New Years Resolution - Be more playful

You may ask how, at this time, we can talk about playfulness.

I would argue that now is when we need playfulness more than ever.

Play in a time of trial

2020 has been a hard year and here in the UK it looks as though the beginning of 2021, with covid19 still rife, things are not going back to normal very quickly.

A glance at social media is enough to show just how much fear there is out there. People are worried for their livelihoods, worried for their health and their loved ones. Everybody is fed up of staying in and missing normal social interaction. There are grandparents who’ve never yet held grandchildren, and families who are worried they may not get to hug an elderly relative before it’s too late.

You may ask how, at this time, we can talk about playfulness.

I would argue that now is when we need playfulness more than ever.

How to be more playful in 2021

Playfulness is about finding the joy in the everyday. It’s about allowing creativity to flourish and its about making life more fun for everybody around you.

01

If it makes you smile – go for it!

If something makes you smile, embrace it. That pink metal flamingo that makes you smile every time you see it on the market stall? Buy it, put it in your garden. It will make you smile every time you look out the window. If you love that purple top or those rainbow knickers – wear them! As the Wiccans say “An it harm none, do what ye will.” Provided what makes you smile doesn’t cause any harm or problem to anybody – go for it! If you love chocolate, even if your other New Year resolution is to be healthy – buy a really high quality chocolate and have a little nibble. The happiness you get from it will more than compensate a few extra calories. Where possible – follow your whims!

02

Make contact with people

You can absolutely be playful on your own, but humans are social animals. Make plans that involve being playful with others, even if that involves video calls rather than face-to-face interaction.  Set up an online Escape Room or online game or quiz that you can do together. Create a funny family video to send to family. Make plans for the family holiday, get-together or party that you will enjoy when Covid releases its grip on the world.

03

Work Playfully

Working looks very different for different people – housework, studying, voluntary work, factory work, outdoor work, office work, management, shop work – you name it, we do it. Let’s make our working lives more playful and enjoyable. Whether that’s by singing (think of sea shanties), by incorporating something light-hearted (we all know somebody who likes to wear a different silly hat to each Zoom meeting), by gamifying our work (rewards and “levels”) or by encouraging more creativity in the workplace. We can make our working lives both more productive and more pleasurable by injecting a little playfulness.

04

Be creative

Creativity is the key to playfulness and I don’t just mean crafting, writing poetry or painting. Creativity  is the use of the imagination and fresh ideas. It can be applied to the dog walk or your daily jog – find a new route, listen to new music, allow yourself a little role-play (you’re a detective looking for clues!). If you’re writing something – rather than just doing it on the computer – can you print it out and draw your own border? We are all very quick to look for things on the internet, to download clipart – we seem to have forgotten the simple pleasure of drawing things ourselves! With cheap fashion, we forget the creative joy that comes with up-cycling or making it ourselves. Let’s make 2021 a more creative year! (On my other blog “Ink Spots and Grass Stains“, I’m going to be charting my creative efforts for 2021.)

05

Adventure

Most of us didn’t get many opportunities for adventures in 2020. There was a lot of staying at home to do. Adventure is naturally playful. It takes you out of the ordinary and unlocks your spirit of fun and creativity, problem solving and ingenuity. Adventures don’t have to be high-adrenaline activities (though they can be, and we can’t wait to go coasteering this year!), but can just be doing something different. In our family we revel in the “mini-adventure”. These usually involve Rosie the campervan, but aren’t necessarily camping trips. They usually involve going somewhere new. They may involve a walk or a bike-ride, they may involve a theme park or zoo, they may involve a picnic or a cafe. A mini-adventure could be a train trip to a nearby town, or a ride on a bus to “see where it goes”. Embrace the mini-adventure!

06

Play games

Games don’t have to involve plastic counters and dice. Playing games makes you feel good, it involves interacting with other people, it unlocks feel-good hormones and can improve brain power. Whether it’s a weekly game of scrabble, a word-game while you wait in line or an observation game with your children – try to get more games into your life. We’ll be adding lots of different games you can play on this site as the year goes by, so watch out for those.

Be more playful

So what will you be doing this year to be more playful?

the playful family

Why build a playful family?

Do you ever find yourself wondering where the fun has gone from family life?  You and your partner used to have fun, right?  That’s why you chose to spend life together.  Somehow, the joy is harder to find as you work hard to keep a roof over your heads, ferry children from one activity to the next, arrive at home and all collapse in front of your various screens.  Is this what it’s really all about?

In recent months many of us have spent more time with our partners and children than perhaps we have ever spent before.  It’s been hard!  Attempting to work from home, manage the children’s learning and somehow keep everybody on an emotional even keel can put strain on even the best family relationships.

It was when I realised that I was worrying about my to do list and not enjoying spending time with my children, and that they were crying out for some positive attention as they tried to navigate their way through the covid lockdown, that I knew we needed to put some playfulness back in our family life.

“Play is any activity that allows you for a moment to celebrate your existence wholeheartedly and unashamedly.”  Rebecca Abrams

Playfulness doesn’t have to involve getting down and playing Barbies with your four-year-old daughter… though of course it can. 

Instead, Playfulness is about building a better family relationships by having fun together.  In a stressful world, where we’ve got used to being “grown up”, sometimes that can be hard to find.  Here are some ways to find a more playful family relationship:

Family game time

The first thing I introduced was game time.  We spend so long telling the children that we are “too busy” to play.  I wanted to ensure that they knew that playtime was now a priority, so after dinner every day for a week, we played a game.  Sometimes it was darts, sometimes cards, once Scrabble.  It was a time for us all to do something together.  After that, if any member of the family suggests a game of any sort, I’m in.

Share humour

In the back of the car yesterday my son made a comment about the funny name of a village we passed.  I put down my magazine and joined and extended the joke.  We spent the next ten minutes giggling as we played with village names and had fun together.

Race and rough and tumble together

I used to play a great game with my children (I think I read about it in the wonderful Tom Hodgkinson’s “The Idle Parent”).  It’s called “Tickle or Trap”.  You, the parent, need only sit on the sofa.  The children run up to you and you ask “Tickle or trap?”  If they say “Tickle” then you have to grab them and tickle them, if they say “trap” then you have to grab hold of them and give them a big hug.  The idea is that they have to run away when they say the word so you have to catch them to trap or tickle, but in reality they are loving the rough and tumble so much that they don’t move fast and before long you are both dissolved in giggles.  Now my children are a bit bigger but they still absolutely love it when I join them for a game of hide and seek, sardines, tickle-fighting or other such nonsense, and I’ll quite often liven up a walk with a “race you to that tree!”

Enjoy a crisis

As a child I have fond memories of car break-downs.  In my memory we spent a lot of time jump-starting the car, but certainly every family holiday involved a ride in a recovery truck at some point.  To us, this was a huge adventure!  Sometimes, when things go wrong, the best way to deal with it is with a healthy dose of humour and a spirit of adventure.  Compare these two walks:

  1. Walking in the Malverns, my daughter lost her camera.  I was furious.  We retraced our steps to try and find it, I lost the dog lead, then we lost the dog.  We found the dog, returned eventually to the car-park where a lady handed us the missing camera (she’d recognised us from the photos).  
  2. The route on the map took us across a golf course.  I think I exited the golf course at the wrong place because we ended up wading through a field of head-high ferns and nettles, lifting the dog and the children over a barbed-wire fence or two.  

In both walks, all ended well.  However, the second walk is remembered fondly by all as a great adventure, while the first was an absolute disaster.  The difference was entirely in how I reacted to the crises on the day.

Be a bit spontaneous

Routines are great for helping to ground children and make them feel secure.  However, one of the best things about a routine is the joy of breaking that routine every now and then.  Get the children up before dawn and climb a hill to watch the sunrise.  The adventure is in the unusual.

The adventure is in the unusual.

Gamify the boring stuff

Children find transitioning from one activity to another hard.  When they are engrossed in what they are doing they find it hard to extricate themselves and move on to the next task.  In addition, tidying up, getting dressed, brushing teeth, and putting shoes on are all necessary but irritating intrusions on the fun part of the day.  You’ve got two options… you can either nag and scold the child and end up frustrated, cross and late… or you can join your child in the play that they are engrossed in, engage with them briefly there, and then move them on:  “Shall we park the cars over here so they can wait for you when you come back?  Great!  You parked yours quickly.  Now… I bet you get your shoes on the right feet.  I’ll do up this shoe, you do the other one.  If you brush your teeth for two minutes I’ll let you tickle me for 10 seconds!”  

For yourself, think about how you can make your boring tasks more fun.  I hate ironing, but I love to put on my cheesiest, most karaoke friendly music and sing loudly while I do it.  Suddenly the job seems more fun. 

Make mealtimes fun

By the time they are 18 children will have experienced over 6000 meal times.  Nothing makes me sadder than the sight of families out for a meal together with the children fixed to a screen while they wait.  This is a time when the family are altogether and it doesn’t take much to infuse it with a bit of fun to help build family relationships.  You could read from a joke book, play a word game or ask silly (deeply philosophical) questions: if you were an animal, what would you be?  What colour was today?

Humour me

Sometimes children can be emotional or angry.  That’s absolutely fine.  No emotion is unacceptable.  However, we need to help our children to manage their response to their emotions and to move through them.  A great way to do this is with a sense of humour.  While acknowledging their feelings, try to get them to see the funny side of the situation.  As I say to my children, “you have no control over what has happened, but you do have control over how you react to it.”  The question, “What’s the worst thing that could happen?” is a good one.  It not only helps put things in perspective, but its also an avenue to come up with all sorts of preposterous possibilities which can inject a dose of humour.

Playfulness helps build family relationships

Playfulness means having fun, letting go, being yourself and being creative.  Playfulness means sharing joy and making one another happy.  This is what family life should be all about.  We are there for one another in tough times, and we help one another find the pleasure in everyday life.  Society today is increasingly fragmented.  Mental health issues, obesity and suicide are all on the rise.  Stronger family relationships, built by having fun together, are key to building resilience and mental strength.  They give us the confidence to go out there and make the world a better place.  

A family that plays together, stays together.