When Children Don't Play

[Perhaps the following may seem obvious to you--that children need to play. Perhaps safe places for your children to play are a given in your world. But that’s not the case for many. Much of the world’s children have no safe place to play. Much of the world’s children don’t play. Go with me for a moment to see such children.]

Children are supposed to play. The world is supposed to be a place where they can safely enjoy the company of their siblings and neighbors as they create, discover, and imagine. A child who doesn’t play is one who doesn’t know that safety.

Adults are supposed to ensure that the world is that kind of place, one where the next generation can thrive. And as children, to thrive is to play. Unless something prevents them, children will naturally play, and it’s good. But for many children worldwide, something is preventing them. Adults are failing them, failing to enact systems that make way for a playful environment. Adults are at fault when children don’t play.

Children are the most vulnerable population in the world. They, their innocence, their ability to play is to be protected, not destroyed. But for many, too many, such is not the case. Millions of children across the world are victims of war and poverty, devices of adults used to control ‘weaker’ populations. These ‘games’ adults ‘play’ put a stop to the games of children, the ones who should be at play. Playing, running, singing, and laughing are replaced by working, hiding, fearing, and crying.

Children are not supposed to know a world like this, where we sing songs about our children playing "one day," where such natural activity for children is not guaranteed. Children, not just my child or your child, but all children need adults to make their safety our priority. When they’re safe, they’ll play. When they’re not fatherless, afraid, living in slums and displacement camps, when they’re not hungry, sick, and exploited, they’ll play.

Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs.” (Luke 18:16)

If you’ve ever wondered why so much of our activity is focused on creating an environment where children can play, now you know. The kingdom of God belongs to them. Kingdom work is wrapped up in ensuring that the next generation grows up healthy and happy, safe and playful. And when the responsibility is theirs, they’ll do the same for children. Not only their children, but for those who suffer at the hands of adults with a different agenda.