What I Want for Every Child…

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…time and space for free play.

I’m continuing my series on ways I would love to make a difference in the world. In previous posts I suggested an indoor play area not part of a fast food restaurant in every community and a bookshelf full of age appropriate books for every home. I’ve been thinking a lot about play as a necessary part of child development. I recently began reading Playful Parenting by Lawrence J. Cohen. He names three reason child desperately need play in their lives:

  1. To Connect, or Reconnect after connection has been severed
  2. To Build Confidence by role playing and practicing new skills in a safe environment
  3. To Heal from Emotional Distress by recreating the situation with different roles and outcomes

These are compelling reasons why children need generous amounts of free time to play, create, connect, imagine and discover the world around them and their position in that world. I see such potential in my little ones and I want more than anything to provide every opportunity to foster that potential. But my biggest fear is over-scheduling them in sports, lessons, service opportunities and any other good thing that may arise. Cohen goes on to explain that this need for play is not an early childhood phenomenon. That childhood is made up of this need to play and it stretches long past toddlerhood.

It’s not just important that children play, but that they have playmates. This could be siblings, friends and even, maybe most importantly, parents. When we use play as an opportunity to connect with our children we can learn something about them and their experiences that we would never be able to draw out of them through conversation alone. When we use play to build confidence in our children they are learning in a most powerful way the strength of their character and determination to master a skill. When we use play to help them heal from emotional distress we skip over the discipline, yelling, correcting that we somehow come to rely on and jump instead straight to the heart of the matter and bring our little ones back to the joy of life they so often display.

For these reasons, and many more, I want every child to have the time and space to play.
What do you want for every child?

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  1. says

    The chance to connect with your kids through play lasts at least through pre-teen years too. Our boys aren’t (usually) going to open up to us just sitting and talking but get them on a basketball court or across a game board and suddenly they’ll start telling me all sorts of stuff.

  2. says

    My husband remembers playing ball with his dad all through high school. That was an important activity to him. So much so that he was traveled an hour each way at 5 am to still play ball with him (and this was after we were married.) I can definitely attest to the power play has to connect people. During our first year of marriage we played Yahtzee almost every day during lunch. It gave us something to do and opened the door to lots of conversations. We still have all the score sheets from those games.

  3. says

    A related book on my “to read” list is “The Case for Make Believe: Saving Play in a Commercialized World” by Susan Linn.


    I’m trying to balance free play with scheduled activities, so that C can learn to follow directions, socialize with other kids and adults. We don’t have many scheduled activities yet though, just gymnastics, music class, and a playgroup that is all free play with other kids, so I feel ok about our schedule!

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