Why We Must Re-Learn the Art of Play

Erik Cooper —  April 9, 2012 — 2 Comments

Somewhere along the line I forgot how to play. Or maybe I just decided to quit. I don’t know.

Life became serious. Important. Efficient. Practical.

I have these faint memories of endlessly skipping rocks across the neighborhood creek, shooting plastic army men with giant rubber bands, 12-inning kickball grudge matches that reluctantly ended when my dinner was cold, and building forts with couch cushions and throw blankets. But they seem silly now. Childish even.

Nothing makes that clearer than a good ol’ Griswold family vacation. I just returned from Spring Break week in sunny Destin, Florida with my wife, our 3 kids, my mom and dad, and some dear friends from Louisiana. Portions of our day probably sounded something like this:

“Daddy, come swim in the ocean!”

Uhhhhhh, that water’s freezing sweetie. And, you know, things live in there. You guys enjoy. I’m gonna sit under the umbrella and read for awhile.

“Daddy, let me bury you in the sand.”

Why don’t you bury Emma buddy, I’m gonna hit the condo gym for an hour.

“Daddy daddy, get in the pool with us!”

I’m getting a lot of sun guys. Let me finishing talking to your mom here and put on some SPF70 (aka liquid t-shirt) and then I may hop in for a bit.

Before you commandeer my dad of the year trophy, we did all these things. A lot. But my instinctual hesitancy gave me pause and made me think. Why do I naturally balk at play?

Am I selfish. Sure.

Am I lazy. Probably.

But I also think I’ve simply lost the joy of playing. Of disengaging. Of spending time recklessly. Inefficiently. Relationally. For nothing more than the fun of it.


You know I’ve never been one to cynically trash our culture, the new media, Facebook, Twitter, our 24 hour connect. But I do think it’s worth looking at how undisciplined engagement can impact the things that are most important to us. My brain is used to uninterrupted input and non-stop stimulation.

The conversation dull? Check Facebook.

The ballgame hit a lull? Click on the breaking news link.

Meeting boring? How about Words with Friends?

Even if the entertainment I’m engaged in isn’t entertaining enough, I can instantly access something more stimulating.

But I wonder if the art of play isn’t curated amongst the lulls. Painted in inefficiencies. Sculpted with the boredom that we seem to fear so much. Yes, fear.

When I play with my children, it opens their hearts to me. Gives me access to the deeper places I really want to go. Cultivates the respect I need to lead them well. The love I long for. Maybe play is the gateway for all great relationships?

How do we cultivate the art of play?

2 responses to Why We Must Re-Learn the Art of Play

  1. “When I play with my children, it opens their hearts to me.” I love that statement!!

    Does this apply too? “When God plays with me, it opens my heart to Him.” Or more theologically correct, “When I realize that God is wanting to spend time with me and I do so, it opens my heart to Him.”

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