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A Treatise on Play

This post was submitted by Zach Martin for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals through

I believe that play is the ultimate equalizer. It is the one language that every child knows better than their own. I believe that play is powerful, and has a profound impact on how children learn, how they grow, and how they heal. I have been learning how kids play as a Psychology Major, Child Life Specialist Minor at Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania over the past semester, and just how incredible of an impact it has.

Mister Rogers has been a huge influence for me as I learn to be a child life specialist and two quotes have always stuck out to me. The first is this: “When we treat children’s play as seriously as it deserves, we are helping them feel the joy that’s to be found in the creative spirit. It’s the things we play with and the people who help us play that make a great difference in our lives.” As an adult, I don’t remember all the little toys and games I played with, but I do remember the times my dad would wrestle with my brothers and me even though he’d been on his feet all day. I remember riding bikes with my mom, and playing backyard baseball with my folks and my neighbors. We owe it to our children to give them these memories, because they will be the ones our children appreciate as adults.

The second Mister Rogers quote is this: “Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood.” Sometimes as adults, we fail to see the productively in play. We want our children to be smart and pass all the tests in the school setting, but we overlook the important learning that we did when we were playing as kids. Through play, kids learn about social hierarchies, how to take turns, and how to interact with each other. Kids learn to take risks, which helps them learn to recognize those risks when they get older. When we give kids the chance to take risks in their play, we give them a chance to learn at their own pace, at a level that they understand. I remember when I was a kid and all the times I would take apart something to see how it worked or experimented with water to see how it reacted to different things. Our kids are growing to be the next doctors, the next scientists, the next astronauts. We would not be doing them justice if we did not give them a chance to explore.

I think there is a lot that we could learn from kids as adults. We’ve grown accustomed to being suspicious of others, to what our idea of productivity looks like, and working for the weekend. I think if we gave ourselves a chance to be a kid again, even if only for a little while, we could build stronger bonds with each other and with our children. We could build a better world with a little imagination and a little child’s play.

Zach Martin is a Psychology major, Child Life Specialist minor at Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania.