“I can’t even think about play right now”

It is easy to feel totally overwhelmed in the day to day – or at least, it’s easy for me!  This summer, I was lucky enough to spend the summer at Play:Ground, the spectacular new adventure playground in New York City.  The days were long and hot and I came home every day to sit on the couch for about fifteen minutes before slumping sideways.  It was beautiful, exhausting, and full of daily marvels.

Like everyone else on site, I left sweat and blood in that dirt.  I took home scraps of paper with moments caught in a few tiny words, hoping I’d be able to write them up before their magic faded.  That is where things fell apart, because much as I love to write I was simply too tired each day to make use of them.  Playwork and writing both require a sort of wrestling, whether with one’s own discomfort or children or words.  I find both absorbing, rewarding and transformational – which means that it’s too easy for me to forget to actually play, and do things that are fun purely for their own sake.

Suzanna helps me, and a lot of people, by posting daily reminders to play on our Facebook page.  Even so, in our society valuing play is still nothing short of revolutionary.  It might make a public statement by claiming space, or signify a more private shift in priorities.  For lots of us who advocate for children’s right to play, it can be hard to remember our own.

So, how do you play?  What helps you to remember its importance, to return when you’ve been away too long?




2 thoughts on ““I can’t even think about play right now”

  1. For me it is about remembering the brilliantly simple and elegant concept of the play cycle (with its cues, returns etc within a play frame) developed by Perry Else and Gordon Sturrock. It took me a while to understand the “Colorado Paper” but when I did, it really did feel like a giant light-bulb going on in my head – I suddenly understood what I’d been looking at in decades of playwork!
    And now, as a mostly-retired granddad, I delight in becoming entangled in nearly-three Molly’s play frames. Like her tragic story of the lonely bird.
    Molly: “The bird is lonely in the tree. In the tree all by itself and CRYING! All the friends fly away.”
    Me: “Oh no. Where to?”
    Molly: “I’m not sure. Probably at work.” [I’m not sure and probably are current favourite expressions]
    Me: “Can we get them to come back? Maybe we could phone them?”
    Molly runs off to get her toy phone “Not find it granddad. Probably not there any more.”
    Luckily I find a magic special invisible bird phone in a secret pocket. Molly makes an emergency call and there is a lot of tweeting and birdy noises.
    “Birds coming back now granddad. Just in time! And happy ever after once upon a time. The End!”

    And playing by myself? A return to painting after a four-decade gap year. But now it is digital with the most astonishing software. Digital watercolour brushes with the delicacy and accuracy of the best sable. The ability to put, oh chalk or dry pastel or even wet-on-wet watercolour straight on top of “wet” oil paint.

  2. Sounds crazy, but for me the recent deaths of two friends and a family member reminded me to play and play often. The gift of life I’ve been given is filled with “must do’s,” rules, chores, etc… but what really makes my life come alive is my own personal playtime! Doing things that make me smile, laugh or be silly, makes me more alive and vibrant. So as a result of these sad situations I’ve been able to reflect on things which make me feel alive!!! …. and it is play. I have made it a priority to stop and get out and run in the grass, cannonball into a pool, turn over rocks, play soccer…. the list is endless. I just need to engage and do it!!!!

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