"We don’t stop playing because we get old. We get old because we stop playing."
When we’re young, we learn, in a large part, how to communicate and what it means to be in community through play.
As we get older this instinctive and natural playfulness often gets overlooked for the more 'serious' stuff of life. Our play its self ends up becoming serious too - just take a look at the culture of football here in the U.K.
When play gets sidelined, so does one of our major sources of of community interaction. Alongside this our brain gets a serious downgrade. People are generally aware that children’s learning often takes place through play - but this can also be true for adults. Play can include developing our imagination, dexterity and our all around cognitive, physical and emotional strength.
The bible and sociological/psychological research suggest that family is the primary place of both learning and community formation. It follows, therefore, that families ought to be playing together! If our young people are to develop well and if our old people are to stay young, there needs to be a place for play in our families. Play is a natural way of connecting the generations and imparting life to each other.
Group Play Session
In our first family session at creation fest 2019 we gave 45 minutes for families to simply play together. There were no real limits but a few ideas to get people going which we divided into zones. Here‘s a few ideas you can try at home and of course add your own!
"It was so good just to have time to play, we need to schedule this in weekly, like, actually put it in the diary."
Imagination (great for developing our abstract reasoning skills as well a letting the inner clown out)...
Role play where each family member takes on a role assigned by other members of the family - normally something rather daft!
InPROPve - take an every day object, this is your prop, imagine it is has a different function to its usual one. Talk about the prop or even act out its new use.
Physical Play (keep fit and healthy in body and mind, work as a team and simply enjoy movement together)...
Parkour Park - learn to play using movement, see what’s your bodies can do! Jump, balance, fall & get up again!
"So much fun, [my daughter] spends lot of time climbing and moving but I don‘t normally. It’s been great to do it together."
Acrobalance - work in a team to counterbalance other family members as you lean in towards each other or away from each other, core strength at the ready!
Ball Maze - work as a team to navigate the maze without dropping the ball.
Domino Rally - build a cascade of dominos that’s will fall, beautifully, end to end as the first one is knocked over.
Get a load of different materials (including liquids - non newtonian fluids are a must) and have a play with them. Allow yourself to wonder about how they all look, feel and work so differently! Allow this to spill out into your everyday life, taking time to wonder at creation and then perhaps try asking 'why?' - see what you learn together!
Just for Laughs (there’s lots to learn through play but it’s important to remember that it’s ok just to play to play)...
Ha Ha Game - lie your head on the next person’s belly until, together, you‘ve created a circuit. Choose who will go first, they say ‘ha’, then, either clockwise or anti-clockwise, the next person says ’ha’ - see how long you can keep this up for without just falling into raucous laughter.
Circus Skills - learn something new together, encourage and challenge each other, or maybe even work together on price of balance equipment.
Beetle Drive - take it in turn to roll the dice, each number represents a different part of the beetle’s body (or whatever you decide to draw). Whoever rolls a number not rolled before decides how to draw that part of the beetle, then covers it apart from the very edge of the drawing. The next new roller draws another part and at the end you may have a very interesting looking beetle.
Taking time to debrief can help our self understanding and help us better understand others. Families need to make space to debrief life together - occasionally debriefing play can be a great, and gentle, way to start. Here are a few ideas to get your started...
What did you enjoy and why?
What did you find difficult and why?
Did you notice something great about any of your family members? Encourage them by letting them know!
Has God, or do you think God would like to show you something through your time playing together?
How can we build more experiences into our lives that make us feel like we did during our time playing together?
Is there anyone else we should be including in our next play time?
(Extra credit - a little exercise in hearing God’s voice) What game do you think God would like to play with you? Why would God like to play this particular game with you?
Sometimes it can difficult, for adults as well as children, to open up about or even access their own emotions and thoughts. The blob tree is a great resource to help scratch the surface and then go a little deeper. Give it a try as you debrief play or any other area in family life.
Which blob best represents how you’re feeling now?
Which blob were you when we started playing, what had changed?
Which blob would you like to be, what needs to happen for you to get there?