Summertime is synonymous with big ole family soirees. A season when close friends and relatives travel near and far in honor of beach vacations, campgrounds, backyard barbecues, and family reunions. And with an array of generations trying to connect with one another in a short amount of time, it seems only natural to tap into something everyone in the group can relate to—their playful spirits.
I have always loved and overused a quote by Plato that states “you can learn more about a person in an hour of play, than you can in a year of conversation”. I find this sentiment to be so true, it’s ridiculous. If you’re a scientific kind of person and want proof of this quote’s validity, try putting your kindergartener or teenager in a room of aunts, uncles, and grandparents and ask them to get to know each other as they chat over coffee and cookies. Next, set up a badminton net, give them all bottles of bubbles, or initiate a game of horseshoes and ask them to do the very same thing. Then watch the “aha!” moment unfold.
When we are engaged in playful experiences with friends and family, be it a board game or any sort of physical, mental, musical, or artistic activity, inhibitions are released into the wild. Consequently, boundaries crumble, egos raise their white flags, and our most true selves are often happily revealed.
My family spends much of our summer at an unplugged lake cottage in Michigan where we’ve hosted many an intergenerational family gathering. And while there is a sweet bliss in sitting around a fire and talk, talk, talking for hours, nothing quite matches the bonding that happens when you’re being bounced about on an inflatable tube attached to a boat or while huddled around a card table during a fast-paced game of Snip, Snap, Snorem (a must-learn card game good for the whole gang) or while jumping like utter fools on a trampoline in the backyard. It’s during these activities that the gap between old and young, parent and child, teen and toddler fades beautifully away, and we see how much we truly have in common.