When was the last time you allowed yourself to be fully overcome with playfulness?
Be Well Played
Meredith’s new book, “Well Played: The Ultimate Guide to Awakening Your Familys Playful Spirit,” is available for purchase! Grab your copy today and #BeWellPlayed.
I’m talking about the kind of overcome that stops time, squashes your adult ego, has you forgetting that you even own a phone that proclaims to be so smart and has your inner 8-year-old jumping for utter joy.
It’s been a while, hasn’t it?
Most of us grown-ups don’t often enough turn off the notifications and “to-do’s” for a beat and make time for full-on frivolity.
Mainly it’s because we’ve got super important grown-upitty things to attend—jobs, homes, toddlers, teens, permission slips, travel sports upon travel sports upon travel sports, breakfast, lunch and dinners and an endless stream of extracurriculars. I mean who has the tiiiiiiiime to play around? But with all of our gettin’ it done, many of us are missing out on the game-changing joy and mind-altering magic of goofing off. Kids included.
Extensive research in the field of play theory strongly suggests that there are great big benefits to being “well played,” and they’re all lurking just below play’s seemingly frivolous exterior. The benefits include things like stress reduction, increased memory and mental agility, enhanced creativity, problem solving and invention, improved focus, attention and mental state, and a deeper connection with family and friends.
Turns out, play is seriously good for us.
In my new book, “Well Played, The Ultimate Guide to Awakening Your Family’s Playful Spirit,” I share simple, everyday ways to help kids and their grown-ups harness the magical powers of playfulness within our busy new millennium lives.
These ideas are ones I’ve developed and tested in my early childhood and elementary classrooms, with my own two boys, and throughout my work in the field of play over the last 10 years. None of them take a ton of money, time or a Master’s degree in craftiness. What they do require is a simple shift in perspective and the willingness to jump in and let the genius of play unfold.
Summertime is the perfect time to intentionally disconnect from all the “busy” of our lives, to playfully reconnect to the folks we love most—our kids, our partners, our friends and even ourselves.
As Plato once said, “You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than you can in a year of conversation.” What I know for absolutely sure is that play invigorates the body and mind, opens us up like nothing else and puts us back in touch with the stuff that makes our hearts sing and our spirits soar.
So are you ready to reap the rewards of a life well played?
Here are a few simple ideas from my book to get you started.
Play with your family
Become the next Partridge Family
Even if no one in your family knows how to play one lick, chord or note and the last adjective that would ever describe ya’ll is “musical,” grab some up-cycled instruments (eBay is the best for this!) and fake it til ya make it.
There is nothing like sitting around the living room or kitchen, making “music” together during a family jam session. My son Truman, who actually plays the guitar, began asking the rest of us to join in on various instruments we had collected over the years (a harmonica, a ukulele, a drum box and a tambourine) and it turned into some of the best spontaneous fun around.
Pro Tip: Start hunting and gathering inexpensive, used instruments from tag sales, thrift stores and online sources. Keep them in a pretty basket in the corner of your family room and encourage kids and grown-ups alike to partake. Instruments elevate any room and make you look all artistic … even if you’re not.
Play with your mate
Build a time machine
There’s nothing wrong with a little marital Netflix and chill. But if that’s your dating game every Friday night, then it’s time the two of you have a little talk.
Playfulness in our mates is super sexy. It’s innately flirty and gives us a peek into our partner’s softer, more vulnerable side. Think about the kinds of dates you and your partner planned when you first were falling in love. I bet the ones you remember as being the most fun and flirty were the ones when you were being the most fun and flirty.
If it’s been too long since you’ve acted like high school sweethearts (even if you never were high school sweethearts), all puppy love, pecks on the cheeks and piggyback rides, then build an imaginary time machine and reproduce some of the dates from your early courting days.
I met my husband when I was 15, so I have loads to work with. But even if you met your mate just five years ago, I’m sure there are some playful and adventurous first dates in your vault. Plan a romantic re-do of one of your most playful dates and watch the connection happen in a way Netflix just can’t match.
Play with your friends
Two words: Field trips!
Most parents I know spend a lot of time planning their kids’ summer experiences. Camps, classes, lessons and adventures abound for our younguns over the warmest months here in Chicago. But when’s the last time you grabbed a batch of your best playmates and went on a field trip or adventure?
Playing with our friends is an important piece of living a well-played life. And doing something a little risky, adventurous or brand new not only invigorates our adult souls, but it also bonds us with our pals in a much deeper way. Whether it’s exploring an unfamiliar neighborhood or museum, taking a flying trapeze lesson for the 40 and over, hitting the trampoline park for a fitness class or scheduling a go-carting girls’ night out, take turns planning something other than another wine- and gossip-fest with your best gal pals. You’ll feel like you’re back in junior high—in a good way.
Play for yourself
Create a Personal Play Profile
Before you can take full advantage of the unicorn-like benefits of play, you have to take a note from Socrates and really “know thyself.”
The first thing I have readers do in my book is to create a Personal Play Profile. Five self-reflective questions that take 15 quiet minutes to answer help you tap into what really lights your fire and awakens your own playful spirit. And once you remember and record what those things are (Hint: they’re often related to what did it for you when you were a child), you’re ready to TURN OFF YOUR PHONE and reconnect with your slightly neglected inner child.
We all need to stop helicopter parenting ourselves now and again and jump into something we’ve never done before, without the hope of “likes” or comments and approval from the digital universe.
Embracing playfulness when no one’s looking or applauding is the truest way to get to know who you really are and what you really love.