The Play Forum is a collection of voices from parents and people in the toy and children’s entertainment industries. Read what’s on their minds, and join the conversation.

Modern families are busier than ever. With hard-working parents, kids in multiple after-school activities (many folks still aren’t listening to the advice from experts to lighten their loads), higher academic standards and rigor, and the bustling business of simple day-to-day life, family units are often exhausted and grumpy trying to do it all. And in the midst of all the madness, there is often very little time for anyone to step away from the labyrinth of the master calendar, give up the to-do list, and get a little goofy and free-spirited.

Play is for children not for the driven and competitive. Play is a major distraction from the “important” and meaningful stuff. Play is frivolous and lazy. Playtime is wasted time. Play? Ain’t nobody got time for that. Right?

WRONG.

In fact, allowing our brains to go deeply into a purely playful state (the one where time rolls away, you’re lost, and you forget who you’re supposed to be) opens up brilliant brain tunnels of ingenuity, connection, creativity, and surprise. It’s in this play space that our truest, most natural, uninhibited self resides.

Playtime makes us better parents, friends, thinkers, workers, colleagues, and partners. And we need to make time for that. I wanted to call this post “Random Acts of Playfulness”, but in today’s world, random rarely happens. Random acts of kindness are usually planned at least partly in advance. And so it is with the land of make believe, silliness, and fun. We need to be intentional when it comes to being spontaneous.

One of my intentions for spring is to pop more “Purposeful Acts of Playfulness” into my over-scheduled, to-much-to-do, ain’t-nobody-got-time-for-that days. Simple ideas and activities I’ll have at the ready for those bits and pieces of time when everyone’s home, school work is done, and everyone typically runs for the closest device or screen.

Maybe a PLAY-list for the front of the fridge or a jar titled “PLAY WITH ME” containing strips of paper with suggestions scribbled on them. Things like “See who can make the most free throws in 10 minutes” or “30-minute Scrabble challenge” or “Yo-Yo trick night” or “hula hoop competition”. You get the picture.

When it comes to incorporating more unstructured playtime into our modern families, purposeful is the new random.