L.L.L.N. Life Long Learner Note: Retaining a respect for play in the lives of children and adults is crucial to great practice with young children.

Tales from Higher Education…

I am genuinely concerned whenever my undergraduate early childhood education majors display resistance towards playing. I set up aesthetically pleasing workshop spaces, create playlists of music from their requests, and provide class-time for these pre-service teachers to reconnect with the pleasure of play. But nonetheless, I often hear, “I’m too busy”. “I should be doing something else”. “I made a to do list instead of drawing. I’m just not creative” (Emerson, 2018). How can I dismantle these ideas and re-open adult minds to play?

When I’m wearing my professor hat, I work hard to scaffold these moments toward an embrace of play. I temper my immediate reaction that goes something like, “If you refuse to play, are you sure you should be an early childhood educator?!” Mostly, I work toward a space where I can ask them what they are afraid will happen if they let go and play.

Too Busy to Play

…When I’m at home mired in my own personal & professional to-do lists, I too can find myself unwilling to play. How about you? What do you think it means?


I have some ideas about to what it means for adults to not play or to be afraid to play. And I think it is important to intentionally push back on our compulsions to hurry up, focus on product oriented tasks (things I can do to completion and check of my list), and lose our sense of freedom in our own lives (bound to our lists, strapped for time, believing that it would be irresponsible to stray from the plan). Play is powerful for adults and children alike (Nell, Drew, & Bush, 2013).

A Social-Emotional Connections

For Adults: Play supports our creativity, happiness, and stress reduction (Lane, 2013). When was the last time you paused in the middle of something and thought (without irony) “this is

fun!” Was it a playful activity?

For Children: I could write you a book about how important play is for children’s social-emotional development and growth. I’ll spare you with this, It could be argued that active play is so central to child development that it should be included in the very definition of childhood. Play offers more than cherished memories of growing up, it allows children to develop creativity and imagination while developing physical, cognitive, and emotional strengths” (Milteer & Ginsburg, 2011, p 205).

Action Steps:

Play in your favorite way. I love cookie decorating and woodland creatures. About a year ago my husband and I took a shopping trip to Ikea. As we tried to stick to our Ikea game plan I came across a woodland creature cookie cutter set and I knew it was meant to be. My holiday cutout cookie tradition got an upgrade to year round status. Things got even crazier when I found these zoo animals from King Arthur Flour. Every once in a while I buy a bag of powdered sugar, make 8 different little pots of royal icing, bake a batch of sugar cookies, turn on my Pandora chill station, and play. Sometimes I can talk my husband into playing along and we compete for funkiest animal. It is FUN, like deep down, warm my soul, makes me tear up to imagine, revitalizing good times. What image of playfulness is materializing in your mind? Here are some of our funky friend competitors…..


Invite your pre-service teachers, partners, peers, and children to play and share what you discover together…. About their play beliefs, their play memories, their creativity, and your shared practice of guiding children within play

Invite me to come guide you in play…..

Thoughts:  It’s all you. Don’t spend a moment more reading, get up and play!

What thoughts bubble up within your merriment?

Want More?
References for this blog post include:

Emerson, A.M. (2018). Pre-Early Childhood Educators Play Workshop Reflections: “I’m too busy to play”. Paper presented at the

National Association for the Education of Young Children Professional Development Institute, Austin, TX

Lane, L. (2013). The Meaning of Play for Adults from a Reversal Theory Perspective.

Nell, M. L., Drew, W. F., & Bush, D. E. (2013). From play to practice:
Connecting teachers’ play to children’s learning. Washington, D.C.:
National Association for the Education of Young Children.

Milteer, R. M., & Ginsburg, K. R. (2011). The importance of play
in promoting healthy child development and maintaining
strong parent-child bond: Focus on children in poverty.
Pediatrics, peds-2011.

Dr. Andrea Miller Emerson

Dr. Andrea Miller Emerson

Dr. Andrea Miller Emerson is an Assistant Professor of Early Childhood Education in the Division of Education and Leadership at Western Oregon University in Monmouth, Oregon. Andrea lives (and laughs frequently) with her husband, Kyle, and her cat, Zuzu. She brings diverse personal perspectives to early childhood education and care from her father’s Colombian heritage, her mother’s all-American culture from North Texas, her ongoing involvement with an Italian Immersion Program for pre-service teachers in Carpi, Italy, and her extensive international travel. To learn more about Dr. Emerson’s speaking engagements, or to invite her to speak, please click here.