Let Children Play


Childhood should be a time to play with freedom and joy without fear. Children need unstructured time for free play and even time to be bored because boredom is the birthplace of creativity. God also needs space and time to speak to our children’s lives. if we keep them in a constant cycle of enriching activities, they might snatch a place in the best pre-school and in the best universities but will they have time to nurture their spirits?

The Rise of Fear-Based Parenting

When my oldest children started school in the mid to late eighty’s, they played marbles, bounced tennis balls off the school wall and could bring real baseballs and basketballs to school. In short, they played like children have played for generations. By the time they were in grade eight, the principals had banned marbles and real balls from the schoolyard. Why? They were too dangerous!

My oldest daughter drew a picture entitled “Recess at St. Mike’s” that shows a girl, standing frozen in place, with a ball and chain around her ankle. Quite revealing, isn’t it?

When I was a child, we hopped on bikes without helmets, only wore sunscreen at the beach and ate peanut butter sandwiches. I understand that the world has changed but along with new, necessary safety measures this generation has put into place, society has burdened children with fear.

Childhood is a time to play in freedom and joy, freedom to lose themselves in the sheer joy of the present moment, without nagging regret about the past or fear of the future. My family was and is fortunate to live in the country, where my children roamed safely, caught frogs, built forts, explored a creek and created wonderful imaginative games.

One example stands out in my mind. I had gathered everyone for dinner but we were waiting for Anthony. Someone spotted him out the window and called the rest of us over to see him. There was Anthony on the platform of our large wooden play structure, wearing his usual uniform consisting of a black cape, black barn boots and grey felt hat, engaged in a fierce sword fight with an imaginary enemy. Suddenly he clutched his chest and staggered over to lean on the railing. Then rallying his draining energy and stamina, he suddenly rose up and with a courageous flourish thrust his sword into his evil opponent and collapsed in exhaustion and agony.

We were all delighted with his imaginary drama.

Children need free, unstructured time to let their imaginations fly.

This can only happen if we refuse to allow our own fears to burden our children and if we give them the time and space to simply be children and time to allow God to speak to their hearts.

connecting with theology is a verb 

2 thoughts on “Let Children Play

  1. This is awesome—and I love the swordplay scene. Yup, I admit that there is a bit more “fear based” parenting in my household. We live in NYC and we are not free to roam everywhere, but with a little driving out of the congested areas they have space to roam. When the kids tell me they are bored—my first response is “good” now find something to do. I really don’t think they want to get their instructions from someone who is cleaning and trying to get dinner on at the same time.

    Liked by 1 person

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