From the Geranium Farm (Mother Barbara Crafton)-the importance of play

Mother Barbara Crafton wrote this morning about the importance of “play” and recreation. As Summer approaches and vacation begins, it seemed like the perfect time to share this. If you are interested in receiving the “almost daily emos,” please send Mother Barbara an email. Please note that the bold italics below were added by me.

Barbara 1
Peter Bruegel the Elder
“Children’s Games”
Netherlandish, 1560

This is a detail from “Children’s Games,” so you can see some of the games in more detail. The entire painting is so full of so many figures that the eye doesn’t know where to begin — we can only “see” it up close, piece by piece.

Two children roll hoops, while two boys prepare to ride a barrel as if it were a horse. To our left, one boy seeks to topple the other, both mounted in the backs of other boys.

Barbara 2

The detail I pulled out is just to our right, in the center foreground. Looking at the whole thing, it seems the children have taken over the town. Kids in the river, kids at the windows, kids hanging upside down from fences. They’re in the rooftops and in the horse troughs, with nary an adult to be seen.

Besides giving us a wonderful look at the ways in which children played jn the 16th century, Bruegel reminds us what play is: it is the work of children. They are as absorbed in their fun as Bruegel’s subjects in many other peasant paintings are in their toilsome occupations. Kids need to play.

Adults do, too. For us, play is not our vocation — it is a brief reprieve from it. We all need a break.

Summer is coming. For some of us, that signals an easier pace, time to enjoy evenings with some sunlight still left to enjoy at the end of the day. God seems to want us to rest a bit, perhaps even to play.


I teach on Sunday mornings at Marble Collegiate Church at 10am EDT. You can livestream my class at You can also watch it later on, as the livestream is archived. Stay for the worship service, including the beautiful music and, always, a fine sermon.