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Can You Be a Clown? Play the “I Love You” Game This Valentine’s Day

Can You Be a Clown? Play the “I Love You” Game This Valentine’s Day

Written by Hannah Gaff, updated by Maggie Cunha

So, you want to be a bit more clown? Valentine’s Day is a great day to practice your skills with the children (and adults!) in your life.

In the following post, Hannah Gaff, a seasoned CWB artist, recounts how a courageous girl from Lebanon introduces a delightful game. You’ll love hearing how Hannah responded.

Read to the end for downloadable “I Love You” game tips. (Happy V-Day from CWB!)

Keeping Watch is Key to Clowning

When I clown in the hospital or on the streets, I listen for the game — the gateway to making a vibrant connection with other humans.

I offer myself as an object of play and look to them to see what brings a spark to their eye, a change in their breath, or a giggle.

Sometimes we communicate with words, conversation, stories, or witty jokes. But often the play is non-verbal and we communicate simply through body language, emotion, and eye contact.

Hannah with an audience member in Lebanon.
Hannah Gaff with an audience member in Lebanon.

Being a Clown Can Start with a Game of Copycat

One day in Northern Lebanon (2018), fellow CWB artists and I performed three shows in the Akkar District near the Syrian border.

It stormed all morning, resulting in an impromptu performance at a school where kids could take a dry seat.

After the show, as we began packing up our props, one bold little girl ran up to me and threw her arms around my waist, squeezing tightly. I knelt and squeezed back. When I stood back up, she grabbed onto my arm and dragged me to the schoolyard.

Suddenly three more girls materialized, and we started a game of copycat: I performed a silly movement, and they repeated it.

The bold girl stayed with her arms wrapped around my waist, smiling and laughing up at me. Soon, ten more girls and a few boys gathered. We came up with a little song and dance, full of laughter and play.

Group of boys with clown posing at school

“I Love You”: A Game to Change the World

My teammates had finished packing and loading the van and it was time to go. I told the kids goodbye and thank you in Arabic, but the little girl kept holding on.

When I knelt to give her a hug, she kissed me on the cheek and said, in clear English, “I love you!”

Her words surprised me.

Before I could respond, she said it again, more emphatically, “I. Love. You!” and squeezed me even tighter.

I responded, “I love you,” and blew her a kiss.

She repeated her words — and this time the kiss she threw was so powerful it knocked me backward!

Girls in Lebanon laughing with a clown at a clown show

Soon, the other kids joined in on the game.

I’d say, “I love you!” and blow a kiss that they’d all catch. Then they’d all yell, “I LOVE YOU!” and blow kisses that would knock me backward.

This continued until they cornered me against the van. Sensing the need to say goodbye, my little friend grabbed my arm, pulled me down, and gave me one last hug and kiss on the cheek.

I got in the van and waved from the window. I said, “I love you,” and blew one last kiss, which she caught and held to her cheek.

As the van pulled away, the group of kids chased us down the street, blowing kisses and laughing.

This one tiny heart came up with a game that could change the world: The I LOVE YOU game.

Your Turn to Be a Clown: Play the Game!

So you want to incorporate more play in your days, not just Valentine’s Day? Download these game tips, (which can serve as your cell phone wallpaper) for a gentle clown-ish nudge each day.

Just click on the image, download it to your phone, and then update your wallpaper!

  • Chip Daly
    February 15, 2023

    Thank You Maggie for the big cry today! And the big smile you put on my face. This is a game I can definitely play with anyone, especially children. So simple, yet so powerful. Just like the CWB clowns! Keep up the great “work” you do. With Love and Laughter, Chip

    • Maggie Cunha, MPH
      February 15, 2023

      I’m happy to hear that this story touched your heart. I’m so grateful to be able to share it. Have a playful day, Maggie

      • Chip Daly
        February 15, 2023

        Hey Maggie. Thanks. I write my own blog called Your Daly Hug. Is it OK if I share your blog post within my own blog post? Thanks, Chip

        • Maggie Cunha, MPH
          February 15, 2023

          I love the name of your blog. Backlinks to specific posts or pages are always welcome. You’re also welcome to quote parts of the post that are your favorite. Thanks Chip!

          • Chip
            February 15, 2023

            Thank You! Here is a link to my blog. Let me know what you think. It is one of my more simple posts, because your blog is the main focus. Chip

  • Gale McNeeley
    February 14, 2023

    What a wonderful game! Touched my heart. Keep up the play and fun and love. Norbert Herbert……. a supporter now, and clown since 1977.

    • Maggie Cunha, MPH
      February 14, 2023

      Thank you, Gale! So happy to have you with us!

  • Yhohannah Holm
    February 14, 2023

    This sounds like a lot of fun and something I might try today But I have a question? What if is far away in another city and they can’t see you throwing the kiss?

    • Maggie Cunha, MPH
      February 14, 2023

      Maybe you could chat via Zoom? 🙂 Happy playing!

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