P is for Play …
I remember once when my eldest daughter was young, she said to me (in a very matter-of-fact manner) that she didn’t want to grow up because it’s boring – Grown-ups don’t play. Two things came from this statement, firstly I made sure she saw me enjoying life a bit more! But also I got to thinking about PLAY.
Children play, puppies play, kittens play… actually lots of animals play… it’s the most common way for the young to learn how to live in their group. Did you know that adult lions will roar as if in pain, to encourage the young cubs to keep attacking when they play fight?
We have a kitten and a pup at home who are great believers in the benefits of play… usually at a rate of 50 kph running across the room after each other. while we’re watching a movie. But pup also like to play with her tiger toy. A soft toy that I didn’t think would survive a week of puppy chewing, but it’s her favourite and is still without holes four months later.
I know adults have fun, they play their sports and partake in their hobbies, and that’s great… but never under-estimate the value of good old-fashioned goofing off with mates! Or with your children! In fact, having children can be the opening to the opportunity to put sensible grown up behaviour to one side occasionally and really have some silly fun. (Most of us spend our youth trying to be ‘oh, so grown up’ and it’s not until we are grown up that we realise what a treasure that youth was!)
Playing pranks on someone is hilarious in the right crowd… I know this because I have the right crowd. And on occasion we really do entertain the rest of the carriage on our train… it can’t be too bad though cos we’ve not been asked to settle down, and in fact, we often catch a glimpse of a nearby passenger watching our antic with amusement: my theory is that if you can cause a smile on another person, you’re doing alright.
Our train crowd is awesome, and it’s begun to spill over… we’re a happy bunch who didn’t know each other well until we started getting together on the train. When you spend an hour sitting with people you can’t help but start to talk … there were little groups in regular spots, and slowly but surely we all started to mingle… some people go to the pub after work for an hour to wind down… we do it on the train. It’s licensed and has tables so we are pretty comfy!
Playing ‘silly beggars’ as my dad used to call it, is all about remembering to instil a bit of fun in your life. Splashing my husband then running away, when we walk on the beach… him ‘hiding’ behind a lamp-post to jump out at me… making fun of a friend in the right way – the way that means you know you’re mates! One of the train crowd will make a pun, and we’ll all try to carry it on… a play on the pronunciation of a word, or a part of grammar, is especially funny when you put our lot together. I’ll explain, there was an American, a South African, English, Irish and Welsh, all mixed together with various kiwi mixtures. It sounds like a joke already! Accents and origins give us plenty of fuel to taking the mickey out of each other.
Play is clearly a great learning tool: mums and dads play peek-a-boo with their new baby and that in itself teaches so much. Playing with blocks or lego is fun but also teaches colours, balance, spacial awareness and fine motor skills. Your child wouldn’t even learn to walk without some sort of encouragement, and that is often in the form of games.
So it’s not only a learning tool, but also is invaluable as a bonding time, and that goes for older relationships too. From school age children, teens, right through to adults, socialising amidst some sort of ‘play’ activity is the best way to bond and form relationships.
Play also has another very important role in life. Therapy. I knew a kid once whose home had been badly damaged by a fire, he’d lost a lot of toys and stuff… for the next few months or so his play centred around firemen, and although his mum was concerned by the ‘violence and damage’ in his play (all built building would get broken down, Ken and Barbie toys would have to crawl through carnage, and any black toys were promptly labelled as burnt in the fire) his mum would leave him to act out his thoughts and feelings… he came through the experience unharmed, and his play took a new direction after a while. However his older brother didn’t express his feelings, mum would try to get him to talk about it, but he was a bit ‘cool’. He came through it all okay but it did take a lot longer. His school work suffered a little whereas his younger brother carried on fairly evenly except for all pictures ending up with black and yellow crayon over the top obliterating everything. His therapy was evident through his play.
Do you realise when you laugh, your body releases endorphins, these are the feel-good hormones and a burst of these can really brighten your mood for the day. In my mad household I would tell my kids (and husband) that they needed a tickle if they were having a grumpy day… as little kids I’d play with them often and a favourite game was after bathtime… I’d be drying them and suddenly look at them and say ‘What’s that?’ and point, they would look and find nothing, I would point closer, poke them in the ribs and ‘Oh! It’s a tickle!’ We laughed often. Even today, when my beloved and I have a grumble at each other, if the feeling lingers one of us will say “you need a tickle!’ it does work!
There’s nothing quite as invigorating as a walk in autumn, all rugged up against the chill… and running through a pile of pile of dry leaves, or throwing handfuls at each other… and who can resist making a snowman and having a snowball fight?
You might notice I haven’t mentioned the kind of games you play on the computer or a gaming machine… that’s because they just don’t have quite the same effect. You need to get off your bum, interact with people, breathe the fresh air, run and jump and dance if you like… but the kind of play that really works is the kind that is hands on, and physically involving. Good old-fashioned board games have enough group interaction to be worthwhile, like Risk (which one daughter was far too good at) and Cranium which is a mixture of Pictionary (hilarious especially if you’re not very good at drawing) and Trivial Pursuits which is fun and clever!
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my blog… now get up and go outside to play!