This is the final installment of a series on how to cultivate a “play practice” in order to develop your play skills. The first entry was about how to gamify everything and the second was about pretend-play.

 Playful Seriousness is the term we use at Everybody’s Invited! to describe silly things that are executed with great skill and careful attention. You know, like the University of Chicago’s legendary annual Scavenger Hunt. Or the amazing work of the International Quidditch Association. Or the incredible wordplay of the O.Henry Pun-Off World Championship. Of course, those are all big, complicated ventures, and not everyone wants to pursue a project of that scale. But you can apply the same principles of playful seriousness to small, everyday things. And you can do it today!

Look through your To Do list for something that has the potential to be awesome. Don’t immediately dismiss things just because they appear to be straightforward or uninteresting. This won’t work for everything, but it will work for many more things than you realize. The trick is to pretend your To Do list item is the most important thing in the world and that it needs to be awesome. How would you do it differently?

Let’s look at some examples from my To Do list:

  • I have a gift I need to send to a friend. I could just find a box I have lying around the house, dump the gift in there, and ship it off. Or! If I take this as an opportunity to apply some playful seriousness, I could make my own wrapping paper using nice stamps (the inkpad kind, not the postage kind), and make a pretty collage card to go with it.
  • I need to finish a library book so I can return it without paying late fees. You might be thinking, “How can she possibly add playful seriousness to reading?” Well, the truth is the book I’m reading is The Clue of the Black Keys, also known as Nancy Drew mystery #28. This is part of a personal mission to re-read the entire original series, so I’m already doing something playfully serious. But I could add extra seriousness to this otherwise average To Do List item by forming a Children’s Literature book club, creating an art project around the series, or writing my own Nancy Drew story.
  • Make dentist appointment. This one’s probably not a good candidate, because there’s not a lot of awesome potential.
  • Book helicopter bungee jumping session. Also not a good candidate, but this time because it is already incredibly awesome.

As you can see, adding elements of playful seriousness doesn’t work for everything on your list, and it can require a lot of extra time. So we don’t recommend you do it for everything. Just pick one idea every now and then that really inspires you. Playful seriousness should enhance your life, not make you feel exhausted or overwhelmed. The more you consciously seek out opportunities to make everyday things a little more awesome, the more interested in your life you’ll become.

What seemingly unimportant thing can you add playful seriousness to today?

p.s. I’m not going to pursue all of the above ideas, but I was intrigued enough by one of them to take action.