The Power of Play


by Bich Nguyen-Hamilton, MA
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist

Playing saved my life!

A personal testimony:

When I was 9, my family and I came to the U.S. as refugees.

We had no money.

My parents worked as janitors, then as assembly line workers, and eventually started their own business.

Both of them often worked 2 jobs, yet were in debt during my whole childhood.

As the eldest child, I was in charge of myself and my siblings after school and often until bedtime, on weekdays, and most weekends.

My brothers and I spent those hours together, watching a lot of T.V. and playing. We played “pretend”. We built forts out of cushions and blankets, we set up a pretend store, and school. We played with second hand Legos, action figures, and dolls. We played board games, card games, and hide and go seek.

When my dad went fishing late at night, we would go with him and played at the local pier.

Once in a while, my parents had a Saturday or Sunday off of work. We went to a local park or beach with relatives and friends, to BBQ, to play in the lake or ocean. There was laughter and enjoyment from joking around and playing.

These were healing and happy moments of a childhood that also had moments of pain, fears, anxiety, distress from being victimized, from experiences of discrimination and prejudice, from family conflict, from family members’ mental and physical illnesses, and from witnessing violence, death, and dying.

My ability to play and having time to play

  • helped me survive a difficult childhood,
  • facilitated my recovery from the trauma I was experiencing,
  • and empowered me to thrive as a person.

Do a cost and benefit analysis! What would you pay

  • for your child’s well being
  • for an increase of your child’s ability to learn
  • for more joy in the relationship with your child or for more positive connections with your child

Allowing and supporting your child’s playtime and playing with your child is practically free and will greatly contribute to

  • your child’s well being
  • your child’s ability to cope with stressors and life’s adversities and
  • your child’s learning.

Playing with your child will add joy and positivity in your interactions with and in your relationship with your child.

I know the truth of the power of play, not only from my own childhood experience.

I have witnessed the power of play and the positive impact of play on children and parents’ relationships with children through 30 years of practice as a mental health professional.

Your inner wisdom also knows the truth of the power of play.

Your own memories of being a child may also inform you of this truth.

What is Play?

Play is

  • children’s first language
  • when we engage in an activity for enjoyment and recreation rather than a serious or practical purpose
  • a range of intrinsically motivated activities done for pleasure
  • freely chosen
  • personally directed

Play is beneficial by:

  • Promoting and aiding physical development and social skills development
  • Allowing children to explore their world and express their innermost thoughts, feelings, hopes, fears, likes, and dislikes
  • Allowing children to practice making choices, to gain control, and mastery
  • Contributing to self-efficacy and confidence
  • Promoting problem solving and making meaning of their experiences

Playing with your child builds positive connections and strengthens your relationship. During the upcoming holiday break, be intentional in

  • planning time for yourself to play
  • supporting your child’s play
  • playing with your child.

Here’s a link to more information and tips about Special Playtime with Parent and Child

This gift to yourself and to your child, might cost the least amount of money and might be the present that will give the most joy and value.

Wishing you and your family wellness and joy in your play during this Holiday season.


Updates and Support Resources from your

Evergreen Wellness Team

Visit the Evergreen Wellness website for mental health and self care resources for students, parents, and teachers.