We talk a lot about the importance of play and the impact that deep, uninterrupted play has on brain development in children, and their sense of overall wellbeing.
But for so many people, this idea of play feels out of reach.
It might be something that was either never nurtured as a young child, has been forgotten - or, through the process of growing up, we have lost the sense of permission required to be able to let go and play.
What we want to encourage adults to do is really watch and observe children when they are at their most engaged in play, and wonder about what is happening in that moment.
It doesn't necessarily look like laughter and joy, it doesn't always look like something that can be easily understood and it certainly doesn't always look like it has purpose or logic.
The play IS the purpose
We can take these observations and apply them to our own lives.
When do we feel deeply engaged and relaxed in our lives? If we are involved with something playful (such as a hobby or activity, an unimportant task or enjoyable action, dance or song or a playful game) do we allow ourselves to sink into that activity, or do we feel guilty and pull back for more important work?
Do we build time into our week for a bit of silliness or frivolity?
Do we know what it is to follow a child's ideas and go with their flow rather than trying to turn it into a teachable moment? Can we enjoy these moments?
Do we prioritise fun, knowing that the pay-off is our mental health?
When it comes to play, so much is written about childhood brain development and the vital role that play holds. But we also know that babies are part of a dyad between parent and child, and if a parent finds play challenging then the child is less likely to have opportunity for the most beneficial types of play - and both parent and child miss out.
Play in Instrument Lessons
When it comes to Musical Play, we see so many children start an instrument with enthusiasm, and push through the early learning phases (which will always have an element of challenge!) to the stage where they can read complex music and take part in groups and yet still - so many stop playing once the formal arrangements fall out of place.
Is this because they were missing that vital play element?
Were they genuinely enjoying those experiences and feeling a deep sense of satisfaction and accomplishment? If a child is only learning to play "correctly" the issue may come down the track when they feel despondent about playing and the crucial play factor has been ignored.
So what do we do about this?
If your child is learning an instrument, there must be time for both formalities and fun. This means ensuring that it does not become purely a chore that they must tick off.
Make sure they have teachers who inspire and nurture their creativity alongside learning to read and play written music.
It means allowing them to try different instruments until they find one that sparks joy.
It means allowing them to "mess around" sometimes on their instrument as a form of daily practise rather than always requiring they practise their scales.
It means helping them find like-minded players to play alongside who are also there to have fun.
It means showing them different genres to try their instrument in instead of pigeon holing them into just one.
It means being fussy with who you to choose to train them as they get older so that they feel supported and allowed to be expressive with their playing.
The pay off is an adult who enjoys their instrument and never stops playing.