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A few days ago, I was walking to the train station when I heard a delighted shout. It sounded like, “It’s the same size as my head!”.

Startled, I looked about until I saw the source of the shouting. A pre-school child had discovered that the squares built into the wall of their garden were, indeed, exactly the right size for a child-sized head to poke through.
The delight didn’t end there though.

There was turning upside down to look at the wall from a different angle. Then there was a test to see if any other body parts could make it through (arms, yes; whole body, no).

It reminded me of watching a girl once twirl her way down a shopping centre corridor by resting the crown of her head against the wall and twisting the rest of her body, clearly curious to see how long she could move in that way. The only purpose was play, and curiosity.

Do you remember what it felt like, to be a child and be driven by curiosity?
I remember spending days climbing under houses to see what was there, always excited by the possibility that I might find something new. Much later I watched my own children explore paths and tiny bodies of water with the same fascinated curiosity that a Nobel Prize-winning scientist might apply to their investigations.

What made you curious as a child? What made you wonder?

This attitude of curious play, which children tend to inhabit with ease, is a state of creative suspension. Play is always a state of willing curiosity, led by a simple ‘what-if’.

What if I stick my head through this window? What if I put my arm through?
What if I walk without taking the crown of my head off the wall?

What if I put this character in a boat beneath the sea? What if these two people have a fight on a street corner?

What if I said yes to my own curiosity?

And so, today, I invite you to make a like a child, and re-enter the curious state of creative play. Every moment in the day provides opportunities to explore that simple curiosity: the shifting light patterns on a patio (can I mimic them in paint? In movement?); walking on a path, catching a train, getting takeaway coffee. It’s with us endlessly.

(I had often wondered what would happen if I gave a really silly name to a barista for my coffee order. And then, in a town up the coast, when asked the name for my order, I replied: Pants. They called out my new name – Pants! Pants! – when my coffee was ready, and it kept me laughing for days. Mature? No. Curious? Yes.)

There’s a stand-up routine by Anjelah Johnson, a Latina comedian, which culminates in her using Duolingo Spanish sentences as the basis for a beat-box rhythm. It’s a genius comedy moment, the kind of moment one reaches only by means of curiosity and play.

When you open the kitchen cupboard door and notice that it makes a pleasing click, play with it. Make a sound over the top of it. Dance to it.

When you take a shower and notice that your voice sounds different under the water, let out a bellow. What is it like to let the water trail down your face? Open the door to curiosity today.

Let your writing be silly, playful and curious. Let nonsense in, give rationality a back seat for now.

You may have seen the video of a baby leading a small group of professional dancers in a warm up. The nappied-up, bald-headed baby rocks back and forth on their feet, twirls, rolls on the ground, and the dancers follow in a warm up which uses the whole body, the whole floor. In choreography, there is often talk of using different ‘levels’ – high, middle, floor – but the baby doesn’t need theory. The baby dancer is simply playing with the space and with the body. It’s a concept that James Corden borrowed with Jennifer Lopez and others, in a set of routines called ‘Toddlerography’. There’s a natural curiosity that creates a wild use of space, a wild use of the body. Babies have that curiosity. It’s how they learn to crawl, to scoot, to rock and to talk.

If you have a child in your life, observe them, let their play lead you. Whether alone or with a child, I wonder what would happen today, if you let yourself really play?

Today, let your guiding question be ‘what if?’

Today’s prompt:

Drumbeats in the street