The last few months have been hectic, between work, family and ministry. All of it is important and well worth the time and effort, but it is also draining. By evening, I’m too tired to do much more than compose an email to my Mom and crash in front of the T.V. to watch cooking competitions. Sometimes I don’t make it to Mom’s email.
“This was no time for play. This was no time for fun. This was no time for games. There was work to be done.” – Dr. Seuss, The Cat in the Hat Comes Back
It’s a readily accepted fact that play for kids is an essential component in their development, and that a lack of play can significantly impact them later in life.
In reality, we all need time to play. We need:
- unstructured time to blow off steam and relieve stress
- time to re-evaluate our priorities and goals
- freedom to experiment and to make mistakes without judgement
- opportunities to discover new things about our world or about ourselves
- re-awaken our creativity and build our imaginations
- re-connect with others or build existing relationships
- physical and mental activity (even video games without the consequences of the real world)
When we play, we are better at making sound decisions, solving problems, coping in stressful situations, building trust with others…plus we’re just nicer to be around.
As adults, we tend to associate “play” with “childish activity”, and therefore dismiss it as a waste of time. We learn in school that we have to “play by the rules”. We focus on the end product, rather than the process. And somehow we forget how good it feels to do something without structure.
“Play is the highest form of research.” – Albert Einstein
My neighbours watched in horror from their windows one afternoon. A few years ago, when Little Guy was only 2, and we went out in the rain and we jumped in puddles. Sure, we were wet and muddy when were done, but the memory of his face, the sound of his laughter, and the joy I felt, still make me smile on rainy days.
This week, I took time to snap a photo of the daisies from my Grandmother’s funeral. I played the piano for a few minutes, but not because I had to practice. I put on an old cd and sang as loudly as possible. I curled up in bed with Little Guy to read Captain Underpants to him (with the voices). I skipped up the driveway with an empty recycle bin, and I even pushed back the mess on the table, and did this (though they are incomplete and messy):
Yes. My life is still hectic. My house is still untidy. I’m still tired. I owe my Mom a couple of emails. And I have no idea what we’re eating for supper. But I feel more peaceful, and joyful, and grounded again. I’m probably nicer to be around too.
I don’t think it matters how you play. It doesn’t matter how old you are. We can’t always stop life, but we can stop letting “life” rob us of every second, and take back a minute or two, to play.
So…colour outside the lines, watch the squirrels, or bake a cake. Host a tea party. Start a mid-life crisis. Write a sonnet or a limerick. Just remember to play and jump in with both feet.
“Jump into the middle of things, get your hands dirty, fall flat on your face, and then reach for the stars.” -Ben Stein