Why You Should Be Mixing Up Play
Claire Green is president of the Parents' Choice Foundation and cofounder of Sandbox Summit®. She looks for toys and media that will unleash children's interests, and celebrate the fun of learning. Claire serves on the selection committee for the National Toy Hall of Fame® at the Strong National Museum of Play®, is a member of the Toy of the Year (TOTY) nomination committee for the Toy Industry Association and is a judge for the KAPi Awards. As a child, her favorite playthings were her bicycle, puppets, and the Phantom Tollbooth - evidence that the journey of imagination is of utmost importance.
- Different types of play help kids to build different types of skills. It’s important to encourage mixing up play to raise well-rounded kids.
- Ask your child questions during play that help to unleash their interests. For example, if you have a creative kid ask them to describe their masterpiece and why they wanted to make it.
- Get involved! Encouraging your child to mix up the way they play will help them feel comfortable exploring new interests.
What does getting a balance of play mean to you?
Play builds a variety of skills, from motor to communication, from cognitive and creativity. It’s as important to get a balance of play as it is to get a balance of foods.
Why is it important that kids get a variety of play?
Play is nutritious; it helps build healthy bodies and healthy minds. Just as a child’s meal plan should include more than one food group, a child’s play plan should include more than one type of play.
Are all types of play good or do you think some are more beneficial than others?
Play serves as a catalyst for curiosity, experimenting and discovery. Play can help uncover, and perhaps assuage, conflict and fears. Although we’re not advocating helicopter parenting, adults should be aware if rough and tumble play turns violent, or storytelling turns cruel.
You work to find toys that unleash children’s interests. Do you think that parents should push their kids to trying out diverse types of play or stick with what they love?
Layer upon what they love to do. If you have a builder, ask her to describe her project – what it is and who it will serve. Have a storyteller? Ask him to design and build a stage and costumes. A young chemist who likes to blow things up? Suggest writing and illustrating a manual, with a few tamer experiments.
Do you think toys should be incorporated into all types of play, or do toys have their own level in the balance of play?
Toys are what children make them. Babies play games with Cheerios. A toy can be a stone, a stick or a sock. And as we all know, a cardboard box can become anything a child imagines. And that, is the genius of play.
What are some tips you’d like to give parents on how to make sure their child is getting a good mix of play?
- Model good behavior. If you’re tethered to a screen, your child will be too.
- Start by doing things together. Read aloud. Make a kitchen band.
- Ride a bike. Dig for bugs.
- Build a blanket fort. Host a parade.
- Make shadow puppets and put on a show.
- Design and Build a backyard carnival, with games, and a healthy snack booth.
- Sort the laundry before washing and match it after it dries. Yes, it’s fun for young children.