In 1964 when the movie “Mary Poppins” lit up the movie screens, we discovered there was much we could do and learn through play. Of all the songs in the movie, “A Spoonful of Sugar,” was the one that certainly got our toes tapping as she helped Jane and Michael Banks hit on a new way to clean up the playroom.
Jane and Michael were clearly stunned at the idea that a job could involve fun or that a task could become “a piece of cake.” I am sure every adult wanted to try how that might work at home to get their own children to accomplish the things that needed to be done.
Even without the magic the movie created, the idea of how a task could be made into some sort of play or fun was a great one. Moms everywhere started looking at the game they could create about picking up and putting away toys at the end of every day, looking for that “element of fun.”
Depending on what era you were born or even where you were born seems to influence whether or not we enjoy learning to play. How our parents viewed play and fun was also a major influencer.
In my home there was more of a serious focus and I didn’t really learn to value fun and play. I know now that was a loss not only for its enjoyment, but also for the value of it that I don’t think many realized for a long while.
The irony was seeing how much my parents enjoyed fun and play with our children as they were growing up. All sorts of games and fun projects were always on the docket when my parents babysat our children. What a gift!
Since I still needed to learn remedial fun and play, our children got the bonus of learning it from my parents. They now have great times playing and having fun as adults and they have passed that along to our grandchildren. From all of them I am continuing to grow in that arena and I hope they don’t grow weary of my need of their modeling as a reminder when we visit.
Why is play and fun important?
Play lets children learn creativity in the midst of imagination with a result of healthy brain development. Play usually is multi-sensory so physical, cognitive, and emotional domains are strengthened. Children learn important motor skills through play and also bump into its value as a tool to work through stress or crankiness. That translates into more effective problem solving and coping skills for the rest of their lives.
Andrew J. Bauman writes in Stumbling Toward Wholeness:
“Authentic play is one of the most vulnerable activities we can participate in.”
And it isn’t just valuable for children. Adults need it too! (YES!!!) Play and fun stimulate our minds and boost our creativity and imagination. It can be a key to learning more about how to adapt, elevate problem solving, improve relational skills and connection with others.
Therapeutic play has proven to be a significant tool in a psychologist or therapist’s toolbox to bring hope and healing to children and adults who have been wounded and broken. It can give expression to unidentified feelings of fear, anxiety, loneliness, and pain.
Healthy play and therapeutic play rejuvenate us. Not so when we use play to escape from real life problems, situations, or past memories. Play used in order to escape doesn’t restore us and can actually exhaust us as we use more and more energy trying to run away. It takes us awhile to recognize that, however, so we can exacerbate the problem until we totally crash after adding more and more “play” to our days.
When I read Andrew J. Bauman’s book (Stumbling Toward Wholeness) a few months ago, he shared insights about play that have a direct connection to why it is so important and why God wants us to enjoy and participate in fun and play:
“Somehow we have come to think that God wants only our seriousness and devotion; but play takes courage. To live out of our playful hearts is to experience the fullness of our intimacy with God. It is in the play that we let our guards down and become most open to what he has in mind for us.”
Somehow some of us grow up with the ideas that play is folly and of no use. We can even feel shame for the enjoyment of play. But this actually can inhibit our intimacy with God according to Bauman.
When play is not used to escape or run from what lurks inside us, it is a marvelous thing.
Healthy play opens up a myriad of good things God wants us to discover.
“When we trust God’s intimate love and care, we can let go and enjoy the abandonment of play. Are you willing to look foolish in order to enter into holy kindness? Are you able to receive kindness through play? How do you play, and how does it change you?”
Andrew J. Bauman