Have you ever sat back and watched little kids at play? The community center where my new classroom is has a 4k program, and every so often we have very young visitors from there walk into my classroom like they own the place, arms swinging, heads held high, and sometimes hands on their hips as if to say, “Here I am, what’s going on here?”
The para brings them in and says, “I'm so sorry that we’re interrupting your class, Chuck, but they asked to come and see you.” There is never an apology needed to bring such positivity into my classroom, and I assure her of this. It lightens up my students, who range from 18-20 years of age. When these little ones come in it reminds us that it’s okay to pause and enjoy the moment, laughing, playing, and pretending. My carpet became an ocean when they were there. We pretended like there was a dolphin and a whale swimming in the middle and we could see them come to the surface. We could too! I swear after this little girl started to describe the purple whale and pink dolphin, that we could see them swimming. What a spectacular moment it was.
I get the same feeling when I visit my wife’s elementary school. It’s hilarious to see seven year olds walking around in outfits that they chose themselves. You can tell a few of them woke up and thought, “I’m going to wear every bright color I have this morning,” or “I decided to be a ballerina today.” I love it! It’s probably why my former superintendent, G-Mav, used to tell me that I should be an elementary school principal. I like to play.
Play is something we often forget. As adults, we seem to drive ourselves all day with the demands of work or household responsibilities and so on. Work environments are now designed to push you for more and more productivity, or have you engage in mindless, endless meetings, where ideas are displayed on the table with little follow through. Add all the trivialities of social media, life’s drama, and toxic people, and play has been put to the side. It’s as if we lost our ability to imagine. It’s kind of like how old people forget how to get up off the floor. It’s not that they can’t, it’s that they stopped doing it. Seriously, right now ask yourself, no matter your age, when was the last time you were on the grass or your carpeted floor? Many times the floor is where play happens. My dog challenges me with a play bow at least twice per day, begging me to come down and wrestle. Try it, get down on your floor and see how you do with standing back up. I have seen relatively young people struggle with this. Maybe it’s because we forgot to continue playing. By the way, the importance of being able to go all the way down to the floor and get back up is associated with longevity and health. Play!
As most young people do, I played with toys when I was little, but I was also Zorro and Audie Murphy. I made forts from sticks, dirt, and leaves in the nearby woods when I was in third, fourth, and fifth grade. I played Rambo in those same woods in middle school. Somewhere in high school, I forgot to play as much. Maybe I was too wrapped up in sports, and doing anything competitive is not true play. Play is during leisure time, when nothing is at stake. I found play again in mountain biking when I was nineteen and still do. I found play on the trails that I hike, climbing trees, and bushwhacking through the hills and rock cliffs. I find play with my dogs and with my wife. I think being playful has kept us going for so long. I love to play at school. When there are dress up days you may find me as Elvis or Axl Rose, or perhaps Waldo. It makes the students laugh, and a few teachers I suppose, but I love it because, like my wife’s students, I get to dress up and pretend all day. Play is crucial to enjoying life.
Ask yourself, “How often do I play?” Check yourself when you are taking life too seriously and then go on the floor and play with your dog or kids, or play with your spouse and laugh until you cry.