Prioritizing Play Time

Relaxing is important. Anyone can work themselves into oblivion; but it takes a intelligently guided balance of work and relaxation to produce long-term, consistent, and increasingly better results in the enterprise of life.

It is important to give your mind and body rest periods throughout the day, the week, the month, and the year. Simple things like...

(1) Doing something you enjoy for 30 minutes or so each day helps release some happy chemicals into your brain and gets you ready for tomorrow's gauntlet. 

(2) Each week set aside a day or two with more available free time to do something fun or different for a few hours. Typically it's Saturday or Sunday, but everyone has different schedules.

(3) Every few months get out of your routine for a few days. Our family typically does this by traveling to visit family or running off on a short trip. Breaking routine helps my mind get out of the "boxes" it builds around itself.

I think most people know these things. Blah blah blah--rest is important. But then tomorrow starts and we get too busy to think, much less think about planning times of rest and relaxing! But the ironic thing is, obsessive addiction to work is actually a lazy thing to do. It means a person has not devoted the mental energy to realizing they need relaxation or made time to plan for it. They engulf themselves with work and responsibility and lose sight of what it means to be alive. This is never good.

One of the things that prompted me to write this post is my son Micah. Every single day I come home from work, he asks me to play as soon as I walk in the door (see also "Why I Love Being a Dad"). Much to his dismay, he usually has to wait until after dinner; but nevertheless, play time ensues. It's great though. My personality is such that I would probably come home and start trying to be productive. I would have a list of things to look up on the internet, or buy, or fix, or write about; and I would let weeks fly past without slowing down to just goof off. But my son helps me with that. He would drag me into the playroom if he were bigger than me!

What do my son and I do together for fun?

Maybe you're like me, and you're not very creative. You're better at seeing or hearing things and copying them, but you don't come up with many great ideas on your own. Or maybe you're nothing like me and you have fantastic, original ideas gushing out of your ears. Whatever. The point is that whatever category you fall into, you need to come up with things to do with your kids. It might take some work to think of things that you both enjoy doing.

Often adults play with kids and expect the children to enjoy games that adults would enjoy. They want an organized competition with rules and consequences to failure. But kids are goofy--they don't care about winning (until they get older). They just want the experience of messing around and having your attention. But enough babbling--here's what I do.

When Micah asks to play, he sometimes has something in mind--so we do that. Other times he gets me into either his room or the play room (soon to be the second baby's room) and says, "What should we do?" My job is then to think of things that he might like to do, but typically he ignores all my suggestions and uses them as springboards for his own ideas. It's a lot like marriage. Kidding--a little. Usually we end up playing...

(1) Horse back riding

I am the horse, and Micah is the cowboy. Oddly enough, he likes when the "horse" gets up on two legs and runs around the house like a banshee. You didn't know horses could do that, did you?

(2) "Get You"

Which means "get me". But since he repeats our phrases which are designed with second person pronouns, he says "get you". This game is pretty much chase, tackle, tickle and wrestle all wrapped into one.

(3) "Balls"

We have a room filled with balls. Football, basketball, soccer ball, baseballs (plastic ones), bouncy balls, foam balls, inflatable balls, and everything in between. This game mostly revolves around Micah dumping the entire bin of balls on me and then putting them all back in the bin. Sometimes he will actually play catch with the football or kick the soccer ball, but that's rare. That's not hipster enough for him.

(4) Hide and seek

Of course this needs no explanation. However, Micah's form is unique because if you let him, he will tell you where to hide so he can find you. I'm not a fan of that. Also, hide and seek is not all about people. He also likes it if I hide an object and he searches for it. When he finds it, he runs to hide it from me, but ALWAYS hides it in the same places; so my job is pretty easy.

(5) Puzzles

To keep me involved, he pretends he can't do the puzzles by himself and asks for help. We all know he can do it, but I help him anyways. He has this odd tendency to put pieces in the wrong spot even when he knows it's wrong. Not sure what that's about.

(6) Trains

Micah Shoots!
Micah has a Thomas the Train track with several engines and a table. He won't play with them for very long, but he's just starting to get interested in tearing the tracks apart and rebuilding them. I think he'll enjoy that more as he gets older. For now he likes to crash the trains and pick them up all the time--he likes being in control.

(7) Dart guns

This game can be played many ways. We can shoot each other, but that's not usually Micah's favorite because I have better aim--for now. Sometimes we shoot at targets; and other times I shoot the darts across the room and he runs to get them, brings them back and loads the gun for me. That is my favorite game!

(8) Riding a tricycle

Winter puts a damper on this activity, but in the warmer months he asks to ride his trike about five times every day. Of course, he needs us to watch every move he makes; and one of his new novelties is to purposefully fall off for dramatic effect. I think he's headed for an acting career--not joking.

(9) Singing and dancing

Micah gets very excited about music. Sometimes we'll crank the radio up and just dance around the living room like lunatics. He will chant meaningless sounds to pretend he knows the words, and everybody has fun. He knows quite a few songs, and he likes to sing them while "playing" his guitar or Mommy's piano (keyboard). Favorite songs are "Jingle Bells", "Jesus Loves Me" and "10,000 Reasons". We're working to expand the list.

(10) Reading books

Although not technically a "game", this activity is one of his favorites. Mommy brings new books from the library, and he will sit and listen to every book in one sitting! Then he wants to read them again and again. I'm happy he enjoys reading and not just watching TV. We read books to him before every nap and every bedtime. His favorite books are "Little Blue Truck", "Little Owl's Night", "One Foot, Two Feet", and the latest is "Meet Me At the Moon".

Playing Puts Life in Perspective

It's All About Perspective
Having a good time reminds me why I work and make sacrifices. I'm not saying my life is hard or I don't like my job! But all of us, especially parents, do difficult things because we have goals to accomplish. Your goals might be financial, or spiritual, or parental; but if you forget why you're doing what you're doing, what you're doing becomes more difficult and more meaningless.

I spent most of this post talking about playing with my son because that's something I do every day. It's a daily reminder of why I go to work, why I save money, why I make provisions and plan for the future. It's about building a life for my family and my children. It's about building a home they can rest in, enjoy, and depend on. The career, the education, the money, and everything else is just a means to that end.

Don't lose sight of what you're doing in life and why.

Image credit:
Image of Micah being thrown into air was taken by Kathleen Clipper (
Perspective image from


  1. I love that you understand that learning and laughing should happen together. Children are being forced into formal education much too early, with their personal learning styles completely suppressed. I have spent the past 30 years with "child's play" (childcare) as my career. When I read to my preschoolers, one might want to snuggle close and intently listen, another might need to look at the pictures, another might want to act out the story, another might want to draw and color a picture about the story... Enjoyment greatly increases every child's capacity for learning. There's also no better way to make children feel confident, secure and loved than for them to see that you enjoy them. As Phil Vischer misquoted Shakespeare, "Playing's the thing!"

  2. P.S. Isn't it wonderful how the Lord designed the family so that playing together would be mutually beneficial?!

  3. I agree mostly. "Formal" education doesn't necessarily stifle creativity, if done properly. Lazy "one size fits all" formal education can do that, but good education should not. Either way, I'm glad you enjoyed the post. Every child is unique and amazing and parents need to nurture their children's uniqueness. And yes, it's amazing how God has designed the family! I often think about how much different (better) our lives are because of having a child.

  4. I was thinking of public schools. Ugh! Insisting that kids be drugged, many just for being what boys were meant to be! Young Tom Edison with Mickey Rooney is one of my favorite movies. He was called "addled" just for thinking outside the box! Check out the movie at Amazon. Both the boy and the scientist in you will enjoy it! :-)