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Prioritizing Play-Time: How to Keep Play At the Top of Your List


Last updated 11/17/2021 at 11:51am

Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget once declared, "Play is the work of childhood." Piaget's quote embodies his lifelong work on child development and the importance of childhood education.

Mr. Rogers, the beloved children's television host, agreed with Piaget's observation when he said, "Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children, play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood." To these thoughts, I'd also like to add that play, just like learning, never stops.

There are countless benefits to play in childhood. It's the primary way children develop social skills, emotional awareness, cognitive functions, physical endurance, and more. As we grow out of our childhood years, prioritizing play-time allows these skills we've learned as children to stay sharp and even get better. So, play must be at the top of the list for both children and adults, a non-negotiable.

A few ways to prioritize play and keep it at the top of our list every day are to:

Recognize that play is part of who we are and not just a break from rigorous work. Play can be a part of everything we do. Approach each task playfully and see what a difference it makes in your day. For me, embracing a playful approach leaves me feeling energized and more creative.

Prioritize playgrounds and open spaces in communities. As development rises, housing and stores seem to take over pieces of land that could have been available for playgrounds or community centers. Creating and maintaining open spaces, nature and community centers, and playgrounds is necessary for our community.

Encourage children to play independently. When we allow our children to explore their imaginations without the interruption of rules and logic, we're fostering an environment where they have total freedom to create, lead, and connect.

These are simple places to start for both children and adults. Remember, play continues well beyond childhood.

Here are ideas on how we can all play today:

Get outside. Take a nature walk, play tag, create an obstacle course, or explore a new trail every week for two months.

Break the rules. Change the ending to your favorite story just for fun, or play toe tac tic where the goal is to NOT get three in a row.

Get dirty. Playing with dirt, just like playing in general, has plenty of benefits. I remember having a blast making "mud pies" as a kid, and I'm glad this is an activity that my kids enjoy now. Take a few kitchen tools outside, a bucket of water, and find a spot with lots of dirt. That's all you need to make as many mud pies as you want.

I hope this article inspires you to play every day. It's the work of childhood (and adulthood), after all.

For more on play and to stay in touch, visit my website at


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