Bringing Back Play
I talk a lot about the “little eyes that are watching” and “little ears that are listening,” and the opportunity every single grown-up has to impact the messages that get through. This view has been powerful for me, forcing me to think more carefully about what matters most and more proactively about the life I want to live and the stories I want to pass along. It keeps me honest and striving and accountable for my choices.
But there’s another side to this message that I don’t talk about as much: we have a lot to learn from them too.
Within ten seconds of waking up in the morning, my kids are running out of their rooms. This isn’t a sweet little pitter-patter, but instead a full on CLOMP CLOMP BANG BANG BANG CLOMP CLOMP CLOMP as they race down the hallway. Their little bodies want to move. At the park, kids start hiding and seeking without any direction, shrieking with joy when they’re found or find someone. Their little minds delight in discovery and surprise. When I cry, my son tells me he loves me. Their little hearts want to love. Standing in the grocery store line tonight, my daughter was practicing hopping on alternating feet while staying within the lines the tiles formed on the floor, delighting in her made-up game. Their little souls want to play.
The value of play is the loudest message I think kids nail and we grown-ups miss. We intellectually know play is important (if you’re not convinced, check out Tim Brown’s TED Talk on play + creativity), but somehow, possibly on a parallel path with forgetting how to laugh, it feels like we forget how to play. Think about it — as kids we play all the time, building towers and stomping in puddles and digging pirate costumes and tutus out of the dress-up box. As time goes on, our play is relegated to recess time at school and weekend sports and whatever our families encourage. And as adults, play often becomes compartmentalized, restricted to weekends or game nights or Zumba class. Amidst work and stress and bills and daily life, it’s so easy to lose sight of where we’ve come from and what our bodies and minds and souls needed when we were small and pure and uninhibited.
Children beautifully remind us every day that life and play can gracefully co-exist. Just as we’re conscious of the messages we’re sending to our children, we need to tune into the messages they have for us. After all, the best teachers are always learning. And some of the best coaches still get out and play.
How do you integrate play into your life, and what can you do tomorrow to play a little bit more?