Time to Play!

My brother and his family used to live in San Diego. I wrote that just to give you a little context. One day when I was visiting, I had ordered my nephew, then five years old, to do something. You know how much fun it is to order kids to do stuff for you—tasks you’re perfectly capable of doing but are too lazy to do. While I can’t recall exactly what I wanted him to do, I’ll never forget his response.

“I’m busy,” he said.

“Busy doing what?” I asked. Obviously not busy doing what I’d just told him to do, which annoyed me.

“Playing,” he said.

I was so taken aback by his answer, and the seriousness in which it had been uttered, that I just stood there, staring at him. Finally, I said, “Okay. I can’t argue with that.”

His response might not seem profound to you, but it was to me. My attempt to interrupt his schedule had been met by a rebuff I couldn’t refute.

Lest you think I’m one of those adults who think children should do whatever they want whenever they want (newsflash: nope), let me just say that this is not a post about teaching children responsibility or anything else. You see, my nephew taught me something that day: the value of taking playtime seriously.

Oh, I see that look. Adults have to behave responsibly. We’ve got mortgages, car insurance, and other bills. Can’t always sit around building with LEGOs, right?


Playtime is even better with a crowd.

I’m a better writer when I take time to play, when my nose isn’t always to the grindstone and I’m trying to force myself to write something whimsical and delightful. How many people know that you can’t force yourself to write anything with that description if your attitude is, “I MUST do this. I MUST suck it up and put words on the page because, y’know, that’s what you’re supposed to do”?

Yeah, yeah. I totally get the need to sit down and put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard). Sometimes, you have to do that. But sometimes, you have to allow yourself time to just play, whatever that might mean for you.

Playtime is like ma space, a rest (or space) between periods of action. (Look here for the Wikipedia article on ma space or here for a post on this blog about ma space..)

My friend Jill puts puzzles together. My friend Sharon takes photographs and draws. My friend Laura hikes or kayaks. My friend Lyn builds awesome things with LEGOs. Some of us play videogames or crochet lambs. (Yes, I consider crocheting playtime.)

What do you do to play?

Here in America, today is a holiday called Labor Day. What is Labor Day? According to this website on the history of Labor Day, “It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.”

What better day to kickback and play? I have deadlines tomorrow, yeah. But today, I’m gonna play. Today’s playtime could usher in tomorrow’s inspiration.

Hopscotch anyone?

Donatina Shoppie with mini Donatina and locket by Moose Toys. Hopscotch photo from toysperiod.com. Other photos by L. Marie.

46 thoughts on “Time to Play!

  1. There is no more delightful sight than a little child totally absorbed in playing and chatting to himself and his toy; not getting into trouble and leaving his parents in peace to look at their phones or get on with dinner! But playing is work of sorts for children, they are learning while they play, busy playing is a perfect description.

    • Well said, tidalscribe! Some toys do double duty–instructing a child and helping the child to play. Such an imagination builder! And yes, adults get to continue their tasks in peace!

  2. There really needs to be more acceptance of playing. I get flack whenever I step away to relax or play. It’s like somebody made a rule that being an adult requires stress and only minimal amounts of fun. Otherwise, we’re called slackers and bums. Humans really aren’t very good at this whole life thing if you ask me. Smartest creature on the planet and we riddle ourselves with stress instead of playing even for an hour. (This got more rant-like than expected.)

    • You are so right. It’s your Labor Day so a good time to remember the people who fought for workers’ rights – a limit on hours, breaks and enough time off to rest was recognised as the way to get the best out of people.

      • Yes, it has gotten bad. I know someone who worked at a hospital where one of the workers was criticized for taking too much time off. (The poor woman was taking chemotherapy for cancer.) 😦

      • Geez. This is another reason why my job hunting is freaking me out. I hope to find a job where life and work are allowed to be balanced. Seems those aren’t easy to find.

      • You’ll find something. I have a tendency to work long hours. I don’t always have to do that. But I have two deadlines on the same day, so I don’t have a lot of choice in the matter.

      • I have looked, but those seem to require a lot of experience or they don’t pay much. Some that I did find and could go for ended up being connected to companies that had a reputation for treating their editors rather poorly. Be nice if I could find a way to proofread and make a decent living, but I haven’t found a way to pull it off. It was suggested that I use my blog, but I don’t know what rates to do and I have more of a reputation as an author than an editor.

    • Sad but true, Charles. I can understand the value of hard work. But I can’t force myself to write anything well if I don’t take some down time. And I have to wonder about people who criticize others for doing so.

      • I’m not even talking writing since I’m semi-retired for the foreseeable future. Just in general, people seem to think you can’t have fun except a bit in the weekends. Playing during the week is almost blasphemous to some.

      • I know what you mean. If you work at home, some people think you need to crack the whip on yourself 24/7. And as a freelancer at home, I do tend to work longer hours. But to sustain the energy to work those long hour, I need playtime.

      • I’ve actually found a different mentality with work at home opinions. People think I still keep a 9-5/weekdays schedule, so they get baffled by me writing at night or on weekends. There are others that think it’s impossible to work from home and won’t believe you’re actually working unless you make 6 figures. There’s just so much judgement there.

      • Yes, there is a lot of judgement and misconceptions about working at home. This type of work isn’t for everyone. But it can be done.

        I don’t know any writers who can keep a strict 9-5 type of schedule. You write when you’ve got stuff to write. Sometimes you might be at it for 12 hours. When I have a book due, I might work 7 a.m. till 10 p.m., because that’s what I need to do to get it done.

      • Totally agree that it isn’t for everyone. I think the concept annoys some people who want to do it, but can’t. So, they try to tear down those who make the attempt.

        It is bizarre that there are those who think writing can be flicked on like a switch and done whenever you have time. If you’re too stressed or exhausted (common with day jobs) then you won’t be getting very far.

  3. The line between Work and Play is a fine one for me ~ sometimes I enjoy “work” so much that it feels like play and sometimes “play” seems like hard work.

    “When you enjoy what you do you never have to work another day in your life.”

    Or, as Mary Poppins once sang, “In every job that must be done there is an element of fun find the fun and *snap* the job’s a game!”

    Life is to be enjoyed! Play on!

  4. Oh, wow! You’ve written this at a sad moment in my WIP, when my protagonist comes to realize that he will have to give up the train set (based on my LEGO town) that has kept him calm and happy for 12 years. He is packing it up as I write this. Little does he know, however, that his father will give him a car because he donated his trains to the public library. Big trouble will ensue.

  5. I know you’re aiming this more for adults taking time to play and that’s extremely relevant…unfortunately, what I found as a Mom and then as a teacher was that kids often aren’t given opportunities to play – each minute of each day is scheduled for a multitude of enrichment activities (learning an instrument is one of many such examples) And even scheduling play dates is still not the same as spontaneous play sparked by something as simple as laying in the park or backyard and looking at the clouds, etc You get my drift, I’m sure.
    Nothing wrong with enrichment stuff, but part of learning how to live is learning how to live without anxiety over ‘doing nothing’.
    Anyway, I’m with Andy – right now one of the easiest ways for me to take a break is to tune into Amazon Prime and delve into another Dr. Who (or two or three) episode. 😀
    BTW: I’m on season 5, around episode 13, 14. A little after the Vincent Van Gogh one.
    Enjoy your Labor Day weekend!

    • I know what you mean, Laura. As I wrote this post, I thought of how so many children’s lives are over-scheduled. 😔 This is why, later in life, so many of them go through depression and other things. I hope that will change.

      Season five is a good one! Glad you’re enjoying Doctor Who!

  6. Ah yes, playing is serious business when you’re a kid! My adult playing has usually been some form of crafting – knitting, cross-stitch, paper-crafting, etc. But at the end of last year I acquired a guitar and my play these days consists of trying to learn to play the dratted thing! Poor Tuppence – every time I begin she marches out the cat-flap with her tail in the air. Everyone’s a critic… 😉

    • How wonderful that you’re playing the guitar! Was the Professor VJ Duke an influence on you? Laura Bruno Lilly, who often comments on this blog, is a classical guitarist and composer. It’s nice to know so many guitarists.

      • Ha, I certainly don’t qualify as a guitarist yet! Indirectly he was – I got offered a guitar for review through the Amazon Vine program and couldn’t resist. But I really intended to review it and then pass it on to a local school or something. And then I got hooked… 😀

  7. Ahhhh – playing is very important, for kids of all ages, and I make it a point to play every day. Sometimes, I just up and go for a walk, or I pull out my kiddie books or a few dolls I still have and look at them. Don’t tell anyone, but, I often play a few rounds of Tetris. I know – an old game, but, it relaxes me and gives me time to think.

    Fun post. Keep playing.

    • I used to love Tetris, Penny. I had a videogame cartridge of it. Not sure what happened to it. But Tetris is still pretty fun!

      I enjoy reading about your walks on your blog! 😀

  8. Ha. Totally get it. I wrote a blog post about playing on the jungle gym when no one was there. We went to see Christopher Robin over the weekend, and I loved the playful sayings of Pooh.

    Kids do remind us of the simple things. One time my niece who was around 5 years old as well (she’s now 32, yikes), was in our car with us as we drove her somewhere. My husband and I made note of a house that looked like it was halfway built and construction had stopped. From the backseat, my niece said, “I guess they just got tired.”

    Have a playful week. 😉

    • Aww! How adorable!
      I am having a much more playful week, now that two deadlines are behind me. Hope you are having a great week. I’m glad to know that Christopher Robin is good. I need to see it.

  9. My ordinary play is simple: walking, dancing, reading, watching a comedy show. When my kids are here, though, they inspire me to do more. During this past month we went zip-lining and kayaking. Both were a little challenging but fun.

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