Adult kindergarten class brings back play to stressed-out grown-ups

A former kindergarten teacher-turned life coach is bringing playtime to adults.

Joan Dohey's new program appeals to the inner child

Joan Dohey, left, teaches her adult kindergarten class. Elaine Dunphy, right, plays with puppets as part of the program. (Krissy Holmes/CBC)

A former teacher from St. John's is taking a page from the Robert Fulghum essay "All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten"

Joan Dohey, now a life coach, has a new initiative called "adult kindergarten" for those who may have forgotten everything they learned way back then.

Basically it's a way to let go of things that bother you, that worry you.- Joan Dohey

Dohey, who used to teach little kids during their first year in school, wants to bring back fun for grown-ups.

"The whole idea with kindergarten for adults is that we all get way too serious, and we're in what's called task-positive mode most of the time," she told CBC Radio's St. John's Morning Show.

"You can't be as creative if you're constantly in task-positive mode. But when you play, or you just sit and daydream, you're in default mode. And it's in default mode that you tap into your creativity."

Good for your health

Adult kindergarten is supposed to help people re-establish play and laughter in their lives. There are different centres set up, including one for Lego, one for art and one for discovery.

They also dance and use a paper shredder to help release stress.

"The first thing that we usually do is we go into the kitchen and there's some pieces of paper where you write down anything that's bothering you. So if you've had a bad day, if somebody ticked you off, you write it down on the piece of paper and right next to it is the shredder — you shred it," Dohey said.

"Basically it's a way to let go of things that bother you, that worry you. There's a great feeling of freedom [that] comes with that."

The program appeals to a person's inner child, but there's a deeper purpose behind the fun. Dohey said incorporating aspects of play and laughter into your life can be good for your health, by lowering blood pressure.

"There's a lot of healing that happens when people play and when they laugh," she said.

"There are many, many people who've gone through a tough time in childhood or who didn't have the opportunity to play or who had to grow up quickly because of some problem that they had. And if you can get back in touch with that child again, you're going to be balanced."

With files from the St. John's Morning Show