When she was 10 months old, Annabelle slipped in the bathtub. I caught her and, since she was unhurt but a bit scared, said lightly, "Oh no! Did you fall down?" She laughed, and decided to reenact the fall. She tipped over on purpose and it was much more fun. This became a game for the next few weeks, migrating out of the tub onto our bed. She'd wake up in the morning, sit up, raise her hands overhead, and open her mouth in mock alarm. "Oh no!" we'd cry, and she would fall into our arms. Some falls were really just token falls, where she just leaned over quickly and patted the bed with her hands. Others were melodramatic--head tipped backward, hands thrown in the air, eyes closed, she would collapse onto a pillow. We started encouraging her to play the falling game whenever friends came over because it was so cute.
But, as with everything in childhood, play-falling faded away too quickly. Annabelle stopped instigating it. A week or two later, we were playing on our living room rug and I tried to get the game going again. "Are you going to fall?" She smiled, stood, put her hands in the air, and got ready to fall. But she failed to fall for a long time--she took about 5 steps trying to lose her balance.
I should mention that Annabelle hadn't yet figured out how to walk at this time. And what better way to learn to walk than to try to fall down? There's no stress, no ambition, no failure involved--it's just an accident. The whole thing was a game, not a studied effort.
Walking came about a month later, after surfacing and subsiding a few times. She played around with the idea for a while and then one day decided it was a useful way to get around, and walked. We could use more of this kind of learning in our lives.
By the way, there's a great Feldenkrais lesson (posted here) which uses this idea--playing around with taking yourself out of balance in order to find your balance.