Friendship and the Art of Creative Play

Published by L.A. Parent Magazine

I have great memories of friends coming over after school to play. We would come up with so many ways to fill an afternoon. From using Barbie doll cases as drums (yes, an all-girl rock band), to building forts with our pillows and blankets, to drawing on our driveway with chalk, to having “art shows” in our backyard, to swim contests and roller-skating races against the boys across the street. There were always a ton of kids to play with and lots of ways to fill a day.

Fast-forward: Having two boys of my own, ages 7 and 10, has placed new importance on this “playing after school” thing that seemed so easy so many years ago.

In today’s school culture, the preschool years are the opportune time for our kids to play – so much time to play at the park, attend birthday parties, and have lots of play dates.

In elementary school, things get much busier. Homework, sports, dance classes, piano, and more, start competing for “play time”…A friend of mine recently took her kids (ages 8 and 11) outside to play. Homework was finished and it was still early. My friend lives in a great neighborhood with lots of families…yet, she couldn’t find one playmate for them to play with. After a few repeated tries, she realized they were all at after- school activities. Aren’t they supposed to play at this age?!” she said. She decided right then and there to make sure she didn’t over schedule her own children. Playing is such a natural part of childhood, she said. Where is everyone? I agreed.

My quest to continue a balanced week for my boys was re-enforced. They need structure and activities yes, but every day?….I became more aware of my activity level too and I made changes immediately. We recently signed up our youngest son, who is in the first grade, to play on a basketball team. He loves it. He has a coach, teammates and a uniform. But the highlight of the week occurs on Wednesdays. Wednesday is the day that one, two or three of his friends from school are invited to come over and play. Word has spread and the number of children waiting to come play is quite something! They run to me at Tuesday pick-up asking if they too could come over and play on Wednesday.

Playing with friends is something we all did growing up. I am sure most of you recall building something with a friend, going on adventures in nearby parks and just finding things to do with each other…all that spontaneous time to play!  It is much tougher now in an activity driven culture, but playing with friends really can add to your child’s sense of discovery, creativity, and imagination.  Invite your children’s friends over to play. Outside, inside, whatever you can do. You will not only help create great opportunities for your children to develop lasting and meaningful friendships, but expand their imagination ignite that curiosity, and who knows, they could build the biggest fort ever!

With gratitude and a playful heart,
Lauren Perelmuter
Art To Grow On Children’s Art Center, Inc.
(310) 625-6028


Three Playful and Creative Ideas for Getting Together with Friends! (BELOW)

  1. Grab a Ball! Any ball will do! Soccer ball, handball, volley ball. If you don’t have a garage to play hand ball, or chalk to create a court for four square, you can use a tennis ball and play hot potato! Fun fun fun!
  1. Calling Any and All Drawing Tools! Markers, crayons, colored pencils, chalks, paints. You can’t believe how many drawing tools you have in your home! Gather them together and place them in nice plastic or tin cups and you are on your way to creating your own Art Studio. Paper can be colored or white (even from your computer!) Add some scissors and glue and you just created a Collage Station.
  1. Music and Dance Party! So easy..turn on that radio or pull out your favorite ipod tunes. From Freeze Dance to Musical Chairs to just getting the wiggles out, this always turns into a ton of laughs and a great time.