The playful route


Play is most often associated with children or our friendly four legged friends.  Play might mean something very different to various groups of people: it could be something that takes place outside, something noisy, a learning process or pure escapism.  Children from all over the world engage in play of some form; from the quiet child giving full concentration to a puzzle to poverty stricken places where mundane objects may become a prop or take on a life of its own. 

People have creative minds which are supposed to problem solve, resolve and make suggestions.  There is no doubt that play has a crucial role in preparing children for the adult world. That world can be competitive, scary and challenging.

Schools now have break time and recreation with the term 'playtime' being used less.  Children chatter, eat their snack and some schools have a spot or a system where everyone is included.  Play may not come easy for some or a particular setting is more appropriate/fitting.

Fun is something else and can be associated with play as well as a lively evening out of many descriptions.  Could there be play without fun?  Depending on the individual and the living situation this could be the case - particularly with role play where catharsis may be central to children letting off steam.

As an adult I recently started to think that my playfulness had died or maybe it was simply dormant but after a moment of laughter something happened - I felt good, really good.  Then I realised there was an important element missing in my life: the lightheartedness I once knew.  Letting go.  The 'feeling alright with life'.  How can I retrieve it?  Is it even possible to do so with a long term mental health issue.  My laughter signalled 'yes'.

So just recently I walked the 'playful route' with my dog - the woods with the sun shining became an enchanted forest.  The common grey squirrels were the endangered species and not the red ones.  They were in their native habitat and their grey coats shone bright.  The golf course was the place to avoid because of the buggies that disturbed the creatures' peace where the 17th tee was the worst for people shouting four.  The golf balls became giant snowballs to dodge.  So this was the challenge then, crossing this path with no frightened dog with heads intact.  We made it - phew.  Then we tackled the river where I distracted the dog from swimming in frosty water by calling and gently running...Okay it was no miracle cure but certainly a smile and the hint of laughter that yes 'I could still play pretend'. 

Paula Smith   


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