For each of the last six years I have chosen a word of the year. This year has been my year of PLAY.
Choosing a word to define the year is lots of fun, it can really help to focus the mind on what is important and encourage us to consider where we want to focus our attention and our energy. It gives a theme to the year and can be a useful tool and reminder to cultivate new habits.
So for 2016 I chose the word PLAY. The obvious intention was to have more fun, to play and enjoy life. Spending quality time with the ones we love, making shared memories through shared moments and really enjoying our time together are important priorities that can easily get forgotten in the busyness of everyday life. Reminding myself of the importance of slowing down and enjoying the moment rather than rushing through tasks is something I return to again and again.
Play is so important for learning, through play we can discover more about each other and ourselves. It can be an important bonding experience and opportunity to relax and have fun. When we are enjoying activities we learn more easily, our brains can process large amounts of information and we retain more. Focusing on the importance of play for learning has been a great reminder to relax and trust (my first word of the year, back in 2011). It has encouraged me to think more creatively about how to present information and introduce new ideas to my children and reminded me of the importance of making things fun if I want them to be meaningful and memorable.
Our family started our home education journey some seven years ago and one of the first fun projects we embarked upon was the creation of joy lists. Thinking more about play this year has been a welcome reminder that we can re-visit these any time and follow our joy.
We can also be intentional about finding joy any time, so much of our daily routine can be played as games. The mundane everyday tasks of washing up and tidying seem so much more fun when you are ‘racing the timer’ – we love timers in our house and they can be so useful in beating procrastination and transforming feelings of resentment and irritation to a more productive and efficient state of mind.
Everyday tasks to keep our home clean and tidy, the repetitive actions of washing up, preparing meals and washing up again can seem like an interference and distraction from other important matters of life but when we can learn to enjoy them then they can actually be rejuvenating. They can be moments of meditation, relaxation and inspiration as our minds shift into different gears while our hands are busy. And, of course, if someone else joins in too, then they are moments of connection and bonding too.
Learning to love the stuff that must be done, or shifting our perspective and acknowledging that there may be alternatives, different ways to achieve our ends, makes life much more fun. Now when I start to feel overwhelmed I try to think about how to make my next task more enjoyable.
Expanding this notion even further is the idea of play projects. These offer the opportunity to explore ways to move towards our goals and dreams, preparing for the future by acting in the now and letting go of the need for perfectionism. A chance to try out something we have been longing to do but were too scared to commit ourselves can become a fun project where we can develop our skills and embrace the joy of learning through play. Who knows where that might lead?
So as another year fast approaches I would love to know what your word of the year has been and what you are considering for 2017. Best get my thinking cap on here and play around with some ideas.