Saturday, February 1, 2014

Role Modeling Play: Letting Loose


Laugh and Your Child Laughs With You


Simon says "Live-Laugh-Love"
Think back for a moment of pure childlike joy as a youth. Perhaps it was racing bikes through a field or playing whiffle ball in a random made-up 'park' or playing 'hide & seek & tag' at night. I did all these many times. The last one we called "Capture The Flag", using plastic bowling pins as the flags. There were prisons, 'free' bases and other rules we made up all agreeing to... pretty exciting!

Research shows that spontaneous play in youth helps us deal with life's challenges, innovate, think more creatively, and have, of course, tons of fun! In his book, Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul, Stewart Brown says not only can play be beneficial, it's actually essential. He states, "The opposite of play is not work, the opposite of play is depression".


What Is Play?

Mr. Puppet made me pee, again
Play is something done for its own sake, it's voluntary making it inherently attractive. The player (s) experience a freedom from time and tend to lose track of his self consciousness, opening himself up to improvisation; and is left wanting more. This is similar to the "Flow" experience in 'Creating Concentration'. Play seems to help the brain adapt and improvise with any, even unexpected, challenges. Adults become more responsible, more empathetic, more productive by honoring human being's play nature.

Leading with Open Mindedness

Some of the best leaders and highest achievers in business, science and the arts have some of the richest histories of play throughout their lives. Either through their parents, or through their own initiative, many successful people maintain a thread between early natural play tendencies and what they do in their adult life. In fact, work and play become virtually nonexistent. This is what is meant by "If you do what you love, and you do it well, you can't lose" (Papa Green Bean's high school senior yearbook quote). 

Nothing like a good feather!
Larry Page & Serge Brin, founders of Google, both went to Montessori schools. They credit their early freedom, "It was part of that training of not following rules and orders, and being self-motivated & questioning what's going on in the world & doing things a little bit different". Getting to the root of play means reawaking that child like sense of seemingly endless curiousity. In the creative process, it is important to build on top of ideas rather than shutting them down. That is something children do naturally.

Childlike 'Pretend' Play Unfettered 

Being shut down from 'horsing around' in youth is detrimental to a persons long-term health. Some times play is scorned by adults, because it is not "useful" or it is too silly. Play deprivation has negative consequences for a person's mental well-being. When adults enjoy playing with children, especially 'pretend play', it provides a happy context for positive adult-child interaction, a very important contributor to children's healthy development. It also creates an incredibly strong and unique bond between the adult and child that lasts a lifetime. I know, this is my approach with young children every time, and it works magic. Activities such as marbles, blocks, tag, kite-flying, clay, nature explorations, climbing trees and capture the flag are all exercises in resourcefulness, planning, strategy, design, decision-making, creativity and risk-taking. 

Papa Green Bean Conclusion

I'd like to know what's so funny!
Your head creates your child. The images through which you perceive a child will be sensitively picked up by the child and will play a large part in how they react to you. Modeling games of imagination, like play acting or singing and making up your own fun lyrics shows empathy from the child's perspective.  Encouraging light heartedness with outrageous humorous reactions allows the child to make their own 'outside the box' games and create their own funny ideas without hesitation. Cooperation with other children becomes easier when the child is around flowing, higher consciousness adults, who regard the child's needs as they would their own. Children are very sensitive mirrors. Surrounded by peaceful, loving, laughing parents, they will grow into adulthood with a lifestyle that flows in the here and now situations of life, knowing deep in their being that life's playground will always bring whatever is needed for happiness.

Live - Love - Laugh, Papa Green Bean