Last week I was walking home through one of my usual routes which included a short cut through a playground of a school. The playground was empty because it was late in the day, but I noticed a father and his young daughter playing. As I approached, she gently pulled away from her father and walked toward the path I was approaching with a big smile on her face. “Hi” she exclaimed loudly still smiling as she continued to engage “Want to play with us?” I came to a complete stop and met the little girl at eye level responding back with a smile “I am sorry I can’t play with you both right now but I hope you enjoy.” As I bid her and her father a good-bye I smiled for the rest of the time home.
This was not just an adorable incident but something about it that struck me for many reasons. As we get older, that simple invitation to play or even extend such a thing to each other diminishes or disappears altogether. Play is well documented as key in the child’s development especially in regards to creativity. As we transition into adulthood, the concept of play is easily forgotten but it still has a high value in nurturing our creative inclinations.
Giving yourself permission to play with the same ease and openness that was extended to me that day by that little girl adds value in creating new ideas, helping to solve problems or de-stress from busy days or work weeks. Maybe you are not ready or perhaps feel foolish engaging in some of your previous childhood games (for example, one of my favorite involved rolling down a grassy hill). On the other hand, there are other ways to think about play and how it can work in your life. I had a friend who made sure to add time each week to play his video games because they ultimately helped to encourage him to see more than one way of solving some of his other challenges in life. I knew another individual who always had a favorite outdoor game that he included into his busy schedule, it was non-negotiable to miss his weekly connection or play. I personally like to indulge in playing innocent pranks or practical jokes that leave me and my friends erupting into laughter. Other times, it is as simple as swinging on the swings on a summer day just like I did when I was a little girl just to feel the rise and drop of my stomach.
When is the last time you allowed yourself to play and what did it contribute to your creativity? When was the last time the world became your sandbox or scheduled a playdate for yourself? Perhaps reconnecting and inviting yourself to play will also be a way that you can invite yourself to tap into creating something new whether it is an idea, solving a challenging problem, or attempting to create art.
- Take a play history. What did you do as a child that excited you? Did you engage in those activities alone or with others? Or both? How can you recreate that today?
- Surround yourself with playful people. Select friends who are playful – and engage in playing with your loved ones.
- Play with little ones. Playing with kids helps us experience the magic of play through their perspective.