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Child Play for Growing Down

Chapter 15 Child Play for Growing Down

Growing Down - Tools for

Healing the Inner Child

By: James J. Messina, Ph.D. &

Constance M. Messina, Ph.D.

What is Child Play?

Child Play is the:

  • Way in which you can grow down to recapture your inner child's spirit of playfulness, freedom, and excitement.
  • Experience of child-like fun, frolic, and enthusiasm when involved in games, activities, or planned group play.
  • Purposeful way of engaging in tasks which give life to your inner child.
  • Use of children's games, toys, and activities to allow you to relax and be a kid again.
  • Tool which you can use to relieve the stress and anxiety you feel when you have become overwhelmed by the responsibilities, struggles, or problems of adult life.
  • Way in which you can regain your lost enthusiasm and hope for life that you once had as a little child.
  • One time you can let things go and kick back and not engage in over-analysis, problem solving, and crisis resolution.
  • Scheduled activities through which you are able to heal your inner child.
  • Allowing your inner child to give reign to a call for spontaneity, frivolousness, and sense of humor.
  • Activity in which you let go of your fears of nonapproval, rejection, and nonconformity, and allow yourself to be free to experience the now with no self-recriminations, introspection, or criticism.
  • Emotional release or gut work of self-healing which does not require any analytical thinking or head work.
  • One time you get to lead with the heart and not with the head with no fear of repercussions from self or others.


What are the myths of resistance to Child Play which you need to overcome?

Here are some myths or irrational beliefs and thoughts which might keep you from enjoying Child Play activities. Each myth is followed by a rational, healthy response:


Myth: It's hard to have fun when you are playing the game to win.

Response: Your goal in Child Play is to have fun and winning is a secondary motive.


Myth: If you are not good at this game, you should not play.

Response: It is not how good you play the game but rather how much child-like fun and frolic you experience in the play.


Myth: You should always be the best.

Response: You don't need to be the best at the game in order to have fun.


Myth: Cheating at kid games is wrong.

Response: Cheating at kid games can add to the fun and spontaneity of the experience so that you and others can give vent to the playful impishness inside of you.


Myth: You should always play these games by the rules.

Response: If you agree that the rule of the game is to break the rules, be sure to let the children you are playing with understand that the goal of the game is to relax, have fun, and enjoy each other's company.


Myth: You should win at all costs and it's winning that counts in the end. You should always play hard for the team.

Response: The goal of the Child Play games is not to win at all costs but rather to respect the needs of each other and to encourage the freedom of child-like experience for all participants.


Myth: Rules should always benefit you and your team.

Response: When playing team Child Play games it is important that all team players are aware of the goal to have fun and to make the focus of the team effort to enjoy the game.


Myth: Rules should always be fair.

Response: Rules in Child Play games are not always fair to you and your team but that doesn't mean you can't still have fun playing.


Myth: Your performance is what counts.

Response: There is no need to be overly conscious of your performance in the game since too much self-analysis and self-introspection take away from the child-like experience of the game.


Myth: Why give others a hand if it helps them to look better than you?

Response: If you can help others play the Child Play well, then do so since it adds to the fun, excitement, and enjoyment in the game.


Myth: You should play the game alone.

Response: You cannot enjoy a team game unless you allow yourself to let others do things for you in the process. Letting others help you enjoy the game gets you out of the isolation you may too often experience in your adult life.


Myth: It is skill at playing the game that counts.

Response: Your level of skill at playing a game is not what counts in a Child Play mode. What counts is your ability to relax and let your hair down enough to be free to experience the exhilaration of the play, fun, and enjoyment of sharing activity with others.


Myth: It is not OK to ask for help when playing the game.

Response: Your inner child can help you overcome the sense of adult pride which inhibits your asking for help in playing the game. The asking for help from others gives them an opportunity to make the experience an easier one for you to enjoy, relax, and have fun in.


Myth: Rules should always be explained clearly at the beginning of the game and rules should never be changed or broken in the middle of the game.

Response: Rules for Child Play games do not have to be hard, fast and rigid but rather can be more fluid, spontaneous, and subject to change in order to help the participants experience the enjoyment and fun possible in such activities.


Myth: It is not OK to have fun when you compete.

Response: Competition in Child Play is a natural result of the way most games are played. However, when the goal is to have fun and give your inner child a chance to play, the competition does not become the focus or goal and thus it is not allowed to diminish the enjoyment of the event.


Myth: You should always perform perfectly.

Response: The perfectionistic adult is left out of a Child Play activity to give yourself a chance to lighten up and relax without rigid self-critical analysis of your performance.


Myth: You should always avoid failure, mistakes, or losing.

Response: There are no mistakes or wrong ways of doing things nor failure or loss in Child Play when you and your playmates are having fun and enjoying the freedom of the frolic, spontaneity, and silliness of imperfect execution of the tasks of the game.


Myth: If you don't win, always blame it on others.

Response: When the goal is to have fun, there is never a need to blame others for a loss since you are never a loser when you have had fun playing the game.


Myth: If the reward is not big enough, why play the game or put out effort to win?

Response: The reward in Child Play is not a prize, trophy, or medal but rather the experience of camaraderie, companionship, closeness, and group cohesion. The reward is also the experience of the freedom of youth to enjoy the small things in life. These rewards are great and make the game worth playing.


Myth: It is always difficult to play together and to work as a team.

Response: As long as all parties involved agree to the goal of child-like freedom, spontaneity, enjoyment and relaxation, it is easy to be a team member and play together since you are in a common effort to have your inner children play with one another.


Myth: You should always be proper, act mature, and be reserved when you play the game.

Response: Being a child in play is one way you have of shedding the restrictive and rigid bonds of adult seriousness and maturity. This experience assists you to gain a perspective on life so as to reduce your overly analytical, self-conscious introspection, which is a root cause of much of the stress in your life.


Myth: Games for fun and play should always be simple and easy to do.

Response: Child Play games do not always have to be simple to be fun. It is often the complex, obtuse or confusing nature of the rules which gives the players a chance to ignore, change, or rewrite them during a game to increase the spontaneity of the unexpected.


Myth: Rules, procedures, motives and goals of the game should always be clear, straight, and aboveboard.

Response: Rigid adherence to child game rules can often rob the participants of the fun and joy of the activities. For this reason players need to be given freedom to declare a desire to change, alter or modify the rules midstream if the rules are inhibiting the players' experience of relaxation, stress reduction, fun, and enjoyment.


Myth: You should never feel any stress or anxiety when you play a game.

Response: There is healthy stress or anxiety known as eustress which is the internal performance motivator for humans. In Child Play this eustress can be used to motivate playfulness, impishness, and exhilaration in the participants to lighten up and enjoy the moment.


Myth: You should never cheat and cheaters in a game should be punished.

Response: One's definition of cheating needs to be altered when it is used in the context of Child Play since the rules of Child Play are often to cheat or break the rules to keep the players free and easy and not bottled up with rigidity and rule-boundedness.


Myth: It's not fair to have to lose at a game which is being played for fun.

Response: You are never a loser if you have fun at Child Play and this is true even if you are on the losing end of a game.


Myth: You should never be tricked or fooled when you play the game.

Response: You are always open to being tricked or fooled in real life so if the players in a Child Play game catch you off guard by tricking you it is OK and all the better if it resulted in fun and mayhem.


Myth: You should never make a fool of yourself when you play the game.

Response: The goal in Child Play is to play the fool, court jester, jokester, funster, or imp so let loose of your restrictive adult inhibitions and lighten up and fool others by being out of character with them.


Myth: Games are always a way in which you can assess if you measure up to the standards and expectations of others.

Response: Games in Child Play are not intended as barometers of the real world so lighten up, relax, and kick back since there is no judgment, criticism, or evaluation of your performance, attitude, or behaviors being done by your playmates.


Myth: You should never be in a situation in which you might fail or lose so avoid playing games. You may not be able to do it so don't play. You might not be the best so don't play. You should always try to do your best when playing the game and not let the others down by a poor performance. You may need to hold back in your performance so that the others will feel good and like you.

Response: Fear of failure, fear of rejection, fear of taking risks, and fear of loss of approval are often motivators which keep you from playing in games. In order to free up your inner child, you need to give yourself permission to have fun as your goal in Child Play and to let go of the need to perform at some real or imagined level of success. What counts is your free and open participation in the games. Take a risk and lighten up on your expectations for yourself. Relax and have fun.


Myth: You should not have to play a game when it's too silly, frivolous, or childish. Games and play are pure wastes of time. It is not OK to waste time by playing games just for the fun of it.

Response: Child Play games, if they are to be successful in allowing your inner child to become visible to you and others, often need to be simple, silly, frivolous, childish, light and airy. The reduction of stress and anxiety in our lives requires that we relax, lighten up and become less serious and intense. Playing while having fun is not a waste of time if your inner spirit has been vented so as to heal.


Myth: You should always let the more skillful players shine so that you can hide and be invisible.

Response: The goal of Child Play is to help you and your inner child become more visible and real to you and others.


Myth: You have never been able to have fun before at these games so why should you expect to have fun now? All the shouting, yelling, aggressiveness, and bullying in these games is intimidating and detracts from their purpose.

Response: Just because as a child you were not able to enjoy or have fun at a Child Play activity does not mean that you will not have fun when you try them now. There is a chance that you were too serious or intense as a child and as such were too inhibited, self-conscious and rigid. The inner child in you was not given a chance to enjoy or experience life to the fullest. Child Play activities are your chance to recapture your child and heal your inner spirit. You will begin to reorganize your priorities in life and take time to enjoy the little things in life.


Myth: Adults should only play mature, reserved, and proper games and, unless it costs a lot to play a game, it can't possibly be worth playing.

Response: Adults have their expensive toys and hobbies and often­times still do not have fun doing these activities. To have fun and enjoy play does not always have to cost a lot of money. The simpler and less complicated an activity is, the greater the chance you will be free to enjoy it without resentment, fear, or anxiety about the material cost involved.

What feelings are generated by Child Play?
The following are just a few of the health-engendering feelings you can experience in Child Play:
  • amicable  amused  animated  at ease  avid 
  • benevolent  big-hearted  blissful  buoyant 
  • calm cheerful  comfortable  comic congenial  convivial  cooperative  cordial 
  • delighted  eager  ecstatic  elated elevated  enchanted  engrossed 
  • enthusiastic  exalted  excellent  excited  exhilarated  exultant 
  • fantastic  fascinated  festive  fine  fit  free  friendly  frisky  fun  fun loving 
  • glad  gleeful  good  good-humored  good-natured  grand  gratified  great 
  • happy  high-spirited  hilarious  humorous 
  • inspired  intrigued 
  • jolly  jovial  joyful  joyous  jubilant 
  • keen  kind  kind-hearted 
  • lenient  light-hearted  lively  loving 
  • magnificent  majestic  mellow  merry 
  • neighborly  open  optimistic  overjoyed 
  • peaceful  playful  pleasant  pleased  proud 
  • satisfied  serene  sparkling  spirited  splendid  sunny  superb 
  • terrific  thrilled  tranquil  tremendous  triumphant  turned on 
  • vivacious  witty  wonderful
What are some examples of Child Play?
The following are some examples of activities which have Child Play potential:
  • Reading or listening to children's books or stories.
  • Listening to children's music.
  • Watching children's TV shows or movies.
  • Playing with children's toys.
  • Drawing with crayons or chalk.
  • Pasting pictures or cardboard cutouts.
  • Dancing to children's music.
  • Playacting children's make-up stories.
  • Exploring the city or country with a child's eye.
  • Going to an amusement park or theme park as a child.
  • Playing competitive games like softball, volleyball, soccer, basketball with fellow Child Play participants.
  • Playing party games like: charades, Pictionary, Win Lose or Draw, Trivial Pursuit, etc. with fellow Child Play participants.
  • Playing children's party games like: musical chairs, pin the tail on the donkey, water balloon toss, wheelbarrow races, ring toss, bean bag toss, etc. with Child Play participants.
  • Flying kites.
  • Playing on children's playground equipment such as swings, slides, teeter totter, etc.
  • Blowing bubbles with bubble gum.
  • Blowing soap bubbles.
  • Telling jokes.
  • Sharing make believe or fantasy stories.
  • Having an inner child pajama party.
  • Having a children's birthday party for your inner child.
  • Racing model motorized cars, boats, or planes.
  • Playing arcade electronic or computer games.
  • Playing miniature golf.
  • Playing children's carnival games like duck pond, ring toss, fish pond, or balloon darts toss.
  • Visiting a zoo or farm.
  • Fingerpainting or painting with water colors.
  • Playing with play dough or molding clay


What are the steps to incorporate Child Play into your lifestyle? 


Step 1: Before you can incorporate Child Play into your life, you first need to identify your personal feelings about doing this work for yourself. In your journal respond to the following questions:

  • How do you feel about your inner child?
  • How real to you is your inner child?
  • What keeps you from tuning into your inner child on a regular basis?
  • How do you feel about the definition of Child Play given in this chapter? What do you like and/or dislike about the concept for you?
  • How does the concept of Child Play fit into your efforts at personal recovery from the behavioral consequences of low self-esteem?
  • What are the current obstacles in your life which keep you from fully engaging in or enjoying Child Play?
  • How willing are you to overcome the obstacles to your Child Play?
  • What resistance are you currently feeling which holds you back from fully engaging in Child Play?
  • What further information or support do you need to help you overcome your resistance to engaging in or enjoying Child Play?
  • What are you willing to do in order to give yourself a chance to enjoy the benefits of Child Play in your life?
  • When do you want to start your Child Play work?
  • With whom are you willing to share your Child Play activities?
  • How many times a day, week, month, and year can you commit to engage in healthy Child Play?
  • What supports do you need to ensure you are able to incorporate Child Play into your lifestyle?


Step 2: Once you have clarified your feelings, overcome your obstacles and resistance and made a commitment to incorporate Child Play into your life, then you need to brainstorm in your journal a list of Child Play activities you are willing to attempt in the next thirty days. Use the list of activities in this chapter to seed your brainstormed list.


Step 3: Once you have brainstormed your list of Child Play activities, then put in your journal a calendar for the next thirty days and for each day put in at least one Child Play activity. Try not to repeat a Child Play activity more than four times in a thirty day period.


Step 4: Once your monthly schedule of Child Play is complete, your next task is to implement and perform the scheduled Child Play activities for the next thirty days.


Step 5: At the end of each Child Play activity, record in your journal the following information.Child Play Progress Report


Name of Child Play activity:

Time of day done:

  • What feelings I felt while engaging in the activity:
  • What myths or blocking beliefs kept me from fully enjoying or relaxing in this activity?
  • What new belief or more rational thought would help me enjoy it more next time?
  • How would I change the activity to derive even more fun and pleasure from it?
  • What benefit did my inner child derive from this activity?


Step 6: Fill out in your journal a daily progress report for each day of your Child Play activities. If at the end of thirty days you are still struggling to incorporate Child Play into your lifestyle, return to Step 1 and begin again.