saw the title, the answer I got from my subconscious without hesitation was "to play".
What children want is to play.
There's plenty of evidence out there that playing is brilliant for our children's development. Problem solving, critical thinking, imagination, self expression - these are all skills our children develop through play. There's a great article on Imaginative Play here which is worth a read. And it's not just the fluffy, creative side that's stimulated by play (as hugely important as this is). Beau Lotto's TED talk on science as play is another great example of the importance of playful curiosity.
"What children want is to play."
The importance of play and allowing our kids to be creative and playful in all of their learning is something that we've been increasingly aware of in our family as we considered and then committed to home education over the last year. We want our kids to stay in love with learning, to stay curious and to keep exploring the amazing and diverse world we inhabit. Learning together as a family has been so enriching and fun so far, and long may it continue.
I've wondered to myself this week - when is it that we get all serious about life? Many of us lose that sense of playfulness somewhere along the way to adulthood. Maybe it's the strain of exams, or the pressure of a finding and keeping a job to support our family.. whatever it is, at some point we seem to lose that natural sense of "play" and settle for the daily grind.
This may not be something we choose to do - sometimes life's circumstances force us to grow up too soon. When I spent time in South Africa recently with Ten Thousand Homes, many of the kids the charity spent time with had lost their parents to HIV Aids and had been forced to look after their younger siblings in child-headed households. We gave these kids a "day of royalty" on the TTH base where they could step outside of their responsibilities for a few hours and just play and have fun. It was a moving, tiring and memorable day.
When do we consign our dreams and passions to the trash can and start being all "grown up"? What dreams have you put down as too childish? Are there areas in your life that have got too serious? Maybe life's circumstances knocked the fun and playfulness out of your life.
An area where I got far too serious for far too long was in my songwriting. As a teenager and then at University I tried to write deep, meaningful and world changing songs, but if I'm honest most of the time I'd get halfway through one, beat myself up for it not being perfect and crumple the paper tearfully into the bin (sometimes literally).
"..are there areas in your life that have got too serious?"
After completing my serious Engineering degree I spent six months travelling with my guitar in South Africa, America and Canada, and wrote an epic amount of songs - somehow recovering my sense of playfulness. I had nothing to lose, plenty of time to fill, and to my surprise produced some really good tunes! This playful and productive period culminated in my first album "Songs for the Kitchen" (copies available on request, in fact I reprised my favourite song from the album as recently as last weekend at an event I played at).
Funnily enough, upon returning from my round the world trip and starting "real" work, my songwriting dried up, and in the next decade I only produced about half a dozen songs. I'd gotten far too serious.
One day last year I stumbled across a book in Waterstones called The Frustrated Songwriter's Handbook. The book practically jumped off it's shelf and hit me in the face (I think this was a God-moment). Guess what the book encourages? Yes you guessed it - playfulness in songwriting as a means to break out from self-imposed rules, shackles and general writers' block.
Earlier this year, while my beautiful family were away visiting relatives, I spent an "immersion" day songwriting.
Just fun - and ideally 20 songs.
I jammed and created and recorded from 7am to 7pm, on the piano, guitar, mandolin and banjo. I just played and played, ending up with 16 quirky and.. dare I say it.. great songs!
More output than the entire last 13 years put together, and whilst some were genuinely bonkers (a banjo based sea shanty, a mandolin-powered ode to our allotment), others were surprising beautiful and inspired - songs to treasure for each of my kids and for my wife.
I was staggered at what could happen when I stopped taking myself so seriously and just let myself play.
So what do you need to stop working so hard at this week? Where do you need to be more playful?
Let your hair down, take off your self imposed shackles.
"I was staggered at what could happen when I stopped taking myself so seriously and just let myself play."
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If you want to read more about giving your dreams more space to grow then I'm pleased to say that I hope to have a book out in December on Kindle, ready for Christmas, so watch this space!