A Counterculture of Play


“Think of playtime like an innovation lab

where tomorrow’s civilization is being actively designed.”

– Jordan Shapiro


To those parents, grandparents and care-givers who love children deeply and only want the best for them. To those who dream of raising a whole and happy child. To those who hope for children who are fully expressed in themselves, free to be bold and just a little bit wild. To those who want their children to learn all they can, to swim through the vast ocean of knowledge that awaits them, calling to them to identify their passions. 


This is a call to action.


Children must be encouraged to play.


This is the simple secret to raising a whole and happy child.


Play is a method of finding oneself, a process of exploration and discovery that extends to all subject matter and all experiences. Supporting play is a loving action – being playful and silly together solidifies your parent-child bond, allowing you to feel even closer to each other. Keeping the focus on play is a giant infusion of joy for the whole family.


Kids today are losing play in many ways – shorter recess, too many scheduled activities, not enough play dates, and way too much screen time. It is up to parents to clear away some physical space, as well as time in the daily schedule, for plenty of unstructured play. Kids of all ages need to play every day – tweens and teenagers need daily physical play just as much as young children do, and they also need to spend lots of time doing non-technological activities. 


Make it playful: 

-       Play together regularly as a family and also one-on-one. 

-       Encourage your children’s friendships by inviting kids to play in your home frequently, and enrich your own by having your friends bring their kids over to play with yours. 

-       Read together and watch wonderful movies, talking about the delightful ways the stories can inspire play. Use these stories to expose your kids to art, music, and ideas from other cultures. 

-       Look ahead at your children’s upcoming developmental milestones, and consider positive and playful ways to approach them so children can learn about what is to come and prepare for it. Smooth these transitions and create wonderful memories by addressing things head-on, talking about it, and teaching your children to look for the good in every situation. 

-       Look for ways to celebrate the small things as well as the big. It can be as simple as asking your child at bedtime what he felt good about that day, or it can be as grand as planning an annual holiday just to celebrate how much you love being a family. Find ways to make it playful for all involved, and it will always be memorable. 


As parents, children are your greatest work, but, with a little forethought, that work can often be joyful and fun! It is important to be consistent and create a structure and routine in your day-to-day lives that your children can navigate – the more playfulness injected into that routine, the more smoothly your children will follow it. 


Play is the essential work of children, and with so much information available on how children learn, what works for them and what does not, it is imperative that parents use this information to collectively shift parenting culture toward supporting the wealth of benefits supplied by play, and nurturing the family bond by finding the joy in any situation. 


As a collective, parents can move away from technology over-use and instead bring the focus to a more joyful, fuller living experience for their children. Today’s world desperately needs a resurgence of play, of finding joy in the simple things – for adults and children alike.  


By supporting children in play, parents are encouraging the optimal development of the next generation of innovators and thinkers, trailblazers and agents of change. 


Let’s create a counterculture of play.


Recommended Reading: 

The Genius of Play:

New York Times:

Washington Post: