let’s stop over-scheduling, over-entertaining, and over-supervising our children!

I may have pointed out before that we have spectacular grandchildren! Other than the hard-to-miss cuteness, I’ve noticed something else going on that not only encourages me, but reflects well on their parents. I’m talking about self-generated, imaginative play, and I can’t stress enough how critically important such play is if we want to see healthy, balanced development in the next generation.

The car photograph is just an example. It started with, “Grandaddy, can we pretend-drive your car?” Then – after I made sure the keys were in my pocket – they climbed in. David, the five-year-old, made sure they both had their seat-belts securely fastened, then they “drove down the road” together, using turn signals, checking mirrors, and “watching for the policeman.”

playing “decorate” with grandmama

Last week, staying at our home, I didn’t want to use the television as a distraction while I was working around the house. But I needn’t have worried, the children designed an elaborate game from scratch, using a wooden train and a few other found materials. Off and on, with breaks for snacks, errands, etc., they worked and reworked the scenario dozens of times over several hours.


We live in a world where children tend to be over-scheduled, too closely supervised, and chronically dependent on video devices to keep them “entertained.” I am concerned that the natural curiosity and deeply rooted creativity that children are born with can be scheduled, supervised, and programmed out of existence.

I believe parents, educators, and grandparents would do well to routinely place children in environments where invention is a required element of play.

Don’t misunderstand my point; I’m not criticizing “today’s parents,” or being nostalgic, or idealizing the conditions of my own childhood. But I am pointing to a very real learning and developmental principle: “Play,” and the origins of this quote are attributed to everyone from Montessori to Piaget to C.S. Lewis – “is the serious work of childhood.”

I especially like Fred Rogers’ take on this: “Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood.”

And let Adults be Kids Too!


George Bernard Shaw took the conversation forward, through adulthood and into old age:Β β€œWe don’t stop playing because we grow old,” he said; “we grow old because we stop playing.”

But what, I wonder, if we never really learned how to play in the first place?

So I am grateful for my grandchildren, and what they are always teaching me. I am deeply thankful for their parents, too – Naomi and Craig – for fostering an atmosphere where creativity, and ingenuity, and invention are routine elements of day-to-day activity.

As for me… I wonder if I have a little time before lunch to get out my Legos?



Family life The Grandaddy Letters Uncategorized

derekmaul View All →

Derek has published seven books in the past decade (you can find them at https://www.amazon.com/Derek-Maul/e/B001JS9WC4), and there’s always something new in the works.

Before becoming a full-time writer, Derek taught public school in Florida for eighteen years, including cutting-edge work with autistic children. He holds bachelor’s degrees in psychology and education from Stetson University and the University of West Florida.

Derek is active in teaching at his church: adult Sunday school, and a men’s Bible study/spiritual formation group. He enjoys the outdoors, traveling, photography, reading, cooking, playing guitar, and golf.

7 Comments Leave a comment

  1. Agree with this 100%. The games my two girls come up with when I’m doing jobs around the house etc are amazing! Children should be independently playing well beyond the recommended school age, too. But that’s a whole other debate! 😊

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Yes, yes, yes!! Let ’em play, let ’em get dirty, let ’em be free!! Joy, joy, joy!!

    And, yay, Derek and Rebekah, for nourishing your relationships with your grandchildren…and for sharing your experiences with us!

    If you have not taken them yet, head over to The Scrap Exchange in Durham (perhaps with a picnic at Duke Gardens along the way) and let them fill a bag with cool stuff – worth the drive from Wake Forest – inspiration for creative hearts!! Fun, fun, fun! Warning – may be addictive! (: (http://scrapexchange.org/ )

    Another play idea for simple tactile pleasure – large 14x20x9 inch clear plastic bin with lid, partially filled with uncooked white rice mixed with uncooked confetti rice (white rice dyed happy colors by soaking in rubbing alcohol & food coloring then spread on paper towels to dry) – toss in assorted recycled containers to pour and fill with rice – store indoors with lid on – keeps for months as long as no moisture in bin – for easy cleanup, place on floor on top of old sheet or tablecloth for playtime – voila, hours of entertainment. Credit for this idea goes to a wonderful preschool teacher, Mrs. Depoy, who created a loving, imaginative, low tech environment that inspired all of her students and their families and whose influence lives on through multiple generations.


    Liked by 1 person

  3. Agreed. Children need their “Wildhoods.” Bubble wrapped kids with helicopter parents develop into easily startled, low self esteem adults who can’t take risks. Let kids get covered with mud–it’s good for their skin. Or, as my Gramma used to say, “We all must eat a peck of dirt before we die.” Hahaha!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. This is a great post! I’ve learned that having even my older kids host friends coming over motivates them to keep things interesting. Everyone can sit and watch tv at their own houses. All the kids were out in the garden, riding bikes, creating challenges to overcome. As it should be. As for me, I’m always trying to make sure I don’t get old without play. My daughter likes to give me reminders when I forget. πŸ™‚


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: