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Let Your Inner Child Play
by Cheryl Rainfield, 2004
Maybe we should develop a Crayola bomb as our next secret weapon. A happiness weapon. A beauty bomb. And every
time a crisis developed, we would launch one. It would explode high in the air - explode softly - and send thousands, millions, of little parachutes into the air. Floating down to earth - boxes of Crayolas. And we wouldn't go cheap, either - not little boxes of eight. Boxes of sixty-four, with the sharpener built right in. With silver and gold and copper, magenta and peach and lime, amber and umber and all the rest. And people would smile and get a little funny look on their faces and cover the world with imagination.
--All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, Robert Fulghum, Villard Books: New York, 1988, p. 52.
With the rush, rush, rush of daily life, the many responsibilities we have, and the accumulation of painful experiences, many of us have forgotten how to play. We may have forgotten the simple joys you experienced as a child, or forgotten how to see beauty and wonder around us. We may even have lost some of our child-like joy and delight in the world. But there's a way to connect back to some of that happiness, or to increase it—by letting your inner child play.
Play isn't something that many people value or think important. But having fun in the all-out, no-holds-barred way that children know how to do, can be exhilarating, energizing, and just plain fun. It can be a great stress reliever, a way to nurture or increase creativity, openness, and good feeling, and can bring comfort and contentment.
Each of us have a child inside us—the child we once were, who in some way wasn't nurtured or cared for, or, for survivors of extreme trauma, many uncared for children. Whether or not you believe you have a child inside you, why not give play a try? What do you have to lose? And you may find it makes you happier.
The following are some suggestions on ways to play, and to reconnect with that playful, joy-filled energy. Choose the things that appeal to you, and leave the rest:
- Draw with crayons. Crayons are a simple, effective way of connecting back to the kid inside you. Most of us had crayons as a kid, and they can go back to a very young age. Drawing with crayons can help you to relax, and to ease up on tight control and critical voices. You can buy a small box of crayons for less than a dollar, or a really big box with tons of colours and choices. Let yourself draw, scribble, do whatever feels good. Don't judge; just let whatever comes, comes—and have fun!
- Get creative with any material, but especially crayons, markers, finger paints, tempera, water colours, pencil crayons, pastels. You can also try rubber stamps, stickers, construction paper, pipe cleaners, string, paper tubes, scissors and tape or glue, glitter—basically anything that appeals to you. Remember making craft projects as a kid? Just dig in and express yourself. Don't worry about looks; you're trying for expression, release, for messy fun here.
- Play with some old toys or games that you had as a child, or some new ones that appeal to you. This might include play doh, soap bubbles, a kite, a remote control car, dominoes, Uno, snakes and ladders, marbles, pick up sticks, hop scotch, jumping rope, playing ball—anything that appeals to you.
Read a good children's book, or some old favourites. Reading an old favourite children's book can feel so good, like connecting back with an old friend. It can feel especially good when you find that the book is just as good as it was when you were a kid. Or find a new book that makes you feel good, or tells you something you need to hear. You can find great books at the library, your local bookstore, or online bookstores.
Some great new picture books with good-feeling or messages are:
- Ish, by Peter H. Reynolds, Candlewick Press, 2004, ISBN: 076362344X
A strong story about a boy who likes to draw, and is teased because his drawings don't look right. The boy goes through some angst, but comes to see, with the help of his little sister, that his drawings are beautiful and just right as they are. This book also reminds us of the importance of being ourselves, accepting ourselves, letting our creativity be unique, and having compassion of other people and ourselves.
- Flyaway Katie, by Polly Dunbar, Candlewick Press, 2004,ISBN: 0763623660
A delightful story about a girl who is all by herself and is feeling down, and how, with some creativity and imagination, she helps herself feel better—entering a painting until it's time for her bath. It also reminds us to play, to take care of ourselves, and that we have the ability to change our mood and help ourselves feel better.
- Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type, by Doreen Cronin, Betsy Lewin (Illustrator),Simon & Schuster, 2000, ISBN: 0689832133
A funny story that will make you laugh aloud, about a group of cows on Farmer's Brown's farm, that find an old typewriter, and start using it to make their needs known. It also reminds us of the power of communication, the importance of making your needs heard, and the importance of compromise.
For teen books, look at this page for books you might enjoy.
- Ish, by Peter H. Reynolds, Candlewick Press, 2004, ISBN: 076362344X
- Have a campfire cook out, and roast some potatoes, corn—and, of course, marshmallows! If you're in the city, you can use a barbecue.
- Listen to kids' music.
- Watch some kid TV or movies. There are some good kid TV shows; Reading Rainbow reads a book aloud to the viewers; Sesame Street has some great messages, uses imagination and playfulness. Some great kid movies that celebrate kidiness and playfulness are:
- Big (1988) with Tom Hanks. When a boy wishes to be big at a magic wish machine, he wakes up the next morning and finds himself in an adult body.
- Disney's The Kid (2000) with Bruce Willis and Lily Tomlin. An unhappy, cynical man who meets himself as an 8-year-old boy, and with the child's help, remembers his dreams and becomes the man he wants to be.
- Mary Poppins (1964) with Julie Andrews. A special nanny arrives in the lives of a family with two children and a distant, oppressive father, and helps change their lives with magic and her personality.
- Be read to again. Listen to a children's audio book (you can get these from the library), ask a friend, lover, or therapist to read to you, watch Reading Rainbow, or read to yourself. Being read to can have such a comfy, good feeling to it.
- Learn from someone again. Take a class or course in something you've always wanted to, or something that interests you—pottery, tai chi, painting, swimming, dance, singing, etc.
- Read some comics—from the newspaper, library, online, or comic books from a comic store.
- Read a joke book, tell some silly jokes, even if only to yourself (but it's more fun to tell them to someone else)
- Have fun with the weather. Jump into puddles, walk in the rain, kick your feet through the leaves, make a snowperson or a snow angel—whatever the weather, there's sure to be something that appeals to your inner child. And it's something you can do in your won backyard.
- Spend some time in a candy store. Buy a little bit of candy from your childhood, or something that appeals to you now. Suck on a piece of candy, or chew a piece of gum. Really notice the flavour, the sweetness, how it feels in your mouth, the delight of it. Suck on it or chew it as loudly as you want!
- Jump on your bed, or on a trampoline, as high as you can. Or have a pillow fight with someone you like.
- Have a water fight with someone you like. Scream and be as silly as you like. It can be a good idea to agree on a word before hand that, if either of you say, means you instantly stop the water fight (in case you get overwhelmed).
- Bake some cookies—you can always bake low-fat cookies. Ones where you drop sprinkles on top or put chocolate chips in are the best. :) Make gingerbread people or gingerbread houses with icing or candy on top.
- Be silly with a friend or your lover. Tickle them (if they're open to that), have a food fight, throw leaves or grass at each other, have a water fight, tell silly jokes, have a sleepover or a movie party. Just have fun.
- Play with something squishy or gooey—play doh, finger paint, mud, silly putty, those gooshy plastic toys you can throw that stick to the walls, hyperflash inside-out stretch ball, etc. Feel the fun and delight of squishing the toy.
- Make some paper airplanes. Fly them.
- Play with a punching ball/balloon. These are fun, make a great sound, and are good for getting out anger, too.
- Play some word games--on your own or with others. Mad Lib, Boggle, scrabble are all fun. A few great computer word games are Bookworm, Flip Words, Fowl Words, and Boggle. And there are books with word searches, cross words, etc. These kind of games can appeal to adults as well as kids.
- Play some card games.
Letting your inner child play can be very rewarding. It can help you feel happier and more alive, and can give you energy. It can help remind you of your dreams, what you care about, and what you need to do to feel good. Try spending some time letting the child inside you play. You may find yourself feeling better afterwards.
©Cheryl Rainfield, 2004
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