Playing in Pursuit of Serious Stuff

When you can’t go forward and you can’t go backward

 and you can’t stay where you are

without killing off what is deep and vital in yourself,

you are on the edge of creation

Sue Monk Kidd 

I don’t know about you, but I sense that I am on this edge of creation.  And I have a gut feeling that learning more about how to play in pursuit of really serious stuff is part of the new thing that needs creating.  Can’t say it makes sense yet, but that’s often the way it goes when we’re creating something new.

As an educator, educator-in-training, or a mom, I’m guessing you are an advocate of play in some way shape or form. 

Maybe your support of play is very personal and private.  You’ve invested in purchasing toys for your children to enhance their play.  You’ve added some Legos to your classroom or 15 minutes of free play to the daily schedule.  You’ve played Candyland or Legos or tea parties for the 97th time because your child wanted to.  Maybe you invest a lot in supporting your child’s love of lacrosse, or dance, or music, or photography.  Maybe you plan indoor recess when outdoor recess is cancelled.

Or maybe your support of play is a bit bigger.  You’ve volunteered at a local park to clean up the space or donated to an organization that builds playgrounds in underserved communities.  You’ve have created active play-centered lessons in your classroom even though you know you could get in trouble for deviating from the standard curriculum.  Maybe you’ve gone to the school board to fight for more recess time in your district.  Maybe you led a toy drive for the local homeless shelter.

If you’re anything like me you are all on board with the idea that children need to play, but do you think that play is an actual need for adults?

I’ve done some research on the history of play and playgrounds, so some people think of me as a “play expert,” which is funny because I’m not so good at playing!

But based on both research and personal experience I’m pretty sure that playing is one of the best ways for us to increase BOTH our joy AND our positive impact on kids’ lives, and on human life in general. 

You see there’s something amazing about being able to discipline a kid with a playful spirit, that make us less inclined to shaming them for their mistakes, and makes it more possible for them to receive the message and shift to new ways of being that are kinder to themselves and others. 

And there’s something about the way we can invite a child into our joyful play that is an even more powerful experience of love and connection than when we obediently enter into their play even though we aren’t having fun at all.

And when we play, we come up with creative ideas for solving ridiculously hard problems.

This week I’ve even trying to figure out how I might bring a playful spirit into my work for social justice—especially around dismantling racism and sexism in our culture. Wouldn’t that be CRAZY?  I know.  I can’t see it yet either, but I’m going to play around with the idea until I do.

What hard thing do you need to do this week that you could do in a more playful way?  Could you…

  • Wash the dishes against the clock and do a victory dance if you “win”?
  • Allow kids to take an exam while sitting under or on top of their desks if they want to?
  • Read your child their favorite book backwards, just for fun?
  • Come into class dressed as a lobster for no apparent reason?
  • Create a stinkiest diaper competition for the day in your classroom and whoever wins gets an extra special tummy tickling?
  • Spend 15 minutes looking for cartoons you could include in your lesson plan objectives just for your own amusment?

I think I’m going to start my quest by looking for a video of a comedian who works for social justice – I know there are some.  It might give me some new ideas. 

Or maybe I’ll just dance like a crazy person to Justin Timberlake’s “Can’t Stop the Feeling” and Pentatonix’s “Sing.”  Hmm. 

Maybe I’ll do both.

Tell me what you do and what happens.

Here’s to thriving,


P.S.  I’ve been collecting some resources re. talking with kids about race/racism, including what children’s books to look for.  It’s not beautiful and fancy, but if you’d like a copy let me know and I’ll send it your way.

In the meantime here are a couple re. how to talk with kids (even preschoolers) re. the election to help you get started  and and