Is Play Important for Both Adults and Children?


“Do you remember when we used to pretend the baby bath was a boat?” asks my daughter Imogen. “We used to climb into it, and then try and move it over the ground using sticks.” Her eyes glow. “That was the best game!”

It was just as well I never needed that bath. I preferred washing the baby in the laundry sink.

“Do you remember when we used to build cubby houses under the pine trees?” asks sister Charlotte.

“Oh yes! Do you remember the day when Callum looked at our cubby house and said he could build a better one?”

“He pulled it apart and rebuilt it…”

“… and it ended up looking just like the one we made!”

The girls take satisfaction from the fact that their older brother failed to improve their cubby house design.

“Do you remember…”

My children often talk about the fantastic games they used to play together when they were younger. Their faces light up. They smile. And my heart feels warm as I listen. My children have so many happy memories of playing. My young adult children look back, and I know they remember their childhoods as a special and extremely happy time. And because of that, I am very glad I let them play for hours on end.

Unfortunately, I don’t have any photos of the games my kids used to play when they were younger. I didn’t get my camera out and snap pictures of their cubby houses or the baby bath boat or the tricycle that used to hurtle down the hill carrying more children than it was designed for. I wasn’t a photographer in those days.

These days, I do have a good camera, and I love documenting our lives by taking photos. But my blog isn’t full of attractive pictures of my children involved in their play. That’s because they no longer go outside and make mud pies. You won’t find them swinging from the trees. There are no pine tree cubby houses, or even bed sheet ones, waiting for me to photograph. No, I can’t make my blog attractive with images of unschooling children absorbed in free play. But that doesn’t mean my kids don’t play. They do but not in a way that’s so easy to capture with a camera.

In this week’s podcast, I talk about play. I discuss the following questions:

  • Do adults need to play?
  • What about teenagers?
  • What happens if we don’t play?
  • Is it okay for kids to spend all day playing?
  • Do kids need time to play without a parent’s involvement?
  • What are the benefits of play?
  • What are the best toys?
  • Should we let kids play games that involve risk?
  • Are our kids in danger of losing their childhoods?
  • Why am I very glad I let my kids play?
  • Should parents be daring and adventurous?
  • How can we increase our enjoyment when playing with our kids?

But before I talk about play, I talk about those difficult days I’m sure we all have:

  • Should we condemn people, including children, who are having a bad day? Or can we help them?
And I end this week’s episode with some thoughts about Facebook:
  • Should I choose content for my page, so it matches up with the Facebook algorithm?
  • Or should I choose content I think will interest my followers?

Show Notes

Free to Learn by Peter Gray

Beautiful Faces by Jane Davenport

The Psychological Case for Adult Play Time by Jared Keller

Podcast 73: Helping a Child Discover Her Talents with Imogen

A Raw Files blog post: Do You Make Time for Play?

Do you play? And if you do, what do you enjoy doing? And what about your kids? Are you happy for them to play for as long as I like?

Please feel welcome to stop by and comment or just say hello!

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  1. Hi Sue,
    you really made a point for playing! I'd love to play more – on my own because I do play a lot with my kids. But I don't find enough time to do that. That's OK, it's just a season of life and I do embrace it, but sometimes I feel I just want to do something that I love.

    1. Reply


      Oh yes, we have to embrace our season of life and I can see you do that whole heartedly. I love seeing the photos of you enjoying your children. I can imagine the games you all play together. But you are right: However much we delight in our kids and this special time with them, we also have yearnings to do things of our own.

      I can remember looking at my sewing machine and wishing I could use it. My babies were always in my arms or asleep on my lap so it seemed impossible to do things like sewing. Seasons do change, and time for play returned. I wonder if there are little ways of playing that can be fitted in around young children. Perhaps just ten minutes here and there would help?

  2. Reply

    What a fun podcast! I really enjoyed hearing the stories of your kids playing. I was reminded of something my dear MIL used to say about allowing small children to climb trees: better a broken arm than a broken spirit!

    I do make time to play, mostly because I can't function well if I don't. Without play I lose my creativity, then my joy, and then my efficiency- in that order. So "wasting time" really helps me get things done!:))

    By myself, my favorite way to play is playing the violin or painting (both of which, fortunately, I enjoy regardless of the outcome!). Gardening and knitting for me are both ways of playing. Maybe because it is unstructured creativity? Maybe because I enter "flow?" I often find that when I do something like that, my mind is free from my to do list, and I can experience beauty at a deeper level, which then naturally leads to prayer, and then I feel so refreshed!

    As you may know, in religious communities, there is always a daily time for "play", and that time is called "recreation." I think there's a lot of truth there.

    Anyway, I also love to play games with my husband, but I don't like competitive games with him, so we do puzzles and we like computer adventure games. And of course we play with the kids a lot!

    1. Reply


      Play is a fun topic! I smile every time I hear one of my children talking about the games they used to play. Happy memories!

      I do like your MIL's words! And I really relate to what you said about wasting time helps you get things done. I agree!

      Of all your hobbies and interests, the only one I share with you is knitting. I am a terrible gardener. I tried playing the violin, but no one liked the awful noise I made. And I can't paint. But I could try doing these things. Yes, it doesn't matter about the outcome.

      You don't play competitive games with your husband? That made me smile. I avoid these with my husband too!

      It's been great chatting about play with you. You'll have lots of time to play now that school has finished for the year. Enjoy your summer!

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