Since 15, I’ve been amazed with how eager most people are to play—if guaranteed the safety, permission and encouragement to do so. This insight began through my experiences performing as a clown for birthday parties, parades, nursing homes, hospitals, and schools. Everywhere I went, I saw children desperate to play—despite their veneer of seriousness, apathy, or disapproval. My passion, love, and playfulness would often reach through their facade and invite their inner child to play. It was magical!

 I toured with a circus for 9 summers and performed for “children of all ages.” I’d engage with the audience to play, imagine, and create together. We had lots of fun! When I returned to college each fall, my juggling practice in the park quickly evolved into teaching others. Group juggling would unite the males/females, old/young, and rich/poor. Everyone enjoyed feeling important to “keep the ball going” and no one wanted to “drop the ball.” It was during these juggling sessions where I discovered the relationship between movement and communication. It seemed that when people were focused on passing beanbags in a set pattern, their willingness to share seemed more effortless. It was as if the nervous energy had a place to go which helped free them to talk.

 Studying to be a counselor, I was intrigued by this phenomenon. Theories talked about the lengthy time needed to build a trusting counseling relationship in order to develop rapport and communication. Group juggling seemed to accelerate a trusting dialogue for free-flowing discussions. Group juggling provided a balance of structure and cooperation. When participants focused on the group juggling, they felt more candid to share.

 Playshops arose from using creative and cooperative activities like group juggling with specific topics for sharing feelings, thoughts, and experiences. Schools have found Playshops to be effective ways to build and strengthen relationships. These simple exercises require full participation and empower each person with a forum to be heard. Parents, teachers, and students are treated as equals and each person realizes qualities shared with others. Participants discover that they have more in common with each other than they ever realized before!

 Overall, Playshops focus on bringing people together to connect with others in a fun and rewarding experience. Like my experience with clowning, Playshop participants must feel safe, be encouraged to share, and given permission to play for the magic to happen.