Keep Calm Play On

The Need to Play

A guest post from Suzanna Law, a qualified playworker and principal in the organization Pop-up Adventure Play. She is also arranging the Marc Armitage East Coast Keep Calm and Play On tour. She shares why play is so important for all humans. For those of you who may not have come across me before, allow me to introduce myself. My name is Suzanna, I come from the UK and I am a qualified playworker. My journey to become a playworker was fraught with complications and confusion, but I am very happy to say that all 5ft-not-quite-2-inches of me stands tall and proud to say that I love my job and I love playwork.

I love my work so much that sometimes it’s so hard to separate my professional working time as a playworker, from my own personal life as Suzanna. I often find myself working 12 hour days, answering emails until midnight, making mistakes and becoming frustrated because I have lost focus. And then going to bed stressed, which is never a good idea. Those are the days that I know that I missed a something in my day: I didn’t take a break.

When I don’t take a break from work, everything feels a little wrong. I feel like my day is completely dictated by other people, and is unnecessarily pressured. I can’t focus on anything, my decisions become irrational, and I feel my patience wearing thin with every encounter. When this avalanche of feelings starts snowballing, I now know to stop what I’m doing and go play. I will do something unrelated to anything of any importance, and then come back to my work refreshed and ready to tackle things head on. In sum, I need to spend a few moments of my day controlling the intent and content of my activities: I need to play.

This is the same for children. Take away their recess, their play time, and things will start going awry. They don’t learn as effectively, quickly lose focus and get fidgety. No matter how much they love science, enjoy reading or have a gift for numbers, they won’t be able to give their whole selves to anything unless we give them time to themselves.

And giving them time to play means that children are able to experience childhoods to their fullest. They learn and experience moments that the classroom cannot teach, like how it feels to make a friend, what it’s like to change mud into pie, how it feels to follow one idea to the next, and to the next, and know that what you have created was uniquely yours.

I take time out of my day every day to play because I remember what it was like to play as a child. Do you remember what it feels like to play? I can’t imagine ever taking that away from children, can you?


Suzanna Law

Pop-Up Adventure Play