Sometimes I like sitting on the bus without headphones and listen to people. Mind you, on the bus in Norway everyone is usually very silent, except the teens and the foreigners. The locals speak to each other in low voices. One morning, however, I was lucky to hear an interesting talk. A guy was telling about his master thesis: a role of play in learning. He told how the first year of school was first meant as a transit from the everyday playing of kindergarten to the school life. And how it changed nowadays with the prevalence of testing and result-oriented study from the earliest years. “I don’t want to call it play, it is a little bit scary to use this word” – he said (and I smiled internally. Norwegians’ choice of words can be funny sometimes. Maybe, I will write about it one day). “I would better say “learning through exploring” instead of playing”, he continued. And I thought: Bingo!
Because my blog’s name is about exploring, that’s why 🙂 No, not just that. Because I also had been thinking about the concept of “play” – applied to our adult life. Sometimes I ask myself: how come we adults become so boring?
The quote to think about today is: “We don’t stop playing when we get old. We get old when we stop playing”. And I agree 100%! When we play, we see possibilities, we take chances, we approach life more light-heartedly. We seem to be more curious, open and creative. When does the switch click and we choose to become more serious? It almost feels like we become heavier (it is also scary to use this word, but I will use it anyway:)) It seems that playing and taking new chances helps to keep our minds young ( and the neuroscientists seem to support this point). And we become old not because of the years – but when we take over this view: “I have seen it all, I know it all. Nothing new out there”. Among the techniques to keep the mind young (to build new neuron pathways) there are some like playing computer games, learning a foreign language, doing crosswords. Dancing helps a lot too, because the brain takes a lot of new decisions on the dance floor (which it doesn’t while doing repetitive sports like jogging and skiing. That’s why dance is said to be the only form of sport to prevent dementia).
So that quote seems to make a lot of sense. It is not the age that makes us old, it is when we start thinking and acting like old people. The behavior defines and creates the being. I have known people who seem old in their early thirties – and young and cheerful 60-year-olds. I am sure, you know some too. There are a lot of reasons why we need to get serious about playing – now 🙂
Though I consider myself a serious person, carrying the whole world on my shoulders, my life choices have made me play more 🙂 I grew up like a little adult, being very responsible about everything, going to school like to work. I didn’t have many friends, was a shy best student in the class, books and mom being my best friend through my teens. I also hated sports because my PE teacher was constantly making fun of my poor results – something I felt traumatized by for years. Hence no love for team games. But I worked with kids for a great part of my life, starting as a baby-sitter for neighbors, a Sunday school teacher, a summer camp teacher, later as au-pair for several years and a primary school teacher. It seems that the older I got, the more childish I grew. It took me some years to unwind and learn to play again. And such a valuable experience it has been!
I also wonder if that’s the reason why some adults need to get their own children – so that they can learn from their kids. Yes, right. The kids learn from the parents – but the parents also learn from the kids. They discover this childish look at the world when everything seems new and magical, they learn to play-pretend, use their imagination, to be totally in the moment, in the importance of play.
I am attracted to people who are playful. Who have learnt to take this life less seriously, are creative in their choices, who design their own lives with a light heart. This is also my intention for now: to develop my playful side.
When are those moments of getting lost in the play? For me they are: dancing, taking pictures, flirting (my guilty pleasure). I love humor and word games and I am still not so fond of competitive games, but I try to take it easier. I enjoy guessing games here in the blogs. And I also love teaching because it lets me be creative and add some playful element. I don’t know about the students, hehe, but I am having so much fun when the class chemistry is right, and we can be laughing and doing some little games.
What is your relationship with play? What are the activities that make you playful?
And let’s get serious about playing!