“When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.” C.S. Lewis
For much of my late youth, my mother would lovingly, rhetorically, ask, “When will Jo stop playing?” Indeed, I wondered myself. But how could I? Play is FUN! And now that I have children of my own, and a husband who is an avid tree climber, I have a great reason to keep doing it.
I can’t help but notice that whenever I go to the playground with my kids, there are a lot of stiff, bored parents nodding along the perimeter, staring at their phones, while I am heading down the swirly slide or making incoherent monster noises. I also noticed that some kids watching me play seem utterly confused, and are legitimately wondering (at first) what is wrong with me. But before long, they “get it” and are joining in our game.
I was almost feeling self-conscious about my easy ability to be so playful. Should I be acting more adult and mature even though I can’t help it because I really am of the Fae? Well, after doing a bit of research, I have discovered that in fact, play is a very good thing. Here’s what the experts say about play:
A book called, Playful Parenting, speculates that play is actually a very powerful parenting tool, one that can build confidence, close-connections, and even solve some behavioural problems.
Play can help children to sort out daily difficulties by re-enacting scenarios and adopting a different, authoritative role. For instance, if a child had a negative experience at the doctors office, she may come home and “play” doctor…only this time, she’ll be the doctor dishing out the needles while you “playfully” beg for mercy. This kind of role-reversal helps a child reclaim any power that they feel they may have lost while they simultaneously explore their world while they are in control.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, play is so critical to the optimal development of a child that in 2007, the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights deemed it a “right of every child”. And, play is becoming an endangered species of its own. Our over-booked pressure-packed schedules and focus on academic enrichment and achievement has left little time for “free child-centered play.”
And that my friends is the good stuff. That’s where the magic happens. That kind of play develops imagination and creativity and improves cognitive, emotional, and physical strength. Play allows children to try on different roles in a pressure-free environment which ultimately builds confidence and self-esteem.
Play isn’t just for kids either. Though adults often view it as a luxury, or worse, a sign of immaturity, it is neither of those things. Research shows that play helps improve health and well-being and strengthen relationships and community ties. Play also allows us to transcend our ordinary lives which helps us create new thoughts and ideas (really important for this generation).
Also, it’s fun! Remember fun? I know, it’s been a while. As we age, we become so preoccupied with the seemingly important adult world that we loose the ability to let go, be free, and in the moment. A concept which books like A New Earth tell us is pretty integral for our well-being and spiritual evolution.
I think we all need to reconnect with the amazing child within who still has a lot to teach us. So put down your phone, close your lap top, stop cleaning or doing whatever you do, and give yourself permission to play.
“You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.”
“The truly great advances of this generation will be made by those who can make outrageous connections, and only a mind which knows how to play can do that.”
~ Nagel Jackson
***For further reading, check out this article from Scientific American, where a 42 year study reveals some very scary things about a world without play.