Through the Eyes of an Educator: Finding Fun

by Stacey Ebert /
Stacey Ebert's picture
Aug 08, 2022 / 0 comments

Remember when the important things in life were playing with friends, seeking adventure, and making forts? Remember when you’d wake up excited to draw chalk art on the driveway, play tag on the lawn, or catch fireflies after chomping on your ice cream treats? For some reason, as we age, the fun seems to shift to the background of life and the more mundane takes center stage...why is that? Sure, there are bills, laundry, taxes, and such— but if we’re lucky enough to have those things to manage, we don’t have to permit them to remove the focus from the fun in life, right?

Through the Eyes of an Educator: Finding Fun

"Creativity is intelligence having fun." - Albert Einstein

Self-discovery, development work, and all things pedagogy and psychology talk about nourishing our inner child, rekindling the magic of our youth, and trying to remember what we used to enjoy and do more of it. While the reasons we forget, shift, or lose focus are as many as there are humans on the planet, what matters is how we refocus the lens to find the fun. 

And perhaps, equally as important is doing our best to impart to the next generation that they don’t have to lose the fun at all—only to be sure to make room for it as often as possible along the way. Now, how on earth do we do that?

"Having fun is not a diversion to a successful life, it is the pathway to it." - Martha Beck

Kids change their focus faster than they change their minds about their favorite snacks; it’s all part of the growing process. Any camp counselor can tell you that one week a favorite activity is gymnastics and the next, rope course is all the rage! But as we age in our education levels and then beyond, often the fun stuff gets muted. Instead, we shift course to homework and chores, errands and pickups, work commitments and appointments that must be made. Time for cloud watching, puddle jumping, creating, hopscotch, and bubble blowing takes a back seat to it all. What if that didn’t have to be the case? What if we could do the big kid chores, the adulting necessities, and still glean the joy of the stuffed animal squeezes, blue ice pop tongues, or the infectious glee of butterfly chasing? What if the joy of summer time playfulness didn’t end when camp did? 

What if all we have to do to reclaim the magic of our youthful hearts is reframe the narrative?

Through the Eyes of an Educator: Finding Fun

"Do anything, but let it produce joy." - Walt Whitman

It will take work, but we can have both whimsy and wit in our worlds. While, thankfully today, more and more educational spaces have realized the benefits of social emotional learning and strengths training, there’s still room for the tenets of positive psychology and engaging our joy muscles. If we’re lucky, when we are young, our main job is to be just that: young. With the sole focus on laughter, love, and fun, our free time is play time where we seize on curiosity, imagination, wonder, invention, and dreams. 

Right now, it’s summer, a time of minimal routines, holiday attitudes, and ice cream all the time kind of days. But, as September creeps closer and the school year begins, we know that education steers our direction towards more rigorous courses and intervening interests. But again, if we’re lucky, there’s still room for fun. Higher education takes our academic journey to another level, cutting out room for not much more than school and work. And as we cross the threshold of graduation, we’re often flung farther, on one level or another, into the depths of adulting. 

It doesn’t have to be this way. We can flip the script. We can change the story and rework the narrative to include fun. 

"I am going to keep having fun every day I have left, because there is no other way of life. You just have to decide if you’re a Tigger or an Eeyore." - Randy Pausch

We can include fun moments in each day, joyful experiences in each week, and curious adventures in our weekends. We can encourage our young learners to have fun and learn along the way. 

Lessons don’t always have to be serious, being good humans doesn’t have to come with a hard edge, and learning is far greater than textbooks, tests, and time frames. 

Some of our favorite stories are filled with fun, some of our favorite memories are grounded in laughter, and some of our favorite movies teach through creative magic. There’s no one way to learn, and there’s no one way to have fun. The bubble blowing doesn’t have to end at the onset of the teenage years, the chalk doesn’t dry up when we hit legal driving age, the learning to play ukulele brings a timeless joy, and fort building is fun at any age. 

We don’t have to be amongst the young to have fun, but we do have to stay young at heart.

"We don’t stop playing because we grow old. We grow old because we stop playing." - George Bernard Shaw

Five tips to ensure kids of all ages find the fun

Through the Eyes of an Educator: Finding Fun

Include fun in every day

Many of today’s offices include ping pong tables, yoga rooms, and dog-friendly days. Medicine is engaging the powerful healing attributes of animal cuddles, and education is finally infusing positivity, wellness, mindfulness, and gratitude practices into classroom curriculums. Whether it’s celebrating diversity through play, offering kindness through good deeds, learning marine biology through scuba, or elevating our exercise muscles through dance, there’s a way to have fun in each 24 hour long as we activate that fun mindset along the way. 

Sometimes, we connect seriousness to maturity, but we can be mature as well as silly. It’s not a binary choice. Set your mindset to fun and you’ll be determined to fulfill that goal. Perhaps it’s family game night, drawing creatures in lunch notes, or getting outside on the swings. Whether it’s five minutes of laughter or hours of smiles, it shifts the mood and glorifies the good. While medicine tells us it’s good for the heart, we know for sure, it’s good for the soul.

Through the Eyes of an Educator: Finding Fun

Seek joy

A former student of mine prides himself on teaching his kids to do good. Every Tuesday, they head to a takeaway spot to purchase their dinner as well as that of the car behind them. They hand the cashier a note to share with the passengers of that next car, offering gratitude, kindness, and a metaphorical hug. The kids now see it as ‘what they do’ and their smiles in his posted photos say it all. Just the other day, I got to feed a giraffe. This magical moment spent years on my list, and finally happened at an age where smile lines etch my face and gray hairs are present. The smile from that moment infused my entire being and will last far longer than it took Harriet the giraffe to chew her three treats. 

Joy is in the moments, the snuggles, and the lessons. It’s in the magic of nature, as well as the magic we create. Whether we’re chasing rainbows, inventing a new recipe, trying a new trick on the trampoline, exploring a new trail, building sandcastles, searching Instagram for puppy videos, curiously examining earthworms, feeding a giraffe, or generously gifting tacos, joy shifts our mood and adds literal sparkle to our every day.

Through the Eyes of an Educator: Finding Fun

Reclaim your youthful whimsy

The internet often provides a window to the world. When we look hard enough, we can find that whimsy. The photos of the 105-year old winning her footrace, the grandma who dresses up as her grandkids’ favorite Disney characters, the brightly clad superheroes who grace the window when washing walls of hospitals, the long-running baseball fans screaming their hearts out for their team, or the homeowner who changes her door color monthly solely to spark joy in neighborhood walkers, it’s there. 

We can finish our homework and read a book in a hammock. We can take a long lunch, feed the squirrels, and wander barefoot in the park. We can chase waves in the morning and close deals in the afternoon; all of it is possible. Being a grown up is not synonymous with being serious 24 hours a day. 80-year olds love a rainbow tutu as much as a three year old. When puppies attack with tongues of glee, the 90-year old’s face lights up as bright as the nine year old. And, when landing that hard to grasp skateboarding skill for the first time, the 35 year old is bursting with pride as much as the eleven year old on the half-pipe beside her. Disney magic has no age limits; why would we ever think to put one on whimsical wonders?

Through the Eyes of an Educator: Finding Fun

Reimagine fun in today’s world

Fun is ageless. Still, while some versions of fun stand the test of time, others shift. The time is always right for slinkies, catch, tie-dye, and jump rope, but the speedy ways of technology can add even more to our creativity. Years ago, we crafted dance routines for our neighbors and made sock-puppet shows for our cousins. Today we can do that and pop them on Tik-tok. 

Our basement imaginary news shows can now be podcasts, and while Lego fun is always good, today we can add even extra strategy and include multiplayer online games, crafting our own video games, building our own app, or even video-chatting with a friend far across the miles. Yesterday’s camping will always have pride of place, but perhaps today’s version includes slacklining, geocaching, and solar-powered gadgets to add to our paddle boarding and rock-skimming lakeside joy. Whether your students told you or you heard it from Winnie the Pooh, learning and memories take place when fun is at the forefront.

Through the Eyes of an Educator: Finding Fun

Engage your smile muscles

I draw beach scenes on any open space I find, add glitter to birthday cards, and bring bubbles to the beach. I have dessert dates with a favorite five year old, send random photos of funny things to my favorite tween, and can often be found hanging upside down in a turquoise anti-gravity yoga hammock because it sparks joy (and it helps my lower back feel good). 

Whether you’re cheering for your favorite team, baking cookies just because, challenging your curiosity, taking part in community service activities, hugging your favorite tree, helping a friend learn to ride a bike, gifting flowers to a stranger, making every day crazy sock day, or spending hours searching the cosmos of a brightly lit sky, engage your smile muscles more. 

We all have chores to do, musts to tackle, difficulties to manage, struggles, triumphs, and moments of madness in between, but we’re never too serious, too stodgy, or too old to re-learn to engage our smile muscles more. The next generation—and your entire being—will thank you for it.

Through the Eyes of an Educator: Finding Fun


Please click the photo below for a collection of my Through the Eyes of an Educator columns:

Through the Eyes of an Educator: A Compendium


Stacey Ebert, our Educational Travels Editor, is a traveler at heart who met her Australian-born husband while on a trip in New Zealand. Stacey was an extracurricular advisor and taught history in a Long Island public high school for over fifteen years, enjoying both the formal and informal educational practices. After a one year 'round the world honeymoon, travel and its many gifts changed her perspective. She has since left the educational world to focus on writing and travel. She is energetic and enthusiastic about long term travel, finding what makes you happy and making the leap. In her spare time she is an event planner, yogi, dark chocolate lover, and spends as much time as possible with her toes in the sand.

Check out her website at for more of her travel musings.