Once upon a time — children stayed out until the streetlights came on, they played in unsanitized spaces, unsupervised, they got messy, fell down and got back up.
Every day, they navigated the new and unfamiliar. Sometimes, no one was there to make sure it always turned out right. They created their own games, made their own teams, and learned how to win…and lose. They were curious and tested answers outside the obvious solutions. They talked to new people and ventured into new spaces, and built a storage bank of experiences that they could draw on all through their life.
One day, society decided that this unstructured way of life was detrimental to children and told parents and educators “good parents and educators” keep children safe and organized, managed, supervised, and constantly occupied. And we did.
Because of that, we realized that children and adults were becoming less resilient, more prone to anxiety, and having increasing difficulty managing risk and connection when things were not always managed and organized.
We observed poor self-regulation, time management, and conflict resolution skills. Our ability to accept and manage people and spaces different from what we know or expect is hindered by the fear of new and unfamiliar. Our ability to cope and adapt to change and crisis limited by the worry of doing it wrong.
Because of that … we decided to go backwards to move forward.
We returned to a globally and culturally universal place of humanity. PLAY.
We created spaces for people of all ages to be curious again, to explore and test and try, to fall down and dust themselves off and try again. We gave educators and workplaces the tools to recognize their strengths in difference.
We addressed inclusion, mental health, and loneliness and as opportunities to use our creativity, innovation, and connection skills again, without the hesitation of doing it “perfectly.”
Until finally, people of all ages and abilities recognized the value of play, building experience, leaning into things that are unknown and adapting.
In a world filled with near-impossible challenges, we found the cognitive flexibility to bend without breaking, take pieces with nothing in common and find connection and belonging.
And we realized that “happily ever after” starts in play.