The Importance of Play

Posted by: Asa Don Brown on March 29, 2012 4:25 pm

Children thrive upon play.  As a toddler, we mimic our parents, our siblings, our pets, the television, and many other significant participants in our lives.  As a child, we are in a perpetual learning curve, constantly seeking to be stimulated.  Fostering a need for such stimulation begins within the home.  As parents, we are the consummate role model.  We are the creative instigator of their developing minds.  

Creativity is the freest form of self-expression and, for children, the creative process is more important than the finished product. There is nothing more fulfilling for children than to be able to express themselves freely. The ability to be creative can do much to nurture your children’s emotional health. All children need to be creative is the freedom to commit themselves to the effort and make whatever activity they are doing their own. 

(PBS, 2012, Online)


As parents we are often caught in the hustle and bustle of the importance of our own lives.  In general, our society has become plagued with an unrelenting motion of doing, rarely giving way to kindness or compassion or living life to its fullest.

When was the last time you actively exercised your creative mind?  When was the last time you allowed yourself to imagine as a child does? As adults, we are told that we are to “to put away the childish ways of life.” If we asked another adult to play Peek-a-boo, Simon Says, Hopscotch, or Tag, they would most likely snarl at our ridiculous request.  Why? Don’t you know that we are adults and we are suppose to act as an adult?

When is the last time you asked your child to play hide-and-go-seek? You may thinking, Are you ridiculous, I am an adult and I don’t play such games anymore? After all, such games are for children

In the 1991 classic movie, Hook; a story inspired by the Peter Pan Tales; Actor Robin Williams plays the role of Peter Banning a grown up acquisitions lawyer who has lost the magic of being Peter Pan.  Sadly, Peter Banning no longer recalls his days as the boy Peter Pan.  Nor does he recall how to harness his inner child.  Thankfully, Peter Banning’s tale does not end as an emotionally broke man, rather Peter Banning gains inspiration from a variety of characters including his own children to once again gain the spirit of Peter Pan.  How does this apply to you? Are you living as Peter Banning or Peter Pan? 

Children can inspire the child within us!

If you want to break the cycle of being an adult in all things, then I encourage you to begin actively seeking ways to play.  You need to set your adult mind free of the dos-and-don’ts of our society.  Consider the following exercise: 

Go to a mall with friends to play peek-a-boo.  What were people’s verbal responses? What was your perception of their nonverbal language?  How did it feel to be playing            peek-a-boo with someone other than a toddler or infant?  Did you feel embarrassed? Why?  Write about this experience: (Brown, 2010, p. 64)

Parents must purposefully set aside the time to actively interact and play with their children.  When playing with your child, be certain that you are being consciously attentive.  As parents, we know the rules to many games; do not allow your knowledge of the rules to detract from this time of play.  Allow for your child’s imagination to guide this playtime. 


Make your children the point-of-interest, avoid playing games whereby your child is not the center of your attention.  Avoid playing video games or some other electronic devices that may detract from your play time. 

Be interactive, communicating your ambitions, goals, and desires for play.  Give your child the reigns to this playtime.  Do not detract by saying, “well this is how the game is played.” Rather, allow your child’s imagination to be front-and-center.  When a child is allowed the freedom to be imaginative, they are encouraged to contextually think “outside the box.”  Research has shown that a child who is granted the freedom of imagination, has a higher probability of being  emotionally and cognitively expressive. 

Children who are not granted the right to be imaginative are less likely:  to develop friendships based on social play or to play on their own. When children are not provided the benefits of imagination, they are more likely to be at odds with the personal application of self-soothing and self-comforting .   Children who have a healthy imagination have greater chances of handling stress induced environments.  

“Kids can become overwhelmed by their emotions but by using their imaginations, they can master their feelings. If a child is afraid of a monster, he can make up a story about hunting down the monster and scaring it and turning it into something else. He’s found a way to transform it.” (Mandell, 2012, Online)


Research has shown that parents who are actively involved in playful dynamics have a higher likelihood of establishing a positive relationship with their child.  Moreover, the benefits of play for a child are countless, they include: 

1.  Social appropriateness and interaction

2.  Personal awareness

3.  Increased awareness of social correctness and skills

4.  A boost to a child’s self-esteem, self-worth, and value

5.  Is a building block for a child’s imagination

6.  Increased emotional tolerance and readiness for life

7.  Children have an increased awareness of their surroundings

8.  Increased abstract reasoning 

The benefits for the parent – child relationship is unity.   In an age that we are frequently overworked, underpaid, and stressed; play decreases our anxieties, our negative thinking, while increasing our own imagination.   Therefore, if we intentionally make play a habitual act in our own lives, then we have a higher likelihood of  being free of our worldly discomforts. 

Play is not the only catalyst of good health, but play along with mental and physical care will increase our chances of living a fulfilled life.   In all things, remind your children that you love them unconditionally.


Brown, Asa Don (2010) Waiting to live. Indiana: iUniverse

Seligman, M. E. (1995) The optimistic child, A revolutionary program that safeguards children against depression and builds lifelong resilience. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company

Mandell, S. (2012) Nurturing imagination. Retrieved March 25, 2012, from

Public Broadcasting Station, PBS (2012) Creativity and play: Fostering creativity. Retrieved March 24, 2012, from

*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

8 comments on “The Importance of Play”

  1. In my opinion you commit an error. I suggest it to discuss.

  2. Dr. Preeti says:

    well said. games foster camaraderie.Children learn to share, play with honour ,to lose with grace and get trained in survival skills.
    warm regards
    dr. preeti.

    1. Dear Dr. Preeti,

      Thank you for offering your feedback. Children should learn to share and play with honor; it’s an important aspect of human interaction.

      Warm Regards,

      Dr. Asa Don Brown

  3. Deborah Pickering says:

    Hello Dr.Brown,
    Before reading this article my first thought was, “Adults need to play too”. Upon actually reading the article though I see you have addressed the importance of play in childrens’ lives, and play in adults’ lives equally.
    Of course, I think play for children is more important because they are developing skills they will need when they become adults. It is sad how this is yet another skill that does get lost in the process of ‘growing up’.
    It has always bothered me how we, adults, are told to “Grow up!”, and to “Act your age!”. Those statements cause me to ask, “By whose standards is my behavior judged?”
    All I mean is that, in whatever way I am acting, to me I am acting my age. Maybe to another I appear to be acting older, younger? I’m not sure.
    If adults are playing, with children or with other adults, who is to say what play behavior is right or wrong?
    Anyway, I do agree with the points you have made regarding the importance of play in our lives, regardless of our age. I could go on but, I must go play around with something else now.
    Thank you for bringing this subject to our attention.
    Cheers, Deb P.

    1. Dear Deb P.

      I am sincerely appreciative of your time and your remarks. It is intriguing that we are told as older youth, young adults, and of course, mature adults “to grow up.” Why? In part, distancing oneself from their youth makes it easier to find excuses why they are not living a youthful life. Secondly, I have no doubt that societal pressures play a major role. Finally, avoiding our youth allows us to avoid our responsibility of living daily whether through playful measures; positive thinking; positive actions; etc.

      Again, thank you for taking the time to offer your feedback.

      Warm Regards,

      Dr. Asa Don Brown

  4. Tracy says:

    Thank you Dr Brown for the precious words regarding play. Quality play time with our children is good for their health and development, it allows bonding and socializing and is also good for managing our stress and keeping life in perspective. Play within our adult relationships is essential in keeping the relationships healthy and fresh.

    Thank you for the reminder that we can not take ourselves so seriously and remember to have a little fun with our children, spouse, friends and co-workers.


    1. Dear Tracy,

      Thank you for your remarks on this article. It is important that we learn to take ourselves, often our mistakes or failures with a grain a salt. Life is too short to be defined by either our failures or our successes. In simple, we need to live life day-to-day, moment-to-moment, and second-to-second.

      Thank you for your feedback.

      Warm Regards,

      Dr. Asa Don Brown

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