Week 35: Go Out and Play!

I'm riffing off last week's theme of "imaginations run wild." Promoting creative play has been the focus of my summer. I've still got last week's studio activities on my mind, and for months now I've been devising a "micro course" of creativity-boosting activities for grown-ups, set to begin this fall.

Are you finding enough time to play?

As a teacher, I've spent most of my adult life hanging around kids. We'd all do well to take a page from their proverbial play book. For example, from the dozen or so 10- and 11-year-old girls who came to art camp in my studio recently, here's what I witnessed:

1. Their rampant imaginative play took many forms, including dramatic productions (spontaneously devised and rehearsed, then performed), writing (some of the wackiest prose you've ever read), performance art (I hope my neighbors can take a joke), and music (who can resist altering lyrics of popular songs?).

2. All of the "play" observed above took place in the margins outside of our actual studio "work." It helped that our "work" was loosely defined and open-ended, that unusual materials were abundant, and that time was plentiful and unhurried.

3. Children are natural collaborators. I didn't specify whether they should work alone or together, yet nearly all of them involved other kids in their projects. From "Someone give me an idea of what I should make!" to full-on group endeavors with elaborate embedded stories, there was a constant buzz of productive conversation.

4. There was some self-consciousness, but it was small stuff—they didn't sweat it.

5. They were intrigued, not daunted, by unfamiliar tasks and materials. You could almost hear the wheels inside their minds turning: "Hmm, I could make a ______, or a ______, or a ______..."

So grown-ups, take note. Get out there and clown around! Do something you haven't done since childhood. Turn a cartwheel. (Read here about where this can lead!) Juggle tennis balls. Build a fort. Paint a picture. Let your inner kid out to play, and not only will you entertain those around you, you'll be reducing stress, honing your problem-solving skills, and (ok, if it motivates you) likely burning some calories.

What are your favorite forms of play? What prevents you from doing it more often? Have any tips for others about fitting more play into your life?