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Play Before Work or Work Before Play?

[Pexels, Lum3n]

From young, my mother told me that it’s important to work before playing, so that I could relax fully after I finished my work. 

The saying ‘work before play’ has the same sentiment as ‘get it over with’. 

But is that really the best way to go about things? 

What Are the Benefits of Work Before Play?

[Pexels, Markus Spiske]

With the promise of being able to play and take time for myself after finishing my work, I used to be motivated to complete my work quickly so that I could do what I wanted. 

It was useful in making me get to my work quickly without my parents having to engage in any kind of negative reinforcement and punishments like caning. 

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Positive reinforcement, after all, has been shown to be more effective than negative, especially in the long run. 

There was the added benefit of teaching me that with work comes reward. After dealing with work, I would be given my playtime

Being taught to work before playing is also helpful in teaching effective time management, since most people don’t want to waste more time than necessary on work. 

It helps develop a good work ethic and teaches children how to manage their work well when motivated by the thought of getting more playtime. 

Also, sometimes it’s hard to judge how long exactly work will take to do. 

With ‘work before play’ there is a lower chance of having to stay up to do work, while if ‘play before work’ is implemented, a misjudgment of how long work will take can lead to work cutting into sleeping time. 

What About the Cons of Work Before Play?

[Pexels, Toni Cuenca]

While working before playing has its benefits, it also has its disadvantages. 

With work being something that may not always be enjoyable, children may find reasons and ways to procrastinate despite the promise of downtime after work. 

Forcing them to do the work isn’t always the best idea, either, since it can cause resentment to develop, too. 

Having to always work before being able to play can also create the mindset that if work isn’t done, then there shouldn’t be any downtime. 

After all, the work is being done as a means of earning downtime, so there is an association of downtime being deserved as a result of doing work. 

While following ‘work before play’ can help develop discipline, it might also cause children to miss out on family time, especially if they’re given a large amount of work to do. 

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When the workload is just too much, ‘work before play’ might not always be the best idea.

The Advantages of Play Before Work Instead

[Pexels, Anthony : )]

Although some people are more prone to worrying about work than others, a study carried out by researchers at the University of Chicago shows that playing before work still brings you the same amount of enjoyment. 

Naturally, this doesn’t mean that leisure activities that affect the ability to work should be carried out. It’s not good to play games all the way into the early morning and then have to go to school after. 

However, playing before work can help people to relax and that may even make their ability to work better. 

For example, letting children play some games or watch a few episodes of a show before they start work can help them approach their work with a more relaxed attitude, which could lead to fewer mistakes in their work. 

The study (which involved over 1,500 participants across 7 experiments) found that the distraction unfinished work brings is often overestimated. 

In the situation of play before work, children also get to experience the positive feelings they normally do during their downtime. 

This could motivate them to finish their work well and quickly to continue their downtime after, and have more of those feelings. 

Lastly, the Cons of Play Before Work

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Unfortunately, playtime can go overboard if the child has a lack of time management skills or discipline. 

This means that the child can end up spending too much time relaxing and then not getting any work done

Allowing play before work without proper time management and the enforcement of rules can lead to the child developing a lack of discipline. 


[Pexels, Lum3n]

It’s always best to observe what is best when it comes to deciding on enforcing a ‘work before play’ or ‘play before work’ mindset, especially when it comes to children. 

Some days, they may want to work first and others, they may want to play first. 

What’s important is to give children downtime so that they aren’t always doing homework, and to ensure that all their needs are met. 

This includes food, water, and sleep time so that they’re fresh and able to take on work

Rum Tan

Rum Tan is the founder of SmileTutor and he believes that every child deserves a smile. Motivated by this belief and passion, he works hard day & night with his team to maintain the most trustworthy source of home tutors in Singapore. In his free time, he writes articles hoping to educate, enlighten, and empower parents, students, and tutors. You may try out his free home tutoring services via or by calling 6266 4475 directly today.