Do you remember how old you were when you played for the last time? Like really played. With that wild, childlike abandon.
Play is a natural extension of our childhood explorations. As we touch and feel our way through the world, picking up objects and testing the limits of our bodies, we begin to connect and create ideas about the space around us and who we are as people. Play is a way of interrogating new concepts and ideas, and just as importantly, connecting with others.
Our innate curiosity as children drives us to accept and engage with all this ‘newness’ and presents a spectacular way to process new emotions and feelings. It’s bonding and life-affirming. It requires acceptance of the unknown and trust that others will accept our offers of play. It allows us to safely step into things we don’t yet fully understand.
So why do so many so-called grown-ups stop playing?
I guess we all reach an age where offering out that level of vulnerability becomes too much. Our ego has built its story about itself and play could threaten the things we think we know. Perhaps we feel silly. Perhaps we are ridiculed for being silly. There is an element of societal conditioning happening in that we value work over play.
The truth is that play is essential for continued growth and learning. It’s also a joyful medicine for the soul. It takes you into the present moment. It can help unlock your creativity. Do you remember laughing until you cried and fell off your chair as a child?
“Play is, first and foremost an expression of freedom. It is what one wants to do as opposed to what one is obliged to do. The joy of play is the ecstatic feeling of liberty.” Peter Gray.
Peter Gray’s book ‘Free to Learn’ explores these ideas in extraordinary depth, examining how critical play is in raising contented children. When I read this book so much of my own experience made sense. For me, play manifests through my art and working with others. The freedom of my movements and the way I connect deeply with myself to find inspiration, or sometimes just see where my play takes me!
My freedom to express myself is what drives me and my art. You can see how paint has become my toy of choice in the video below.
Want to know what my favourite ways to play are?
Well painting of course. No surprises there. You can see that in the way my art is created. I hope!
So get the cheapest paints you can find and a sketch book of sorts and just have fun. Embrace your inner child. Don't try and make anything look good. Remember what it was like in kindy or how your children would paint?
Hula hoop - I spend half my childhood hula hooping and I have decided that no home is complete without a hula hoop. What can you do that's similar? Make an obstacle course in your back yard maybe?
Get dancing! Turning the music up and dancing as I cook dinner or having a proper dance party with a friend or two is the best.
Do things to induce laughter. Sometimes I run from one room to the other - you know how kids do that? They never walk. Have you ever tried doing that as an adult? Try it. It makes me laugh, hard!
Fire - ha ha yep I said it. Having a fire pit in the back yard is the best. I feel like I am back in girl guides all over again, without the roughing bit. ( I'm okay to rough it camping too, but easy back yard access to a crackling fire = bliss) And then of course there is making damper, roasting potatoes and marshmallows on sticks. You get the idea.
Handstands. A few years ago I decided I wanted to learn again to do handstands - why not. Well, I did injure my knee when I fell through door but that's a whole other story. As long as you are careful and have a solid wall (not a door that opens), and you work up to it, then I figure why not. Maybe get some expert instruction or advice first though. If you are not ready for handstands, what else could you try?
Eat dinner on the floor. Get off these human made constructs of furniture, get out the picnic blanket and set it up on the floor. As soon as you are on the floor, something happens to your mindset, and you feel more playful immediately.
These are a few ideas to get you started, but really all you have to do is think back to what you liked to do as a child or look at how a five year old moves through the world and take their lead.
Please comment and give me any ideas you have as well. I am always up for something new.