Sometimes it’s just time to play

I was surfing the web, waiting for Katie to come out for breakfast before school this morning, when I heard a sound to my right. There she was, sitting on the floor in front of her dollhouse, moving her little people around.

“What do you want for breakfast?” I asked.

“Cereal,” she replied, “but Grandma can get it for me,” (which would give her a couple more minutes of playtime).

“I’ll get it for you,” I insisted, getting up to pour the cereal.

“I never have time to play anymore,” she lamented. “I get home from cross country practice, and I have to start homework. Then it’s time for dinner, then it’s time to get ready for bed.”

“That’s what summers are for, playing,” I say, flippantly.

“But you always have SO MANY chores for me in the summer.”

No, there’s no dramatic exaggeration in our house at all.

Still, I saw her point. It does seem like we are always busy, with little time just to stop and play for a minute, or daydream or catch our breath.

“It’s like that for grown-ups too,” I said. “There are always things we have to do. Never enough time to play. Life’s not fair.”

Play time is important though. It recharges our batteries, gives our imagination a jump start.

Michael Sigman wrote about why play is significant in this Huffington Post article:

Modern technology reveals that play lights up the brain in such desired areas as clarity and memory. Common sense tells us that if we’ve been encouraged to play as a child, beginner’s mind comes more naturally as an adult. Conversely, psychiatrist Stuart Brown’s research suggests, the absence of play in early life can have dire consequences. In fact, he claims, most serial killers were deprived of childhood play.

This Atlantic article by Bruno Bettelheim elaborates on the “Importance of Play”:

A child, as well as an adult, needs plenty of what in German is called Spielraum. Now, Spielraum is not primarily “a room to play in.” While the word also means that, its primary meaning is “free scope, plenty of room” — to move not only one’s elbows but also one’s mind, to experiment with things and ideas at one’s leisure, or, to put it colloquially, to toy with ideas.

Do you remember how it feels to watch a child open an expensive gift, then seem to find more joy playing with the empty box? They’ll come back around to the toy, eventually. But give them the freedom to turn an empty box into a castle, or a fort, or a car. That’s how we build the muscles in our mind.

That’s why books are usually better than movies based on books – because the monsters our imaginations create are so much more scary, real and vivid than almost anything that comes out of Hollywood.

I think when my daughter gets home today, after her cross country meet and before she has to start her homework, before I have to get busy with dinner, we’ll set aside some time to play. No TV. No rules. We’ll just play whatever she wants to play.

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