Learning to Play, Again

When was the last time you played?

Where you did something so fun you lost the track of time?

Or laughed with pure joy and delight and didn’t even care who heard you.

Or just ran and then did a cartwheel (or maybe just turned in circles a few times), just because you were so happy and your body wanted to move?

It seems as we get older and weighed down with responsibilities, play is not something we actively engage in. Something we pursue. An attitude we cultivate.

It’s summer. And play and having fun is on the minds of a lot of children. But somewhere between the end of elementary school and college we think play is for toddlers. We think we are to cool to play. We may even lose the ability to play and be silly, unless we get around little ones thigh high and shorter.

Want to learn how to play again? Look no farther then toddlers and little ones. Young children know how to instinctively play.

They laugh in pure delight when something tickles their fancy, like petting a cat for the first time. They will burst out in laughter just because they had a funny thought. Or if they see something that doesn’t make sense. Laughter and pure joy flows out of them as they take in the world and try and figure things out.

A little one is at my house. I am making pasta and I have the Parmesan cheese out. I know she likes cheese. “Want some cheese?” I ask. She says, “Yes.” I pull out a spaghetti thin sprig of Parmesan and hand it to her. She takes one look at this offering and bursts out laughing. Her face crinkled in delight.

“That’s not cheese,” she says. And I realize she is laughing because cheese is usually a different color and shape. This is something she has not encountered. She thinks I am teasing her.

One taste, and she wants more.

Young children laugh and smile and are not concerned with what others are thinking. If others are laughing with them or at them. They have a confidence that does not care if their cartwheel is lopsided. They are not looking to see if their tennis skirt is the same as anyone else’s. They don’t know about being cool or outside the popular circle or fitting in. They don’t critique themselves and their performance. Or compare themselves with others.

They are learning about the world and life and how they do it is by playing and having fun. Something new is always around the corner. Their senses are open to this new delight.

What keeps us from engaging in play?


1. We rush to do more. Accomplish more. We are thinking about the laundry scattered across the laundry room floor. The bills that need to be paid. The calls made. The time we are wasting.

2. We worry about what others will think. Sometimes we feel the urge to burst out in song, do a cartwheel, laugh loud, hug an almost stranger, but our fears, our not wanting to do the wrong thing, the worry of being judged, keep us from it. Or maybe it is that voice in our head telling us not to make a fool of our self, to grow up, to quit acting like a kid.

3. We compare ourselves to others, the standards in our head, and to the rules of life. We critique ourselves more than we should.

4. We think work is more important. The most important thing. That all our work should be done before we play.

5. We think play is for children. It is silly and frivolous. Childish.

6. We have no one to play with. Playing can be solitary, but sometimes the best play takes place with another or others. Play is often communal, a back and forth with another.

7. We find it hard to relax and just let things happen. Play is often spontaneous.

8. We don’t want to make a mistake or do it wrong. As if play has to be done only one way.

9. We think work is work and play is play and the two cannot be combined. Little children combine the two all the time. And we can too. Just be creative

It’s summer, the time associated with hours of free time and play. Let’s not let the summer go by without playing.

Can we turn our inner voice off and not critique our play or compare it to other?

Can we just immerse our self in the moment and the delight and look at the world with awe and wonder for just a short while?

Having trouble? Hang around some little ones and let yourself relax and be silly.

So, what does play look like for you?

Spending time outside. Gathering with friends. Crafting. Gardening. Big messy board games. Silly time with kiddos. Testing the playground equipment. Running. Playing basketball. Teasing someone. Flirting with your mate. Making mud pies. Diving into a cold lake and screaming loud and long. Dancing in the kitchen, even if everyone is watching. Yodeling hello to the moon. Hanging upside down by your knees from a tree branch.

Find your happiness spot or sport and don’t worry about embarrassing your kids or if people are laughing at you. Because sometimes people are really wishing they were as brave as you are and could be a little more playful themselves.

Play on. You may inspire others to once again discover the joy of play.

Because a lot of play is an attitude. Not an item on our to-do list.

Thanks for stopping by. Keep remembering what’s important.



Join the Discussion: What does play look like for you? What is keeping you from playing more (mine would be number 4)?

About the author : Theresa Boedeker

Theresa Boedeker

Theresa Boedeker, a lover of life and grace, likes to write about this crazy, messy, and wonderful adventure called life. She unwraps life with words to encourage, provide hope, and bring froth laughter. Her blog, Things to Remember, and entertaining story podcast, Life as it Comes, can be found at TheresaBoedeker.com.

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