If you teach a child to play

river crossing

We begin things with an insatiable curiosity. We yearn for exploration. We seek truth and details, always determined to define and understand our surroundings.

creek play

We congregate and assemble our own little armies of influence.


We associate feelings and faces with favorite places.

boys in creek

Where did we feel safe? Where did we feel we belonged? And where did we forget all else to bask in sunshine, splashes and pure, unadulterated joy?


These places — the ones filled with industrious play, are the places we remember forever. They are the greatest get-togethers, the sweetest of days, the formation of precious memories that we carry throughout our lives. And no matter where we stop or start or land in life, these are the recollections that continue to inspire us when shadows fall on our path. Play is serious business and crucial to character formation.

I firmly and wholeheartedly, from the depths of my soul, believe the most important thing we can give our children cannot be purchased, acquired, bartered or collected.

The greatest gift is time.

Time for play that leads to lessons learned, skills perfected, nature explored. Young minds revolve around independent wonder. They graduate from mud pies to minor mechanics, the elementary brick layers of America …


Are not these the juvenile pursuits of a future industrious populace? Time. Time to play. Time to think in a quiet span of hours. Time to inherently know …

Accomplishments require hearty tries. We must think hard, work diligently and commit to the task at hand. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Dams don’t magically appear to stop the flow of water. And to get from here to there we must use the tools on hand, our own unique, God-given brainpower, and the help of trusted friends (or an uncle!) to construct what we need to travel through life. But WE must do the work. Contrary to popular theory and belief, no one will do it for us.

building a raft

The earlier our children learn to work for what they want the better their quality of life. It’s imperative they know and understand that nobody ever crossed a river by sitting on a log …


… and jokers are good for a few laughs, but eventually they’re going to have to grin and bear it. Even river rats must swim for their supper. They can go it alone or travel with a cousin.

Tom & Huck

In fact, they can involve the whole family if necessary …


Because success takes team work, with a healthy dose of diligence and a sprinkling of good will. Yes. They will lose their footing a time or two. They will slip and slide and tumble down the hill.

Hillside slide

But when the dust settles and the blood is wiped away, they will be able to say they did it.

Laziness is a heavy cloak.

Selfishness is a poisonous habit.

And the sooner children learn to wash away the false prophecies of a dependent society, the better we all will be. So let them run and play and splash. They’re learning how the world works.


Let them experience the wonders of a life lived to its fullest. Allow them to determine it cannot be found in front of the television or in the realm of a video game. Give them mud. Give them water. Give them earth, wind, fire. Give them a breeze through the trees.

If you teach a child to play … he will grow and know what it means to work. Don’t miss the opportunity.

“Opportunity is missed by many people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.”

                                                                     ~ Thomas A. Edison

Go exploring! You may enjoy these previous posts.


  • comment-avatar
    Aunt Mary Ann September 2, 2013 (2:23 pm)

    I think that a whole bunch of us “kids” learned to play, and to work, at the cottage.
    Hibby & Ma started a pretty good thing. Don’t ya think!

    • comment-avatar
      Jennifer Kiko September 2, 2013 (3:12 pm)

      Absolutely! It’s so cool to have my own memories there and then to experience even greater joy watching the next generation 🙂

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