Rosanna Lopez: The Future of Play

For Part 3 of the Voices on the Future of Childhood series, we asked experts to offer their insights and predictions on what play will—or better yet, should—look like when families are released from isolation. 

A return to play

Rosanna LopezRosanna Lopez is the Founder of SparkleLAB Design and Innovation Hub and the Discovery Academy of Innovation.

Over the years, there has been a shift in the lives of children marked by the continual loss of play. As school hours are extended, recess times reduced, as academic preparedness and overstructured schedules define the childhood experience, we find ourselves in a world that has forgotten the value of play.

The coronavirus pandemic brings a moment of pause and a surplus of time in the lives of children. How will families make use of this opportunity? Will there be more time for play? What will play look like in the context of the new normal? A few hunches:

Play is simplified. With less consumerism, play is, once again, rooted firmly in imagination and possibility. A handful of blankets becomes a secret hideout. Sticks transform into swords. Closets are ransacked and a myriad of treasures are found: magic wands, spaceships, superhero capes…. As such…

Play gains complexity and nuance. Due to current constraints, play will involve more ingenuity, creativity, and being a maker.

Play is intergenerational. Without access to their peers, kids’ new playmates include parents, siblings, and extended family. Kids benefit from rich play and storytelling experiences with their elders. Grandparents discover the possibilities of online Mahjong. 20th century meets 21st century play.

Play with peers occurs in online communities. Minecraft. Animal Crossing. Scratch. Twine. Despite physical distancing, young people nurture friendships, connectedness, and shared experience through online networks and communities of practice.

In a post-coronavirus world, it is my sincere hope that families come to value play anew and realize that in something seemingly “simple” or “childish,” something truly wonderful happens.


See more posts in this series:

Voices on the Future of Childhood

Bo Stjerne Thomsen | Helen Hadani | Jill Vialet | Kathy Hirsh-Pasek | Kathryn E. Ringland |
Makeda Mays Green | Roger Hart | Ronda Jackson | Rosanna Lopez