"Although there are benefits to organized sports, they are not the same as playing in the sense we're talking about. Children need time to make up episodes, carry on pretend adventures, live heroic lives, lay sieges and defend forts, even if the fort is only an old armchair. Adults must not interfere or tell the children what to play. They need to accept the fact that this is something they don't understand, and, even more, their very presence carries the cold breath of reality that makes the pretend illusion dissipate and fade away. Think what it must be like for a commanding general leading his soldiers when some intruder into his play-world tells him to tie his shoes!
There's an idea going around that children need to be taught how to play--and that we need to teach them to pretend how to be little fishies and lambs and butterflies [Froebel's novel idea called 'kindergarten!'] Children undoubtedly enjoy these games that are made up for them, but they carry a risk. A child who gets used to crutches may never learn to walk on his own. Children who spend a lot of time playing with grown-ups won't learn to create their own games and make believe, so they miss the education that comes from being allowed to go their own way and live 'as if his whole job was continual imitation.'
Five of the thirteen waking hours should be at the disposal of the children; three, at least, of these, from two o'clock till five, for example, should be spent out-of-doors in all but very bad weather. Brisk work and ample leisure and freedom should be the rule of the Home School. The work not done in its own time must be left undone. Children should not be embarrassed with arrears, and they should have a due sense of the importance of time, and that there is no other time for the work not done in its own time.
But let them have tales of the imagination, scenes laid in other lands and other times, heroic adventures, hairbreadth escapes, delicious fairy tales in which they are never roughly pulled up by the impossible--even where all is impossible, and they know it, and yet believe.
Now imagination does not descend, full grown, to take possession of an empty house; like every other power of the mind, it is the merest germ of a power to begin with, and grows by what it gets; and childhood, the age of faith, is the time for its nourishing. The children should have the joy of living in far lands, in other persons, in other times--a delightful double existence; and this joy they will find, for the most part, in their story books. Their lessons, too, history and geography, should cultivate their conceptive powers. If the child do not live in the times of his history lesson, be not at home in the climes of his geography book describes, why, these lessons will fail of their purpose. But let lessons do their best, and the picture gallery of the imagination is poorly hung if the child have not found his way into the realms of fancy." Charlotte Mason