Fun enough for kids, but made for grownups

How does a play-date for adults sound to you? I am talking about kind we had as kids with activities like dress-up, building forts or concocting secret magical incantations and potions. If you think that you are too old to schedule a play-date with your friends, this concept it is not as childish as it sounds. Getting in-tune with our childlike selves through playful socialization is not only a great way to relieve the stresses of everyday life, it is also a means to significantly enhance joy, inspiration, empathy and knowledge.

Whether your background experience is as an educator, a parent or simply by being a child once upon a time, you probably know that having the agency to partake in child-centered moments of play has significant benefits on children’s overall wellbeing. Children learn dynamic lessons and skills such as cooperation, procedural knowledge, patience and compassion by developing and implementing frameworks of play. Furthermore, play combines structure with flexible purposing (see: Cohen, n.d. and Eisner, 2002), which strengthens both our creative and critical thinking skills. This is because many play-based social interactions require a set of rules for smooth operation, but also a lot of leeway for the imagination and praxis (i.e. the process/cycle of exploration, trial-and-error and insightful reflection) to reign supreme. Play also strengthens cultural understandings, since many of the activities and games we engage in have been passed down or are appropriated from family and/or community traditions.

Psychologist, Peter Gray (2011), expounds on five key benefits of play: “(1) develop intrinsic interests and competencies; (2) learn how to make decisions, solve problems, exert self-control and follow rules; (3) learn to regulate emotions; (4) make friends and learn to get along with others as equals; and (5) experience joy. Through all of these effects, play promotes mental health.”

Clearly, these are benefits that defy age limits. We all deserve to be happy, treated with respect and hone strategies that will help us find our own place and personal success in this world. In fact, as we grow older it becomes vitally important that we maintain a sense of lifelong play; because much of society forces us to “grow up” and abandon the notion that play is intergenerational and a technique for survival (see: Mathew, 2019).

Art Wizard Extraordinaire. Still from a behind the scenes tour of The Academy of Magical Thinking.
Image courtesy of Marc Boone (aka InnerKiddo).

InnerKiddo is the alias of Marc Boone, a multidisciplinary artist, educator and healer. Boone’s pedagogical and performative art practice inspired him to create the Academy of Magical Thinking. Boone utilizes the process of artmaking, early childhood educational theories and mythology, in order to help adults get in touch with their youthful spirits. He states that “The Academy was created for grownups, but it’s gentle enough for your inner child.” Boone’s methodology is actually adapted straight from his extensive work as an early childhood art teacher. He realizes that most of the content, prompts and materials he uses while teaching young artists are also relevant and impactful with adults.

Boone’s inspiration for this transformative process are fantastical narratives, including fairytales and other traditional and contemporary forms of illustrious storytelling. Stories from his own youth provide a foundation for what he calls “magical thinking.” This framework combines logic and creativity in order to address social and cultural concerns in an uplifting manner. Boone re-imagines and re-presents familiar tales through an experiential and embodied process that is centered on both collaborative learning and individual self-expression. As a queer Black man, Boone’s fairytales address the lack of representation of LGBTQ and POC characters. He began an Instagram series called “A Bedtime Story for your Inner Kiddo,” where he writes and performs unique stories full of diverse characters, intersectional issues and inclusive messages.

Another artful activity that Boone employs in his playful pedagogy are adult play-dates. These play-dates run the gamut including pop culture reenactments, fanciful dress-up, wizardry and gardening. This nurturing of the mind, body, soul and environment, resembles a kindergarten model for grownups.

Marc Boone’s ability to create meaningful intergenerational artistic experiences is testament to the importance of play at every stage in life. Embracing and expressing our inner kiddo provides us with essential tools and resources to tread forward with positive perseverance. In the face of contemporary adversity, magical thinking is a powerful incantation that can create critical and transformative social action and overall wellness for both ourselves and our communities.


References, Notes, Suggested Reading: 

Cohen, Andrew. “Curriculum – what’s missing?” What School Could Be. http://whatschoolcouldbe.weebly.com/elliot-eisner.html

Eisner, Elliot (2002). The Arts and the Creation of Mind. Yale University Press: New Haven.
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt1np7vz

Gray, Peter. “The Decline of Play and the Rise of Psychopathology in Children and Adolescents.”  American Journal of Play, v3 n4 p443-463, Spr 2011.

Mathew, David. “Care, play and lifelong learning.” European Journal of Psychotherapy & Counselling, 21:1, 37-51, 2019. DOI: 10.1080/13642537.2018.1563910

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