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As a theatre teacher who works with both adults and children I have the privilege of witnessing the similarities and differences in how we play at various ages. To play is to experiment, to try out, and to pretend. We don’t have to take ourselves, our ideas, our creations so seriously because we are “only playing”. There is room to fail. Or this is how we would hope it would be.
However, it saddens me greatly to see children explore and invent with such freedom and then have an adult come to my class and stand awkwardly before me, uncertain of what to do. I have to remind them again and again that we are only playing. They cannot fail. But somehow all the expectations to be good, to do it right get in the way of our natural inventiveness. I have never understood why we have to stop playing. What makes us decide; somewhere around puberty that playing is “not cool”? Obviously social pressures and the fear of embarrassment most likely have something to do with it.
But to me playing is an essential part of life. We don’t stop learning and exploring and so why should we stop playing and experimenting safely together?
When I teach I aim to allow students, above all, a safe place to play. The nature of play is to come together with others and experience joy as we discover more about life and the world. What could be more spiritual?