Learning to Play, Again

When was the last time you played?

Where you did something so fun you lost the track of time?

Or laughed with pure joy and delight and didn’t even care who heard you.

Or just ran and then did a cartwheel (or maybe just turned in circles a few times), just because you were so happy and your body wanted to move?

It seems as we get older and weighed down with responsibilities, play is not something we actively engage in. Something we pursue. An attitude we cultivate.

It’s summer. And play and having fun is on the minds of a lot of children. But somewhere between the end of elementary school and college we think play is for toddlers. We think we are to cool to play. We may even lose the ability to play and be silly, unless we get around little ones thigh high and shorter.

Want to learn how to play again? Look no farther then toddlers and little ones. Young children know how to instinctively play.

They laugh in pure delight when something tickles their fancy, like petting a cat for the first time. They will burst out in laughter just because they had a funny thought. Or if they see something that doesn’t make sense. Laughter and pure joy flows out of them as they take in the world and try and figure things out.

A little one is at my house. I am making pasta and I have the Parmesan cheese out. I know she likes cheese. “Want some cheese?” I ask. She says, “Yes.” I pull out a spaghetti thin sprig of Parmesan and hand it to her. She takes one look at this offering and bursts out laughing. Her face crinkled in delight.

“That’s not cheese,” she says. And I realize she is laughing because cheese is usually a different color and shape. This is something she has not encountered. She thinks I am teasing her.

One taste, and she wants more.

Young children laugh and smile and are not concerned with what others are thinking. If others are laughing with them or at them. They have a confidence that does not care if their cartwheel is lopsided. They are not looking to see if their tennis skirt is the same as anyone else’s. They don’t know about being cool or outside the popular circle or fitting in. They don’t critique themselves and their performance. Or compare themselves with others.

They are learning about the world and life and how they do it is by playing and having fun. Something new is always around the corner. Their senses are open to this new delight.

What keeps us from engaging in play?

 

1. We rush to do more. Accomplish more. We are thinking about the laundry scattered across the laundry room floor. The bills that need to be paid. The calls made. The time we are wasting.

2. We worry about what others will think. Sometimes we feel the urge to burst out in song, do a cartwheel, laugh loud, hug an almost stranger, but our fears, our not wanting to do the wrong thing, the worry of being judged, keep us from it. Or maybe it is that voice in our head telling us not to make a fool of our self, to grow up, to quit acting like a kid.

3. We compare ourselves to others, the standards in our head, and to the rules of life. We critique ourselves more than we should.

4. We think work is more important. The most important thing. That all our work should be done before we play.

5. We think play is for children. It is silly and frivolous. Childish.

6. We have no one to play with. Playing can be solitary, but sometimes the best play takes place with another or others. Play is often communal, a back and forth with another.

7. We find it hard to relax and just let things happen. Play is often spontaneous.

8. We don’t want to make a mistake or do it wrong. As if play has to be done only one way.

9. We think work is work and play is play and the two cannot be combined. Little children combine the two all the time. And we can too. Just be creative

It’s summer, the time associated with hours of free time and play. Let’s not let the summer go by without playing.

Can we turn our inner voice off and not critique our play or compare it to other?

Can we just immerse our self in the moment and the delight and look at the world with awe and wonder for just a short while?

Having trouble? Hang around some little ones and let yourself relax and be silly.

So, what does play look like for you?

Spending time outside. Gathering with friends. Crafting. Gardening. Big messy board games. Silly time with kiddos. Testing the playground equipment. Running. Playing basketball. Teasing someone. Flirting with your mate. Making mud pies. Diving into a cold lake and screaming loud and long. Dancing in the kitchen, even if everyone is watching. Yodeling hello to the moon. Hanging upside down by your knees from a tree branch.

Find your happiness spot or sport and don’t worry about embarrassing your kids or if people are laughing at you. Because sometimes people are really wishing they were as brave as you are and could be a little more playful themselves.

Play on. You may inspire others to once again discover the joy of play.

Because a lot of play is an attitude. Not an item on our to-do list.

Thanks for stopping by. Keep remembering what’s important.

Theresa

 

Join the Discussion: What does play look like for you? What is keeping you from playing more (mine would be number 4)?

Linking up at Jennifer Dukes Lee (#tellhisstory); and Holley Gerth (#coffeeforyourheart), Lori Schumaker (#Moments of Hope).  A Wise Woman Builds her Home, Pat and Candy, Messy Marriage, Arabah Joy (#Grace & Truth), Missional Women, Sincerely PaulaCrystal Storms (#HeartEncouragement), and Lili Dunbar (#FaithOnFire).

18 thoughts on “Learning to Play, Again

  1. Theresa,
    Thank you so much for this reminder and inspiration to play!
    My family was at Hillwood Gardens & Museum in NW D.C. this morning. We made hats as a craft activity. My daughter and I enjoyed wearing our straw hats with pretty blue ribbon around the grounds. My hubby made a Napoleon type hat out of black felt and fake feathers. Later when waiting for the drama portion of the festival to begin a little boy saw my husband with his hat on and just started beaming and then pointing and laughing as my hubby struck emperor-like poses! It was so fun to see that little fella get such a kick out of something new to him:) Also, thank you for sharing the beautiful coastal and floral pictures.
    Gratefully,
    Katie

    • Katie, What a great example of playing together as a family. Having fun with the craft project and then wearing the hats around to extend the play, and even including others in your play. Sounds like a fun time by all. A wonderful memory to take with you. Hope you got some pictures of your hubby posing!

    • Thanks for sharing, Robynne. Number 7 can be hard. Sometimes I hear my mom’s voice in my head when I am trying to relax. “Isn’t there something you need to be doing?” Like I am supposed to be always multi-tasking at all times? We all need to rest and relax sometimes. And play! So let’s get to it. If we did all three, that would be supper multi-tasking. LOL

    • Beth, you are in good company. We are taught this from an early age. Told we will get ahead if we just do more. More work = success. But it is a hollow promise. Here’s wishing you some play. And then some more. With laughter sprinkled in and rolled together with a little silliness. 🙂

    • So true, Rebecca. Depending on the day, our mood, and other things, our reason for not playing could be any of the 9. And I am sure there are even more. But yes, we do need bursts of joy. They make life so much more enjoyable.

  2. My current work is play but my real play is reading a novel in the middle of the day!! thanks, Theresa! OH! and I joined a travel club to play more with my husband – Athens for thanksgiving! (:

  3. A novel in the middle of the day is great play, Sue. And combining work and play, now that is wonderful. That’s how I feel about writing. Have fun on your trip to Athens this fall. Playing as a couple is great for a relationship.

  4. Mine would be # 4. I grew up hearing, “No playing until the work is all done!” Like a wife and mom ever has all her “work” done. Ha! That is Funny.

    My playing some times is sneaking in a nap when I am tired, so I will have more energy (and a better attitude. Lol.) I try to incorporate play or at least a really good mood all day. It sure helps me and those I am around. 🙂

    Love the pictures!! Keep them coming. Where were they taken?

  5. No, a mother or wife never has all their work done. In fact who does. It took me awhile, but I now I realize I will still have a whole uncompleted to-do list when I die. And that is fine, Even normal. If we wait until the work is all done before playing, we will never play.

    And Bliss, naps are a great way to recharge. I wish I could have one every day. Love that you consider them play. Why not?

    Pictures from Coronado and just north of San Diego, California.

  6. Wow! Your photos are beautiful! They are an inspiration to relax and enjoy the world the Lord has made.
    We definitely need to shed the “what will others think?” attitude. Thank you for sharing these inspiring thoughts on play.

    • Connie. That’s right, let go, relax, and enjoy life. So hard to do, sometimes. Sometimes this involves letting go of our expectations for the day, for ourself, and others. Letting life unfold and enjoying it. Thanks for stopping by.

  7. I love the idea of combining work and play. I need to do this more!
    There’s no reason I can’t turn on music and dance while cleaning or have fun getting messy while kneading dough. Thanks for this idea!

    • Combining work and play can make work more fun. Cleaning bathrooms are one of my Achilles heel. But if I listen to a podcast while cleaning, the time flies and I enjoy it a lot more. So yes, dance and sing and have some fun while also working.

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