"So can we kiss now?" he asked impatiently, his body rocking sideways.
"Uhm... No," she giggled; "First I want to go horse riding."
He sighed. "Ok. But after that, we kiss."
The next moment, Barbie was riding a beautiful blonde horse which elegantly trotted around the room. After a few circles, she got off the horse.
“Ok let's kiss;" she said in the matter-of-factly voice of a 6-year old.
"Yay!" Ken's cheered.
“Mwa Mwa Mwa."
They smooched with their heads turned sideways, just like in the movies.
That 6-year-old voice was mine, back in 1995 when Barbies were not yet considered offensive.
I was playing.
And by playing, I was trying to make sense of the world, or more specifically of why people kissed. Because kissing on the mouth made no sense to 6-year old me.
That’s why we play.
From an evolutionary point of view, playing helps us to understand and learn. Will Wright, the game designer behind The Sims - also a young Julie favourite - calls play an educational technology in his Masterclass.
When we play, we create symbolic life experiences. It’s essential, because otherwise we would show up to all of our life experiences as newborns, not knowing what to do. A first kiss would the most awkward moment ever.
But play is more than learning. It’s also relaxing, gives us joy and boosts our capacity for creative problem solving.
So think again when you think of playing as a childish, useless activity. Being playful is not just reserved for children. And it’s more useful than many of the other ways to spend your free time.
More important things to do.
You have more important things to do than waste time playing?
Well, maybe you’ll be convinced by our good friend Albert Einstein, who also did a couple of really important things in his lifetime.
He would often take breaks during his work to play the violin or piano, or engage in combinatory play to inspire his thinking process. He believed that taking your mind off something is the key to finding a solution. Even a mind as brilliant as his.
Let's try turning this into a formula, Albert Einstein style.
(P + IQ)^p = S
Just applying your IQ to a difficult problem won’t always lead you to the solution. But add play to the mix and you will find your answers.
Just like how play helps children make sense of life, it can help us as adults to make sense of problems we are faced with.
Unlearned how to play.
A problem I’m facing now is this: I’ve unlearned to play. I’m not sure when it happened. But I believe in the value of play, so I am making a conscious effort to include it in my life again.
Before I started writing this, I doodled a bit on the piano. I’ve never learned how to play so it sounded childish and random, but it was fun. That’s when I realized should start this blog post with a story about my Barbies.
Do you also want to bring back play in your life? Start with identifying what kind of play is your kind. Because there are many different kinds.
As a child, what are your fondest memories of playing?
Which activities make you forget the time?
What makes you laugh out loud?
Give yourself permission to do more of that kind of play again.
But please don't feel like you have to. The only reason to play is because you want to.