play

I’m a member of a very silly club. Before the pandemic we would meet each week in a field. Bring props like ladders or lemons and create a Freestyle Game. A Freestyle Game is a game that has never been played before and will never be played again. Each game is created in the moment by the group, given a name, played once or twice (with room for adaption and fine tuning) and never played again.

I’ve hopped blindfolded across the field singing ‘staying alive’ whilst racing my fellow freestyle members, I’ve been rugby tackled to the ground whilst protecting a patch of clover, I’ve lobbed scented candles, made fairy sized bouquets from hedgerow, worn a horse head whilst standing between the goal posts…oh and the handshake…yes there’s a handshake!!

Freestyle Games is utterly ridiculous, but I absolutely love it! I love the absurd, imaginative, spontaneous moments that arise in the act of playing. There is so much to learn from being silly and so much joy to be had!

So why do us adults stop playing like children? And what can we do to revive our playful nature?

Theory

When we become grownups the opportunity for spontaneous play becomes limited. Playing becomes structured and formalised; we are confined to what society has deemed acceptable only expressing our playful state within these limited realms. We play team sports, go shopping, go out drinking, take up wacky hobbies or enjoy a fruity sex life. The way we play also becomes limited by the roles with give ourselves or are given to us by others. For example, it is more acceptable to be playful if our job is as an entertainer, playworker or teacher than if we’re a banker, manager or surgeon. Yet playing is a very primal, innate skill with a purpose for its existence.

‘Of all the animal species, humans are the biggest players of all. We are built to play, and built through play.’ (Brown 2010)

What sets us apart from other mammals is we extend our juvenile period out longer than any other creature. Our children have roughly 15 years to play, and there’s reason for this! Play helps us to test our boundaries, to learn what’s safe and what’s dangerous. Play lets us learn through trial and error, allowing us to test out ideas and act out roles without any attachment to the outcome. Play helps our children develop and grow in a safe and protected environment, so that when they reach a certain age, they are able to make healthy decisions and ultimately stay alive!

Playing is critical to learning in the early stages of life, but it also continues to enhance our learning into adulthood. Play boosts creativity, confidence and joy. It helps us to see limitless possibilities and go beyond our comfort zone.

‘…new discoveries and new learning come when one is open to serendipity, when one welcomes novelties and anomalies’ (Brown 2010)

Cultivating a playful spirit can help you to be more flexible when faced with challenges or uncertainty. It can bring more laughter into your days and connection with those you love.

Ideas

  • Put your bins out in your ball gown
  • Challenge your family to a synchronised dance
  • Have a whole conversation with someone in gibberish
  • Organise a games night, dig out some board games or download the houseparty app to play games online with friends.
  • Do a task backwards. Make your sandwich back to front and the wrong way around, put your trousers on upside down, rethink your habits, flirt with the nonsensical!
  • Lip sync to your favourite song
  • Conduct a serious conference call as a potato