The Spontaneous Joy of Play

“Will you play with me?” It’s perhaps the most quintessential question of childhood. And it’s the question our little boy asked his uncle during a recent family gathering. 

“Sure! What do you want to play?” came the reply.

An expression spread over our little guy’s face, as if to say, “Oh, wow, I have no idea. I hadn’t got that far yet.” After a pause, he said, “Just run around and play!”

And so they did. Our little girl joined in the fun too, as their uncle chased our kids with bursts of laughter ensuing. Evidently, they decided to roam around and mimic the roars of prehistoric animals, including sabertooth cats and woolly mammoths. They loved every second of it.

Watching my kids chase their uncle, it struck me: this joy just happened spontaneously. It was not planned, researched, or analyzed. It just started with a simple decision: let’s play.

Kids don’t feel the need to have all the answers. Life washes over them, and joy flows naturally.

As grownups, we sometimes forget the wisdom of our youth. We fall into the trap of thinking that, for life to be fruitful, we must plan every hour of every day. Our overreaching minds tell us that we must have all the answers before taking the first step.

To a certain degree, we are right. We have to plan for work and home responsibilities. After all, dinner has never prepared itself.

But we can also embrace the wisdom of our children too. There are moments, everyday, when we can simply play, when we can embrace the present without knowing the future, when we can take the first step in a journey without a specific destination in mind.

If only for a few moments, we too can discover the joy and freedom that our children cherish.