Playful Lessons by Venessa Bowers, MSW, LSW

There is something profound to be learned from children and the ways in which they play. They play when they’re happy, when they’re sad, when they’re grieving, and when they’re mad. And as much as we might like to think that kids have nothing to be sad, grieving, or mad about; the tragic reality is that they do. Far too often, they do.

But the lessons I have learned from working with children who have lived through more, experienced more, grieved more than many people will in their entire life is the healing power of play. I know for myself, as I ran head-long into accumulating accomplishments, degrees, searching for recognition, feeling lost by pursuits that were so often fruitless that the thing I lost or perhaps never explored because of its frivolity was playing. I don’t play games – board games, card games, games of chance, or games in relationships. The point is I just don’t play – I don’t know how.  It just was never on my list of priorities in my overly important (or so I led myself to believe) life. I was simply too busy doing and too afraid to just be.

Here’s the thing – I have seen children in the most weakened states emotionally and mentally, sometimes physically and there are many more of them that never darken my door. Regardless of the level of distress, the prolonged nature of the trauma, the lost families, and what many consider “lost childhoods” – these children are consistent in one thing. This thing transcends race, class, and gender issues. It transcends trauma. It transcends grief. That one thing is to have the sense of wonder enough to create play in at least one area of their lives.

When one is as fortunate as I am to spend the better parts of my days in the company of children, one ends up with the profound sense that the child is the smart one in the room. They’re smart because they still dream, still hope, still believe that if they play long enough with someone who loves them, or even without, that they will move through the place in which they currently inhabit. They love with their whole self and it wraps around me like a really warm blanket in some of my coldest places.

When a child laughs, and I mean REALLY laughs, it as if the brightest light ever produced in the universe shines in the room. Simultaneously, one is blinded and opened by that light.  In that moment, we have the choice to blink and shrink from the light or to let the light fill our own darkness. In this way, the healer is healed and the child within is set free.

I have learned to be silly. To make up the most outrageous stories. To hug with my whole self. To breath in the infectious scent of a child’s hair. To laugh from the gut when a kid accidently spits on me, puts paint in my hair, or throws stuffed animals at my head, just because they can. I am learning to be safe in my happy – to look for my joy in the eyes and smiles of children.  Any child.

So, let me ask you. When was the last time you laughed until you cried? When was the last time you made up a dream world to live in for a moment that was so much better than the world in which we really live? When was the last time you told a joke and didn’t care if anyone but you laughed? When was the last time you wrapped your arms around yourself when you needed unconditional love and affection? When was the last time you daydreamed just because you didn’t feel like washing the floor?

If you can’t remember the “last time” you did any of these things, do yourself a favor and make right now you new “last time.”  If you open your heart and mind to the possibility of play, you’ll never regret it. Take it from this skeptic – you will NEVER regret it.

Brightest Blessings.


3 comments so far

  1. Lisa DeShazer on

    I really enjoyed reading this blog of playful lessons! I really loved this statement that Venessa made: “When a child laughs, and I mean REALLY laughs, it as if the brightest light ever produced in the universe shines in the room”. I think of my daughter and when she is laughing I mean REALLY laughing it just brings joy to my heart and soul and a BIG smile on my face!! I love to hear it and I want to hear it more and more. Even to look at her laughing I love to see how her entire face lights up. My mother has alzheimer’s and when Taylor is laughing and playing my mother enjoys it. She even says that her entire face lights up and it brings joy to her and I sit back and enjoy the moment of my 2yr old daughter bringing Joy to my mother that sometimes does not know who she is.

    • Venessa Schade Bowers on

      Wow – what a powerful image you just conjured in my head. It is so amazing that a child can heal the things that weaken us, the things that medicine can’t heal – in the moments when your daughter laughs and your mom hears her, she is healed in that moment because I’m willing to bet that 1. the laugh is infectious, and 2. she remembers you laughing as a child. Her mind might not always know who is in the room with her but her soul will never forget. Its a tragic and heartbreaking illness, but your little girl is the link between past, present, and future and I’m so glad she is a part of your life. Now, because you shared your story, she’s part of mine too. Thank you for that. Venessa

  2. Pewter Keychain on

    With thanks a lot pertaining to your blog article.Truly awaiting read much more. Wonderful.

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