Do not cease to play

I admit it - Jeff and I enjoyed swings as much as the kids did! Torrance, CA, January 1990

I admit it – Jeff and I enjoyed swings as much as the kids did! Torrance, CA, January 1990

“We do not cease to play because we grow old, we grow old because we cease to play.” George Bernard Shaw

Everybody who needs more fun time, raise your hands.  OK, that’s settled…we need to make more time  for play!

Of course, when I say “play” I’m not talking about watching TV, or even playing “Angry Birds” or “Words with Friends.” Not that those activities aren’t sometimes fun and maybe even beneficial (although I really wouldn’t know, because I don’t do any of them), but they’re still mostly passive and not particularly creative.  From what I can tell, these activities primarily involve marching to the beat of a tune someone else made up.  While they can be entertaining, even addictive, they aren’t really what I think of as play.

I would define play as amusing exercise that stretches the physical and/or creative ability.  Even seemingly repetitious physical activities such as swings and merry-go-rounds develop the vestibular system and teach the fundamentals of physics through action.  Artwork and crafts, whether the making of kites, model airplanes, scrapbooks, painting, or endless other possibilities, allow for much freedom of design and execution.  And sports — provided they are understood as a form of play rather than a ruthlessly competitive opportunity to defeat an opponent —  provide good chances to interact with others in a light-hearted yet challenging venue.

By that definition, when did you last spend time at play?  Might you have almost forgotten how?  If so, find a child, a dog or other playful creature from whom you can re-learn.  Kids seem to understand that play is serious business, and most of them plan for it accordingly.  If you are lucky enough to hear a child asking you “Will you please play with me?” try your best to answer, “Actually, I’d love to” and allocate more than five or ten minutes to it.  Not only will the child be pleasantly surprised; you probably will be too — it might turn out to be a lot more fun that you imagined.


  1. Spot on! Maybe I’m just revealing my own mindset, represented by the phrase “second childhood”, but today’s blog brings joy to my soul. From the happy photo of Jeff and sons; to the poignant “. . . a form of play, rather than a ruthlessly competitive opportunity to defeat an opponent”; you have truly captured an essential ingredient to successful human life. And as you have alluded – not just human life. Have you seen the video of a crow repeatedly flying to a snow-covered rooftop, with a plastic butter container lid in his beak? Yep! He continually hops on it and rides it down his “snowboard slope.”

    • I think you sent that crow video to me years ago, but if you have the link handy, please send it again! It’s wonderful, right up there with the dog playing in the snow (I think you sent that one too – the one where a lively dog frolics around and burrows underneath the deep snow, and leaves a little “tunnel” of disturbed snow that shows his path of literally plowing through under the surface – AMAZING). Even just watching those videos is enough to bring on a playful spirit – sort of vicarious exuberance, I guess. It’s similar to watching little children play, a real blessing. Thanks for bringing a smile to my face with the memory of that crow video!

        • Yes, and it totally amazed me again. I loved when he tried a different “slope” and when there was an obstacle, went back to the first one! At the end, it looked like he was trying to tell another crow about it (“Hey- come here and see this!”) and finally gave up and took his “sled” with him. I really, really needed to see something lighthearted right now. Thanks for sending it.

          • I have no idea why it put my photo on your comment, except that I had to go in and re-pasted the URL, which for some reason, was not showing up on the page with the rest of your comment.

  2. HarryS

    Each morning I try to pray a morning resolve which is summarized here;

    In particular I will try to be faithful in those habits of prayer, work, study, physical exercise, eating, and sleep which I believe the Holy Spirit has shown me to be right.

    but woe be unto me for it doesn’t include a commitment to play as well as to pray.

    I think God out to add this to this list. 😉

    • That’s a great list and YES, play needs to be vital part of it. As you mention, habits are the key to doing what we resolve to do, and making a habit of play is a good idea. Thanks for being here!

  3. Judy

    I love the Shaw quote and I have to agree, some of us have forgotten how to play! Luckily we have a young dog…all I need now is a dog park.

    • Dogs are so wonderful – they really to keep us more playful and lighthearted. It’s easy to forget how to play. Sometimes I try to take Mary Poppins’ advice and get playful with my work. Thanks for being here!

  4. Very timely! Tomorrow we leave for a vacation full of “playing” activities. I am so excited to get away. I expect to be swimming, walking, snorkeling, sightseeing, playing games, and shopping! All great playful activities. 🙂

    • Sounds wonderful, Barb – hope all of you have a wonderful vacation! Thanks for being here today. I always love to hear from you.

  5. MaryAnn

    What a fabulous photo of all 3 of your “boys”! Enjoying life!
    Every Wed. evening, we have small group Bible study in our home. This past Wed., I was playing games, puppets, stuffed animals, etc. w/ 2 children. Literally, after Bible study was done, the 3 yr. old girl said, “Will you come play that game w/ me, again?” Fills my heart w/ joy & wonder as I feel blessed to be doing what God has fashioned me to do!
    My husband commented that he remembers years ago being at a function w/ a large group of people. It was in a park, I was playing most of the day w/ the kids (I had not met previously). Someone asked Paul about it. He told him that for kids I am a “wind-up toy”!
    I love that accolade!
    Last weekend, we were at Squaw Valley in their swimming pool at 8200′ elevation. Kids we did not know soon joined in the antics.
    Julia, Thank you for reminding us of the beauty all around in the simple & the lovely…
    Prayers everyday for “my” Dentons…

    • Thank you Mary Ann! Loved Paul’s comment – he has been watching you for a long time! 🙂

  6. I love the playful things that keep us youthful. Remember the “tacky” parties and Dad (all dressed up in his tacky attire) doing his hilarious rendition of The Raven (The Ravings Of Piute Poet Poe)? And to Eric, thanks for linking the crow video! Now I want to see the dog one Julia referred to.
    Love and prayers!

    • Hi Carla, I have digitized some of the photos of Daddy dressed up all tacky (alongside a very pretty “woman” who was actually a man – remember who that was?) and I will always remember the political button he wore with that outfit, that got so many laughs: “I’m a Democrat for Goldwater-Miller” – only decades later did I understand why people thought that button was so funny. Maybe I’ll feature one of those photos here sometime. Meanwhile, I had forgotten that the Raven parody Daddy performed so well actually had a title; using your recall of it, I searched and found it here. As far as I can tell, that’s the very poem Daddy used to recite from memory, and he always got laughs, even when he was not dressed up in tacky attire. He definitely had his father’s flair for drama, even if he didn’t follow his footsteps into the acting business. Daddy, you have been “unmasked” again! 🙂

      • And speaking of parodies of The Raven, here is a masterpiece that appeared in Mad magazine. Though I loved Reagan dearly and think he was a great president, this is my one of my favorite parodies of all time:

        The Reagan
        by Frank Jacobs

        Once upon a cold November, back in `80, you’ll remember,
        Came to pass a great election, with a wondrous change in store;
        By a landslide, one was winning, promising a new beginning;
        Tall and proud, he stood there, grinning, like so many times before;
        Who was he, this cool one, grinning, like so many times before?
        ‘Twas The Reagan, nothing more.

        Once he was inaugurated, Reaganomics he created,
        Promising a balanced budget, like we had in days of yore;
        “Though,” he said, “our debt is growing, and a bundle we are owing,
        “I’ll cut taxes, ’cause I’m knowing this will save us bucks galore;”
        “Please explain,” a newsman asked, “how will this save us bucks galore?”
        Quoth The Reagan, “Less is more.”

        Pushing for defense, he pleaded, brand-new missiles would be needed:
        “That’s the only way,” he said, “to keep the country out of war;”
        “True,” he said, “they’re not required, and they’re not meant to be fired;
        “In five years they’ll be retired–still we must build hundreds more;”
        “Tell us why,” a newsman asked, “we must be building hundreds more?”
        Quoth The Reagan, “Jobs galore.”

        Was he real or from a movie? “Make my day” sure sounded groovy,
        Standing up to Congress or the rebels in El Salvador;
        Flicks like “Rambo” he promoted (sev’ral times, it should be noted);
        Once John Wayne he even quoted, when Kaddafi threatened war;
        “Does this mean,” a newsman asked, “we’re heading toward a Mid-East war?”
        Quoth The Reagan, “Hit the shore.”

        During times he wasn’t dozing, many plans he was proposing,
        Dealing with the deficit, which he no longer could ignore;
        “Cuts,” he said, “I’m recommending, pending our ascending spending,
        “With attending trends suspending, then extending as before.”
        “Does this mean,” a newsman asked, “a balanced budget like before?”
        Quoth The Reagan, “Nevermore!”

  7. Sheila

    Julia, my comment posted to the previous blog…. Guess my iPad is on “camping mode”! Yes, I’ve been outside with Bill and our friends PLAYING! Sheila

    • Good for you! I am sitting here smiling, just imagining you there having fun. I’m glad you have an iPad to stay in touch!

  8. What a cute picture of all your guys, and guess what? I love swinging too. We had some at our park at the lake. I used to walk by there wearing my iPod and stop to swing to a good tune. I think of scrapbooking as my playtime. I guess it’s the paper, glue and scissors thing that’s reminiscent of grade school. You’re spot on about pets, they’ll keep you acting like a kid. I giggle like crazy making the kitties chase their laser mouse up and down the stairs. Not much exercise for me but they get tuckered out…hehe.

    • A laser mouse – what a neat idea! Makes me want to get some kittens just to watch them chasing it. I always loved paper crafts as a child so I think of scrapbooks, card making etc. as playtime too. I sometimes think make-up, especially eye shadow and nail polish, are like a grown-up version of crayons. Swings are the best, and they really are good for us, too. Matt’s occupational therapist taught me a lot about how swings and rocking chairs can calm our brains and improve the way our minds function. A great excuse for having fun!


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