Jeff (my husband) and I had a very nice weekend, with a particularly great day on Sunday. The weather here in Houston was gorgeous: blue sky, sunny, cool, and with little humidity (a rarity here). We went out for breakfast and decided to go for a walk in Hermann Park. We ended up exploring a new piece of art in the park Boogie Woogie, a house-like sculpture made of bent saplings by artist Patrick Dougherty. We rented a paddle boat, said hello to the ducks, and used our zoo membership to walk over and see my favorite animals, the elephants. It felt like such a perfect day, and it made me think again about my own need to play.
A little over a year ago, I participated in an awesome weekend training with the Life Is Good Playmakers and became a certified Playmaker. It was a wonderfully restorative weekend filled with play, research-based justification of the importance of play, and best of all, connection with other child life specialists. We learned simple group games to bring kids together, gentle yoga postures and breathing exercises (that are still fun!), and got to connect with “our inner kid”. One of the powerful things I took away from Playmaker training is that “you can’t give what you don’t have”. In other words, in order to promote playfulness, exploration, spontaneity, joy, and gratitude in children, I have to honor and cultivate those things within myself. I have to practice self-care. I have to play, and laugh, and feel deeply, and learn new things, and love the “things” I have (family, friends, moments, mementos, opportunities…).
I knew that before the training, but it presented a great opportunity to really reflect on self-care and playfulness in my life. In addition to learning about play, for the certification I had to create a Playfulness Plan for myself. What was I going to do to bring more playfulness and joy into my life? I’m going to admit that I haven’t followed through with everything from my Playfulness Plan from last year. But, I love the concept and it gives me even more motivation to give the spirit of playfulness more focus this year. So, I’m refreshing my playfulness plan for 2014. A few of my playfulness goals:
- Be outside. Take time each day to enjoy being outside, even if it is just a quick walk or a few moments sitting in the sun.
- Practice gratitude. End the day thinking of at least 3 things I’m grateful for, things that made me happy or brightened my day, or moments that made me think.
- Photograph what I notice. I want to document more of what I find beautiful and the things that make me smile. The goal isn’t to get “the perfect shot” or to spend more time documenting than participating. Rather, I want to use taking a photo as an opportunity to slow down for a moment, be mindful of my attention, and recognize something I am enjoying. My phone has a camera, why not use it?
- Play! I want to do something each week that feels playful, creative, and rejuvenating. I’m not going to split hairs and stick to a strict definition of an activity as “play” or “not-play”. If it is done in the spirit of playfulness, is expressive, helps me feel connected to others, is creative, is calming, or brings me joy, it counts.
If you want to create your own playfulness plan, here are a few questions to help you get started:
- What did you enjoy playing as a kid? What games, toys, outdoor play, activities or pastimes made you happy?
- What hobbies or activities do you enjoy now?
- What helps you feel connected to others? What makes you feel engaged?
- What brings you joy? What makes you laugh?
- What brings you comfort in difficult times?
- What do you enjoy about yourself? What can you do to bring out those strengths?
- What helps you feel silly or carefree?
- What helps you (or when do you) feel centered and calm? What connects you to your spiritual side?
- What is something you are excited to explore or learn more about?
- What do you enjoy sharing with others?
I’d love to hear what brings playfulness to your life!