Skip to main content

Time For Play

boy playing with inflatable globes

Dr. Edward M. Hallowell says in his book on how to raise happy children into happy adults, "if there is any better way to strengthen a brain, or to feed the spirit, than to play, I don't know what it is" (104).

Play is such a crucial element of a child's life that is has been called the "work of childhood."

It is through play that children make connections between themselves and the world. Play is essential for a child to develop in healthy ways. We'll look at ways we can help children make the most of their play.

"Birds fly, fish swim, and children play" -Dr. Gary Landreth

Dr. Edward Hallowell defines play as "any activity in which there is room for spontaneous invention and/or change" (103).   
"Play time" should be a time not completely directed by parents. We can certainly take part in our child's play--often he is delighted to have us--but leaving a child alone in a safe place to play works its own kind of magic.   
"The skill of play, of being able to make creative use of time no matter where you are or what you are doing, is the skill that lies behind all discoveries, all advances, all creative activity" (Hallowell 106).

Tools of play

Play therapist Dr. Gary Landreth encourages parents to keep play areas organized. Don't stress, we're not advocating pristine or immaculate, but do try to have things in the same place each day. Your kids should be able to help with keeping things in order at an early age.   
Think of your child's toys as the tools she needs to get her work done: if she has to stop what she's doing because there are no markers to be found, the flow of her work is disrupted.

Make time for play

"Make time for play" (Hallowell 121). This principle might sound paradoxical: scheduling time for play, but we know too well how time flies. Sometimes we might even have to "un-schedule" other good activities to make time for play.   
Dr. Gary Landreth also suggests creating time and space where children can play:"Children are deprived of joy when they are rushed to complete tasks . . . Places of calmness and patience should exist in all children's lives; for in the midst of calmness and patience, children can discover and test their inner resources" (53).

"Places of calmness and patience should exist in all children's lives;   
for in the midst of calmness and patience, children can discover and test   
their inner resources."   
-Dr. Gary Landreth

About toys and materials, Dr. Landreth, a renowned play therapist, advises, "Toys and materials should be selected, not collected" (117). Just because cousin Ed gave Christopher a gun for his birthday doesn't mean you need to keep it around if you'd prefer not to. That goes for the McDonald's toys as well!

girls playing soccer

Fred Rogers, beloved children's TV personality said of play, "To grow up to be healthy, very young children do not need to know how to read, but they do need to know how to play" (qtd. in Landreth 49).

Play is essential in making connections to the world, figuring out how things work, and learning to create.

When you spot your son and his friend underneath the tree outside planning ways to fend off alien invaders, congratulate yourself. You've allowed him to do the work of childhood; you've given him time for play!


Hallowell, Edward M. The Childhood Roots of Adult Happiness. New York: Ballantine Books, 2002.   
Landreth, Gary L. Play Therapy: The Art of the Relationship. Levitown, PA: Accelerated Development, 1991.