The Importance of Play

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In today’s busy world full of high expectations, roles to fill and deadlines to meet, we often feel pressure from external sources that can bare a heavy weight on our day to day lives. We rush through daily tasks to fit everything in and sometimes we miss out on the joy that the simplest things in life can offer us. It is in these moments that I think we can take a cue from our youngest citizens.

In my role at the Children’s Museum I have the pleasure of observing and interacting with children and their families who visit. What I get to see on a daily basis is the overwhelming sense of joy and ease that comes from playing. The Children’s Museum is a space that invites not only children to engage in play but their grownups too. What we get to see when families play together is nothing short of amazing. Children are given the chance to lead their comrades into a blissful but meaningful experience where they can relieve themselves of any worry or stress from their daily lives.

Play is an important part of human survival. In the same way that public health is required for our well-being, so is play! We often think of play as something to do in our spare time once all other necessary chores and activities have been completed. What current research is showing us is that play actually holds a necessary biological place just as sleeping and eating do.

The most wonderful thing about play, is that all humans have the ability to do it. Whether it’s a loving gaze from a baby to their father, a three year old using a stick to turn their friend into a magic wizard or a group of adults engaged in a game of catch, we all have instincts that allow us to be able to play. Play is something that comes from within. It gives us time to quiet the chatter in our minds that can often be overwhelming and it gives us the chance to just be. To relish in a moment of freedom. A moment that brings joy, creates wonder and meaningful learning opportunities for not only children but all people.

I invite you to think about your most cherished playful experience. Think about a time when you were so immersed in the present moment that you completely lost track of time. These are the moments that children are so good at cultivating. They don’t need to make time to play as it is naturally how they move through the world. They are relentless explorers and eagerly attend to the intricacies of the world we live in. As adults, we can slow down and create space for our children to follow these instincts.

I get to learn from children every day in my work. They teach me to notice the beauty and complexity in everything around me. They help me to slow down, seek to understand more about the world and how it works, and to never forget to find the joy in each moment. They help me to play.

Renee Coughlin, RECE. Education Specialist, London Children’s Museum

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