Are you a parent or teacher who supports children’s need to play? Are you also a human being with no play drive of your own?
Perhaps you feel that you’re too old to play, that it’s just for kids. Maybe you’re worried about embarrassing yourself, afraid of looking silly in front of those you know (or those you don’t). Or perhaps you’ve become less playful over the years without even noticing.
That’s what happened to me. I’m a passionate play supporter. As a Mum to three children and also an Early Childhood Educator, I see the magic of play all around me. And I used to be playful, especially in my teaching-before-kids days. Yet in recent years, with the responsibilities of motherhood, a home and career, I’d fallen into the trap of taking myself too seriously. My natural drive to play became buried under my to-do list and that gigantic pile of washing.
But bit by bit, I’m bringing back my playful side. And my determination to do so stems from two recent aha moments.
The first came while watching the sunset in Cebu, at a recent mastermind retreat. With the event coming to a close, I reflected that I felt like myself again. The difference? I’d refound the playful side of who I am. Easy to do in a different country, with no children, cooking or emails to bog me down. But I’d found it nonetheless.
My second aha moment came at the National Play and Playwork Conference, only a week later. Marc Armitage, in his opening keynote presentation stated, “How can we provide a playful environment for children if we’re not playful ourselves?”.
It was a powerful reminder that this play thing isn’t just for children. Playing is part of being human. And as we tap into the spirit of play, without faking, we experience a sense of freedom often out of reach to adults.
“It’s the feeling of risk and power, of silliness and absurdity, of the slight, alternating edges of (benign) fear and ecstatic relief. How many of us feel that level of emotional investment in our play – or in anything?” Mark Sisson
Playfulness is defined as “the quality of being light-hearted or full of fun”. In his TedTalk Playfulness is a Superpower, Steve Gross states that being playful demands four qualities:
Active engagement – Can we be here in the present moment?
Internal control – Knowing that we’re worthy and capable
Social connection – Giving and receiving of love
Joyfulness – Feeling enduringly positive
Put simply, we can’t be playful when feeling negative, worrying about tomorrow, resenting another or doubting our abilities. Perhaps that’s why young children are so capable of bringing playfulness to all that they do. They are naturally upbeat, curious, confident and in the now. But adults? Not so much.
If, like me, you want to bring your play drive back online, give these 5 strategies a try.
5 ways to be more playful
Give yourself permission to play and be silly. In doing so, you’ll also be encouraging others to do the same.
You can’t schedule play. Be spontaneous.
Stop watching and get involved. Grab a paintbrush, launch yourself down the flying fox or climb that tree.
Force laughter when the mood has been too heavy and for too long. Have a tickle fight or watch something funny on YouTube (this one gets me everytime). Laughter yoga is also brilliant.
Sleep well. Energy makes it easier to bring playfulness to the everyday.
Playfulness is a state of mind. It’s a decision. And there’s no better time to sprinkle your life with fun than right now.
More on playfulness
The Politics of Public Playfulness: A TedTalk by Bernie De Koven
15 Concrete Ways to Play: Mark’s Daily Apple
The Lost Art of Play – Reclaiming a Primal Tradition: Mark’s Daily Apple
Deep Fun with Bernie de Koven: website