Play Quotes

Here is a sample of what some leading scholars, writers, and other thinkers have written or said about play.

It is a happy talent to know how to play.

Ralph Waldo Emerson
American writer

Play is our brain's favorite way of learning.

Diane Ackerman
Contemporary American author

Culture arises and unfolds in and as play.

Johan Huizinga
Dutch historian

Almost all creativity involves purposeful play.

Abraham Maslow
American psychologist

The true object of all human life is play.

G. K. Chesterton
British author

Play gives children a chance to practice what they are learning.

Fred Rogers
American television personality

A child loves his play, not because it’s easy, but because it’s hard.

Benjamin Spock
American pediatrician

Play has been man’s most useful preoccupation.

Frank Caplan
Contemporary American author

To the art of working well a civilized race would add the art of playing well.

George Santayana
American philosopher

People tend to forget that play is serious.

David Hockney
Contemporary British painter

Children need the freedom and time to play. Play is not a luxury. Play is a necessity.

Kay Redfield Jamison
Contemporary American professor of psychiatry

Do not…keep children to their studies by compulsion but by play.

Greek philosopher
427–347 BC

Surely all God’s people…like to play.

John Muir
American naturalist

Necessity may be the mother of invention, but play is certainly the father.

Roger von Oech
Contemporary American creativity guru

The creation of something new is not accomplished by the intellect but by the play instinct.

Carl Jung
Swiss psychoanalyst

In play a child always behaves beyond his average age, above his daily behavior. In play it is as though he were a head taller than himself.

Lev Vygotsky
Russian psychologist

Creative people are curious, flexible, persistent, and independent with a tremendous spirit of adventure and a love of play.

Henri Matisse
French painter

Play is training for the unexpected.

Marc Bekoff
Contemporary American biologist

Creative play is like a spring that bubbles up from deep within a child.

Joan Almon
Contemporary American educator

Children learn as they play. Most importantly, in play children learn how to learn.

O. Fred Donaldson
Contemporary American martial arts master

Human beings need pleasure the way they need vitamins.

Lionel Tiger
Contemporary Canadian anthropologist

When children pretend, they’re using their imaginations to move beyond the bounds of reality. A stick can be a magic wand. A sock can be a puppet. A small child can be a superhero.

Fred Rogers
American children’s television host

The debt we owe to the play of the imagination is incalculable.

Carl Jung
Swiss psychoanalyst

Play is hard to maintain as you get older. You get less playful. You shouldn’t, of course.

Richard Feynman
American physicist

Children have always learned and created places for themselves through play.

Donna R. Barnes
Contemporary American psychologist

There is for many a poverty of play.

D.W. Winnicott
British pediatrician

The very existence of youth is due in part to the necessity for play; the animal does not play because he is young, he has a period of youth because he must play.

Karl Groos
German evolutionary biologist

If you want to be creative, stay in part a child, with the creativity and invention that characterizes children before they are deformed by adult society.

Jean Piaget
Swiss philosopher

A child who does not play is not a child, but the man who does not play has lost forever the child who lived in him.

Pablo Neruda
Chilean poet

I believe that those boys who take part in rough, hard play outside of school will not find any need for horse-play in school.

Theodore Roosevelt
American president

It is in playing, and only in playing, that the individual child or adult is able to be creative and to use the whole personality, and it is only in being creative that the individual discovers the self.

D.W. Winnicott
British pediatrician

Now in myth and ritual the great instinctive forces of civilized life have their origin: law and order, commerce and profit, craft and art, poetry, wisdom and science. All are rooted in the primeval soil of play.

Johan Huizinga
Dutch historian

The playing adult steps sideward into another reality; the playing child advances forward to new stages of mastery.

Erik H. Erikson
American psychoanalyst

Ritual grew up in sacred play; poetry was born in play and nourished on play; music and dancing were pure play.... We have to conclude, therefore, that civilization is, in its earliest phases, played. It does not come from arises in and as play, and never leaves it.

Johan Huizinga
Dutch historian

We all need empty hours in our lives or we will have no time to create or dream.

Robert Coles
Contemporary American child psychologist

The child amidst his baubles is learning the action of light, motion, gravity, muscular force…

Ralph Waldo Emerson
American writer

So, in all these spheres—in painting, sculpture, drawing, music, singing, dancing, gymnastics, games, sports, writing, and speech—we can carry on to our heart’s content, all through our long lives, complex and specialized forms of exploration and experiment.

Desmond Morris
Contemporary British zoologist

Play, while it cannot change the external realities of children’s lives, can be a vehicle for children to explore and enjoy their differences and similarities and to create, even for a brief time, a more just world where everyone is an equal and valued participant.

Patricia G. Ramsey
Contemporary American educational psychologist

As astronauts and space travelers children puzzle over the future; as dinosaurs and princesses they unearth the past. As weather reporters and restaurant workers they make sense of reality; as monsters and gremlins they make sense of the unreal.

Gretchen Owocki
Contemporary American early childhood educator