3 ways to encourage your child to play (and why you should)

August 4, 2020

For months, children have been sequestered at home with distance learning from both school and church. Closed parks and playgrounds disappointed children and parents alike. Fear of contracting COVID-19 has disrupted life as we know if for months, and when we return to gathering as groups, our sense of what was normal will no longer be “normal.”

One common yet amazing way we can help children regain their bearings is through free play. Play by definition involves freedom: freedom to run, freedom to choose, freedom to imagine a world without COVID-19. What makes play such a powerful force and why is it so important to integrate play into the lives of children?

Play is defined by its qualities of being child-initiated and child-directed. The goal of play is always process over product. There can be a project to complete or game to win but the fun involved in getting there defines play. Play involves an understood set of rules that are created by children that are adaptable to changes in the situation at hand. Play always involves imagination, which is foundational to creativity and the adult version of imagination called innovation.

Ask yourself, “When was the last time I played without thought of my to-do list or my other personal obligations? What did play do for my heart and soul?” Children are born with an innate desire to play. Play is how they work and learn how to navigate life. Active play is crucial to healthy cognitive, physical, social and emotional development. Lack of free play has been linked to an inability to focus, stay on task or handle strong emotion.

What does play do for a child? Play builds competencies and confidence. It teaches self-advocacy and helps children overcome narcissism and teaches children how to extend grace and compassion to others. It teaches empathy and “otherness” as well as how to function in a group through cooperation and conflict management. Play involves risk-taking, builds courage and problem solving skills. It creates resilience, the ability to get up after a fall, which is so necessary to the mental health of teens and adults. Play is a great stress reliever and reset button.

Active play is crucial to healthy cognitive, physical, social and emotional development.

It has been said that play in the life of a child is practice for life as an adult. Imaginative play is an imitation of adult responsibilities and is a way for children to develop the skills necessary to participate in the culture. It is a place where it is OK to learn to fail without real world consequences. Freedom to fail means there is also freedom to experiment and try an alternative solution.

How can we as adults open up the world of play to children?

We can give permission to play.
In today’s culture the drive to succeed has replaced many opportunities for play. Classes, organized sports and other adult-driven enrichment has minimized time for the joy of free play. Build time for and encourage children to truly play without adult instruction, direction or intervention.

We can give an invitation to play.
Are we creating environments that allow for imaginative and creative play? Blocks, play dough, sand and swings, kick balls and open fields are the stuff of play. Consider the toys that your children own. Do they foster active play and imagination or are they passive forms of entertainment that only fill time?

We can engage in play with our child.
Play their games by their rules. Unleash your imagination as you engage in play and conversation. Build a fort, mold play dough, throw water balloons or ride bikes. Dress dolls, build roads or play hide and seek. Become a child-like adult who models the desired behaviors you want your child to emulate.

Do you make time for play? Take a hard look at your calendar. Are there substantial blocks of time for free play in the life of your child? What have you learned through the gift of free time that COVID-19 may have given your family? What are some important practices you desire to keep? What has been fun for you and your family? Is fun scheduled into your life? Find joy, fun and blessing with your children through the gift of play.


by Cheryl Markland  
/  Childhood Evangelism and Discipleship  /  Baptist State Convention of North Carolina

‘Reimagine’ resource addresses today’s realities, tomorrow’s possibilities

How does your church see this COVID moment? On a recent webcast by the Barna Group titled “Caring for Souls in a New Reality,” panelists posed the question, “Is this an interruption or a disruption?” An interruption means that this is only a temporary interference in our lives,...

Think like a missionary

How can I think like a missionary?Missionaries live with a deep love and compassion for those who are far from God. They are burdened for those who are lost — those who are like sheep without a shepherd. They live by the words of Jesus when He said, “I have other sheep that are...

Why crisis & unrest should point us to prayerful hope in Christ

If ever there was a time when believers and churches needed to focus on God’s great hope in Jesus, it is now. The COVID-19 pandemic — along with all the racial, social, political, economic and spiritual unrest that has gripped our nation — has, in many ways, cast a cloud of...

Saved from war, man from Congo planting church in Raleigh

Rufus Muhirwe is tall, thin and soft-spoken. Look at this gentle man and you would never guess the years-long nightmare he endured before coming to Raleigh, N.C. He found that God was with him through those years. And the fact that Muhirwe is planting a new church is a testimony...

How families can mentor families to make disciples at home

There is an old saying, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” What if we took this same approach in discipling our families. No doubt, you have families in your church who are doing a phenomenal job discipling their...

Don’t miss the blessing of leading your child to Christ

Most churches stress the importance of passing the gospel on to future generations. We often refer to the family as a primary mission field. To emphasize this reality, we point to passages such as Deuteronomy 6:6-7a, which says, “These words that I am giving you today are to be in...

4 women’s ministry events for you and your church

“Pivot” is a new buzzword brought about by COVID-19, and it’s something every organization and ministry has had to do amid the global pandemic. The coronavirus has forced the cancellation, postponement, rescheduling or shifting of numerous events and conferences, and the impact...

NCMO helps demonstrate Christ’s love in word, deed

The year 2020 has been a year like no other in our lifetime. Events of this year have left many people hurting in numerous ways. As followers of the Lord Jesus Christ, we should be compelled by the love He demonstrated for us through His death on the cross to love others, serve...

0 Comments

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Get the latest news and event information by signing up for the Childhood Ministry newsletter.

Select Language ^

Share This

Share this with your friends!