Children know how to play. They live in a magical world full of whimsy and wonder. They live free from reality. Free from time.
I want to live in that world!
Somewhere along the way we lose the ability to play. Responsibility takes over and we lose the wonder.
But we NEED to play. We need whimsy.
I watch my children with utmost fascination, often reminded by their fantasy worlds of times when I too lived in that wonderful place. A place where anything is possible and dreams are real, where a stuffed rabbit is a alive and a cardboard steering wheel actually drives me places, where building blocks present a serious business of constructing a wall and where trees and forests are magical kingdoms alive with gnomes and fairies.
Why do we lose those places as adults?
(Apart from the reality of knowing that living there would lead to our confinement to the psychiatry ward I mean…)
Children have a gift that we adults need to learn to tap into!
Yes, we need to be responsible and live in reality. But why does this have to be a case of “either/or”? I am sure there is a way it can be “both/and”.
How do I live as a responsible adult AND enjoy whimsy and play? I can play some, but I know beyond a doubt that playing more would benefit my soul – and by proxy, would benefit my family.
There are many studies out right now that suggest that our children are over scheduled and pushed to learn to much too soon. These studies all look at the benefits of play and free, unstructured time. Our culture is beginning to impose its crazed need to achieve on our children. Put them in school earlier, longer. Teach them more, sooner. Schedule them in as many extra curricular activities as possible. Give them a leg up on all the rest! Or so we think. We are all guilty to a degree.
But as I sit and watch my children play, revelling in their imaginary world, I know this matters. I know this teaches. I know this feeds. Not just them, but me too.
I am not suggesting that I need to play with wooden blocks and stuffed animals, but I DO need to engage more regularly in a more age appropriate version of play (not that there is anything wrong with enjoying building block towers with my children). I admit that I love coloring as much (or possibly even more) than the average 5 year old, but taking it to the adult version of acrylic paints or pencil portraits takes it to a whole new level: from mindless coloring and enjoyment of making pretty pictures to a soul feeding focused moment of perfect mental escape into paints and color and creating – something my adult child needs!
And as I wander around this children’s museum and watch in wonder as my children engage for hours on end in imaginary lives, I snap photo after photo. And they ask “why?” Can I answer that my soul needs to capture these moments as reminders to myself to play, to create, to wonder? That I am freezing frames so I can write later, creating stories of my own? Adult musings that look nothing like the wildly imaginative space cats stories nor those of hippos in tutus and dancing octopi, the stories I live in when I live in my children’s worlds.
I love spending time in play with my children. And, I am learning more and more how much I (and all adults) also need to play. I am not big on new year’s resolutions, and in fact, as of this moment hadn’t given them a moment’s thought. However, I think that this year I need to remember to play more. Both physical play outdoors – hockey and sledding and sking – and also mental play – drawing and photos and writing and singing. And these need to be valid priorities. Why do we need to validate play as adults? Children need to play. This is a given. Adults need to play. This is not a given.
But it should be!
I think we would all smile more and be a whole lot healthier and happier if we all just played more!
So off I go! See you at the playground.