Liz Cincotta, a child life specialist from Pittsburg, PA, recently participated in our two-day Child Life Playmaker Certification Training in Boston. A few days later, she sent the following reflection on her experience to our training staff. Her letter provides proof that play does not only benefit the children in the care of frontline child care professionals, but also the adult caregivers themselves, especially those who thought that parachutes and jump ropes belonged only in their past. Liz reminds us that becoming a Playmaker is not just something you should do for the children in your care, but also for yourself.
I believe that joy is not just a noun. It is a verb. The real act of joy takes place in the heart, the mind, the body, and the spirit. It is all encompassing. It is a choice you make not just today, but everyday. It isn’t something you get. It is something you do over and over again. And that choice is reflected in the way you treat others every day of your life. Nothing can compare to the satisfaction and energy an adult feels when engaged in joyful play.
When I arrived in Boston on Friday prior to the Playmaker Child Life training, I have to admit, I was a bit flustered. A bit overwhelmed. And perhaps a bit discouraged. I was looking for something novel, and when we began the first day with a game of beachball taps, I have to admit, it was a novel, awesome, rejuvenating moment. I will never forget feeling utterly filled with wonder and joy instantaneously. This weekend’s Playmakers-in-training were a powerful, compassionate, innovative, fresh, caring, thoughtful, spirited, happy, and easy-going (should I keep going?) group of unique individuals. We turned into an intimate family with whom we could experience joy, playfulness, and energy from this day on. And when adults find true joy, children find true bliss, true happiness, even if only for a fleeting moment. And when children find true joy, adults find true compassion.
I believe that our greatest responsibility is to give children roots and wings. We strive to give children these roots through our relationships and interactions. We strive to give children wings to learn, explore, and engage in their worlds with a sense of love, creativity, and safety. This weekend will allow us to bring these roots to our children, to ourselves, to our families, and to our friends, and we will watch these wings soar. During the time we spent together this weekend, we were able to see the strength of each other’s character; the warmth and the great ability that we all have to make others happy, to make others do joy – through the mind, the body, and the spirit. We built a new family this weekend as we shared our smiles, our laughter, and our stories. It gives me great pleasure to have been able to be a part of this weekend and to be a part of this new family. So, I would like to add to the pledge that we took at the end of the training. Here is to our past, for all that we have learned. Here is to our present, for all that we share. Here is to our future for all that we have to look forward to together. My wish for you is that together we can face whatever life hands us, and that we remember to respect one another and those with whom we interact as we return to our busy lives. It is my wish that everyday we know how important it is to communicate, honor, and love one another in order for us to foster joy and playfulness, not only in the children’s lives with whom we work, but also in our own lives through play, balance, relationships, and creativity. Because that is what best friends and family do. And that is why joy is a verb – it is something that you do.