Why Play Matters

In Parenting by Jen33 Comments

Why Play Matters

I was asked to participate in a Blog Hop hosted by my good friend Janine of Encourage Play. All month long bloggers across many different genres have been invited to talk about play, what it means to them and how they encourage play with their own children.

Playtime is something I feel very strongly about as a parent. I know that in general it is highly encouraged to have children participate in structured activities like sports, gymnastics, dance and such. I also believe that today there is a prevailing mindset to over schedule our children so that they stay busy, and I believe that this is hurting them. Because being busy is far different from being allowed the beautiful freedom of unstructured playtime.

There is an overwhelming body of evidence that supports just how important play is. It affects a child’s health, well being, academics and the list of problems associated with the lack of play time is also something we really shouldn’t ignore.

In addition, children today have so much more technology available to them, more than any other previous generation. This means that the constructs for the word play are being reinvented and that we are facing a very new reality for both modern childhood and parenting. I know that I am not the only parent who has to remind children to turn off these devices and to just go play with something that doesn’t beep or require them to press buttons!

Yesterday I sat and watched an episode of Mr. Rogers with a few of my children. Interestingly, even though this show is now decades old they were still hooked like I was as a child. Because the concept of imagination and play is so seamlessly interwoven throughout the show in a way they could understand and enjoy. I was excited when after completing the episode they decided to go and create a make believe neighborhood “Just like Mr Rogers”. That neighborhood is now spread across the upstairs of my home and as I sit here typing I am listening to their happy play upstairs.

I think as parents it is important to not forget that play time should be simple, in fact that is the best kind.

Play can involve a quick dance around the house to your child’s favorite music or a nature walk where you go looking for dinosaurs and play as you go. Or an afternoon spent on a blanket looking up at the clouds and making up stories out of the shapes you see. The point of  this type of play is that it allows the mind of your child to grow and stretch, all the while also helping them to learn important skills.

I know that some of my most special parenting moments have been those completely unplanned and spontaneous moments of play where my children and I let our imaginations lead the activity.

Play can also be structured play dates with friends. There is something quite endearing about watching  preschoolers create and open a “princess restaurant’ or seeing Hot Wheels cars and Barbies march into battle on the backs of My Little Ponies to defeat the bad guys!

I try and stand back and watch these play dates unfold with other children, mostly letting the children determine the play. Do make sure though you follow some VERY important play group and play date guidelines. Or it can turn disastrous. Trust me. You can read all about it here.

Also do not underestimate the power of play with siblings. Although my children fight, I know that they also truly love to play with one another. I encourage them to play together, because today as an adult my siblings are my best friends.

The important thing to remember is that play time doesn’t always have to be directed by you. In fact it shouldn’t be. It is also perfectly fine for a child to create their own stories and games, because I know that doing this has allowed my children a chance to work through some of the things they are concerned about.

I hope that as parents we take the time to encourage and foster an environment where play can happen. Sometimes this might mean saying no to some activities and instead opting for an afternoon at home letting your child turn an old cardboard box into a pirate ship.

I know that I have found parenting more fulfilling and less challenging when I try to fill our life with less activities and “things” to keep us busy. I think you just might find the same to be true.

Never Stop Playing!

Stay Happy! Stay Informed!




  1. I feel very similar about the extracurriculars that get pushed on our kids on top of school being more and more structured at younger ages now. This is why during the still warmer, nicer months I make sure my girls play outdoors on our block for a bit of time after school before even doing homework so that they can unwind. I also allow them to pretty much play for the hour or two after dinnertime with each other with their own toys as this further allows them to just be kids and enjoy unorganized play as much as possible. So, I just couldn’t agree with you more, Jen.
    Janine Huldie recently posted…ProFlowers Is #SavingSummer For FallMy Profile

    1. See I knew you and I were kindred parenting souls! I think what you are doing for your girls is such a good idea! Kids need that play time to work through the day and figure things out. Way to go Mom!
      Jen recently posted…Why Play MattersMy Profile

    1. I wish I had a boat like you do that I could play with. That would be heaven. Maybe someday I will be able to move out of the desert and live next to the ocean or a lake or even someplace with water would be nice!
      Jen recently posted…Why Play MattersMy Profile

  2. I just joined a gym, and my favorite part is dropping off and picking up my kids at the child care center.. no because I get a break from them (though there IS that!) but because I love watching Tessa go play with the other kids and get lost with the new toys! Watching her play makes my heart so happy! – http://www.domesticgeekgirl.com

    1. Author

      Thank you Jennifer! I am so glad you agree! Sometimes I think I get a few sideways glances when I tell people I don’t believe in over scheduling my children, but I am going to stick to my guns and so far it has proven to be the right choice.
      Jen recently posted…Why Play MattersMy Profile

  3. When I was little, I loved Mr. Rogers! That’s so cool that you watched it again!!
    His quote is the truest. I remember when I told Scarlet’s teacher we were taking her out for a few days to go to Florida. Her teacher retired last year and was so sick of standarized everything. She said to me, “She’ll learn more out there than in here. Let her PLAY and love and learn.”
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    1. Author

      They just put his show on Netflix and I think I will need to re-watch all of them! Um I mean, watch them with my children :)

      I think Scarlet’s teacher was spot on, children learn so much from expereinces like that!
      Jen recently posted…Why Play MattersMy Profile

  4. What a great reminder to make room for free play in your family’s life. It’s so important to be thoughtful about how many scheduled activities your kids do during the week – we limit how many we do so we end up with more free time after school. I want to use most of our after school time for free play in between homework :-) Thanks so much for participating in the Play Matters blog hop!!!
    Janine Halloran recently posted…Tips for Setting Up PlaydatesMy Profile

  5. We’ve had some serious screen issues at our house, and me telling them “no” was seeming to make it worse. I finally turned it into something they have to earn or “purchase” from me through chores and responsibilities. Now it seems that they’d rather skip the chores and just play with toys. I’m not sure this is a complete win for me, but at least they’re playing more!!
    Rabia @TheLiebers recently posted…10 Diary Entries I’d Love to ReadMy Profile

    1. Author

      That is such a great idea Rabia! Nothing is fool proof though, huh?

      These battles over screen time are tough. I don’t remember my parents ever telling me to turn off the TV. I watched a few episodes and then would head outside to play!
      Jen recently posted…And They Are Off- Fuel Their AdventuresMy Profile

  6. I could not agree more. I spent so much time playing as a child. I remember little else. And we didn’t need toys even. We just made up crazy mess and climbed trees. Such a safety hazard. So many playground moms would die. I try to make sure my kids are having that kind of childhood too. They NEED it. Right on!!
    April recently posted…Dirt, Fish, Penguins, Bare feet, Chores, and BikesMy Profile

  7. It’s so hard not to over schedule kids these days. T wants to be involved in every activity she hears about, but I want to make sure that she’s in just enough activities for them to remain fun and not stressful. We’ve been trying to get more unstructured play time as well, and I’ve found that our girls play with each other so much better when we give lots and lots of free play time. And it’s so much fun seeing how creative the kids can get. Now to just get more of that time outside…
    Leslie recently posted…{A Tale of 3 C-Sections} Baby # 2My Profile

    1. Author

      It is hard to find a good balance. I know I tell my kids they need to pick their top 2 favorite activities and we will see how it fits into the family schedule. Because a commitment to an activity for even just one child in the family, usually turns out being a commitment of everyone’s time in the family. Good luck finding the right balance!
      Jen recently posted…And They Are Off- Fuel Their AdventuresMy Profile

  8. Oh Jen I loved this post. I couldn’t possibly agree more that people so often over schedule and complicate their kids lives robbing them of some of the best memories they could have. It is so often done with the best intentions to. Thank you for sharing such a great point of view on this.

  9. Hi Jen, George Bernard Shaw certainly knew what he was saying when he came out with that saying! Play is important. You’ve just got to sit back and watch animals with their young to know it’s instinctive and important. Play teaches children to learn boundaries, it teaches them to give and take, it teaches them to share and they may fight with whoever they are playing with, but it also teaches them tolerance and forgiveness.

    I feel I was lucky in the fact that when my two were little we didn’t have computers, tablets or anything electronic, but a group of us would meet up by the beach and take the children on adventures through the woods and sand dunes. The children were safe to run free. The would toboggan down the sand dunes, find logs that were dinosaur bones and I swear once we saw Peter Pan coming off his island! Good time, that I do miss in a funny kind of way.

    Play is an education in itself and parents need to know hat it is okay to make children step away from anything with a screen once in a while.

    Great post!

    Debbie recently posted…Never Thought I’d Be Able To Remove The Stitches From The Cat…My Profile

    1. Author

      Don’t you just love that quote! My Dad played until the day he passed away and he was one of the youngest spirits I know!

      Oh what wonderful adventures your children had! I am sure that they will always remember those days. I had a friend once who told me that after her children had grown and left home, one of her sons told her that the carefree days of his childhood that his mother so fiercely protected from “busyness” were some of his most favorite moments!

      Thanks for sharing your wonderful insights!
      Jen recently posted…And They Are Off- Fuel Their AdventuresMy Profile

  10. I agree on so many levels. I love Einstein’s quote…I feel that as I’ve aged I’ve become less fun. What’s funny is that when I was diagnosed with cancer, while in some ways my life became more complicated, in many ways it became crystal clear that I needed to enjoy life. Whenever I got nervous, I threw a dance party…sometimes with people in my living room and other times a virtual one where friends sent me themselves dancing. I do find that dancing is my childhood escape and I still love it to this day.
    Caryn recently posted…4 Healthy Tips to Create a Non-Toxic New HomeMy Profile

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