The Play Lady Tells Us How to Become Play-ers

The Urge and Need to Play is Innate says The Play Lady

Posted Dec 13, 2015

*Author is Pat Rumbaugh, aka, The Play Lady

Think back to your childhood, did you know a child who was outside playing all the time? Well, I, Pat Rumbaugh, was one of those children. My mother couldn’t keep me inside. I wanted to be out playing. There must be something in my DNA that kept me from sitting still. I wanted to play a pick-up game with friends and neighbors, ride my bike, play hide-and-go-seek. It didn’t matter what I was playing, what mattered is that I had the opportunity to play.

I believe we are all born to play. Everyone has the play gene in them and I would love nothing more then to help activate that gene in you. I am known as The Play Lady in Takoma Park, Maryland and around the country. I believe I was born to play and to encourage others to play.

When I was a child, I played outside every day.  In the 60’s and 70’s kids went out to play, made up their own games and spent hours playing outside without adult supervision. Most of us went home at dinnertime or when the streetlights came on. We got our exercise without even thinking about it. Our creative juices flowed daily by making up games, building forts, climbing trees, riding our bikes and playing hide-and-go-seek.

In high school, only three sports were available for girls and I played all three. It was such a thrill to me to finally get to play on a team. My only concern was that so many people didn’t have this opportunity, because they either didn’t make the team or were not exposed to playing opportunities.

My mother chose physical education as a major for me. She knew how much I loved to play and enjoyed teaching others how to play. Plus, my Father was a physical education teacher and football coach, so this was the obvious path I should take.  I ended up playing tennis and haven’t stopped yet.

From 1981- 2011 I spent almost my entire teaching career at the Washington International School teaching physical education and coaching. The students were in a highly rigorous academic setting often came to me asking, “Can we just play?” They loved nothing more then to play a fun activity with their friends. Sure I enjoyed teaching them how to play lifetime activities and team sports, but I knew if they got to choose what they played and could be with their friends plus have fun, I would get the most effort out of them.

Many students over the years have shared with me later on as adults how much they looked forward to my class. I strived to help every student find an activity they loved, because when we find that special activity or two we have fond memories of that experience and we may want to continue playing that activity.

As I approached the young age of fifty I decided I wanted to start a play committee in my community. I just didn’t see kids outside playing nearly as much as when I was a child. Sure I knew there are more opportunities to play for local team sports, but what about fun free play for people of all ages?

I welcome the opportunity to share my play journey in the blogs to come, and to help you play. In the mean time I hope you will contact me if I can help you and your community play. Also remember everyone deserves to play, so go out and play!


1 The Play Lady Tells Us How to Become Play-ers

2 How to Start a Play Committee in Your Community

3 How to Plan a Play Day in Your Community

4 Pushing Play in the Community

5 Why Close a Street to Play?

6 Join an Already Planned Community Event and Promote Play

7 Inter-generational Games Night

8 Community Service: Teens Make Great Play Advocates

9 Start a Play Club in Your School

10 The Benefits of Play Events in Your Community

For more information:

WATCH one of the two TEDxTalks Pat gave on play.

Pat is the Co-founder of the nonprofit Let’s Play America. Like them on Facebook Let’s Play America.

Invite The Play Lady to your community


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Is Pretend Play Good for Kids?

Children May Be Playing, but Their Brains Are Working

Playing with Heart

Happiness and Growth through Play