US-based Fun Conspirists, Jennifer Maurer and Ginny Hunneke, suggest “escaping into childhood”. They encourage adults to think about what they loved to do as a child, whether they still enjoyed this activity, or if not, why they stopped. They suggest committing 30 minutes to some variation of that activity. For instance if it was climbing trees, maybe it would be climbing a tree, sitting on a branch, drawing a picture of the tree or watching children climb trees. Maurer explains, “These questions reveal a lot about the kind of play that brings people joy and confidence, but also what internal and external forces have shut down their natural impulses to express themselves playfully.” Invariably, playfulness transpires and they discover aspects of their suppressed personalities to bring back into their adult lives and routine.
Another way to reconnect with play is through toys. For Ambrose Lee, director of the Toy Museum in Hong Kong, they provide an emotional connection. He repairs and sells toys, from vintage collections to recent favourites. “I witness many fathers who come in with their kids to buy Star Wars toys, but really they just want to buy for themselves. It makes them feel like a kid again.” Toys are memorabilia that share private moments with their owner, keeping secrets in times of joy and sadness. The Toy Museum is a haven for workers to unwind during lunch, to browse and to relive their childhoods by playing with GI Joes, Lego or Lucky Trolls, before heading back to their offices with huge smiles on their faces.
Even if you only have a few minutes in your busy schedule, make time for play. Try writing with pen and paper instead of electronic devices. Shaun Levin, writer and deviser of Writing Maps in the UK, finds it not only therapeutic but a playful venture of creation and surprise. Keep a writing map in your bag and read it on the bus instead of being glued to your phone. Concoct stories in your head – about a neighbour, object or laneway – and be astounded at the discoveries you make.
The hustle and bustle of life may be daunting, but it becomes fun and interesting once we incorporate play into our lives. “It is not a matter of escaping, but engaging more deeply with life on a daily basis,” says Teitelbaum. Practise the idea of playing at every opportunity and you will get better at it, refreshing yourself in seconds. Have a private conversation with the stuffed toy on your desk, sing in the shower, make up stories or doodle. Play is essential to our well-being, and the busier we are, the more we need to incorporate it in our lives.
More Play Inspiration
“Go back to the age of three or four. Find a moment of joy, then associate it with current life to find the inkling to be more playful now.”
Prof. Stuart Brown, National Institute for Play
“Adults can turn their cars into toys; same goes for riding lawnmowers…”
Scott Eberle, The Strong National Museum of Play
“Do something silly. Have fun with shaving foam!”
Prof. Sue Jennings, The Play and Drama Partnership
“Treasure your toys! Toys are our loyal best friends.”
Ambrose Lee, Toy Museum
“Switch off your phone, and be open to the unexpected, to adventure and to create stories out of all the messiness of life.”
Shaun Levin, Writing Maps
“Find out who in your circle of friends are most playful, and reconnect with them.”
Jennifer Maurer & Ginny Hunneke, The Fun Conspiracy
“From waiting at a bus stop to sitting at our desk, the first step is to recognise the value of play.”
Daniel Teitelbaum, The School of Life Australia
“Make up games to handle tough situations.”
Dr Sivasailam ‘Thiagi’ Thiagarajan, The Thiagi Group