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 came up with the best ideas! 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. As we got older, we studied together, attended school events, and continued to strengthen our friendships.

Having two boys of my own has placed new importance on this “friendship” thing that seemed so easy so many years ago.

In today’s school culture, preschool is the opportune time for our children to learn how to make friends and how to be a good friend….and there is lots of time in preschool to play!

In elementary school, things get much busier. Homework, sports, dance classes, piano, and more…A friend of mine recently took her kids (ages 8 and 11) outside to play. My friend lives in a great neighborhood. 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. She decided right then and there to make sure she didn’t over schedule her own children. “They are supposed to play at this age!” she said.

I do try to stay aware of the unstructured vs. structured play time for our own children. We recently signed up our youngest son, who is in the first grade, to play on a basketball team. He really enjoys it. He has a coach, teammates and a uniform. But the highlight of his week occurs on Wednesdays. Wednesdays 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 can recall building something with a friend, going on adventures in nearby parks and just finding things to do that were creative, fun, and made time fly…all that spontaneous time to play! It is much tougher now in an activity driven culture. But, I am hopeful. Now is the perfect time to invite your children’s friends over to play. Outside, inside, whatever you can do. You will help create great opportunities for your children to develop lasting and meaningful friendships, expand their imagination, 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