Play Quotes

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

It’s the things we play with and the people who help us play that make a great difference in our lives.

Fred Rogers
American television personality
1928–2003

Play is the foundation of learning, creativity, self-expression, and constructive problem-solving. It’s how children wrestle with life to make it meaningful.

Susan Linn
Contemporary American psychiatrist

Risky play is really important for kids—all kids—because it teaches hazard assessment, it teaches delayed gratification, it teaches resilience, it teaches confidence. When kids get outside and practice bravery, they learn valuable life lessons.

Caroline Paul
Author and former firefighter

Play is foundational for bonding relationships and fostering tolerance. It's where we learn to trust and where we learn about the rules of the game. Play increases creativity and resilience, and it’s all about the generation of diversity—diversity of interactions, diversity of behaviors, diversity of connections.

Isabel Behncke
Field ethologist and primatologist

All meaningful, organic, and foundational learning is at heart playful and ludic.

Marcelo Suárez-Orozco
Contemporary American professor of education

Play is the primary way children were designed to learn.

Kathy Hersh-Pasek and Roberta Golinkoff
Contemporary American psychologists

Adults play too (or should).

Julie Lythcott-Haims
Contemporary American educator

It’s important that we don’t underestimate the play of children because it can produce a much more satisfyingly creative adult.

Dorothy and Jerome Singer
American psychologists
1927–2016 and 1924–2019

Playing a game together actually builds up bonds and trust and cooperation. We actually build stronger social relationships as a result.

Jane McGonigal
Game designer

Play is the mediator of the invisible and visible.

Dora M. Kalff
Jungian Therapist

Our brains are built to benefit from play no matter what our age.

Theresa A. Kestly
Contemporary American psychologist

The drive to play freely is a basic, biological drive. Lack of free play may not kill the physical body, as would lack of air, food, or water, but it kills the spirit and stunts mental growth.

Peter Gray
Contemporary American psychologist

My childhood play took me to extremes, and all of them, I now understand, were a fun way to test the social realities into which one is born. Surely this is a most important evolutionary function of play—finding out what is fun and fair or not fair on the field of life.

Jaak Panksepp
Neuroscientist and psychobiologist
1943–2017

It is a happy talent to know how to play.

Ralph Waldo Emerson
American writer
1803–1882

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
1872–1945

Almost all creativity involves purposeful play.

Abraham Maslow
American psychologist
1908–1970

The world of pretend play is one in which children can be free to express themselves, their ideas, their emotions, and their fantastic visions of themselves, of other people, and of the world.

Sandra Russ
Psychologist

The imagination is an essential tool of the mind, a fundamental way of thinking, an indispensable means of becoming and remaining human.

Ursula K. Le Guin
Author

The true object of all human life is play.

G. K. Chesterton
British author
1874–1936

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

Fred Rogers
American television personality
1928–2003

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

Benjamin Spock
American pediatrician
1903–1998

Play has been man’s most useful preoccupation.

Frank Caplan
Contemporary American author
1911–1988

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

George Santayana
American philosopher
1863–1952

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.

Plato
Greek philosopher
427–347 BC

Surely all God’s people…like to play.

John Muir
American naturalist
1838–1914

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
1875–1961

When the fun goes out of play, most often so does the learning.

Joanne E. Oppenheim
Author

You can't use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.

Maya Angelou
Writer and Poet
1928–2014

Play matters because people matter. It reminds us of our interdependence and gives us a chance to really see other people. And in turn, to be really and truly seen.

Jill Vialet
Founder of Playworks

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
1896–1934

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

Henri Matisse
French painter
1869–1954

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
1928–2003

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

Carl Jung
Swiss psychoanalyst
1875–1961

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

Richard Feynman
American physicist
1918–1988

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
1896–1971

Creativity and the world of the imagination—the beauty of what we see as a child and the kind of play that we experience as a child—can be a way for us to survive tough times.

Diane Paulus
Broadway Theater Director

Play touches and stimulates vitality, awakening the whole person—mind and body, intelligence and creativity, spontaneity and intuition.

Viola Spolin
American Theater Coach

Through observing children at play, we recognize what their worries, concerns, and fantasies are. We learn about their basic needs, their feelings of love and anger, their rivalries and fears of failure, their secret wishes and desires.

Dorothy and Jerome Singer
American psychologists
1927–2016 and 1924–2019

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
1861–1946

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
1896–1980

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
1904–1973

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
1858–1919

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
1896–1971

Imagination is the only key to the future. Without it, none exists—with it all things are possible.

Ida Tarbell
Journalist

Children who play creatively find multiple uses for objects. They can transform a blanket into a tent one day and a cave the next. A stick can be a magic want, a sword, a lightsaber, or a mast for a schooner.

Susan Linn
Child Psychiatrist

Creativity in and of itself is important for remaining health, reamining connected to yourself and connected to the world.

Christianne Strang
Professor of Neuroscience

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
1872–1945

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

Erik H. Erikson
American psychoanalyst
1902–1994

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 play...it arises in and as play, and never leaves it.

Johan Huizinga
Dutch historian
1872–1945

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
1803–1882

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

Anything that engages your creative mind—the ability to make connections between unrelated things and imagine new ways to communication—is good for you.

Girija Kaimal
Educator and Art Therapist

Imagination is the thing that differentiates us from other sentient species on this planet. We have the ability to place our attention in a past, present, or future. That is a uniquely human superpower.

Levar Burton
Actor

We shouldn't stick too close to everyday reality but give room to the reality of the heart, of the mind, and of the imagination. Those things can help us in life.

Hayao Miyazaki
Film director and storyteller