We, the grown-ups, don’t take “Play” seriously enough. For us, “Play” doesn’t evoke the kind of gravity as “Work” does. But for a child, play is as crucial to nurturing him or her into adulthood as all other more serious pursuits. And if we look closely, we will learn that playing can impart many valuable lessons to the adults too. So, here are 10 life lessons you can learn from playing with children:
1. Don’t follow the beaten track
When was the last time you saw a child read the instructions to a new toy before ripping off its’ packaging? Children don’t follow specifications on how a toy is “supposed” to be played with. They rely on their instincts and find their own creative ways, no matter how much it may deviate from the “rules”; a lesson that many of us, the grown-ups, need to remember when we are stuck in a new or alien situation.
2. Enjoying life doesn’t have to begin only after your life goals are reached
Children never wait for a toy to be fully assembled or it’s ten thousand contraptions and accessories to be in place before having fun with it. In fact, they enjoy the whole process as much and sometimes even more than the end product; a lesson that most of us grown-ups seem to have forgotten over time. There is always going to be the next big promotion, the next big house, the next big car and so on, but there is only going to be this one life. So, the journey needs to be cherished as much as the achievements, if not more.
3. Any broken thing can be mended, all it takes is a little adhesive to glue the pieces back together and time
Children are some of the best gurus when it comes to relationship advice. As any toy-loving child would tell you, broken toys are not meant to be discarded. They are never beyond repair and rescue. All they need is a little “goopy-glue“, a little love and ample time to do the magic and they will become whole again.
As adults, self-preservation and ego take over and we tend to run away from meaningful relationships and friendships just because at some point, they begin showing some stress lines.
4. Nothing is all black or all white, everything is a different shade of gray
In the children’s worlds, superheroes are fallible and the supervillains apologize when they cross the line from naughty to evil. Sometimes, supervillains don the nice cape and the superheroes become mean.
Life is the same too and nothing is absolute. The good are not all good and the bad are not all bad but a wonderful and unique blend of the two. It’s easy to see the beauty in black or in white and so we love to demarcate them when dealing with people but to be able to appreciate the beauty of the color gray is something that we need to learn from watching our children play.
5. Don’t be afraid to ask for help
As grown-ups, we coax ourselves to believe that the weight of the world must always reside on our exhausted shoulders, no matter what. After all, that’s what being an adult is supposed to mean!
But in the children’s world, this rule doesn’t apply. If you get stuck, you ask for help. Period. No second thoughts, no lingering self-doubts, no self-esteem issues. And when you do receive help, you show gratitude, if not as much with words, then with your eyes. Simple. I wish we could be the same in the grown-up world too.
6. Everyone gets a turn
In the children’s world, you enjoy your time in the spotlight, then you queue up at the end of the line and wait for your next turn at the swings. Sometimes impatiently, sometimes grudgingly but you still wait. You don’t cut in line or push someone out of your way to get ahead.
Sharing is a simple exercise in self-restraint that children demonstrate beautifully to us every single day during play time, something that we tend to overlook in our race to get ahead of each other in every sphere of life.
7. Experiment, forgive the mess and move on
If messes are created during playful fun times, then their purpose is already served. Clean up, forgive and move on. Easy-peasy. If only the adults could learn this valuable lesson from watching the children play!
We are almost always so scared of messing up, that we are afraid to take chances and in the process never fully live our lives. And if we do take a chance and then mess up, we beat ourselves up forever and crouch back into our shells vowing never to try again. If only we could be as forgiving as our children when it comes to absolving our own selves.
8. Sometimes life is unfair, but that’s okay
Tall block towers topple over, LEGO castles fall apart, spilled paint destroys a masterpiece – Play time is littered with many such unfair situations. Tears are spilled, anger and frustration take over, sometimes an occasional laughter eases the pain. But almost always, after the heartbreak has been dealt with, children are back to their building blocks, their LEGO castles and their paint and easel as if the unfair accident of moments before never existed. Life goes on and so do they too. And so should we.
9. Little things in life are as precious as the big things
Children never discriminate the big toys from the small toys during playtime. Their favorites play things are never determined by what they cost or how big and beautiful they are. Simple things like balloons, bubbles, ice or even a cardboard box give them as much pleasure as an elaborate train set.
As grown-ups, we tend to forget the magic of little things and little moments in the glossy shine of the big things and grand moments. Both are important, no doubt, but when we strip off all the glamor and glitz, we may get surprised by what we cherish the most.
10. The road to happiness and fulfillment does not follow a linear trajectory. You are allowed, in fact, encouraged, to go off on a tangent, often
When was the last time you sat down to play with your children and ended up doing the exact same thing as you thought you would be doing? Plans change, directions are altered and life meanders in fluid deviations, but at the end of it all, you are happy and excited and peaceful all at the same time, sometimes much more than you ever envisioned. We must remember this lesson the next time life throws a curveball our way, knocking us out of balance and altering our life’s grand blueprints.
Because tangents are beautiful, because tangents are where most of what we call life really happens.