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Why Play?

boys-fixingWhen did you last play? As Linda Stone pointed out in her blog A More Resilient Species ( , self-directed play (experiential, voluntary and guided by one’s curiosity) is essential for developing resilience, independence and resourcefulness, let alone creativity. She quotes scholar Brian Sutton-Smith, “The opposite of play is not work. The opposite of play is depression.”

This kind of play can’t be guided by adults—adult-directed soccer or chess club or playground games have their place, but they don’t build the same skills as exploring your own interests, or negotiating with other children as you form your own club or develop your own game or turn a tree house into a castle.

In fact, researchers are finding that creative play is essential to the kinds of learners we are aiming to create: scientists, innovators, inventors, creative problem-solvers, great writers, and more. If we really want innovators, we need to acknowledge the truth that Nobel Laureates report many childhood hours spent in play and, according to Linda Stone, claim their lab activities are similar!!

So what can you do?

  • Teach your child to play. Many are so used to being programmed that they don’t know how to use their own imaginations or negotiate rules with peers
  • Find time for children to develop their own interests. I remember turning into my mother with comments such as, “If you’re that bored, you can weed the yard/clean your room/polish silver…” In other words, I followed her example of forcing us to come up with our own ideas, not rely on her all the time.
  • Model playing. Make up stories, display your artwork, design board games, display a project your child is working on, keep a stack of books handy on a topic that intrigues you or them—and head outside to invent a new game with a couple of balls and a wastebasket or a tree or ???

What other ideas do you have? How are you making room for play?

Jane Kise, Ed.D. – Educational Advisor and Consultant, 
Jane  writes an insightful post every Tuesday for Kidtelligent. Jane is an educational consultant, specializing in teambuilding, coaching, and school staff development. She is also the coauthor of more than 20 books. Jane’s website  is