After a car trip, a metro-north ride, and a subway transfer I found myself outside The Meatball Shop in Chelsea ready to enter my first Feast. To be honest, I was nervous. I was about to enter a workshop on Play and I knew very little about what the effects of play on children or adults; all I knew is it was fun! But, the best thing about being a part of the conscious community is everyone is always nice, I mean they are trying to save the world after all.

As soon as I walked in I was put in a team and charged with making a game out of random items in our bag. One pair of sunglasses, one mini clipboard, 5 coasters, one plastic lay with fake shark teeth, and one decorative gourd. Needless to say we looked up at each other with some confusion. But, one member of my team, Caitlin, who runs a parkour company in NYC that trains little children and adults how to make their world their playground, grabbed the glasses and clamped them to the clip board, “TA DA a blind fold!”.  So now we had a blind fold and the game quickly unfolded. Our coasters became our only safe steps across the floor of lava and our goal was to throw the lay onto the gourd all while blindfolded! The game was quite fun, but I think it showed us all that adults can still play.

After our game we heard from Andrew Gardner of BrainPop, who spoke to us about how online games when built properly using “open-ended play” could increase creativity in kids. “Open-ended play” meaning an ability to make as many decisions in your game as possible, a game that didn’t have a set storyline and you made your own future.

Andrew finished his short talk and we were charged by Jen, a Right To Play representative, to discuss: How do you incentivize low income families to teach through play?  It was a tough question but a few of the ideas that came out of our discussion were:

– Designing games that changed necessity into gaming. Folding laundry to waiting at the DMV all things that a low-income parent needs to get done anyway.

– Providing training or education to the parents as an incentive to play with their child.

– Developing respect through gatherings (with food of course) to hear parents ideas and struggles with communicating with their child.

– Setting up an easy way for parents to create playgroups or play dates.

All of the ideas cycled around respecting the parents and their constraints, time and money. It was a fantastic discussion that I think provided Right to Play with a lot of useful ideas, but it got me thinking, play isn’t just good for kids! So here are my five suggestions to making the workplace fun:

01 | Let it happen
To often adults are too embarrassed to have fun. They are afraid of what others will think of them. It’s like we had our fun license revoked at 12! So, if you are a leader of a team, allow yourself to be silly. It doesn’t mean to go out of your way to be someone your not, just be willing to let your guard down. If people see you having fun they will be way more willing to have fun too!

02 | Plan fun
Yes, fun can come naturally, but we all know that work can get crazy and if we don’t have something in our Google calendar it will never get done. So, schedule your fun! Plan for a Friday pizza lunch with everyone, go bowling after work on a Wednesday, or spend the first hour of every Monday talking about the amazing things they did that weekend.

03 | Take small breaks
– This is a personal one, but it is ok to take small breaks. Get up out of your chair and move around. Read a really cool Mashable article and share it with your work team. Be open about your breaks, too often people are so scared they are going to get caught on Facebook or Buzzfeed that they are actually stressed out when they are trying to escape. That is not good. This goes back to rule number one create a culture of openness and sharing where breaks and tangents are acceptable. Sometimes the most innovative ideas come from tangents.

04 | Do something nice
– Doing something nice for someone in your office is the best way to brighten your own day. Blow up some balloons for someone’s birthday or buy someone a coffee, it doesn’t have to be large; even a Post-It note that says, “Have a good day” can do the trick. Trust me, doing nice things in the office just sets a whole new vibe and will lead to a lot more fun.

05 | Music
– This is personal preference, but our office loves music. We pick someone new each week to be the DJ. That week they are in charge of what our tiny office listens too. This gives people a chance to share a part of themselves and it let’s you discover new music you would have never listened to. One week we learned about K-Pop and I didn’t change my Pandora station for a month!

Bonus Tip
Go to The Meatball Shop with your team and get meatballs, they are amazing.

All in all learning about play was a great way for me to re-center myself on why we all are participating in making the world a better place; it’s because it’s fun. So, don’t lose that and do everything you can to fuse it back into your work. Dream big and have fun doing it!

Learn + Connect
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Photo Credit: Bekka Palmer

From the Editor
At Conscious, we are inspired by stories that cause us to think differently and think big-picture and so we set out to tell stories with the help of leaders and influencers in the social good community. You can read more stories like this when you Sign-up for the Weekly and Subscribe to Conscious Magazine.