Play is not dependent on anything except our willingness.
The very first play principle I teach in my playshops is Permission. Permission is recognizing we have the play instinct within, and allowing it to be expressed in every moment. When we allow ourselves to let go and be care-free just a little, play emerges naturally, and we surprise ourselves in how playful we actually are.
Adults asks “How?” Children just play.
When we assume we are not playful, we tend to ask “How do I play?” It is a question I hear quite often from adults. The fact that we ask How is a statement of how difficult play has become for so many of us. It is a sign we have lost touch with our care-free, spontaneous inner child who lives in the present moment and knows instinctively how to play.
We have become serious adults bound by fears that keep our expressive life force at bay. Fears include:
- getting messy
- making a mistake
- doing it wrong
- being foolish
- being judged
“I don’t plan before I color.” ~ Wendy MacNaughton
These fears define and limit our playground. We put controls in place and plot the “right” or “appropriate” way to play in order to mitigate our fears and ensure certainty and safety. We have expectations on how to play or how our child wants us to play. We become dependent on to-do lists for play, or believe play is dependent on time and money. We work at play instead of just being playful, and ask How instead of allowing the play instinct to know what it knows and express what it wants. Blinded by our complexities, we cannot see simple opportunities to play every moment such as:
- making a funny face or noise, laughing or offering a big smile
- telling a silly joke
- crouching beside an animal or plant and sharing appreciation for its beauty
- twirling a pencil around your fingers, transforming it into a moustache, or balancing it on your head
- drawing pictures in the dirt while the other person guesses what it is
- making funny shapes or postures with your body
- playing eye spy or peek-a-boo
- making a puppet show with your hands, or hanging a spoon on your nose
When we make play simple, we soon remember that feeling joy is what we really want, not for joy to look a certain way.
Every moment is a playful moment. There is nothing we need to be playful.
Play is not complicated. Children do not need elaborate, well-thought out play. In fact the need of a child is much simpler than that. Children want to feel connected to us. They want to feel seen, heard and loved. Play is a way we can do this because play is the language of children. When we play we validate the child’s world.
It therefore doesn’t really matter how you play. What’s most important is that you give your Self to the child, and your true authentic Self is not dependant on anything. It is already within.