup to sundown. Now, exercise has become a four-letter word and you have to schedule your time outside. Remember the feeling of the wind on your face as you coasted your bike down every steep hill in town? We still need that feeling as adults, so do whatever it takes to get outside and get your body moving.

Nap Time

When we are young, our brains are so engaged in learning new things and our small bodies are constantly striving to adapt to a big world. This makes naptime is a must. It’s not much different for adults. Our bodies may be bigger, but our minds are still engaged all day at work and at home. When your brain is constantly on, you need a little time to recharge. Power naps can be very good for you.


Did you mother ever say “use your words” to you when you were younger? It was probably in the middle of a meltdown when you really wanted something but didn’t know quite how to express yourself. Adults can have the same meltdown when it comes to communication failure, but instead of a temper tantrum we tend to clam up or lash out or become passive aggressive. Your mother what right; you need to use your words to improve your relationships at home and at work. This can be more difficult than it sounds and it takes practice, so the next time you aren’t getting what you need from someone, explain clearly what you need.


Strategically placed bedsheets changed the dining room table into a fort. The dog was a terrible dragon. You had to get from the couch in the living room to the fort under the table using only pillows as stepping stones because the carpet was hot lava. As kids, we used our imaginations for everything and what a wonderful world we lived in. What would it be like if we used our imaginations more as adults? What kind of creativity could you bring the workplace?


When we were children, sharing took effort. It was not in our nature to let another child play with our toys or let others have a turn. We had to be reminded constantly that it was the right thing to do. Sharing as an adult is less about toys and more about time and resources. Do you share your time by volunteering or your resources by donating? No one is going to remind us to do it, but it is still the right thing to do.

Minding Manners

Please and thank you were the magic words back then, along with excuse me and may I. It seems that since we grew up, manners have been lost. We cut people off in traffic, interrupt others while they are speaking and treat people as if they are there only for our own personal use. Our mothers would be ashamed of us. Manners are still relevant today, and a simple please or thank you can go a long way in making others feel appreciated.

Conflict Resolution

There were no lawyers or mediators on the playground. You couldn’t sue your playmate for taking your favorite swing or accidently breaking your toy. You had to work it out and you did. It didn’t seem so hard to say I’m sorry back then. Within minutes, you were back to playing like nothing happened. Now no one wants to admit being wrong. Defensiveness and posturing comes easier than an apology. Conflict resolution is a skill that can and should be learned. It will help in all facets of life both personal and professional. Say you’re sorry, hug it out and keep playing.

Getting back to the basics of skills learned on the playground will keep you moving in the right direction physically, mentally and emotionally. The next time someone tells you that you’re acting like a child, thank them politely and know that if everyone acted more like children, the world just might be a better place.

Image credits

Sarah Landrum

After graduating from Penn State with degrees in Marketing and PR, Sarah moved to Harrisburg to start her career as a Digital Media Specialist and a writer. She later founded Punched Clocks, a site dedicated to helping young professionals navigate the work world and find happiness and success in their careers.

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