Posted by: coachingparents | December 4, 2008


By Lloyd J. Thomas, Ph.D.
I found the following poem on the wall of an examination room in a
pediatrician’s office:

I tried to teach my child with books.
He gave me only puzzled looks.

I tried to teach my child with words.
They passed him by often unheard.

Despairingly, I turned aside.
“How shall I teach this child?” I cried.

Into my hand, he put the key.
“Come,” he said, “Play with me.”

Playing is practice made fun!  Playing is the primary method that
children practice all kinds of personal and social skills.  We program
our unconscious minds with thought patterns, emotional habits, and
behaviors that we have repeatedly practiced.  In English, we call that

Children love to play.  Interactive playing with others is fun.  It
is also necessary for socialization to occur.  When children play with
others, they learn to: “take turns;” wait for their turn; share with
others; give and receive; hold hands; consider others; imitate what
they observe; follow the leader; play by the rules; and many other
socializing behaviors.

Today, playing by interacting with others has been minimized.  Kids
play with television screens; wireless phones; video games; internet
postings; chat rooms; and very little direct personal interaction. 
The process of playing…so important to the psychological and social
health of children…has been confined to interacting with inanimate
objects, fantasies, and “pretend” people and situations.  Is it any
wonder that we have generations of adults who are unskilled at
positive, satisfying interpersonal skills?

In many schools, the fun has been taken out of learning.  Learning
seems to have been paired with “work,” not play.  “Homework.” 
“Schoolwork.”  “Labwork.”  “Fieldwork.”  On the second day of
kindergarten, my son came home with a note pinned to his shirt.  It
read, “Todd refuses to sit down and do his work.”  From that day
forward, I began to see his excitement diminish about going to school.
Work is not conducive to learning.  Playing is.  What ever happened
to “P.E.?”  What ever happened to playing a musical instrument? 
Whatever happened to playing educational games with other people?

If we want our children to develop positive character qualities such
as honesty, responsibility, dependability, compassion, attentiveness,
creativity, enthusiasm, gratefulness, generosity, honor and
initiative, we must engage our children in play that requires these
qualities to be practiced.  As adults, we need to interact with one
another in playful ways that allow us to be an example of these
character qualities we want our children to playfully practice.  If we
try to teach them only by words and books, they will never learn them.
If, however, they observe us playing, and we engage them in our play,
the next generation might learn positive interactive skills that will
serve them very well throughout their lives.


Lloyd J. Thomas, Ph.D. has 30+ years experience as a Life Coach and
Licensed Psychologist.  He is available for coaching in any area
presented in “Practical Psychology.”  Initial coaching sessions are
free.  Contact him: (970) 568-0173 or E-mail:



  1. Very well said! I just love this article. Thanks for the reminder to “stop and play” with my kids this busy holiday season. Thank you. Lisa

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