The Benefits Of Playing With Your Children

Why play and creativity are important to parents and children.

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"I am not my child's playmate, I am his parent" a mother announced in our playgroup. Many in the group echoed her thought with similar comments such as, "It is not my job to entertain him all day!" My first thought was, "I can tell you as the mother of an only child I am my son's main playmate." My second thought was, "Wow. Play is really important to me and my son. Am I doing something wrong?"

We can all understand the sense of exhaustion these mothers felt. However, what was lacking in that conversation, and what is lacking in some current discussions about play, is the distinction between play and entertainment. Entertainment and play are not synonymous. 3 Things Parents Who Raise Kids With High Self-Esteem Do Differently


Entertainment is one person presenting their creative work to another while play is collaborative and interactive. Entertaining our children is exhausting, but play is not to blame. Play is the act of entering into the creative space either by yourself or with another, ordering it into something new, looking at it and then re-entering the world with new knowledge. Play is the creative process. Play is energizing.

Entering the creative process is a skill that is needed by both adults and children. While play comes naturally to children, it is seen as suspect in adults. If you doubt this, think about the typical answer to the question, "What have you been doing lately?"


Most people will say how hard they are working or how busy they are. What would you think if someone answered the question with "I've been playing around." Let's face it, for most of us the first answer is more appropriate, more acceptable, more laudable, and the playing is seen as a waste of time if not downright lazy10 Smart Ways To Keep Your Kids From Growing Up Too Fast

The hardest thing about playing with my son was giving myself permission to do it. You see, I am a recovering "very serious person." I wasn't always a very serious person, in fact, as a child I was quite silly. Somehow along the way I learned that in order to be taken seriously, I had to be practical, down to earth, slightly cynical, realistic…

Then I had my son and I realized that I did not want him to be raised in a "very serious way." If we are to see the return of play in our children, we need to embrace and honor their creativity by embracing our own. Play cannot be a dirty word.

As adults, many of us aim to be working or consuming entertainment all the time. In doing so, we subtly downplay the value of play and think that our children need to be eternally occupied in productive pursuits. Music: The Way To Better Sleep For Your Baby


Lately, many wonderful articles have been written about the vital importance of free play in the lives and development of our children. There are few things more important in infant development than time to freely explore and engage the world in an unstructured way.

So what is it that keeps us from incorporating more play into the lives of our children? Could it be that in order to truly serve our children we need to lighten up? Could it be that we are stunting the development of our children because we have forgotten how to play ourselves? How often do we as adults take time to play? 3 Ways To Have The Kind Of Playful Relationship All Men Love

I don't mean time to relax or time to be entertained, I mean how often do we enter into the creative process? One may argue that life is so stressful that we need to tune out and be entertained at the end of the day. I would propose that one of the reasons life is so stressful is that we do not incorporate enough play into the day. If we could, then perhaps we would understand just what an important role play fills in relieving stress in our children. 

Perhaps, rather than playmates, we should see ourselves as creativity coaches for our little ones. We set the scene, we teach our children how to enter into it, and then we leave them to their play. The best reason to do this? You will never hear, "I'm bored!"


Children who can engage their own creativity don't get bored, and if they do, they are easily redirected into play. Children who are used to being entertained either by people or electronics are easily bored because they are used to the stimulus coming from something outside of themselves. Once that external stimulus is gone — they are at a loss. Have More Fun In Your Relationship!

Countless scientists and artists talk about the inspirations that come to them in times of stillness in the bath, the bed, or the bus; but as a society, it seems that we are just not comfortable with quiet. That play has come to be associated with something unproductive is both unfair and dangerous. Play and creativity are responsible for breakthroughs in both the arts and the sciences.

The devaluation of our own creativity and the increased need for external entertainment may well result in a destruction of our creativity and ultimately our happiness. If we can recapture our sense of play and our appreciation for stillness, I believe it could be our gift to ourselves and to the world. /node/111047

Resources for Further Listening:
Amy’s interview on Fox 23 about the importance of free play:
Amy’s interview with Dr. James Sutton on the Changing Behavior Network: You may need to scroll down to January 31st 2012.


Resources for Further Reading:
New York Times
Christian Science Monitor
TED Talk with Stuart Brown…

Amy Robbins-Wilson, MA is a Musical Parenting Expert and Healing Music Artist. She is the award winning author of Transformational Mothering and the creator of the Mommy Jingles program. Sign up for your free Musical Parenting Video Tips at Learn more about Amy and her work at

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