Playing Children's Games As Spiritual Practice

by Christine Sine

It is a bright and sunny morning in Seattle with the promise of a hot day ahead.  For most of us it is a work day but I think that if we were honest with ourselves we would rather be out playing with the kids so this post below by Julie Clawson seemed appropriate.

Julie describes herself as a follower of the way of Christ, stumbling through her faith journey and simply trying to seek justice in this world.  She’s worked as a telemarketer, librarian, substitute teacher, children’s pastor, and church planter – but spends her time these days taking care of kids and trying to squeeze in time to write.  She live in the fabulous Austin, TX with husband Mike and two kids, Emma and Aidan. And has a book coming out in Oct. 2009 called Everyday Justice which i suggest you add now to your must read list.  I had the privilege of writing a forward for the book and absolutely loved it.  Julie blogs at One Hand Clapping


Playing Children’s Games as Spiritual Practice

If I could choose how I would like to spend the perfect evening, it would be hanging out with friends with good food and drinks playing board games.  I love strategy games like Settlers of Catan, Carcassonne, and RISK, but I also enjoy fun group games like Apples to Apples and Balderdash.  For what it’s worth, a good round of Texas Hold’Em works for me too.  I enjoy the interaction, the intellectual engagement, and the general hilarity than ensues when friends simply have fun together.

That said, I sometimes have a hard time playing children’s games.  There is something tediously mind-numbing about painstakingly making one’s way to Candy Mountain in Candy Land or getting caught in the endless up and down circle of Chutes and Ladders.  Building up my Cootie bug, filling my Hi Ho Cherry-o basket, making pairs in Dora Memory, or matching all the pictures on my Zingo card just doesn’t capture my attention.  But my four year old loves it all.

Granted it comes as no big surprise that the child of a couple of board game lovers would like playing them herself (and I admit, I was the same way at her age).  It’s just that, from the mommy side of things, playing those games for hours on end can get a little old.  Now, I love spending time with my daughter, but after the fourth or fifth round of Candy Land as I’m sprawled out on the playroom floor, I sometimes have a hard time keeping my eyes open.

But for my daughter, it never grows old.  Each time she builds a Cootie bug, she gets excited about getting to make an entirely new creation.  Each card she turns over in Candy Land holds the possibility of adventures – to whisk her away at any moment to exotic locales like Gum Drop Mountain or the Candy Cane Forest.  Each spin in Chutes and Ladders holds the risk of plummeting her downward and losing all she has worked for or the reward of immediate ascension.  In short, in her life ruled by the power and whims of others (mom and dad), these games hold wonder and mystery.  With every spin of the wheel she enters into a magical world of unpredictability and excitement (not to mention repeated trips to every child’s dream land – the Candy Mountain).  These games are full of blessings she can delight in.

So even as I struggle to keep my eyes open as we play yet another round of her favorite games, I realize that I could learn a lot from my four year old about being spiritually present.  When looked at through the right eyes, life is mysterious and full of adventure.  I get to participate in acts of creation each day as I cook entirely new meals.  I am whisked away to exotic locations when I simply stop and notice the beauty of the world around me.  I don’t need the Candy Cane forest when I can lie under the trees with my kids watching the leaves flutter and the clouds float by.

I am so used to the ordinary being, well, ordinary, I forget to find the wonder in it.  But seeing my daughter find adventure in what I found tedious reminds me to shift my perspective.  The world is unpredictable and exciting and full of all sorts of blessings I can delight in – as long as I allow myself to be present in it and allow it to be those things.

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Fun Child Games August 24, 2009 - 2:20 pm

Yes, I really believe that playing with you kids is a good practice. It can further the relationship between the parents and the children. It is as well good physically since your body will be excercised when playing.

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