The importance of play

The importance of play

“And the streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing in its streets.” Zechariah 8:5

Play is an activity engaged in for enjoyment and recreation. Children have an innate ability to engage with their environment through play. It is this process of play that allows children to use their creativity in developing their imagination, emotional, physical and mental strength, increased confidence and resilience, as well as a mastery of their world and can even as an aid in coping and healing from trauma.

My three boys take great delight in playing at all times of the day. Today it was creating giant mountains with intricate tunnel systems in our sand pit. Later I watched them jump on the trampoline as high as possible when my 4 year old called out, “Mum, can you come on the tramp with us?”

So often I am busy rushing through a to do list and dismiss these invitations to play. But it is these moments of connection through play that allow us to bond with our children and share an experience of joy and delight with them.

The shrieks of laughter and contentment as I double bounce small bodies or help reinforce a sand tunnel are moments that I want to be present in and make a priority in the busyness of life. It is in these precious moments that we meet a deep need within our children; to show them that they are worth spending time with, that the things they value are important and that ultimately they are loved.

 “I was his delight day by day, playing before him all the while, playing on the surface of his earth; and I found delight in the sons of men. (Prov 8:30-31)

God takes great delight in His creation, especially His human creations, as is evidenced in the above passage from Proverbs where he shares this “delight in the sons of men” with Lady Wisdom.

God shows many times through scripture the playfulness of His nature. Here are just a few examples: the donkey speaking up to correct Balaam (Numbers 22-24), God’s playful rebuke of Abraham and Sarah’s mutual doubt when he revealed their son would be named Isaac meaning ‘laughter’ (Genesis 18) and in John 21:1-12 Jesus aided His friends in fishing and then cooked them breakfast on the beach, a humane and playful way for Jesus to interact with His friends.

 I know that when I engage with God there are moments of serious contemplative revelation and there are also moments of wonder and awe tinged with a deep sense of joy and delight – it is in the moments of joy that I truly feel God’s love on a level that goes beyond simple study.

I help my kids connect with God’s joy and wonder in very simple ways; discovering His creation and having pointed conversations about it, autumn leaves, sunsets, stars in the sky, etc.

We sing songs in the car, close our eyes and ask God to speak to us or show us a picture He has for us, we then share what God revealed. An example of this recently was my 6 year old asking to listen to the song ‘Way Maker’ – he closed his eyes through the whole song and when it finished he opened them and shared with everyone in the car about the amazing colours that God had showed him and what we all thought God could be saying to him through these colours.

Play is important in our children’s development on all levels and is a great way for them and us to take part in joyfulness as well as delight in God’s creation and who he created each of us to be.

I encourage you to meet the deep need within your child for connection and love; play with them, take delight in the things of God with them and find joy through playfulness with your family.

Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” Matthew 19:14