Play time is not a "waste" of time, for children or us.
Our children need play time. It is a the best way for them to learn, especially social skills.
There are several benefits to children's impromptu playing. I'm not talking about coordinated games, those have their place. I'm talking about children getting together and deciding to play.
In this setting, children will decide who is going to be first, second, etc. They determine the rules of the game, they iron out conflicts that arises in the game, and they will determine when the game is finished.
Our lives are so orchestrated, that their lives are orchestrated by default. They are losing a lot by not being able to just play.
When adults enter their children's world, and "organize" their games, much is lost. The adults will choose which child will be the leader. This will be based on what they think are leadership skills. Children have to follow set rules, that are given by adults, and they are required to perform at a certain level or they may be moved out of the game.
Adults bring with them adult competition. Children and adults need "time off." So take a moment and smile at their little games. Avoid attempting to control their games; and avoid correcting their mistakes during the game.
Childhood could be the best time of life for children and parents. Children won't stay little forever. So while we can, let's enjoy them and most importantly, give them some time to enjoy themselves through play. Soon enough they will be adults, and free playtime will be a thing of the past. Life will orchestrate their lives for them, just as it is orchestrating your life for you.
Share with other parents some of the games you played as a child, or games that your child is playing now!