All, Bookworm, Culture/Life

The Healing Power of Play

Playing, imagining, creating. These are an integral and indispensable aspect of every person’s life and development, particularly as children.

As a child of the nineties, I grew up going to Toys R Us, and I feel a bit like I’m mourning the end of an era with the news of the toy stores’ closings around the country. It seems the chain is just the latest to succumb to the swiftly changing retail landscape, thanks in part to the internet.

Technology certainly has its beneficial uses for work and for recreation but, to me, it’s frightening just how pervasive and how profound is its influence when it comes to affecting people’s lives and well-being. Physical problems like back and eye ailments, increased loneliness, social isolation and bullying. All these adverse conditions are attributable at least partially to technology. Not to mention the stress of being accessible 24/7 through smart phones.

Technology has also impacted the realm of children’s play. Computer games, video games, TV shows and movies available anywhere and everywhere due to mobile devices and in-car screens. Yet, more and more, it is being recognized that children’s screen time needs to be monitored and limited.

But this is not a post bashing all technology. I mean I’m typing this commentary on a smart phone for goodness’ sake.

Rather, it’s an invitation to remember and maybe try to re-capture some of your natural childhood wonder and imagination.

The Broadway musical “Finding Neverland,” which tells the story of Peter Pan author J.M. Barrie, has a whimsical but thought-provoking song that asks:

“Can you remember back when you were young?/When all the simple things you did were so much fun/ You got lost somewhere along the way/You’ve forgotten how to play, every single day.”

It’s refrain declares, “The world is so mysterious and wild/when you start to see it through the eyes of a child.”

PC: https://www.disneyclips.com/imagesnewb/peterpan3.html
PC: disneyclips.com

Back in February, my ballet company hosted a Father/Daughter Valentine’s Day event, which included the dancers teaching a simple dance to the dads and daughters.

In one section of the dance, the parents and children formed a “tunnel” with their hands and all the couples passed under it. You can imagine the giggles and gleeful expressions this elicited when the six-foot-plus dads tried to squeeze through with their tiny pre-school and elementary age daughters.

Yet, as I was watching and directing, it struck me that I was seeing looks of authentic happiness on the faces of these dads. They were genuinely having fun. And what were they doing? Dancing. Playing. Creating a memory that did not involve a cell phone or a screen.

Earlier this year, I was reading the story of a ballet to young students whom I teach, and I noticed their intent attention to the illustrations and the comments and questions they shared. It made me remember just how enjoyable such a simple activity like studying a picture can be.

Lately, I’ve been on a kick of re-discovering and reading classic children’s books. I’m slowly making my way through the Little House series. I re-read Charlie and the Chocolate Factoryand Shilohfor the first time since third grade. I’ve even re-read some of my favorite picture books from childhood.

In a world that is overly-technological, morally confused and is continually feeding us disquieting headlines, I think we could all use a healthy dose of child-like wonder in the little moments and opportunities for fun throughout the day. That doesn’t mean we shirk our responsibilities or ignore realities. But we don’t let our duties or technology or our worries overwhelm our capability for the simple joys that are offered to us every day.

Allowing ourselves to remember and experience those innocent realities of childhood- the fun of laughing, of using our imagination, of playing a game, or maybe even re-reading some of those classic or favorite children’s books- can be an excellent antidote to the ubiquitous stress and hustle-bustle of daily schedules and commitments. I really believe it can be healing, refreshing, and reassuring for one’s mind and spirit.

So un-plug from social media for a day or a week. Don’t allow yourself to check your email for an evening.

Use your leisure time to actually be leisurely-which is different from being idle- and enjoy your life, your friends, your children, your family.

In the words of Walt Disney,

“Laughter is timeless. Imagination has no age. And dreams are forever.”

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All, Culture/Life

Avoiding the Tyranny of Technology

It’s ubiquitous–ever encroaching into new aspects of our lives.  No, I’m not talking about politics and the presidential election.  I’m talking about technology, that blessing and scourge of modern society.  And yes, I realize the irony of using a computer and the internet to critique technology.  Clearly, I am not totally opposed to technology; one would be foolish not to recognize the benefits that it has brought to mankind.

However, so much of it nowadays truly seems to beg the question: “even though we can, should we?”  This question can refer to ethical dilemmas in medical technology or to the use of drones to deliver people’s packages.  Moreover, people’s lives seem to be increasingly revolving around screens–TV, phone, computer, iPad, etc., etc.  Obviously, many of these things are useful and one needs to make use of them, but it makes me sad when a back-to-school commercial has a mother talking about how her daughter spent the summer “binge-watching” TV or when a car commercial proudly displays kids being kept quiet by TV screens in the back of their parents’ seats.  Shoot, when I was a kid, we would read, play games, and sing to the radio or our cassette tapes and CDs on road trips.

Don’t get me wrong.  Everyone needs a good movie marathon now and again, and social media is a useful way to keep up-to-date with friends and family.  Nevertheless, I think if one stops for a moment and reflects, it becomes fairly clear that society is relying more and more on technology to think, communicate, entertain, and work for us and instead of us.

As technological “progress” appears to be interminable, we will have to make a concerted and purposeful effort to be in control of our use of technology and not let it control us.  Real reality, the people and places around us, will always be more interesting, challenging, lovable, and wonder-inspiring than virtual reality.

So while acknowledging technology’s place in our lives, here is a list of 11 activities that involve minimal or no technology.

1.) Write an old-fashioned snail mail letter to someone.   It’s more personal than an email or a text and you know that receiving something in the mail is always fun.  Plus, it gives a person a chance to work on his/her handwriting (another thing that has been lost thanks, in part, to technology).

air-mail-envelope-eiffel-tower

2.) Experiment in the kitchen.  Dig out an old family recipe or try a new recipe or come up with your own culinary concoction.  Try to avoid looking up directions online.

apple-pie

3.)  Read–NOT on a kindle. Snuggle up under a blanket or lay outside in a hammock and get transported to another time and place.

old-books

4.) Play a  game.  Cards and Monopoly didn’t stop being fun just because you’re not a child anymore.

cards

5.) Outdoor activities. Go for a nature walk; go for a bike ride; play sports with friends.  It’s good for the body and the spirit.

forest-trail

6.) Explore your community. Visit a nearby museum or an historical landmark.  Go to an apple orchard or a farmers’ market.  It’s never a bad life decision to understand more fully the place you call home.

apple-orchard

7.) Take up a new hobby. Try your hand at gardening.  Learn a musical instrument.  Learn how to sew.  Make an attempt at painting or writing poetry.  In the words of C.S. Lewis:

c-s-lewis-quote-another-goal

8.)  Support live local theater. Go watch a play or a ballet or see a touring Broadway musical and be reminded of the beauty of the performing arts.

ballet

9.)  Listen to music.  Don’t just have it on in the background but really be still and listen, or put on music and have a spontaneous dance party with friends or by yourself. Attend a live concert and make memories with friends. (This does involve some use of technology, but the main point is that you are not staring at a screen).

turn-table

10.)  Truly be present to those around you. Converse with family and friends without obsessively checking your phone.  Or just simply be silent and enjoy each other’s company.

no-cell-phone

11.) Pray – because the Good Lord would love to hear from you!!!

What are some of your favorite non-technological activities?

 

NOTE: pictures found through Bing Images.  They are either public domain or “free to share and use.”