Extract from here.
“When the urge to play overcomes an adult, this is not simply a regression to childhood. To be sure, play is always liberating. Surrounded by a world of giants, children use play to create a world appropriate to their size. But the adult, who finds himself threatened by the real world and can find no escape, removes its sting by playing with its image in reduced form. The desire to make light of an unbearable life has been a major factor in the growing interest in children’s games and children’s books since the end of the war.” (Benjamin “Old Toys” 100)
“For play and nothing else is the mother of every habit. Eating, sleeping, getting dressed, washing have to be instilled into the struggling little brat in a playful way, following the rhythm of nursery rhymes. Habit enters life as a game, and in habit, even in its most sclerotic forms, an element of play survives to the end. Habits are the forms of our first happiness and our first horror that have congealed and become deformed to the point of being unrecognizable.” (Benjamin “Toys and Play” 120)
For Benjamin, play, which resists habit and routine, is also its ‘mother’ and its shepherd. Through even the most rigid habits of adult life, he writes, an element of play and innovation invariably lingers. –However, in a much darker sense, — and here Benjamin deviates sharply from the more jubilant character of Derrida’s ‘iteration’, — habits themselves are but the congealed, ossified forms of once-intense, almost-unrecognizable moments of intensity and feeling. If, for Benjamin, the most dreary habits of daily life must contain a smidgen of playfulness, its apparition is less the sign of a resilient subject than the haunting trace of a lost, remembered freedom.