🌷🌷April is a magical month for games and play. It brings us Easter Tide, Earth Day and is National Poetry Month. April is a joyful time for the renewal of the seasons that springs to life in the games we play–especially outdoors. Children begin to scurry about, run, skip, and jump, and roll amidst the greening grasses in between rainy days. Chasing friends, following woodland creatures, and wondering at the deep blue sky while watching birds take flight are all part of the springtime fun I noticed as sure signs that winter is fading past. For some families, the Easter Egg Hunt is a beautiful tradition, played with hidden, colorful eggs they decorated together, or others filled with treats.
My adventures with making games began in my childhood, when friends and I would make up our own rules to those we liked best, such as ‘Fox, Fox What Time Is It?’ or we’d dream up another form of Hide 'n Seek, Tag, or role-play. Sometimes we wanted to play the same game repeatedly, while at other times, we wanted to keep playing, but would start up another game to soar our spirits until it was time to go home.
I was very much inspired by those youthful days to create original games in response to the fast-paced, ever-changing hurried world we all live in today. I discovered the common need to occasionally pause and playfully be with those we enjoy most in an unplugged way, which can also be precious, invigorating and sweet.
I retraced my footsteps from childhood memories in the garden to the school playground and back to the kitchen table where I thought about people I played with, how we played with each other and the happiness we often created together. I gratefully recalled cherished times I spent with my grandparents, reading fairy tales aloud to each other in between rounds of games, cups of tea, paper dolls, and playing dress-up.
The first game I designed was a paper fashion game called Fashionistas for my cousins and my sister, from which Prairie Fairies evolved. The second game I designed was a mixed media poetry game called A dozen rOses for Rainer, inspired by the poems of Rainer Maria Rilke, from which Prairie Prose emerged. The gameplay is cooperative by design, and helps players create a ‘magic circle’ of a cozy nature, where having fun together is everyone’s goal in lieu of keeping score.
Back in their day, no one understood a child’s need for spaces to play more than Jens Jensen, Dwight Perkins and Jane Addams of the Prairie School Era–who each set an early precedent for open green spaces, school playgrounds, kindergartens, and free play. But children aren’t the only ones who need spaces for play, we all do, for playfulness is a way of being in the world that kindles a heart-healthy approach for living life.