Every winter, my husband likes to build snow forts for my kids. He puts serious effort (sometimes hours) into each one. I always check from the window watching it unfold, and am astonished that an hour later, he’s still there, working away at it. Admittedly, he is better at going the distance for this type of play than I am, and it’s one of the things I really love about him. This year when we had a lot of snow he made a snow castle on our front lawn.
Not surprisingly, our kids loved it and had so much fun playing in it, even on the frigid -15 days. What was surprising, was that other people seemed to love it too. And by people, I mean adults.
It wasn’t neighbourhood kids that were showing up at our house to check it out, it was grown ups. One man walked down the street in the early, freezing morning just to take a picture of it, and he looked so happy! There were adults slowing down as they drove by to take a picture. Adults stopping to ask questions, like What!!! and Why!!! Adults getting a total kick out of it, laughing and smiling over this crazy snow castle.
Over the next few days, I think we met more people in our neighborhood than we have in the almost 10 years that we’ve lived there. So why is that? Because play is a powerful tool for building community. No matter how out of touch we are with it, play is a fundamental need for everyone, not just kids. Adults especially need that reprieve from worries and responsibilities. We all need to let go, have fun, and enjoy the ride. Play is also a really easy way to make connections and get to know people. When our spirits are light, conversation and laughter flow naturally, and we feel good. So why are these opportunities so rare?
Is there a way to hit pause on our to-do-lists and just give ourselves permission to play? I think we must. Play can be simple or elaborate. Think back to your own childhood and remind yourself of what brought you joy. There are no rules, except of course, that you have to have fun!