What is Your Play Philosophy?

Play is serious business!

Caitlin ‘Cake’ Gateaux

I was asked by the US Play Coalition research committee to collect personal statements about ideas and beliefs that are connected to the question, what is play?

How we define play and its value is shaped by many personal, historical, and cultural influences. Darell Hammond, in his recently published book, KaBOOM! How One Man Built a Movement to Save Play, writes about the reality of a play deficit in our communities. He calls on those of us who recognize the value of play (and there aren’t enough of us out there, he says) to take action steps that will lead to a greater recognition of play’s value while brightening each child’s life and create playful communities for all ages no matter where we live.

Two playful philosophies to share with you:

Play is the manifestation of the natural creative impulses that drive our imaginations – uninhibited by society in terms of what is practical and what is possible. Play constitutes a laboratory for discovery of self and discovery of the world – the epitome of active learning. What I mean by play is an integration of the inside and outside. Silly work and serious games. The freedom to trust ourselves, follow our intuition, create and define our own realities, and come alive to the infinite wisdom that is innate in our human bodies and spirits.

Susan Mary Featro

What is play? To me my best play is when I end up playing unexpectedly.   Yesterday I was in a thrift store with a friend; I had a really fun time playing. It was like dress up all over again, except this time I could choose the style, the clothes, the table cloth, and even the tea cups. I ended up buying two cute long shorts very summer looking and two ice cream Sunday fancy dessert cups. Play can be anything! Sometimes when I just sit for a bit and hug my dog and talk to her and pet her, I feel like some warm sunshine creeps into me and makes everything alright and that I had just played.

I am married to an opposite that does not know how to play at all. Sometimes this is hard since play is something I love! So I have to remind myself that I can bring play to him and when I do, he laughs and we end up having a fun time together. Simple things like saying lets scream together for a minute– you look so tense did you had a bad day? Oh yes, he replies, so we sit there and take turns screaming just a min or two but it [helps us]let go of all that tight stuff and it even gets the bad day in the right place under his feet. Just like walking down the street for a walk you can skip, look around at all of life’s beauty, you can wave to someone in a car and maybe you were their only contact that day of love.

Life is too short to not play! Stumbling into play is just the best! Here I am painting a painting trying my hardest to do my best, it just is not working so I begin to scribble and then even use my hands. What about throwing the paint so it splatters and pretty soon my work of art has character much more than I had ever planned and it was play! It was fun! I love to play with my grand kids because they really love to play, and they know how to let go to just do it. Let’s go outside and swing on grandpa’s Tarzan rope and play ball and have a snack and dress the dogs, draw pictures, play store, create a fort. All of this can take place within the same time span. As an adult I see that I keep limiting myself. Time comes into consideration as well. Do I really have the energy? Then, the question comes, Is that really what I call play or fun? Sometimes play for me now can even be taking deep breaths and hugging myself looking in the mirror and saying what I like about myself, singing a favorite song out loud, wears some crazy socks that show, putting a flower in my hair, sometimes it is just being still for as long as I can, and then enjoying the wonderful feeling after.  That feels like play to me, because play is freeing! Loving yourself is freeing, play and love walk hand in hand. I have tried to play like I used to as a kid. I recently tried to climb a tree and sit there like I used to love. First of all I almost fell numerous times while trying to climb it, then, once there, it was all scratchy and then came the ants. I couldn’t wait to get down out of that tree but it did make me laugh. Some things are just better as a kid! I don’t have to climb a tree to play! Instead I can even be comfy and play with soft plump pillows piled high in a corner with my favorite books and nice lamp and a tray full of cookies and milk.

-Deborah Wilden

Imagine that you find yourself at a playground, park, or natural setting. What ways do you find to play?

…..you find yourself sitting on one of the swings with the kids, thrusting your legs you find yourself going higher and higher, what do you see? How do you feel?

Rachel Signer of Dowser.org, wrote about some of the take-aways she received as a result of reading Darell Hammond’s book, KaBOOM! How One Man Built a Movement to Save Play:

  • Our culture needs to reevaluate the importance of play: Play is not a luxury, Hammond insists. It’s through play that kids build the social skills, muscular development, and creativity that is necessary not only for a joyous childhood but also a productive adulthood. And it needs to be child-directed, child-initiated play, unstructured play.
  • Parents’ attitudes matter: Hammond laments that, these days, kids don’t roam far, because parents won’t let them out of their sight, and this contributes to indoor screen time (and more video games and TV). What’s required for substantial changes in playtime is a twin-engine approach: to have more playful kids, we also need more playful adults, so that they understand what their kids are getting out of it. But adults also need to let kids simply play, [with both] rewards and failures: skinned knees and dirty clothes. A happy child is generally a muddy and messy child.

© Copyright 2011 by Mary Alice Long, PhD, therapist in Langley, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

  • Leave a Comment
  • Su Lee Chong

    Su Lee Chong

    May 17th, 2011 at 7:03 PM

    Well said about play. In our busy world of trying to accomplish as many things as possible in a day, week or month, we tend to forget about playing. I am definitely guilty of it. Thanks for reminding me!

  • lacie


    May 17th, 2011 at 11:24 PM

    play for me is anything that helps me relax.it could be a long drive or an ice cream in rain along with a friend.it’s all about what can make you forget all your worries and tensions,something that can make you feel good.and I’m happy I do my ‘play’ quite often.

  • John


    May 18th, 2011 at 4:35 AM

    I see too many parents and adults in general who either do not take enough time out of their day to play or they take it to the extreme and play too much! How can you give them the emssage that just like anything else in life there has to be a balance?

  • Mary Alice Long, PhD

    Mary Alice Long, PhD

    May 18th, 2011 at 2:57 PM

    Thank you Su Lee, Lacey, & John,
    There are many ways to play in relationships, at work, dreaming/visioning, and creating. Since play is devalued and seen as the opposite of play for the most part those of us who value play can be the voice of recognition–re-member to play because play matters (no matter what our age). We are all healthier when we play and more creative, make better decisions, find greater balance, and enjoy life in “our natural element”.

  • DH


    May 18th, 2011 at 7:15 PM

    my parents always thought of play time as a waste and never encouraged me or my siblings to play or do anything creative.it was all about home-school-home…it made me so sick because I always had an inclination towards fine arts…anyway all that is past but I have vowed never to choke my own kids like that…

  • Cheryl


    May 19th, 2011 at 4:34 AM

    I hate it when I see a parent bring a child to day care or a play date with their Sunday best clothes on and don’t want them to get dirty. When I was young if you didn’t get dirty then you were not having any fun at all! We all get so uptight these days with putting on the right appearance that we forget about the things in life that are really important. Allowing our kids to play and to express themselves through play is such a worthy experience, a valuable time growing up that could never be replaced. We have to keep that in mind and do better by not taking those experiences and chances away from them.

  • Just-In


    May 19th, 2011 at 7:26 PM

    ‘play’,if you ask me,is nothing but a person being himself or herself.Without inhibitions or worries or anything just being your natural self.This is what makes play so good.But the sad thing is that we have forgotten play as a culture and it is only seems as a waste of time and energy in our rat race.This needs to change if the future generations are going to be enjoying their lives rather than living like a bunch of robots.

  • StacyL


    May 20th, 2011 at 4:46 AM

    Allowing yourself to play and be a kid again can feel so liberating!

  • darlene


    May 20th, 2011 at 2:20 PM

    “Play is the exaltation of the possible.” ~ Martin Buber

  • H@nn@h


    May 20th, 2011 at 7:17 PM

    StacyL:You just said what I was goin’ to say myself :)

    I love just letting go and doin’ non-serious things every once in a while. It’s just so much better that way :)

  • Mary Alice Long, PhD

    Mary Alice Long, PhD

    May 25th, 2011 at 2:54 PM

    “Its never too late to be a kid.” Thank you all. Everyone of you is valuable in creating a world where play is valued–for all ages. Why not pick up that brush, dance, sing, stomp in the puddles today–bring your unique way to play as a gift to your community–see and be seen, what you want to play and create with matters.

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