It’s Sunday afternoon. You’re 7, 11, pick an age. Your parents are asleep and you can’t go anywhere.
What would you do?
Almost all creativity involves purposeful play.
When my children were little and would come to me and say, “I’m bored,” I’d tell them, “Good, you’ll find your true self on the other side.” I had to resist giving them suggestions, telling them to clean their room or call a friend. I knew that they, like me, needed to fall in–and through–their boredom. We have to putz around and go through our usual excuses to get past all that and find what’s on the other side.
Why do we need to play? Because it’s healing. It’s like re calibrating your brain, your soul and your body.We need to play in order to rest, in order to let go, in order to process. We need to play like we need to breathe. It feels good. It fills us with more than oxygen. It fills us with hope. Kids play even they’re sad, even at funerals or when they’re sick. They fall into play and it takes them beyond their sorrow and beyond their pain.
How you play says a lot about who you are, where you grew up, if you had siblings or friends nearby or if you were more solitary in how you played. Play holds more nuggets are to who you are, what drives you, intrigues you, allows you to fall deep into your easy and true self than all your secrets do.
Life coach Martha Beck is on a new mission–to remind people to play. She’s on a month of what she calls, “radical fun.”
“Just look back on your childhood and find what you did when no one was forcing you. Did you climb trees? Did you play computer games? Did you build forts? …”
There are clues and keys in what you did on those Sunday afternoons. The building blocks of who you are were already peeking through–director, engineer, writer, nurse or artist…all have their roots in the games and make believe of our childhood.
Here’s my list of what I loved to do as a child:
- Climb my dogwood tree and see the world from that high perch
- Pretend–I was a fairy, a fighter, a teacher, a trapeze artist.
- Draw, paint, color–lots and lots of coloring.
- Making up stories, creating my own books.
- Swinging, climbing, riding my bike for hours (oh the freedom and wind in my hair) while pretending–already multitasking!
- Singing, “performing”
- Hiding in the garden, under the hydrangea and azalea bushes and using sticks, nuts and flowers as my props
And here I am…writing, painting, performing, still riding my bike and gardening. We are who we have always been.
So here’s my proposition:
Come play with me.
Play every day.
Ask yourself, what would be fun today?
Play hopscotch on your driveway.
Sing in your car.
Buy some bubblegum and blow giant bubbles.
Get some molding clay and make tiny people and animals. Smush them all together and start again. Play isn’t about finishing. Play isn’t about perfection.
Get some crayons and drawing paper, doodle, color, repeat.
Jump on a bike and do some figure 8’s.
Break into spontaneous play.
That’s my challenge, to play every day.
I don’t want to make play yet another project, but to have that thought of play, of fun, of exploring whatever is at hand, whatever my mind and heart leaps to next close enough to reach out and grab it.
Play isn’t hard. Not adult hard, but play is serious. Kids wear themselves out playing. They come in dirty, exhausted, and exhilarated. Didn’t you hate it when your parents interrupted your play with something as mundane as eating??? When is the last time you were so engaged, so enamored with what you were doing that you had no interest in eating? Not many adults can remember that. Eating as become an obsession in part because we’ve forgotten the power of play.
It is a happy talent to know how to play.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
I hope you’ll write to me, share what you did as a kid, share your moments of play.
The importance of play: TED talk
Why do we play?