I’m constantly reminded of how expertly tamariki can play and have fun. Muddy puddles, a tennis ball, lego, glitter, empty boxes, leaves, can all be sources of absolute joy. They can even find fun out of nothing: imaginary lightsabers and magic wands with the right crew can be an absolute hoot. Without the expert guidance of a child, I can’t remember a time I played make-believe with my peers. I can’t remember a time where I have been solely in the company of grown-ups where I’ve played a game that involved being really silly. Why not? Having fun is fun! Playing pretend is like reading a book or watching a movie but for realsies!
Sir Ken Robinson suggests that schools impact our creativity declining as we progress through them but I believe that schools (in NZ at least) do their very best to nurture creativity and there must be many other factors at play that stifles fun as we get older. Regardless of the multiple whys that must be out there.
I remember playing dress ups and make believe with my sister and friends when we were at primary school. I remember making dance routines in my front garden with my friends when I was about 13. There’s grainy photos of us hanging out of my bedroom window making album cover images. We had fairy wings that we wore to the mall and to McDonald’s. Soon after I remember trying so very hard to be cool. Teenagers looked cool, sounded cool, and thought most things were incredibly lame, I thought. So dance routines became a thing of the past. I refused to join in with Sing Star. Fairy wings and crowns went to the op shop. I hung out at playgrounds but definitely didn’t play on the swings – yuck.
I cannot recall how many years later I discovered that being cool is so hellishly boring. I stopped valuing how cool other people thought I was and began looking for things that I found fun. I voiced the animals and narration to David Attenborough documentaries when the sound broke on the TV in our student flat. I rolled down grassy hills. I actually played on playgrounds. I skipped. I danced. I sang in the shower. I trained to become a teacher and continued to re-learn how to play and how to have fun. What a relief!
Don’t get me wrong, being a grown-up can feel very un-fun at times. But if we let our tamariki remind us how to have fun, we can make it a priority in our lives and we can have an absolute blast if we choose to.
Let’s frolic more.
Let’s belly laugh more.
Let’s play more.
Let’s be more silly.
As much as we have to teach our tamariki, let’s not forget what we can learn from them too. If they can find joy in simple moments, so can we.