Whilst doing some research this afternoon on playfulness in adults, I came across this TedTalk. I first watched this a few years ago. I found it depressing and inspirational in equal measures (you have to watch to the end for the inspirational bit). He sums up my attitude not only on the importance of play for children (proper play that is - self controlled and self directed play) but also what we, the caring adults, can and should be doing to champion play for all children. Worth a look - but only when you're feeling emotionally resilient!
In order for humans to be fully well, emotionally, physically, socially and spiritually, I think they need playfulness. Furthermore, I strongly believe, it is incumbent on parents and adults who work with children that they have a playful and light hearted spirit. Here’s my thoughts on why…
Many adults don’t play at all.
Sometimes these people are ‘workaholics’ and are called ‘driven’, ‘successful’ or ‘uptight’ depending on your point of view. I suspect that many politicians and senior managers fall into this category.
Sometimes these people have an exaggerated or inflated sense of their own dignity and importance and are snooty and scoff at playful adults.
Sometimes people are simple too tired and/or stressed to play and so spend any time outside ‘work’ looking at a screen, drinking and socializing, shopping or sleeping.
Some adults play sometimes.
Their play is categorized and labelled under ‘past-time’ or ‘hobby’ or ‘something I do when I am not working’. This play can be;
-competitive – golf, football, pub quizzes, online gaming
- require physical effort – running, weight lifting, walking
- creative and meditative – gardening, knitting, fishing
- be domestically useful – cooking, home improvement
- social – singing in a choir, book clubs, dancing.
And some adults are playful.
Playful adults may have hobbies, they may not. They may be professionally successful, they may not. Being playful is part of their everyday life and is not confined to a time or place. It is an attitude not an activity. It is an ability and desire to see the fun in situations, to be creative and to laugh.
Why is being playful so important when raising children?
Early Years practitioners, teachers and parents should know the need for playfulness – for themselves and for their children. Why?
- Because being playful ourselves is an indication that we are feeling emotionally well. If we never feel playful, we are probably under stress of some sort which will impact on our ability to care for ourselves and our children fully. We may be providing the physical needs for our children but be absent emotionally.
- Because being playful means we are comfortable with playing around with roles and responsibilities and allow children to take the lead in the play and learning. Children love to be in charge and pretend an adult is the baby or a passenger on their bus.
- Because being playful means we are in the moment and present with the child – not talking or thinking about what is happening next. Children appreciate and respond to adults who are genuinely engaged with them.
- Because being playful means we can be genuinely creative – not driven by the need to produce something wonderful but by the simple, internal pleasure of being and doing.
- Because we like to have playful adventures and meet challenges from time to time which in turn helps our children to be adventurous and brave.
- Because when being playful we can let down our dignity and show our children that other people’s opinions of us do not matter.
- Because being playful means we laugh together which builds strong emotional relationships and lasting memories.
Although a playful adult’s behaviour will be individual to them, playful adults will share certain characteristics. These characteristics will be present in different levels according to circumstance and personality but present in all playfulness is authenticity and autonomy. No one is playing if they are doing something they don’t want to and that they can’t stop or change.
Playfulness is infectious to others and to oneself. Once playfulness has begun people make time for it. Play may be a child’s ‘work’ but for adults it is medicine – medicine for the mind, body and spirit. Playful people know this and care for themselves, allowing time for relaxation, relief from stress, periods of rejuvenation and play. Playful adults tend to be light hearted people who are usually pleasant to be around.
How do we recognise playfulness in adults? Below is my attempt at capturing the characteristics and indicators of adult playfulness.
Playful Adults are ENGAGED
· They are in touch with their body and their senses and use these to explore the world.
· They want to know more, they are curious about the world, themselves and others
· They can accept open-ended experience and are not necessarily looking for a prescribed outcome.
· They have hobbies beyond shopping, watching TV/Netflix and gaming.
· They are imaginative and have not forgotten how to daydream.
· They are willing to have a go at new experiences and learn from mistakes.
Playful Adults are MOTIVATED
· They can become engrossed in playful activity over a period of time.
· Playfulness feeds and boosts their energy.
· They are fascinated by things and/or people.
· They are confident in their playfulness.
They put effort into their play, giving playfulness respect and priority over other things.
· They think for themselves, walk their own path and are not afraid of what others think of them.
Playful Adults are MINDFUL
· They have a desire to know and/or experience more.
· They can think divergently, enjoy finding new ways to do things and like solving problems.
· They are present in the moment with themselves and others.
· They notice things, are aware and awake.
· They become focused on and in experiences and allow time to flow.
· They have a sense of wonder and excitement.
My favourite part of the morning was watching these two transporting a basket of birds up and down the tree.
Yesterday I got my kit out and decided what I would be taking out on my first week’s sessions. A major concern was whether it would fit into the Mini - and it does! Hooray. I’m getting very excited now - the sun is shining, the birds are singing, the leaves are on the trees and I feel ready to begin… I wonder who will come?
On Saturday I spent the morning with some good people in my village woodland. We were learning from a local basket-weaver called Jonathon Carrie how to make beautiful willow trays. I sat near the fire being quietly creative and realised how important it is that I make time for me to play outside.
Time to play for adults - an idea is conceived!
It seems I have been going on about the importance of being outside for YEARS. In June 2012 I had an article printed in the Guardian Education section under the title ‘Saving childhoods in the Forest ‘.
At the time I was working as a Forest School trainer in Suffolk and there was a need to raise enthusiasm for outdoor learning in general and forest school practice in particular. Many schools and practitioners were sceptical.
Nearly 7 years later I am pleased to say that most educators and carers now know about the vital importance of outside play. Unfortunately many children still do not have regular opportunities to roam freely and be immersed in nature but at least the argument now is about HOW we provide these places, spaces and experiences rather than WHY.
If you would like to read my article the link is https://bit.ly/2HI2Irl
After many months of procrastinating Time to Play is finally off the ground and if not exactly running it is walking along briskly and with purpose. Thank you to all those people who have supported me in this venture especially my daughter, Hannah, and my very patient and lovely husband, Jonny.