Play in childhood really is SO important in childhood. An IBM survey says CEOs value employees with creativity, which is fostered via childhood play. Additionally, researchers say free play can significantly improve kids’ problem-solving skills and is one of the best ways to stimulate children’s brain development, while make-believe play can help kids learn to self-regulate their emotions. That is some pretty hard evidence to ignore! I had the pleasure and opportunity to interview Anna Yudina, Director of Marketing Communications for the Toy Industry Association’s The Genius of Play Campaign to get her perspective and recommendations on how parents can best encourage more play at home.
- Can you tell me a bit about The Genius of Play?
The Genius of Play is a movement to bring more play into children’s lives while informing parents and educators of all the developmental benefits that play has to offer! Play helps develop so many skills from social to problem-solving, and we want to impact the amount of play that parents engage in with their kids and remind them that play is essential. We want parents to know that play is essential to child development.
2. Why do you feel that play is such an integral component of childhood?
“Play is how little people learn to be big people. It is how children learn to socialize.”
Play provides many teaching tools for skills like literacy and math, it is essential for children to reach healthy physical, cognitive, social, and emotional developmental milestones. It has been found that those children who engage in pretend play when young have better language skills in Kindergarten. Children of different races and socioeconomic statuses were studied and it was found that the access to a variety of different toys was really essential. Those that were exposed to this variety reached a higher level of intelligence. Additionally, outdoor, unstructured, free play has also been proven to be essential to child development, as research has shown that having longer amounts of recess in school leads to better school performance.
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3. Do you have any ‘go-to’ tips for parents who feel like they don’t know where to start with facilitating learning through play with their kids? I know some parents feel that they need to be ‘creative’ or ‘crafty’ to do fun activities with their kids at home, what would you say to those parents?
Play is really all around us. Kids are naturally wired to play. You don’t need to have the education to facilitate that. In fact a variety of chores can have a playful silver lining. For example, while grocery shopping play ‘I Spy’, while making dinner have your child help set the table and count out the items that you need. Ask questions like “if your teddy bear were to join us, how many more forks would we need?” which works on math skills in a fun way. When doing the laundry have your child help you match the socks, or simply make a game of throwing clothes into the laundry basket which can develop gross motor skills. We can find these opportunities through play or ‘work’ where they are learning and they don’t even know it. Discover something playful in every day. Today, children play eight hours less each week than their counterparts did two decades ago. Some of the key reasons behind the decline in play include: crowded and overly structured schedules, competitive parenting culture, declining recess in schools and increased screen time.
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4. Can you give me a few of your favorite toys for kids? Not necessarily brand specific but types of toys?
Honestly, related to the study mentioned above, the importance is placed more on providing a variety of toys for kids to play with. From dress-up toys to constructions toys and anything that inspires pretend and imaginative play. Similar to the way we balance our nutrition and diet, we should also have a well-balanced diet of play. Toys that inspire open-ended play are also very important so that the child’s curiosity and imagination is used to think of new ways to play with the same toy. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children spend at least 60 minutes daily engaged in open-ended play. Check out the age-by-age toy guide on our site.
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*This interview has been paraphrased and supplemented with information provided by The Genius of Play.