how I learned to be excited about a child’s play

Have you ever gotten really excited about your children’s play? I mean jump up and down excited?

I have.

And I have Olivia’s illness to thank. I will never view children playing quite the same.

I’ve always known that play is a vital and important part of child’s life. Maria Montessori famously said,”Play is the work of a child.”

The kind of play that we may not even give a second thought to is critically important to a child’s development. The imaginary situations and role-playing are how a child learns about life. And sometimes we hardly notice it. Until it’s not there.

One of the most “eery” parts of Olivia being so sick and the subsequent brain trauma that occurred was that she didn’t play. She just didn’t. It is really hard to explain this unless you experience it, but it was like she no longer knew what to do with toys. Or she didn’t have the energy to do it. Whatever the case, she just didn’t play.

I would sometimes give her a doll or some other interactive item and try to start the imaginary play for her, but she would just push it away with no interest.

It is safe to say that this was one of her symptoms that scared me the most. This is when I would start to wonder if something was permanently damaged in her brain. Why didn’t she just like to play like children are supposed to?

And then she started playing.

Oh the relief.

It was very gradual at first. A toy picked up here. A few minutes playing with her brother there.

And then last week, she started picking up her doll and taking her to the hospital. To the doctor’s office. To therapy. Not for real, of course, but that is what I heard her talking about when she was playing.  She put her doll down in the crib and covered her with a blanket for nap time.

And today, she and Stefan played for over two hours in their room. They were cooking in a restaurant, playing with cars and dolls, going on a trip to far-away places, and who knows what else.

This may seem like normal play for a three year old, but until you have experienced a child that doesn’t play at all you have no idea how excited this made me. I would whisper-squeal to Brian, “Do you hear her? She’s playing!”

I’m sure if a stranger had heard me they would think I was crazy. She’s just doing what three-year-olds are supposed to do. And they would be right.

Play is a child’s work. For almost three months Olivia has been out of work.

Now she’s back.

And it makes this mama’s heart so happy.



  1. You sure did make me cry!! I can imagine your joy as that is such a change from when I was there a month ago. God has been so good to all of you. Rather to all of us! I can’t wait to see (and hear) her playing.

  2. I was wondering how Olivia was doing… So happy for you all!

  3. I can only imagine what this means to all of your family. It’s an answer to prayer. I know many people are praying that Olivia will continue to heal and that it will be complete. So glad for you, Brian, and the kids!

  4. Elva Farrell says:

    I am so happy for all of you, Johanna. We will continue to pray!

  5. This made me cry happy tears! What wonderful progress!

  6. So exciting to hear!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! We praise God for His work in Olivia’s healing process. Thrilling to see how He is answering the prayers of so many people. We continue to pray for Olivia’s complete healing and that the Lord will use this time in her life to draw her heart to trust in Him. We continue to pray for God’s direction for your family. Much love to all.

  7. Oh I completely understand and I am do excited for you!!! Gives me hope :)

  8. This made me smile. I’m glad to hear that Olivia is back at work. I don’t think I’ll ever look at my kids’ playtime quite the same.

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