children · community · creativity · environment · family · mental health · play

Play Takes Dedication (or Samhain Resolutions)

creative adult

Wow, I can’t believe it’s already November. Fall has been going fast.

It seems like I have been incredibly “busy with stuff” – kid stuff, grown-up stuff, house stuff, work stuff. Recently I realized I was forgetting to do all the also-important “me” stuff.


I mean, I wasn’t so bad; I had had several coffee dates with friends, taken time to go for more walks, was deliberately NOT folding laundry and instead just snuggling on the couch during my husband’s and my Friday night TV ritual (we won’t admit it’s a ritual but at this point it really is).

So the “little” maintenance stuff was getting done. Check.

However, I realized I wasn’t making time for the “big stuff”. The stuff that gave me purpose, that made me feel like I was contributing back to the community.

A few recent events reminded me of this.

First: Getting to attend and present at a fantastic conference two weeks ago – EPIC (Ethnographic Praxis in Industry Conference) held in Montreal this year – where I was surrounded by like-minded folks in my line of work (ethnography and studying humans in business and corporate settings). There’s nothing like being able to share your work and how you spend your days, and have people say, “wow, that’s cool!” or even “have you considered this too?”, rather than “uh, what’s that?”


Second: Halloween! While I’m not a huge fan of candy (and we ended up trading the kids’ candy for a “better” treat), I do appreciate the communal ritual of kids running like hooligans up and down their neighborhood streets, getting to show off their costumes to the grown-ups who might otherwise be isolated – whether they’re retirees or just work 70+ hours a week – who then get to be social with cute kids in cute costumes and make the kids happy by giving them treats. Not to mention the fun of dressing up and pretending to be someone or something else, or just offering a visual pun or cultural reference!

Batman and a zombie
wrecking ball
I came in like a wrecking ball…

Third: my boss organized an offsite for our whole team to use glue and stickers and washi tape and cut out pictures from magazines and create “vision boards” for ourselves. Theoretically it was about work, but in reality and fully endorsed by our boss, it was really about finding four big-but-small goals that are going to keep you motivated, keep you driven, at home, at work, and in life.

vision board

Mine were pretty simple yet also pretty complicated:

  1. Craft more.
  2. Make my work more actionable (not just work for work’s sake; what were the actions that could be taken from it?).
  3. Go on one “big” adventure a year.
  4. Get people playing more.

Getting myself to play seems hard enough; but getting others to play more also taps into that #2 goal of making what I do impactful/actionable.

I want to do more than just support play, I want to start actively PLAYING and pushing play. Start toy-bombing again. Start promoting play activities with our neighbors and at work. I’m supposed to be in charge of a yarn bombing event at work, and yet I’ve been hesitant to promote the HELL out of it (not sure why).

All of those things have really pushed me to making both personal play and advocating play more of a reality.

Yes, the house still needs cleaning (desperately!). Yes, we still need to run and grab food at the grocery store. Yes we still have But having a mission makes all of those things more tolerable for me, and put into a perspective of being part of a larger goal. I need food to keep up my energy. I need to tidy (okay, also scrub/purge/deep clean) the house so I can find what I need and focus on my projects.

I’ve noticed over the years I coincidentally tend to come up with my “new year’s resolutions” around the pagan New Year of Samhain rather than the Gregorian New Year on January 1, so all of these experiences make it a perfect time to renew and re-assert my goals and energy towards play.

What are some of your goals for renewing yourself and keeping yourself inspired and enriched? Let me know in the comments below.

behavior · children · creativity · education · health · learning · psychology

The Sometimes Overwhelming Power of Play

This is one of the best descriptions of the power of pretend play, especially dissecting how pretend play is hard work, and can be overwhelming, especially to someone who doesn’t have practice, which is why lots of play is important for practicing real-world feelings and situations like power, restraint, and questioning assumed priors.

Power is intoxicating.

It is also dangerous.

And it is especially dangerous when applied to four-year-olds.

Four-year-olds lack the experience to wield power responsibly. They have no idea what to do with it or how to control it.

The dinosaur costume was the greatest thing that had ever happened to me.

…All I knew was that being a dinosaur felt very different from being a person, and I was doing things that I had never even dreamed of doing before. …Of course, I had always had the ability to do these things — even as a person — but I didn’t know that. I’d just assumed that I was unable.  As a dinosaur, I didn’t have any of those assumptions.  It felt like I could do whatever I wanted without fear of repercussions.

read the whole comic via Hyperbole and a Half: Menace.

  • Menace (
anthropology · behavior · children · community · creativity · Social

Halloween, the most playful time of year

Cute Kids in Children's Costumes
Kids in Halloween Costumes (Photo credit:

Ah, Halloween, originally considered the betwixt and between time of year when ghosts and souls past could pass over into our world and scare the crud out of their relatives.

But these days, Halloween is really a celebration of play. No, really! When else is it perfectly acceptable to dress up in funny costumes, stay up late on a week night running around banging on peoples doors, play tricks on people, and create food that looks spooky or gross but is really just lots of sugar?

The tradition of dressing up and playing for Halloween is alive and well in the tradition of Dia de los Muertos, for example. To deal with and make light of mortality, grown-ups and kids will put on make-up and costumes that represent death and the dead. They’ll make and eat sugary confections, parade down the street, play music, sing songs, and overall try to make a party out of a normally scary and sad phenomenon. Yes, there is some sadness involved, such as visiting relatives’ graves and setting up alters to reflect their passing, but for some even the act of creating the alter, i.e. being creative, is cathartic and helps with the loss of a loved one.

In the play deprived United States, Halloween has become one big kid’s night out for adults as well as kids. Children and grown-ups alike look forward to dressing up, pretending to be a character, and be silly with friends. Often the costume is a parody or commentary on something political, but that’s just as playful as covering yourself as marshmallows, although potentially socially sticky instead of just physically sticky.

That’s why it makes me sad that so many K – 12 schools have banned Halloween for fear of these socially sticky situations or fear of kids bringing weapons to school as part of their costumes, plus some religious groups find Halloween offensive. While I understand and respect all of these concerns, I disagree with the idea that we should just get rid of it outright. How are we going to learn to get along and get over differences if we just avoid them? Play and school are both supposed to be about learning, so why not turn Halloween into a learning opportunity?

As a proponent of play, I feel like Halloween is an important holiday, not because of what it originally stood for, but for what it stands for now. Being socially allowed to play and pretend, even for one day, is important for humans’ mental health. It also creates bonds between people who share in the activity, not just from sharing the experience but learning more about each other through their costumes.

I will definitely be buying candy and supporting Halloween this year, not for the sweet tooth but for the costumes. Play on!