I used to be a bike daredevil. Ever since my babysitter put the finishing touches on teaching me how to ride one summer evening, I was hooked. I took my bike everywhere, from the farm to my friend’s house, up to the big cemetery where my grandmother was buried, down the back road to my softball coach’s house, up Quaker Drive to a secluded area where my brother, sister and I would take our pails and pick berries, and a little further down that path to an old (1700-1800s) graveyard. I could change speeds at a moments’ notice, lean into sharp turns so not to flip the bike over, race with my childhood friend, and sometimes I even got a little air when hitting a certain bump down our back road.
Somewhere along the way, my bicycle started to collect dust. I was too cool for it; where before I had perceived it giving me loads of freedom, I grew beyond its limits as a form of transportation and began to think much bigger. I started to date, go out with friends, work on a job after school off of the farm, plan my trip to Spain and fantasize about other worlds; my bicycle became inadequate. In fact, I did not even think about my bicycle for a span of about eight years. One day in college I noticed a beautiful yellow bike that belonged to one of my roommates. I watched my roommate for a few weeks as she traversed the college campus with ease on her bike. That old feeling came back, and when I went home the following weekend I dug out an unused bicycle I had been given as a gift in my early teens to bring back to college with me. For the next two years I lovingly rode it on and off campus at first using the brakes as a crutch (it was much faster than I had remembered), and then purposefully blazing over raised cobblestones in our small college town for the thrill. My passion for biking was back. To this day, I have made it a priority to feel the thrill of my hair horizontal against the wind despite the many other forms of transportation I could use.
Too many activities, experiences, and toys are left to children. We all see how delighted a child can be in the snow, the ringing of beautiful belly laughter in our own ears can spark a smile from us, and we have probably all watched the sheer focus of energy for hours children can have on little wonders like bubbles. But why live out moments of pure, unadulterated happiness vicariously through children? Simple moments of pure, cheap, happiness can be had for all of us. Just like I gave up my bike years ago and rediscovered it with all the wonder and joy of a child, we can partake of other ‘kid’ activities and save a few moments of bliss for ourselves. And if you are wary of this or think it is a huge waste of time, then just know that a lot of these activities are used in innovation and at non-traditional work places where sparks of creativity are encouraged and rewarded (see, you can rationalize blowing bubbles).
- Blow Bubbles: This is just one of my all-time favorite activities. When I am over at people’s homes that have children and they bring out the bubbles, I enthusiastically count myself in on the fun. In fact, at our wedding I gave out bubbles to all of the guests so that we could be engulfed in them while walking back up the aisle; I could not think of a better way to start our new lives together. My Aunt Anita taught me that bubbles are not just for kids when, for a retirement dinner, she purchased each of the guests these cool teddy bear bubble bottles where you push in the belly to get the wand. What fun we all had!
- Keep Playdoh at Your Desk: Through innovation activities at the market research consulting firm I used to work for, I learned that playing with things at your desk (and away from your desk) is a great way to spark creativity. If you’re sitting there thinking, why not think with some playdoh in your hands? I have a set on each of my desks at home and in my cubicle (you can purchase your own cheaply at craft stores and dollar stores).
- Go Back to the Rubix Cube: I am a competitive person at heart and used to love word games, lateral thinking puzzles, etc. In fact, one of my fondest memories with my grandmother growing up was when we would race to finish word searches. She also used to keep a Rubix cube on her coffee table and every time we would visit her I’d pick it up just knowing that this was the visit I would unlock the puzzle. I’ve recently gotten back into playing word games by playing Words with Friends (so much fun!). But I am definitely considering purchasing a Rubix cube for my desk. Sudoku also sounds promising, but I’ve never tried it before.
- Get Dirty: My mother was really good about having us play outside as children as often as possible. In fact, we were only allowed to watch television on Friday nights (TGIF), and Saturday mornings (cartoons). For the rest of the time (and all during the year), it was outside work or play for us on the farm. My sister and I used to make mud pies and spaghetti with the silk from husking corn for dinner, and I remember one specific time when we decided to use mud and brooms to paint the trees—they were practically our walls as we basically lived outside! Unless our work calls for it or the lawn needs mowing, as adults we usually don’t have reasons to get dirty. I think we could all stand to play in sandboxes, swing, and hike unmarked trails more often.
- Ride the Ferris Wheel: I used to look forward to our local carnival and the boardwalk in Ocean City MD each year for the rides. I was into the haunted houses, roller coasters, mixer, or really anything with a bit of a thrill to it. I am sad to say that I have not ridden a carnival ride in years. I have mentioned for the last three years that we should do one of those haunted houses that pop up around Halloween, but haven’t gotten to one of those either!
- Play a Board Game: Once a year my then step-mother would take us all to Ocean City MD. One of the things that we loved most about these trips was the Scrabble games. We would play each night—something we did not do at home—and it made the time together much more special.
- Kick Off Your Shoes: Kids always go barefoot and oftentimes it’s a fight to get them to put (and keep) their shoes on. I’ve taken a cue from the Amish and have begun walking around my yard, house, and driveway barefoot. It’s a nice changeup to feel the earth between my toes (watch out for sharp objects!).
- Visit a Candy Shop: During summer visits to the farm my Uncle Andy would host Kid Olympics and come up with an assortment of ways to compete against one another for quarters. At the end of the day we would go to a candy and ice-cream shop in Strasburg PA and get the pick of the display case (well, with whatever money we had made). Rock candy and button candy was our favorite at the time. Now, I can’t even tell you what my favorite display case candy would be!
- Race a Family Member to the Back Door: When Dad and I used to finish the milking I remember he’d yell “last one in’s a rotten egg!” and we would race one another to the front porch of the house. Of course he almost always won, but it was so much fun anyway! I was sure the next time around I would cream him.
- Do More than Just Walk through Snow: Why not make a snow angel, build a snowman, or find yourself caught in the crossfire of a snowball fight? The last snowball fight I remember was with my little brother Noah when he was just a few years old. Although Paul and I did throw around a few snowballs in Austria…
None of these ideas cost much at all and some are completely free. So come on, why not bring some child’s play back into your life? I know I could use some.