Monthly Archives: October 2013

Play Happens When You Least Expect It


Many of you may know that I am a science guy.  I love the stuff.  In fact, I spend much of my time in the passionate pursuit of opportunities to turn people on to science!  One of the ways that I accomplish this is by hosting the Science Wondershop at The Children’s Museum of Atlanta on Sundays throughout the year.  Basically, the Science Wondershop is a science play workshop for children and their parents.  We make a mess, blow things up, get loud, and learn a little science along the way.  This past weekend, I brought dry ice to the Science Wondershop.  I thought I would give the parents some ideas for their upcoming Halloween celebrations.  Basically, we dropped dry ice into a cup of warm water, added some liquid dish detergent, and had an absolute ball playing with the results.  Like many weekends, I came home with left over materials from the Wondershop, and decided to explore a little science play with my own kids.  What happened next was unexpected, but a wonderful example of how the Play Challenge has changed my life.  We started with some of the same basic explorations I introduced at the museum.


We dropped a chunk of dry ice into a glass of warm water and watched it bubble.  The kids giggled as they watched the fog of gas roll over the sides of the glass.  I talked to them about the science of sublimation and states of matter.  They seemed content to dip their fingers in the bubbling liquid and blow streams of water vapor around the surface of the table.  I decided to take a cue from them (like I have done many times during this challenge) and look for opportunities to simply play with the materials.


I’d designed a contraption I called a ghost bubbler using a couple of two liter bottles, some plumbing materials, and some homemade bubble solution.  Like the name implies, it uses dry ice to blow ghostly looking soap bubbles.  I demonstrated it to my kids and in no time they had mastered the art of ghost bubbling.  Then one of them looked at the other and with the confidence of one who has mastered the art of playing whispered, “I wonder what would happen if…”  That’s when things got interesting!  They grabbed one of the glasses we’d used earlier and blew a ghost bubble into it.  Not wanting to be left out, I suggested that we drop some dry ice into the glass first and then blow a bubble into it.  The result…


…a ghost bubble that seemed to grow right out of the glass.  We played with this for a while, until one of the whispered again, “What if we…”  So we pulled out one of the large plastic graduated cylinders I had sitting with my materials, added some warm water, dropped in a chunk of dry ice, and squirted in some liquid dish detergent.  I smiled as the two of them erupted in laughter as the gas filled soap bubbles…


…began to rise and spill over the side of the plastic tube. The kids grabbed at the bubbles, squeezed them in their hands, and blew them into the air.  “This is play,” I thought, “in its most basic form.”  It was unstructured.  It was imaginative.  It was driven by the simple desire to see what happens when we answer the question…what if?  I decided it was time that I contributed something to our playtime.  I grabbed an empty cup, poured in a little water, dropped in a piece of dry ice and…


…poured thick clouds of fog onto my children! They’d never taken a bath in carbon dioxide, but if the pictures are any indication, I’d say they loved their first one.  Of course, this led us to our next great idea.  If you can fill a cup with the fog, why not fill an entire bucket with it.  Quickly, I grabbed a nice sized plastic tub from my stack of science supplies.  Slowly, we poured the fog (actually carbon dioxide and water vapor) into the tub until it was full of the gas.  My children watched in amazement as the fog sloshed around inside the plastic tub.  They grinned as it reacted to the swirls of their fingertips and puff of air they blew into the tub.  In a stroke of playful genius, one of them grabbed the homemade bubble solution and…


…blew a bubble over the surface of the gas.  The bubble grew and grew until it finally drifted away from her lips and into the middle of the plastic tub. My children and I watched as it floated around the tub. We smiled as we watched the bubble bobbing effortlessly…


…on the surface of the fog.  It was a beautiful sight to see.  However, what was even more exciting was the idea that my children had discovered this amazing event through the simple act of play.  I didn’t have to provide them with a set of instructions or a YouTube video.  I didn’t need a set of PowerPoint slides or a users manual.  I simply needed to trust in my children’s ability to uncover their world by simply being inquisitive. Over the course of the past 28 days, my children have taught me this lesson over and over again.  It has been a difficult one for me to learn.  After all, I have been taught that success often lies in organization, structure, and my ability to accurately follow instructions. While I still believe that these things are important, this challenge has taught me to value those moments that are rooted in creativity, curiosity, and my ability to actively explore my own questions and ideas.  This has been my biggest discovery during the past 28 day.  It is a lesson that I will forever thank my children for teaching me.


Opportunities to Play

428 Days has taught me a very valuable lesson in the past two months: If you want something in your life, seek it out!  As I experiment with the value of Play in my life, it seems that I keep stumbling on to websites, blogs, books, and experiences that add richness and understanding to my 28 day journey.  For example, today I came across a blog post from the blog, Don’t Think About It, Play About It!  The post was pretty simple.  It included a couple of sentences and the graphic below.  However, it was exactly what I needed to broaden my ideas about the different ways that I can make room for play in my life.  What are you looking for in these 28 days?  It is probably just within your reach.  Seek it out!



Learning from the Masters of Play

I watched this video today and was reminded, once again, that somewhere along the road to adulthood, I forgot how to truly play. These past three days have really challenged me to think about my ideas about play. Every day, I am pushing myself to break through the barriers of the responsible adult for just a moment. I want to experience true play. Here is what I am learning: First, I need to move to space that may be unfamiliar to me. I need to challenge myself to feel comfortable with exploring something I don’t really know much about. Second, I need to put aside my need to judge things as good/bad, effective/ineffective, worth/unworthy, and useful/useless. This need to evaluate my play is limiting my opportunities to play. Finally, I need to be comfortable with being an authentic human being. It seems that somewhere along the way I learned about appropriate behavior for adults. Unfortunately, those lessons made very little room for play…real play. I may need to leave those lessons behind if I really want to learn the new lessons waiting for me in these 28 days.

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Never Too Old To Play

Today began my new For 28 Days Challenge…Play! For the next 28 days, I will look for ways to incorporate more play into each day of my life. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Here’s the crazy part…I’m actually a little nervous about this one. After all, I’ve pretty much replaced all the moments of play in my life with “responsibilities.” Don’t get me wrong. I still play the occasional game of basketball. I’m good for game on my iPad when I have a moment to spare. I’ll even take my kids to the neighborhood park now and then. But rarely do I really, really PLAY!
Truth be told, I miss the days when I played with enthusiastic passion whenever I could. There is a part of me that wonders if I will be able to “do it the way I used to.” After all, it’s been a while. Then, there is the adult side of me that is over thinking every part of this challenge. It is the part that is planning for tomorrow’s play (Is it really play if you schedule it on your Google calendar?). It is the part that is wondering if I’ll do it right (Is it possible to play wrong?). It is the part of me that is concerned that I will look childish if someone sees me (Don’t adults need to play too?). These were the questions that were flooding through my mind as I sat drawing a huge chalk flower on our driveway with my kids this evening. I had a great time, but for much of the time I was questioning everything about the experience. My children, on the other hand, were playing like virtuosos. They moved effortlessly…gracefully…from one experience to another (drawing with chalk one second…digging for ants the next). Meanwhile, I stressed over the shading on the petals of my chalk flower. It seems that I have a lot to RE-learn about play, but I have 28 days to learn these lessons. After all, you are never too old to play!

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