Our Kids Need To Play MORE – here’s why

My trips to the playground often teach me a lot of things. This past week in particular, I’ve noticed that many kids (ours included) are not good at playing yet.

It sounds weird. How can they not be? Playing is something that comes naturally to kids, right?

Well, supposedly. But since gadgets are now the new toys of this generation and it keeps kids indoors, most kids today do not know real play.

For example, when it was Mia’s first time to play Langit Lupa (Heaven Earth Tag game), she would happily participate when she was on the untouchable elevated areas (heaven) but would burst into tears and would suddenly like to go home when it was her turn to be “it”. She couldn’t help but feel defeated whenever she had to pursue and tag players who were hard to catch on the ground (earth).

I stopped her from leaving and it took several rounds before she finally got the dynamics of the game and accepted she really had to do the chasing sometimes.

On our way home that afternoon, I couldn’t help but worry for our kids. Because even if they’re in the company of classmates in school everyday, they don’t really get enough playtime together.

Are you confident that your child plays fair and is kind to other kids during playtime? Have you seen your child handle disagreements? Do you know if yours does not use potty language or bully anyone?

If you’re unsure, this is something you might also want to check on soon.

Because of the long list of things we need to provide for our children, one thing that many of us forget is to provide them with TIME to PLAY with other KIDS.

This often gets ignored because:

1. Gadgets

2. We think kids are fine playing alone all the time, or

3. We over schedule them with extra curricular activities that make it seem okay to miss out on free play.

If you listen closely though or you stay longer to watch kids play, you’ll notice that most children lack social skills.

Arguing nicely, listening to others point of view, staying calm, handling rejection, understanding jokes, playing fair, not being bossy, waiting for turns, not hitting, not being too agressive or too sensitive, saying sorry, forgiving and moving on – these are all hard to learn but they are very much needed during playtime.

And our children need PLENTY of opportunities to PRACTICE because these skills cannot be acquired overnight or after 3 play dates. Not even after 10 or 20!

We’ve been to numerous play dates, parties, and group classes and our 6-year-old still has not mastered these social skills yet. And this is despite our efforts of prioritizing play and trying our best to get a healthy dose of socialization every week.

There are days she plays it well and there are days she doesn’t.

There are days she’s a good sport, there are days she’s not.

There are days she readily agrees with her friends’ ideas but there are days she insists on the game she wants and doesn’t give way.

So what more for a kid who rarely goes out and interacts?

I am no expert in social behavior but I worry for kids who do not get exposed to different personalities and who do not know how to handle teasing because they won’t learn to connect and cooperate.

For instance, ours forgives right away but there are times she needs more time to calm down after a fight.

Sometimes I’m so proud of how she handles difficult kids and sometimes she IS the difficult kid.

It’s frustrating but this just tells us we still need MORE PRACTICE. We should go out, play, and try and try again until our kids can smoothly navigate peer relationships.

Stressful as it may sound but the little fights they engage into are actually helpful. And I believe they need lots of it!

It gives them a chance to problem solve, pick up on social cues and body language, and make decisions.

It’s quite hard for me not to step in actually, but to experience arguments many times is a good drill for them.

So I guess the question now is –

Are we giving our children enough time for unstructured, non-competitive play?

Or are we too busy making them smart that we are unknowingly hindering their social success?

I’m actually starting to think that adults who have low EQ and have trouble being on their best behavior when angered, didn’t have enough playtime when they were children. Don’t you think?

So at this age, it’s not homework nor perfect scores or high grades they need. They need to PLAY.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t aim for academic excellence. But at this age, I’m talking 5,6,7,8 year olds, there is so much more to learn from play that they can carry on their adult lives.

Play is truly a kid’s most important job.

And the challenge is on us (on teachers too) to try and achieve this balance.

Because it’s not “just play”.

Play matters.

Photo by: Daddy Chris


It’s your turn. What are your thoughts on this?