Over the summer, I’ve been reminded of the wonder of play, something I may not have if it weren’t for the lockdown.
I’ve pieced together train tracks for my two-year-old cousin. We’ve sat on the floor, pushing the little wooden trains around the loop, under the tunnel, over the bridge, making “ch ch ch ch” noises as we go.
I’ve swung on rope swings over a little stream with my three older cousins. We’ve laughed as we twisted and spun, and we discussed tactics to get the best run-up, and therefore speed over the stream.
At a socially distanced youth picnic, I played silly games with the young people, such as one that involved us acting like eggs, chickens and dinosaurs in a rock-paper-scissors type tournament. I watched as they played hide and seek, they climbed trees, crawled into bushes, swung on rope swings. We wandered about the big playing field in the chilly wind searching for leaves, flowers, seeds and sticks… or massive branches in some cases!
This picnic was the first time I had seen the young people face-to-face since March. However, I had seen most of them most weeks over Zoom. We played Jackbox Games - a program I really recommend looking into - which are a pack of online games. I run the program using Steam on my laptop and then I screen-share over Zoom. The young people, using a different device to the one they’re running Zoom on, log into Jackbox using a unique and private room code. Then we play! A favourite was 'Quiplash', which is where Jackbox gives two players a statement that needs completing, such as “the difference between grade A and grade B beef. Then the individual players type in a funny answer. Once both the answers are in, they are put up on the screen for all to see, but nobody knows who wrote each ‘quip’. All players then vote for the best one. These times playing together was always full of laughter; it was such a joy.
Last Sunday, my family gathered around the lounge table to play board games together. Competing to score points, make our way around the board, hushed discussions as we worked in teams. At one point during Tiki Topple, my younger brother used a card that removed one of the pieces I needed to win, and in a mix of frustration and excitement, I slammed my hand on the table, shouting, “no-o-o-o!”
Finally, earlier this week I caved in and bought a Nintendo Switch Lite. I wanted one since the beginning of lockdown in March, but I couldn’t justify spending that much money. However, whilst scrolling the Facebook Marketplace, I found a barely used yellow console and Animal Crossing game for a much lower price. I haven’t had a console since I was about ten years old, and I’ve really enjoyed catching bugs, shaking trees for pears, making friends on the island, and searching for materials to make flimsy tools. I’ve loved that there’s no winning or loosing, there’s no time-limit on achieving tasks, there are no set rules.
As the summer turns to autumn, I’m looking forward to building blanket forts in my lounge; snug with an abundance of blankets and duvets as I watch favourites like Notting Hill and Love Actually.
I think that creativity and play is illustrated through the story of creation. I like the idea of God playing around with colours and textures as He creates waves in the sea, and places clouds in the sky. “Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola give us the image of God playing in the dirt, making mud pies”.
In the book of Matthew, children are brought to Jesus so that He could pray for them, but the disciples “shooed them off”, as the Message Version puts it. Jesus replied, “let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these” (Matthew 19:13-14, NIV)
Jesus invites us to be more like the little children, the simplicity, the innocents, the love and openness they give Jesus when others are trying to twist his words and question him. Jesus invites us to be more childlike.
I invite you, over the next few weeks, to have jump about, to find a rope swing, to laugh, to explore, to wonder, and to play.