Too Busy to Play

A dear friend of mine named Joyce teaches 1st grade at a Christian school in a large city. She was telling me recently how busy these 6 and 7 years olds are with activities such as sports, dance, piano, drama lessons, gymnastics, and the list could go on. “These students and their parents tell me they don’t have time to read together or memorize their Bible verses because they are too busy,” said Joyce.

This is a common situation in our current culture. Well-meaning parents don’t want their children to “miss out” so they sign them up for every opportunity possible. They pick children up from school only to run them to the next lesson or practice, leaving little, if any, down time for the child to process their day, play outside, or…imagine this…have quiet time to think.

Children learn from play. They learn how to move their bodies, make things like forts or “play houses” out of leaves. They learn to negotiate with siblings or playmates – “May I have the next turn on the swing?”. Children also learn to problem solve when things don’t go as planned while they play. Play allows creativity as children create “meals” from hickory nuts, leaves, and pieces of gravel. Boys will make play weapons out of sticks, dried plant stalks, or pieces of bark and carry on battles with imaginary foes. I am constantly amazed to see the way our grandchildren “make-believe” with found objects collected all around our yard. This type of experiential learning does not take place riding in the car from one practice to another.

I fell victim to this malady as a mother of young children. I had visions of a string quartet practicing daily in our den and then playing for worship on Sundays. What if one of our children was a musical prodigy but never had the chance to play an instrument? Additionally, research shows that children who are musical do better in math! So I proceeded to offer (force?) each child a chance to play a stringed instrument. One by one, each quit to pursue other interests of their own choosing. Hannah was my one hold out and played the violin from six years old until she was thirteen. Then she begged to quit. My husband finally said to me, “Gayle, is Hannah taking lessons for you or herself?”  In all honesty I had to admit it was for me.

If a child has a strong interest and desire to become involved in music, sports, drama, etc. and shows a willingness to practice then this may be an important involvement for that child. But, it is essential as a parent to limit a child’s commitment of time and energy so that important things like family, fellowship, school, and PLAY don’t become neglected because of a schedule that is too busy. One of our children was a joiner – we teased that she would have joined the Communist Party if there had been one in Sylva. We had to say “no” several times until she learned to say “no” for herself.

Psalm 46:10

 He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.”

This verse illustrates a part of our nature as human beings. We must be quiet in order to hear God, to distinguish His voice over all that goes on around us. We are created for God’s pleasure, to worship and honor Him. Our children need to learn to be comfortable with quiet time, to learn to be still. As they mature they will be able to recognize God’s voice even when He chooses to speak in a still small voice.

One thought on “Too Busy to Play

  1. hannah says:

    I do wish I could still read music for my fiddle! Hopefully I’ll take it up again and it will come back to me soon!


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