Choosing Play

Photo by Jordan Whitt on Unsplash

The other day I saw a sharp contrast at the park.

While my kids were playing in a creek, a local Little League baseball team was warming up for a game in the background.

As I watched, the team was standing around waiting for the activity to begin. They needed instruction to begin. Meanwhile, my kids were running through the creek, climbing trees, and chasing ducks. No instruction needed. 

It seemed obvious in that moment that play is more natural than organized sports. In this short sample, play led to more movement and creativity than the organized sport.

But even after seeing this contrast between play and organized sports, I feel pressure to sign my kids up for activities. I feel like every season needs to be full.

A small part of me feels their childhood will be lacking without a full schedule. But a larger part of me says to wait. This part tells me NOT to fill the schedule, to leave room. This part reminds me that less commitments=less stress.

I have had others tell me my kids might get “behind” in sports if they do not start now. They say my kids may lose interest because everyone will be better than them.

I think this is a bit shortsighted. 1) I am not trying to produce professional athletes, so there is really no “behind,” and 2) If my kids quit something because they aren’t the best, than we have bigger fish to fry.

Sometimes as parents we forget that we are in charge. We do not have to sign up for everything. We can say “no” or say “next year.” Our kids may not always like the answer, but our job is not to please them.

I think there is plenty of time to learn different sports and play on teams. But the window of time to splash in the creek, play made-up games, and truly be a kid is short.

Most of the culture around kids wants to shrink their childhood. Part of our job is to stop that from happening.

If my kids want to play more organized sports, I am not opposed. But I am in no rush to sign them up. I will try to ignore the pressures around me to fill their schedules.

There will be plenty of time for structure, rules, and uniforms.

For now I prefer bare-feet, wonder, and comfy clothes.



  1. You are very wise, indeed.
    When my children were young, I too resisted the organized sport world. I reminded my kids that engaging in competitive games was supposed to be fun…pleasurable to play! Not a duty or drudgery. I, too was chastised for not following the wisdom of the crowd and school administrators.
    Instead, I took my kids to movies, amusement parks, hiking, fishing, nature walks, and corn shucking. We played at picnics and visited waterfalls while everyone else went to practice and games. We enjoyed snow cones and fairs, demolition derbies and searching for crawdads in creeks while their classmates stood in the hot sun waiting for some kind of ball to move toward them.
    My children were envied. By fellow classmates as well as parents. It seems few took the time to evaluate what they were doing and what it entailed to give up to fit into their lives.
    I am very pleased to say that they are grown with children of their own and their fond memories of their childhood have made them resist the current idea that sports is of utmost importance.
    Thanks for the fresh reminder thatI wasn’t crazy after all!


    • Lookie,

      Thank you for reading and for your comment. It definitely encourages me to hear your story and motivates me to continue on our path of more natural play. You are right that people often do not evaluate why they are doing something….they just do it. We are trying hard to continue evaluating our decisions to make sure they are not leading to stressful lives. Thank you again for your comment!


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