Featured

Friends Call Me ‘Pink’!

Hi! I’m Amy and play is my passion!

“It is paradoxical that many educators and parents still differentiate between a time for learning and a time for play without seeing the vital connection between them.” -Leo F. Buscaglia

My focus here will be learning and enjoying life through PLAY!

This will include resources, hints and tips for anyone living with, working with or wanting to help people, but more specifically, children. Please join the conversation, I would love to hear your thoughts and experiences on the topics I discuss.

My background is in education, specifically playwork. Although originally from Manchester (Stockport to be exact), I studied for my bachelors degree in ‘Children and Playwork’ at Sheffield Hallam University. After University I worked in a variety of nurseries and primary schools around Sheffield, and Manchester.

Then I decided to pack up and go on an adventure, so I went to teach English in South Korea. Time got away from me and I ended up staying for 3 years, oops!

An experience I will never forget.

So, why am I so passionate about play?

The ‘early years’ has always been fascinating to me. Those first years of life are not only the most important as your foundation of physical, mental and emotional well-being but also the most interesting, and honest years of life.

I have found that generally speaking I can have an equally if not more honest, open and interesting conversation with a four year old than with most adults (depending on the adult, I guess).

At this early stage society hasn’t made its mark quite yet, but it will, there’s no escaping it! It’s up to us adults to try and make it as positive as possible for every child we interact with.

I believe, along with many others, that children learn about all aspects of life (in one way or another) through play. To some ‘play is simply what children do when they aren’t being told what to do’, which is 100% true and the only words in that sentence I have any problem with are ‘simply’ and ‘children’.

The word ‘play’ to me is in no way simple, it’s unfathomable, hugely extensive and beautifully complicated…also, it’s definitely NOT just for children.

We all play every day, sure you might call it ‘going to work’ or ‘shopping’ but really we’re all just playing at being adults. Those who admit this will agree it makes life so much more fun and less stressful, as we prance around with a ‘fake it ‘til you make it’ attitude.

That isn’t to say there aren’t aspects of life you should take seriously (work and shopping included), but I would argue that equally children’s ‘simple’ play should be taken just as seriously.

This blog is me playing. Playing at being a writer, I wonder what that’s like. Playing at being self-employed, I wonder if I’ll make it that far. It’s also a challenge. A learning experience. A way to try and explain my thoughts to others, get feedback and have meaningful conversations about the things I care about.

It’s also my hope that this will help people who have or work with children, as well as people who don’t! Those who just want to find or keep their joy for life and embrace their own need for play!

I’m going to be posting a blog every week on Mondays and a YouTube video related to the post on Thursdays. Come and play!

How did you play today?

#5 Reasons Children Need To Experiment With Risk During Play

It is well known in the playwork, education and all child care fields that it is vital for children to take risks.

I would say that the true nature of play is to take risks, it is through taking risks and challenging ourselves and others that we learn, develop and improve our skills and abilities.

The question you might be asking yourself is “where do you draw the line?”

This is a difficult question to answer because each case will be different but I suggest you ask yourself a few questions first:

• What stage of development is the child at?

• Are your personal fears and boundaries the reason you want to intervene?

• Do the dangers of the play outweigh the benefits?

These questions along with good old-fashioned common sense will help you intervene (or not intervene) appropriately.

Don’t wrap them up in cotton wool!

So, how do you know if the benefits outweigh the risk? Let’s talk about some of the benefits…

#1 – Test Themselves

While children are playing they are constantly testing their own capability and testing the environment around them.

This is how they learn!

By testing the way objects move and how they can be manipulated, how their bodies move and how their actions, both physically and verbally can effect the world and people around them, is a very powerful lesson to learn

…and one that children learn early!

The way in which we adults intervene and interact with children while they are on this journey of self discovery as well as discovering what the world is capable of allowing them to do and see is super important!

If a child is climbing a tree I think it’s human nature to say “be careful”. However if you were to say “come down from there it’s too high”, you would be denying the child the opportunity to test their limits and seeing what they are capable of.

You are basically saying “you can’t do that, so don’t even try”.

This attitude is very damaging to a child and could effect them throughout their life with low self esteem and a lack in confidence in their abilities which could prevent them from trying at all in fear of failure.

Which as we know is a toxic mindset to be in.

Empowering children to make their own decisions, test themselves and push their limits as far and they are comfortable to do so will allow them as adults to strive for more and challenge themselves further and further, and ultimately reach their full potential, which is what everyone should thrive for!

#2 – Set Personal Boundaries

By challenging themselves or being challenged by others during play, children will come across thing that they are not comfortable with.

This is a good thing!

 It’s only through personal challenges that we figure out what we can and can’t do… or more accurately, what we do and don’t want to do

(and with practise we can overcome these boundaries)

because we can do anything we put our minds to, right!

#3 – Build Resilience

If a child doesn’t challenge themselves and take risks during their play, both physically and emotionally, they will not build up their resilience to different situations.

This benefit ties in with #1, #2 and #4, as when children test themselves and others in different situations they become more confident in themselves.

Their resilience will grow and their abilities will expand!

#4 – Experiment Emotionally

Risk isn’t only physical. Children also test relationships.

Play is a safety net, everyone understands that play is experimental and ‘pretend’, so children can say things, react and confront people in ways that they usually wouldn’t or that aren’t a social norm, in order to test their reactions.

This will give them an idea of what is acceptable an what isn’t, what gets a big reaction and what doesn’t and what will help them make friends or drive people away.

I worked in a nursery once and little boy pushed a boy over who got up and chased him laughing. The same boy did the same thing to a little girl and she started (fake) crying and went inside. He turned to the other boy and said you didn’t cry, you must be strong. They then continued but they were both superman. No harm was done (apart from to me who would have loved to see the girl stand her ground and join in with them) and the first boy was testing the relationship he could have with both children. He wanted her to join in and used the same method he had used on the other boy but he found that you can’t interact with everybody the same way and expect the same results, everybody is different and I’m sure like everyone else he made the same mistake a few other hundred times before that sunk in properly.

#5 – Learn About Dangers

Danger is everywhere!

Short of literally wrapping children up in cotton wool, it is best that children experience risk in a relatively safe environment with people who can help them when needed.

For children to blossom and truly understand the dangers they are going to face, they need to have the freedom to seek them out.

For example children are going to:

 Cross the street

 Meet people they don’t agree with

 Walk on unstable ground

 Go camping and build a fire

Play allows children to experiment, bring them out of their comfort zone whilst still feeling fundamentally safe.

Through play children learn how to approach these situations, so that when they are faced with them spontaneously they are more prepared.

For example, children can use rough and tumble play to test their strength, which prepares them to fight back if they were to be attacked by another child, or even an adult.

I hope you enjoyed reading this post, please share it with like-minded people and ask any questions you may have in the comments.

Last week I discussed the advantages of competitive play so if you’d like to read that please click here.

This week I have done the first two days of my summer camp whilst recovering from my trip.

I had so much fun and learnt so much, but travelling takes it out of you so a weekend of staying in my pyjamas in my apartment is exactly what I needed!

How did you play today?

https://www.facebook.com/Playismagic/?modal=admin_todo_tour

#10 Advantages Of Competitive Play

It’s in our nature to compete.

We do it all the time in a variety of ways: sports, jobs, reaching personal goals… the list goes on.

As a child did you ever say to your friend:

I bet I can beat you to the end of the road

or

let’s see who can jump the most with a skipping rope”?

We do these things to test ourselves and others but also to compare ourselves and try to reach new goals and set new standards for ourselves.

Can Competition be taken too far and be damaging?

Of course, but you could say that about anything…

If you breath too much you’ll pass out, but I think it’s safe to say we all need to do that!

It’s important to look at children holistically and evaluate what their individual needs are, but generally speaking….

Healthy competition is good for us and here are #10 reasons I believe it to be so…

#1 – Reach their full potential

When competing in play children are given the drive they need to try their best and up their game to prove themselves to their peers.

Everyone likes to feel valued and be praised for their achievements, and when competing with other children this is one of the motivating factors.

The competition could also be with themselves.

I used to go swimming every week and I would try to do extra lengths of the pool each time I went. I did this to push myself and just to see if I could. I was trying to test my limits and find out what I was capable of.

This competition with myself got to the point where I was well over 120 lengths (I can’t remember exactly how many I got up to), and the issue wasn’t that I couldn’t do any more (even though I was getting close) but that I didn’t have the time.

If I had thought about it further I could have changed the competition and made it so that I wasn’t focused on how many lengths I could casually do, but how many I could do in an hour and try to beat that each time.

But that competition would have been over quicker I think, so that’s not as fun. And maybe I wanted to compete but not make it too difficult to the point were it’s not fun.

If you’re having fun you’re being your best self.

#2 – Confidence

This is self-explanatory. Children who seek out competition have a goal in mind and when that goal is met (they win) in whatever capacity that may be, they will get a rush of endorphins (feel good hormones).

This feeling can be mildly addictive and gives you the confidence to continue and compete more.

It also takes confidence to take a loss with grace.

If a child loses and is able to take a loss with pride and know that although this time they didn’t do as well as the winner, next time they will give it 110%…that is a very confident and self-assured person.

This confidence is developed in children through the assurance and praise of adults.

This goes without saying but, never make a child feel bad for losing.

If a child’s confidence or self-worth are damaged it’s difficult to regain and can affect them in many ways.

#3 – Learn How To Lose

It is important for children to lose so they know what it’s like and can deal with the feelings they have to deal with as a result.

There is nothing worse than playing a game with someone who quits before the end because they know or think they are going to lose.

I’m looking directly at my sister Jenny for this one. My dad taught us how to play chess when we were young, I think I was 13 and Jenny was 9. We loved playing together, but if there was a game that she knew she couldn’t win she would say “I’m don’t want to play anymore” and leave me hangin’.

This, for me, was the most frustrating thing she could do because I didn’t feel like I had properly won, despite the fact that I knew she’d only stopped playing because she was going to lose.

Another annoying way to end a game or competition was if someone playing got really angry and stormed off because they couldn’t handle the fact that they hadn’t won.

As an adult I realize this was a learning experience for them and that you have to get use to something before you are comfortable with it.

However, when you’re a child you don’t see that this is just a child who doesn’t have any siblings and therefore hasn’t had as many experiences at losing as you have.

You just see a cry baby who needs to get over themselves and is ruining the happy atmosphere.

#4 – Learn Empathy

When a child has had experience losing, they are more comfortable, taking it in their stride or even feeling happy for the person who won; because they deserved it or they realise it’s luck and ‘you can’t win ‘em all’…

Children can also learn empathy toward those who haven’t yet reached this stage.

They could take this empathy and attempt to reason with other children, explaining that it’s ok to lose.

The playing, competition and having fun is the best part, not who wins.

Or, like in my example above, you can be like me and just get annoyed and then learn later why they reacted like they did.

This is fine too, we are just learning on our own path with each experience and interaction we face.

#5 – Social Interaction

It’s true that you can compete with yourself of the past, in fact this is my favourite kind (see #10), but when you think of competition it’s usually you competing with another person or other people.

For children competitive play can also be a fantastic social interaction in which they have to learn how to interact with people in an appropriate and supportive manner.

Good sportsmanship is priceless.

When playing with others to win a medal or certificate, supporting your fellow team members and being gracious when you lose could be the difference between being on the team or not.

Through competitive play children can learn what acceptable behaviour is and what isn’t.

#6 – Teamwork And Leadership Skills

Some sports require a team leader and when a child takes on this role and gives roles to their fellow team mates; they will acquire a set of skills in leadership.

A good gift to have.

A good leader is a person who acts in such a way that all his peers do their best for the good of the team and work well together.

This is seen most commonly in football.

If the team doesn’t cooperate with each other and work together, they are not going to win the match, it’s that simple.

#7 – Cognitive Development

If a child is competing in a spelling bee or a mathematics quiz they will probably be studying extra hard, with extra focus.

Through this focus and desire to win they will take in more information than if they were not competing.

This gives the child drive.

However there are also studies that show stress in children can result in them underperforming!

It is important that competitive play is always freely chosen by the child and that they don’t feel it is expected of them.

Competing should be fun and self motivated!

#8 – Physical Development

So much of competitive play is based on sports, so a child’s physical development is bound to be positively affected.

Keeping them nice and healthy and out of breath!

This being said, don’t think that it’s only gross motor skills, it could also be fine motor skills.

If a child enters an art competition they may work very hard on their drawing and master the tripod grip or master pencil control in a way that they hadn’t yet quite been able to.

#9 – Stop Fear Of Failure

Children will have to compete their whole lives for different things.

This ties in very closely with #3 but I think it’s different enough to have its own section. Let me explain why…

Being afraid of failure can prevent you from seeking out or allowing yourself to have new and valuable experiences, during both group and individual play, because this is intrinsically determined.

If I child has experienced failure and not dealt with their emotions very well, they may then be afraid of competing again because they don’t want to have that feeling back.

Fortunately because competing is so integral in our culture children will be in situations where they have to compete again and they will hopefully (and usually will) get over this fear and learn how to deal with what they see as ‘failure’ and therefore not be afraid to compete in the future.

failure isn’t failure, failure is learning.

#10 – Competing With Yourself

The most rewarding competition in many ways is the one with yourself.

This type of competition is less stressful for a child because they don’t have to lose face and the only thing that matters is that they improve, not the amount of time or attempts it took to get there.

Children compete with themselves all the time, this is how they learn and get better.

They try and try and try again until they can do it and when they can, they try again to see if they can get better.

It is this human skill that has meant that we have progressed technology and science.

This begins in childhood.

We all want to improve and when you are a child this is broad… they want to know about everything, because everything is new to them.

I believe this should and would continue into adulthood…

but we are told to choose a focus and become an expert in that field.

This has its advantages of course, and if you find something you are very passionate about you should explore it and learn as much as you can.

Although I also believe that in doing this we may be preventing people from learning about other things they may be interested in because they have to put bread on the table.

This is where hobbies comes in.

Having a hobby keeps us competing with ourselves into adulthood.

It’s fun and we strive to get better, which is exactly what competition should be all about.

I hope you enjoyed reading this post, please share it with like-minded people and ask any questions you may have in the comments.

This past week I have been in Siem Reap, Cambodia, So much playing went down!

I went on adventures, I saw tombs, I was a chef for a day, I went horse riding and met some amazing people!

To say the least!

How did you play today?

#9 Benefits Of Children Playing In Groups

Children of all ages and stages love playing together in all sorts of ways for different reasons and to meet their individual needs.

Playing in groups comes naturally to us because as a race we are sociable and stick together for protection and to learn from each other.

Looking back you might remember playing with your siblings, cousins, friends and neighbours.

Whoever it was, you were interacting with them and learning how to function in this busy, hectic and wonderful world.

I remember going for long bike rides on the weekends with my brother, sister, my best friend and neighbours.

We would go to the park close(ish) to where we lived and ride down the hills, around the fishing pond, through the woods and along the river. We’d be gone all day and have to cross a few main roads to get there, which would be frowned on in today’s society.

If we fell and scraped our knee we’d brush it off and carry on. We’d go to the corner shop for sweets and take a packed lunch.

Get muddy. Laugh a lot. Cry sometimes…

Get annoyed at your brother for going too fast or at your friend for not going the route you wanted to go, but you’d work it out and have a great time!

We explored the world together, Carefree!

We helped each other, supported each other and had fun!

I encourage you to trust children to play with each other without constant adult supervision.

As long as they know you are there when they need you, they will reap so many benefits from this freedom and social interaction…

So here they are, my top ten advantages of children playing in groups (of other children):

#1 – Language

While playing with others children may hear language that they have not been introduced to previously and they’ll absorb this like a sponge!

The children they are playing with may have had a different upbringing, be further developed in their speaking or older and more experienced generally.

Either way, this is the most natural way for children to develop their language skills.

New vocabulary will continue to build daily as they are introduced to new experiences and surroundings with their peers.

Interacting in group play gives children time to experiment with this new acquired language and get feedback from their friends.

They will learn context, intonation, as well as humour and sarcasm…which I’m all for!

At around 3 years old (roughly – depending on their development and language abilities) children will start to mimic speech they have heard from adults.

(or anyone whose language is further developed)

Which sounds hilarious when you hear a 3 year old say “oh my, you gave me quite a fright there pickle”.

This mimicking of language helps children understand the world and how people communicate with each other in a polite or sometimes impolite manner, depending on how the people around them speak.

You might be thinking “ok, so I understand how playing in groups can benefit the lower level children, but what about the higher developed children?”

Children with a higher language ability will find that they need to articulate themselves in a certain way so that their lower level friends understand them.

This is a skill which is also learned in group play. This could help improve their own understanding of what they are trying to say and how to communicate more effectively with others.

#2 – Sharing

If a child doesn’t have siblings it might not be until they go to nursery (kindergarten) that they have to start sharing toys.

Learning to share is an important lesson when it comes to being accepted and integrating into society, your community and friendship groups.

Playing with other children and seeing their actions and reactions will show that if you want somebody to like you (which we all do), you have to be selfless sometimes and share.

The emotional development and friendships that this in turn may help to develop will be discussed further down.

When playing games in groups it will often involve some ground rules…

The ability to take turns and share will often be put into practice in games such as dominos, football and catch.

They rely on these basic skills.

If a child doesn’t want to share they may be excluded from the game and this will make them feel sad and isolated.

This feeling will likely stay with them and next time a similar opportunity presents itself they will hopefully remember that they should share.

Trial and Error!

Live and Learn!

Abiding by these rules will help them be accepted by their peers, into the game and therefore be able to play, learn and be happy

…everything that I’m about!

It is important as the adult not to interfere too much in these situations.

Obviously it isn’t nice to see a child upset, but the feeling of sadness is just as important as the feeling of happiness.

To keep them from this emotion is to keep them away from the learning experience that goes along with it and the personal growth they will get in turn.

#3 – Confidence

During play with children who are further developed in one way or another can be a motive for children to step up their game and try harder.

This competitive edge may help children to reach their full potential they weren’t aware they could reach, giving them a sense of achievement and confidence.

Through these other children they may also learn lessons they haven’t had the chance to experiment with and learn while playing independently.

All children have different experiences and playing together means they pass on knowledge and learn from each other.

The further developed child gains confidence by feeling proud of themselves for teaching another child and passing on their wisdom, and the other child gets the wisdom!

Not knowing that you could do something and then crushing it, is very empowering and makes you feel great!

No matter how similar we appear to be, we are all living our own lives and the smallest thing can make a big impact on our experiences and self-esteem.

I believe we all have a natural interest in others.

It can help us understand another point of view and why people act in different ways.

For example, if a child is raised in a Muslim household and that is all they have known in their community, they would benefit from going to a multicultural school or youth group where they can play with children from different cultural backgrounds.

This will give them the opportunity to learn about other cultures and religions directly from people their own age who follow different ways of life.

As well as being able to inform others of their own culture, experiences and traditions proudly!

(This will be discussed in #4)

When you feel comfortable and confident in yourself and your abilities, you are going to feel happy and relaxed

– No one likes to be stressed!

#4 – New Experiences

If you know me, you know I like everyone to be sure of who they are…

but also with a massive open mind too!

New experiences and ideas make you think and grow as a person

– That’s everyone, not just kids!

When playing with others, children can see different methods, cultures, foods, languages, religions, priorities and so much more.

It’s because of the people we meet and our interactions with them that we become aware of how much more there is out there.

More than what is in your house, school, and community or even country or continent

You get the picture

Variation in play opportunities is a world of wonder for a child.

Introducing our differences (even within our own culture) at an early age can help children realise that it is our differences that make our world such a fascinating and beautiful place.

Integration can teach children that even though they have a friend who is autistic, or colour blind or in a wheelchair, they still play, have fun and learn just like they do.

We are fundamentally all the same, human.

Sometimes new experiences and ideas can be confusing and hard to grasp.

When playing with others children can experiment and test boundaries in the safety of ‘play’.

Not all experiences are good, but it is equally as important to experience the bad along with the good.

Unfortunately life isn’t perfect, and children need to be prepared.

Through group play children can say things and ask questions, which some may perceive as rude or insulting, but are actually the child educating themselves and wanting to understand different ways of life and where their morals lay.

In order to know something is wrong you have to think about it and to an extent learn from experience.

We know that murder is wrong because we can empathise and we don’t want any harm to come to ourselves or others… but we don’t have to practice to know that it’s wrong.

You don’t have to learn twice not to touch fire!

#5 – Build Friendships

By playing with others, asking questions and getting to know different people, children will make friends.

It is one of the things I think adults miss about being children

-It seems they make friends very easily.

The truth is that children are less self-conscious, because they have no need to be.

Society hasn’t convinced them of what they should aspire to be yet.

They are also genuinely interested in people and with this shared curiosity they play

The best ice-breaker is play!

Some of these friendships will last a lifetime.

When I was 2 years old a boy called Luke moved next door and we soon became friends, as you do, and over time we became best friends. We were inseparable.

We would play together every day after school and every day during the holidays, along with our siblings and their friends.

He even came on holiday with me and my family. We’ve been through a lot together.

We had a paper round that we shared, when his parents moved to Oxford we would speak on the phone most nights and going to visit him was my first time traveling without my parents. I visited him again when he moved to Cornwall living in his trailer with all the dead flies, haha.

I cried at his wedding and have had the joy of meeting his first son and I can’t wait to meet the newest member of his family when I get back from Korea!

Even though we only see each other every few years as adults, true friendship doesn’t need to be validated every day. It’s just mutually known.

#6 – Team Work

As children play they are learning together and from each other, and working as a team.

When playing in a group children divide tasks based on preferences or ability.

There will be disagreements with both from time to time but this is all part of the process and children need to be given the chance to fight their corner and voice their preferences.

This is how children learn to negotiate.

Through observation of adults or peers they learn management and leadership skills.

However not everyone is a born leader.

We all have the potential but we don’t all have the drive, ambition, or emotional ability. Especially at a young age, and this is ok.

Part of being a team player is following instructions and doing what is best for the collective and not just yourself.

All members are equal and a good leader listens to all before making a decision, this is an important lesson to learn.

Children will quickly learn that if, as a leader if they don’t listen to all members of the group those people will not listen to them.

Working with others to achieve a common goal will give them a sense of accomplishment and pride that they can share and rejoice in together.

Being a team player is difficult at first because children are more self-involved, they have to be, it’s a survival mechanism to look out for number one.

This is until they learn empathy, which is one of the great advantages of children playing in groups with their peers.

They will see how their actions affect others.

When they see how they affect others positively, and their empathy grows along with positive reinforcement such as friendships and endorphins, they will have the confidence and ability to be a valuable member of the team, supporting and helping in group efforts.

#7 – Energy

Have you ever noticed that you can be at home all calm and cosy and then you go out with your friends and you have new found energy?

This is the same with children.

Generally speaking when children play in a group they will be more energetic because they have to speak louder to be heard. There are more personalities in competition with the spot-light. There are also more ideas and opinions floating around so the play is more likely to change direction quickly, both in aim and space.

As a result of this added energy children will sleep better and therefore learn more effectively as a result.

However it is also possible, like any of us, for children to burn out.

By this I mean expand too much energy and become lethargic. We can only go so long before we need to refuel.

This refuelling can be stopping for a quick snack and a drink or having some down time to play independently (Read this for the benefits of independent play) or taking a nap.

Generally speaking the older the child, the longer they can go without refuelling (but everyone is different).

#8 – Emotional Support

Remember me saying earlier that if I fell over and scraped my knee on our bike ride I would brush it off and carry on? That wasn’t before somebody had a look at it and said “ow, that must have hurt, are you ok?”

We were there for each other.

If anything serious had happened (which would happen from time to time)

I knew that someone would stay with me and someone would go and get help if it was needed… but usually I would just say “yeah, it’s not bleeding” and carry on (unless I was being a drama queen).

Being in a group and surrounded by their peers as they play will mean that, through the friendships they create, they will have an emotional support system with them.

Playing in a group can also help children with emotional management. When playing in a group children will not always get their own way and at times this will be frustrating.

On the other hand, children may also become over excited and use up all their energy. With experience and practice children will be able to learn self-control and be able to manage their emotions more easily and take themselves out of situations that become uncomfortable if possible.

#9 – Risk

I believe risk is vital in play.

Risk isn’t only about jumping from something high and hoping you don’t hurt yourself, it could also be going up to someone you haven’t spoken to before and starting a conversation.

The risk in this situation doesn’t seem to dangerous, right? But, any situation in which you don’t know the outcome and there is a chance it could end negatively is a risk.

Risk is important because getting out of your comfort zone is important, that is how you learn things, gain experiences and make friends.

Children are much better at this than adults, for reasons I have already mentioned…they have more self-confidence, etc.

When children play they will naturally test each other’s boundaries, as well as their own. This could be physically, educationally or emotionally. It is only through these challenges that we really know what we are capable of.

So the next time you want to intervene in a child’s play because it’s ‘risky’ think about how their play is benefiting them and how that relates to what you see as danger.

I hope you enjoyed reading this post, please share it with like-minded people and ask any questions you may have in the comments.

Last week I discussed the benefits of children playing independently so if you’d like to read that please click here.

This weekend I have been in Beijing, China!

I went to the Great Wall, had peaking Duck and visited the Forbidden City!

Magical.

This week I will be in Siem Reap, Cambodia!

Making memories, learning and playing around the world!

How did you play today?

https://www.facebook.com/Playismagic

#10 Benefits Of Children Playing Independently

Took myself out for a hike, nature is the best playground!

If a child is playing by themselves, it doesn’t mean they’re alone...

I’m not trying to set the scene of a horror movie here, I just believe that your own imagination and creativity can be equivalent if not more powerful than being in a room full of people.

This is because when children are playing in an appropriate and healthy environment for their developmental stage, they are free to explore and discover things for themselves through play.

For example if a 3 year old is free to roam around a garden they will discover different bugs and plants and therefore different textures, patterns and sounds.

When I talk about allowing children to play independently, I am not talking about sitting them in front of the TV…

Unwrap that cotton wool and let them explore!

I admit that TV can have great benefits in terms of education and entertainment; fuelling and encouraging children’s future play opportunities, but unless it is interactive, it doesn’t require them to truly play…therefore I’m not a fan.

As a child I would be sent to my bedroom if I was ‘naughty’.

Big mistake!

I loved being in my bedroom because a lot of my toys were there. I would happily stay in there and entertain myself for hours through independent play.

I had books, Barbie’s, cuddly toys, octagons, Lego, notebooks and pens and at one time or another, a hamster too…my entertainment was endless.

However, I was also sometimes sent to the bottom step on the stairs, ‘the naughty step’…that wasn’t fun.

I think maybe my Mum would choose my bedroom if it was her who was becoming short tempered and needed time to herself.

This is perfectly fine and happens to everyone.

You have to use your own judgement in the situation you’re in and know that no one is perfect and that perfect parenting simply doesn’t exist.

Forgive yourself!

The best thing you can do for a child is listen to them.

If a child wants to play independently, let them!

They know their own play needs better than anyone. If they feel like being in a quiet room alone, that may be because they’re feeling pressured or stressed or tired and need time by themselves to relax and restore themselves.

Let’s get into the benefits of children playing solo!

#1 – Independence

A benefit of playing independently is independence? What?! Obviously.

I know this seems like a cop out and an obvious benefit of independent play but it’s so important!

Children need to become comfortable with being alone.

I believe encouraging independence and self-awareness in young children is vital because with this, children are given the freedom to be in control of themselves, how they learn and who they become as people.

It is because of this, that if I was to give one piece of advice to anyone having a conversation with a child, it would be to aim to have the child walk away from you knowing

they have a voice that matters, to listen to others, but question ignorance.

Through independent play children get the independence they crave.

If you have ever watched a child play independently you will know what I mean when I say that they are literally small adults, but with one difference…

They are loving it!

They love doing things for themselves, learning from mistakes and celebrating small victories with pride.

It’s a joy to watch.

The small victories children love to celebrate will snowball into bigger victories that make up the foundation of who they are and what they do.

Being able to make their own decisions is a fundamental human right and as long as it’s safe, that right should not be taken away from anyone.

When a child is comfortable making their own decisions, they open themselves up to try new things and further their play, and therefore learning.

I genuinely believe that anyone who does themselves or a child ‘a favour’ by pouring the drink for them, because it’s quicker or saves making a mess, they are doing that child a huge injustice.

That adult is depriving that child of their independence, and in my opinion, they need to rearrange their priorities.

Let them thrive!

#2 – Imagination

Your imagination is your most powerful asset when it comes to play.

Anything is possible.

When children play alone there is no fear of judgment or dismissal. They are free to be whoever they want to be, do whatever they want to do and be as creative as they can.

When children play independently their imagination takes over and they will create things and scenarios to challenge themselves and discover new things.

Through this their imagination will grow and expand as they go on a journey of self-discovery while experimenting with the different spaces they are in.

With a cardboard box you have a car, spaceship, dinner table, office desk, cat basket, cauldron…

with a blanket you have a cape, dress, door, magicians reveler, magic carpet, picnic blanket, rope, headdress

…you get the idea.

Money is not an issue.

The only thing a child NEEDS to play is freedom and a few household objects to work with… they’ll do the rest.

Independent play is also a great way for children to get to know themselves; what they like and dislike.

Because as you know, you are the only person you can’t run away from.

#3 – Self-direction

Self-direction in play and therefor life, is vital.

You are in control of yourself and what you do.

If you’re passionate about something and believe in yourself, you can do it!

Self-direction is learned in childhood while playing independently.

You are the sole decision maker, your imagination is limitless and your only limit.

When you are alone no one is going to make you do something you don’t want to do or distract you from the play you’re trying to focus on.

You’re free to change course at any given moment, to try different things and methods without the influence of anyone else and the play needs that they have.

When someone asks me ‘Why’ I did something my favourite answer is “Because I wanted to” or “Because I felt like it”.

True, I would then elaborate, but I think it is important to do things because you have a genuine interest or spontaneous desire to do so.

If you do something because of a genuine interest you will get a sense of joy from the experience regardless of the outcome.

The process of ridding yourself of ignorance is fun.

This can only be done organically if you are in control of your own play and dictate what you do and how you do it.

You can also practice self-direction while playing one-to-one or in a group, however true self-direction isn’t influenced by anyone else and in a social situation you are naturally influenced by others.

This also applies to environment, children are going to be influenced by the environment they play in, but they control how you manipulate the space they’re in.

#4 – Self-reliance

Self-reliance and self-direction may seem similar, although they are actually very different.

Self-direction is related to the physical act of playing, whereas self-reliance is an emotional stability.

They each go hand in hand because when playing independently children are self-directing their play and therefore also being self-reliant.

It’s just you, yourself and your imagination to flourish as you see fit.

Having the emotional stability to be and play alone is one that comes naturally if you are given the opportunity to play independently as a child.

Without this opportunity or encouragement you are likely to become reliant on others and lack the know how to relish in your own creativity and be self-fulfilling as an adult.

Only having yourself to rely on makes play both simple and difficult.

-It makes it simple because there’s no argument or differing opinions.

-It makes it difficult because it’s all on you, and this can be overwhelming.

This is especially overwhelming to a child who is used to having their parent or sibling constantly by their side.

Developing self-reliance early can also help prepare children for their transition into school life.

As you know, children won’t always have a choice: they will sometimes have to work (play!) independently.

Self-direction, reliance and reflection all accumulate to form a child who is not afraid to fail, and that is the greatest gift of all because with failure comes knowledge.

#5 – Peace and quiet

Everyone needs time to themselves sometimes just to get some peace and quiet.

Children are no different.

They take in vast amounts of information all day every day and everyone needs time to relax in a calm, peaceful environment to absorb.

Children are often thought of as just ‘playing all day’, forgetting that…

As children play they are working!

Children are told what to do.

Often as a teaching mechanism.

However this, in my opinion, should not be constant. Children should be given time to make their own decisions and be their own boss and relax.

They are not only getting to know the world and the way it works, but themselves and how they fit into it.

Playing with something familiar or practicing something they already know during independent play will mean they can refocus. This will give them more drive and energy to go back and learn new things as a result.

As an adult you know that you only have so much steam and after a long hard week you have to take time to yourself. If it’s all go go go, you will burn out and your work will suffer.

The main point I want to make here is that children are no different from adults, it’s just that adults have a need to justify why they do everything.

#6 – Regulates Emotions

At some point everyone will find themselves in a situation where they feel angry, frustrated or on a positive note, ecstatic!

We then have the challenge of dealing with that emotion and asking ourselves how we should process it in a sufficient and healthy manner.

Finding a way to deal with these emotions or overcoming them is difficult, but through independent play children are given the space to do so.

This type of play regulates their emotions because there isn’t anyone there to dramatize it or diminish it.

The process children go through when these emotions arise, when they are alone, makes them easier to deal with over time.

They won’t have a choice but to practice personal patience.

This patience they learn for themselves will help them to be patient with others in the future.

Knowing how strong emotions can make you feel and can make you say and do things you wouldn’t usually do, can help children learn empathy.

This is turn may help them socially because they will show and teach empathy which is key in creating friendships with your peers, as well as connecting with siblings and other family members.

So basically it’s just a really cool and useful skill which makes you a better person to be around as well as making other people more bearable to be around.

#7 – Self-reflection

Self-reflection will occur naturally during independent play because nobody else is there to ask ‘how could it have gone better?’, ‘what could you do to improve next time?’ or ‘what went wrong?’

Humans are naturally inquisitive and children will ask themselves these questions without realising it throughout their play.

This self-reflection is beneficial because we all constantly make mistakes (yes, even you!).

Reflecting and bettering yourself emotionally and in your learning, for your own understanding, is a beautiful thing.

It is through self reflection that we can be truly happy with who we are and what we are doing, as well as being a key role in developing and giving children the ambition and thrive to improve and develop their skills.

Be the best you you can be!

#8 – The inner scientist

Given the time to play alone, chidren will bring out the inner scientist that lives within us all.

We all have an inherent thirst for knowledge and the only way to find things out for yourself is to experiment.

Not only is this the natural way we learn but it is one of the most effective.

If we go through the trials and tribulations to find out information for ourselves, we will be able to recall that information more easily.

I believe this is because of the feeling of pride we associate with the challenge that we have overcome in gaining the knowledge.

To clearly understand and take on board what we are learning, I believe that we should each use our own method of play as we see fit.

This method may change from day to day, or even hour to hour. Whatever play feels natural to you will most likely be the most effective for your learning and happiness (that’s the most important).

The alternative to this is just sitting at a desk being told information, which regrettably is how a large portion of most education systems operate…

Where there’s not enough play considering what the objective is…

#9 – Problem solving

#8 and #9 go hand in hand but ‘#10 Benefits of Independent play’ sounds better than #9.

When in scientist mode, children will become excellent problem solvers. This is, after all, what experimentation is all about; you have a problem, you do tests, you fail, you do more tests in different ways and keep going until you find a solution.

This method of learning is used throughout life and without alone time during childhood it may be more difficult to harness that “I can do it!” way of thinking, which with perseverance will turn into “I DID IT!”

Playing independently means children will have the opportunity to take in what they have previously learnt and practice.

Practice makes perfect and cliché’s are cliché’s for a reason.

Becoming a better learner is the best thing you can strive to be. If you can self-teach you have a gift that is invaluable.

It is during independent play that children are totally reliant on their own perseverance and resilience.

Through trial and error children learn.

#10 – Confidence

It is due to the other 9 benefits of independent play that confidence is also a benefit.

Being independent, self-reliant and directed, imaginative etc. gives you confidence. With this confidence you have the drive to continue to explore, discover and learn new things all the time.

The concept of confidence is strange to a child because they don’t know anything different from what they have personally experienced.

If a child is able to speak their mind and play freely, they will only know confidence.

However if I child is not allowed to speak their mind and unable to play in their own way without intervention, they only know dictatorship.

This sounds harsh and I know it isn’t this simple, but I feel very strongly about allowing children to find themselves and be themselves without any fear of judgement.

Tackling problems face on helps cognitive development and bypasses the need to ask for help when a problem is seemingly in their way.

The sense of self-fulfilment this creates is a powerful tool in building and maintaining a child’s confidence.

Why would I ask for help if I can do it myself?

Wrap it up!

Everybody needs to be selfish sometimes and concentrate on their own needs.

I loved playing independently when I was a child (and still do) because I’m in charge of how my play unfolds.

When playing with my siblings or friends this isn’t always the case.

Of course, regardless of the benefits, a child nor you can meet all your needs by playing independently, a healthy mix is ideal.

Luckily there are just as many benefits of children playing in a group or one-to-one as there are for them playing independently…

Next week I will be discussing the benefits of playing in a group!

I hope you enjoyed reading this post, please share it with like-minded people and ask any questions you may have in the comments.

This weekend I had some well deserved chill time! I watched Netflix and did odd jobs around my apartment.

Ever since I was a little girl I have always pretended to be Snow White when I’m cleaning!

It just makes it more fun!

(If not Snow White, then Marry Poppins)

How did you play today?

https://www.facebook.com/Playismagic/

#5 Benefits Of Children Interacting With Animals

Let’s start with a story that taught me many lessons…

We (my sister Jenny and I) had multiple hamsters when we were little.

We had a particular hamster called Kevin. One night he escaped from his cage and after weeks of searching he was nowhere to be found.

We’d lost hamsters before and found them again scurrying around our bedroom or downstairs after they’d been on what I presume was quite the adventure!

However, we called it a day and gave up. We went to the pet shop and got a new hamster, Perry. Shortly after, we heard a scuttling in the walls of our basement where we were playing…

You guessed it, Kevin was back!

After some TLC such as food, water and getting resettled into his cage, we introduced him to Perry, his replacement (oops!).

What we didn’t realise was that Kevin had been sexed wrong in the pet shop and was in fact a girl (she raised her tail showing she was ready to mate).

Our first priority was her name, obviously, she couldn’t be called Kevin, so she got renamed Kevinita, courtesy of Jenny.

My dad suggested breeding them, we loved this idea! We researched it together, set up the cage and they did the deed… twice!

We cared for kevinita through her pregnancy and she had eight tiny babies.

One thing I haven’t mentioned yet is that at this moment in time my brother, Tom, had a snake and two scorpions as pets…

Before the birth my Dad explained to us the circle of life (sing it!) and that in a snakes natural habitat it would have eaten rodents and other animals to survive.

We had agreed, when the time came, Tom could take one of the baby hamsters and feed it to his snake, and so we did…

When the babies were born we all went up to Tom’s room and watched him drop the newborn hamster in the snakes cage.

The snake eyed and pounced on his prey. Me and Jenny were all “eww” and “Oh my god!”

Tom thought it was “awesome” and Dad said “that’s life; you do the same when you eat meat, just indirectly”.

True. A valuable life lesson.

I made a special book with profiles on each of the remaining babies. I wrote their name, personality and drew a picture (using my proud collection of gel pens) for each.

We ended up keeping two (salt and pepper were their names, I think) and we took the rest to an independent pet shop because to quote my dad again…

“don’t you think it’d be nice for other kids to have them and be able to play with them rather than you have them all?”

Such a wise man.

Tom now has this handsome fellow!
Sorry for not having any hamster picture to hand!

Without further ado, here are 5 benefits of children interacting with animals:

#1 – Death

Learning about death isn’t easy at any point in life or through any means.

It’s therefore important to try and make it as easy to deal with as possible, if possible.

It’s also important to allow children to grieve in their own way and be there to comfort them if needed.

I’m one of many who grew up with animals in their home. We had a dog called ‘specks’ from before I was born.

When I was four I remember she started to poo in the house. My mum and dad said she had become ill and we needed to take her to be put to sleep.

They explained that because she was so old and she was in pain (which wasn’t going to end), it was kinder to let her die peacefully in her sleep rather than selfishly make her live in pain because we were scared to say goodbye.

This situation is ideal when it comes to children learning about death because as the adult you can explain why the animal is going to die and the child knows when it is going to happen.

In reality we can’t foresee when a pet or family member is going to die or how it will happen.

The advantage of dealing with this subject with a pet is that some animals don’t live very long and so you can guarantee that the child will have to deal with their loss and grieve within the next few years or months.

This sounds awful right?

Why would you purposely want to upset a child?

This experience is one that they will be forced to deal with sooner or later.

If you are there to comfort them and listen to their unanswerable questions, they will build resilience and begin the life long journey of understanding this harsh fact of life.

You can also use this as a bonding opportunity. Emotional support will help children to feel safe.

For more information about dealing with the subject of death with children, I recommend “Ask a mortician” on YouTube. She is funny, interesting and deals with this subject (in relation to children) in a couple of her videos.

You can check her out here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LUpMPAiyHkI

You’ll also find that the opportunity to talk about death is all around.

These two frogs were happily trying to make babies one day and the next day I found them like this.

#2 – Responsibility

I’m a big believer in encouraging independence and free choice for children, but this isn’t always possible.

You wouldn’t be doing them any favours if you let them stay up until 3am, eating sweets and turning up late for school.

Most aspects of a child’s life are dictated by adults; what time they sleep, eat, go to school…

Even what clothes they wear and their hair cut.

A pet can give children a sense of responsibility which is greater than “can you set the table for me, please?”.

If a child has a pet, they’ll begin to understand that their actions can directly influence the life of another creature.

Knowing the animal they have is completely reliant on them to meet their basic needs will allow children to develop their independence and emotional development.

In the same way you do for their needs, they now have the opportunity to experiment with this themselves, in a controlled environment.

Choosing an appropriate animal and experiencing the joy with them, you can empower children while also having your own bonding experience with them.

Through you, they will also learn compassion.

If children are shown and witness compassion they are more likely to show the same treatment to others.

It is therefore important to model the compassion you expect them to show animals.

#3 – Education

You don’t have to own a pet and have it in your home for children to be surrounded by animals.

Step into your garden, the street or beach. Animals are everywhere.

Korea is full of interesting bugs!

Pick them up, research them; Ask questions: What do they eat? Where and when do they sleep? How many varieties of their species are there? What sounds do they make? Read books. Draw pictures. Go to the zoo. What animals are native to our country? What animals aren’t and why?

When I was about nine years old my mum bought us a hedgehog house.

We loved it!

We had seen a hedgehog at the bottom of our garden before and so we thought giving it a house was lovely.

As if all other hedgehogs were homeless and roaming the streets.

We would be able to see and play with it!

My mum had told us not to touch it and that it was probably scared of us, because to him we were like giants.

But we couldn’t resist.

When we found a hedgehog inside the special house we had built and positioned, we had to gently touch it, and guess what…

They’re really spikey!

I remember being fascinated and thinking their spikes were so much thicker and stronger than I imagined.

In books and from afar they look kind of soft, and they’re definitely not!

It squeezed itself up into a ball and reminded me of when I touched snails and they would hide inside their shell for protection.

These are the play experiences that children remember; it was just me and my sister at the bottom of our garden with our new temporary hedgehog friend.

My mum had enabled the play by remembering that we had seen a hedgehog and bought the house

(she probably saw it on sale).

Other than that, no adult interaction was needed. We were educating ourselves through our own play and unrestricted curiosity.

The number of species of animal is vast.

Me and my monkey friend in Malaysia!

There is bound to be one that sparks the interest of your child, whether it’s because they’re fascinating, gross, cute, funny or a combination.

By opening this door of many possibilities to children, they could find the thing they’re most passionate about.

My dad grew up fascinated by animals and it wasn’t until he reached high school that he found his love of art and changed his career path.

The exact opposite can be said for my brother, he’s fantastic at art and thought that was his path until…high school, and he decided that he wanted to pursue a career working with animals.

They’re both still fascinated, talented and knowledgeable in both art and animals to this day but without the opportunities and encouragement Tom had he may not have found his passion.

#4 – Exercise

This benefit is quite self-explanatory.

If a child has a dog which needs to be walked twice a day…

(or volunteers at a dog rescue home and walks the dogs there)

…they are going to get exercise that they potentially wouldn’t have had otherwise.

If a child has a routine that centres on physical activity, and therefore physical play, they will reap many benefits!

Don’t worry; children can also get exercise without a dog!

Go outside and find mini beasts, look for different birds, walk around the park, see how many animals you can find; how many species, colours, sounds.

Lemon lime adventures has an ‘animal walks’ exercise which is similar to yoga.

You can check it out here: https://lemonlimeadventures.com/animal-walks-sensory-diet

Pops and pad chillin’ after a playful afternoon!

#5 – Companionship

A pet is a valuable way of tackling loneliness in everyone…

but today we are focusing on children…

I believe that all children need time to play alone, I have a post on this coming your way!

However children, like adults, can feel lonely. This is more obvious although not limited to children who don’t have siblings…

Animals are beneficial for companionship for children with and without siblings.

Some would argue that because animals can’t speak they can’t change the direction of a child’s play.

This may mean children can play with animals and still get the full benefits of solo play.

When I was 6-9 years old I used to pretend that I had a dog, I would use two soft toy dogs.

I would pretend to take them for a walk, feed them and speak to them.

Having a dog to tell my deepest secrets was all I could think about…

Which at 7 is either I stole a chocolate bar from the cupboard, a boy chased me in the playground or someone was bullying me again.

The security of getting these things off my chest and knowing that it couldn’t be told another soul meant that we would have a bond like no other.

The lack of judgement and believing that they would understand exactly what I was going through, regardless of the reality, was remarkable to me.

Reflecting on this has made me realise I was, in my own way, showing that I wanted companionship that can only be found in an animal.

I then created this experience for myself, which is one of the great benefits of play.

I can hear you thinking “so you don’t need to buy children pets just get them a toy dog and they’ll do the rest themselves?”

That’s one way to look at it…

But that would mean disregarding the other priceless benefits of caring for and bonding with animals…

and through that, bonding with people.

Jenny and the late and great Pebble!

I believe that along with these 5 benefits there are many more.

For example, children and adults can feel safe, have a new appreciation of life and the world they live in via their interactions with animals.

We can marvel at how miraculous it is, with its different environments, plants and creatures.

This isn’t just our world.

Mummy feeding her kittens in Haman, Korea!

Through learning about animals and taking care of them, you will naturally take care of the planet.

If you like animals (and I doubt you would have made it this far if you didn’t) you know that there is a joy you have when you are around them that is precious.

Watching them grow, teaching them tricks, taking care of them, hugs and kisses. This is why #1 is so difficult; it really is like losing a friend.

But there’s no question about it…the joy is well worth the grief.

Please keep in mind that I am speaking as a British person and there are very limited dangerous animals in our country. If you are from a country with dangerous animals around please be cautious!

Me and Lyn, Jenny’s snake!

I hope you enjoyed reading this post, please share it with like-minded people and ask any questions you may have in the comments.

Did you have pets or animals around you as a child?

(Let’s hear some funny stories!)

Wrap it up!

This weekend I went to Geoje Island for the first time!

It was cloudy and raining on and off but I wasn’t going to let that get in the way of us playing in the sea!

I sculpted a mermaids tail in the sand (which I then tripped over because I made it too close to our table, haha)

The island its self is beautiful!

The following day the weather showed us just how magical it is!

So much nature, so much green and lots of animals flying about!

How did you play today?

Adults Need To Play Too!

Play is everything, we all do it, all the time!

This concept came to me from my Dad, an artist, who once told me “everything is art”. And it is… If you choose to see it that way, which I do!

I believe art is play, they are the same thing.

Playworkers define play as “Freely chosen, personally driven and intrinsically motivated.” – PlayScotland

Art is defined as “something that is created with imagination and skill and that is beautiful or that expresses important ideas or feelings.” – Webster’s Dictionary, 2018

Play and art are creative outlets which can be executed using different mediums and tools. I think it’s safe to say they would still exist if they weren’t being observed, judged and evaluated.

In fact, I would argue that if you remove observation, judgement and evaluation you have them in their purest forms.

They are a human need.

Children’s play and adults’ play: are they different?

In some ways, yes.

However the reasoning behind it is exactly the same: to enjoy life, learn and develop.

An example of adult play could be gambling.

When you hear the word ‘gambling’ you probably think of a casino in Las Vegas, smart suits and skimpy dresses, with bad hangovers and wasted money.

This is all true. However adults ultimately gamble to fuel adrenaline, you take your chances and see what happens.

Wait for the rush!

Any situation in which you don’t know the outcome but invest anyway is a gamble!

Children do this all the time!

-Can I jump from here to there without falling?

-When I mix two different colours of play dough what colour will it make and will they be mixed forever?

-If I shout at you will you stop playing with me?

Many methods of ‘adult play’… that you would in no way associate with children, can be translated into a child’s world.

Especially when it comes to why the play is taking place.

  • Adults use alcohol to change their mood; children use sugar.
  • Adults play cards against humanity to laugh with friends; children play snap.
  • Adults go to clubs to find companionship; children go to the park.

They’re all fundamentally the same.

When you’re a child you play with sand and you add water.

You see and feel the differences in texture, colour and consistency. You want to do it again and again to see if it happens every time.

It’s like magic.

You can make patterns and shapes, you can manipulate it differently in each form and it’s interesting to touch… just by adding water!

Me playing at Haeundae beach, Korea!

I don’t know about you but I still love going to the beach. I love playing in the sea and in the sand; splashing, digging holes, building sandcastles and sculptures, decorating them with shells.

The only difference between an adult enjoying these activities and a child is that to a child it’s new, they often want to take it further, and test it.

When a child is free to take it further and test it, they’re in a world of their own exploration.

Is there more it can do?

If we add glitter and feathers and paint and glue, what will we get?

A boring adult might answer “a mess, you get a big mess”.

In reality you get a creation, a potion, a medicine, or a stew.

Your imagination is your only limitation.

Why do many adults see play as a diminutive act?

Alas, society flicks its wand and to a certain extent, we all conform. That’s life.

According to western society we have a list of things we need to achieve and if we don’t we’re lacking some part of the big picture.

Before I go into a list of clichés I have to say the world is changing and I don’t believe the following list is guaranteed to make you complete or happy. You can probably tell by how it’s written…

(But I also appreciate the need for stability, money and love which these things can provide.)

How to be a functioning member of society:

  • Decide what you want to do FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE, as young as possible. Preferably academic or at least high paid with little risk.
  • Prove you’re a good test taker by getting high grades in school.
  • Get into debt by going to university.
  • Get a job straight out of university and pay back the acquired debt with a job that may or may not have actually required you to have said degree in the first place.
  • Get married – Preferably to the opposite sex.
  • Get in more debt with a mortgage – buy a house.
  • Be the epitome of health.
  • Have children and expect the same conformity from them.
  • When you’re old and useless; sit quietly in a room and don’t make a fuss, until you die and your hard-earned (and taxed) cash – which is now your children’s inheritance – can be taxed yet again.

I could go on, in a never-ending list of contradictions and stereotypes.

That’s just how the world goes ‘round, right?

NO!

The only reason I say NO! so dramatically is that no two people are the same, so this idealised life we’re taught to adhere to isn’t going to make everyone happy.

It could in fact make you miserable and forget what actually makes the world go ‘round: Science.

Just kidding, it’s PLAY, obviously it’s play!

The beauty of play in childhood is that you don’t realise you’re playing because it’s so natural.

I think we need to carry this on as adults more mindfully.

If play is natural then that must mean we are taught to stop playing…

We are told to stop doing something that’s inherent to us as humans, not even as humans, but as living beings; all species play.

Yet, we are the only species to shame it as we age. Why?

If we learn through play yet discourage play after a certain age, in a way, aren’t we discouraging learning?

As an adult I have a different and fresh appreciation of events in my childhood.

I love being with my family and talking about things we did and places we visited ‘back in the day’. 

The conversation would end by saying “I’m gonna do that with my kids, it was so much fun!” or “We should go back and do it again!”

I think we sometimes forget the things we once did could still be happening if we just did them!

How can I hold on to the joy of play in adulthood?

Look back on your childhood and see yourself through their eyes…

Would they like you?

Would they be excited to spend time with you?

You are still that person – you’ve just had more experiences. Let your experiences shape you for the better, without losing your inquisitive love of life.

I have another list of clichés for you. A few do’s and don’ts for embracing the joy of play:

  • Embrace natural pleasures. Just being outside could fill you with joy; fresh air, sunshine, birds singing, trees that need climbing and stones to be skimmed.
  • Make time to do nothing. Do what you enjoy, what you feel like. Take time away from ‘the man’ (this term is used to describe society’s harsh demands and is in no way sexist… men are lovely).
  • Be more spontaneous. Life is often very structured and there is an appointed time for everything. Once in a while just say “let’s go on a drive” or “let’s go to the park” – and actually go. Have an adventure!
  • Don’t take yourself too seriously. Laugh at yourself. You will enjoy life so much more. Just trust me. I make fun of myself way more than anyone else. Some people test that statistic, but I win every time and in more ways than one because I’m happy, I know and embrace my flaws.
  • Don’t spend time thinking about other people. By this I mean don’t spend your time thinking about what other people are thinking about you or what they want of you. Say it with an attitude: you do you, flaws and all. Those that love you will love you because of those things or regardless of them.
  • Find your passion! Just keep trying different things that seem cool until you get that light-bulb-moment of… ‘Ah, ok, yeah…this is it’. You might never find it and that’s fine. Just learn as much as you can.

These things can be hard to achieve, but it’s possible!

What’s more important to you:

-Being a genuinely happy person or having a million likes on Instagram?

-Having a happy and healthy child or what the neighbour thinks about your parenting?

You could have it all, but you still have to prioritise and work on what’s important to you.

Some may say adults don’t need to play because they’ve learned everything they need to learn through play.

False.

We are constantly learning and therefore playing!

Play is anything you do for fun, anything you do because you’re fascinated or curious.

Why is it that if you see two women in their mid 40’s sitting in a café chatting, they’re having a catch up, but if you saw two 8-year-old girls doing the same thing they’re playing?

It’s your own perception of what is taking place, try to see it for what it is.

Are the two older women playing or the two young girls having a catch up?

Free tip: You could get home from work and watch a few hours of TV… OR you could go to a class and learn something new. Take a drive to a place with no one around and watch the sky change. Go bowling with your friends or to a new restaurant for dinner or simply take a walk.

The list is endless.

As I said at the beginning, I believe that “we all do it, all the time” (we play).

I think it’s the word itself some people have a problem with rather than the act.

Which makes sense…

The definitions of words as broad as play or art are perceived differently person-to-person and that’s ok… as long as you’re aware of your biases.

I am biased because I love to play, I also love learning about play and the many different aspects of it (risk, psychology, health, disability and social interaction – just to name a few).

So, I’ve set up camp in my bias bubble, but it’s transparent and I invite you to come and share your biases and we can learn and understand each other.

Wrap it up!

Play is just as apparent and complex in adults as it is in children. It’s just that adults are (generally speaking) less open minded and have lots of opinions, which combined with a ‘my way or the high way’ attitude is a quick way to end a potentially great conversation.

If you don’t take yourself too seriously and unwind, you will be happier, less stressed and free to play!

As my sister would say “get over yourself”!

Do what makes you happy, learn as much as you can, listen to other peoples stories and share your own!

I hope you enjoyed reading this post.

Please share it with like-minded people and ask any questions you may have in the comments, let me know what you think.

Me in my happy place!

Yesterday I went to ‘Ilbung-sa’, which is a temple in my town, Uriyeong, and my favourite place to go in korea.

I saw beautiful lilly pads, architecture, paintings and people showing their respects.

The art work is incredible, the statues and wood work are all carved and painted my hand.

It blows my mind every time I go!

I like to lie down on the floor of my favourite temple and marvel at the intricate design of the ceiling and the stories it tells.

I also saw a group of monks perform a ceremony for the people there. The drums and chanting were calming and surreal.

How did you play today?