Meredith is a former elementary school teacher with a master’s in education who turned her expertise to improving people’s lives by spreading the gospel of play. She is a blogger and a regular Family Lifestyle contributor to the Today Show and Fox and Friends, and is a columnist for Chicago Parent magazine. Meredith speaks at social media conferences, parenting groups and companies about the power of PLAY in our everyday lives. Meredith's first book “Well Played” was published by Harper Collins in June 2016. She lives with her husband Jon and her two sons Maxwell and Truman, on Chicago’s North Shore.
- Puppet time! Use puppets to help encourage story-telling, imagination building and communication with fellow puppeteers.
- Start a game of ‘Would You Rather?’ with the family. Get the conversation flowing by having your kids make up the questions!
- Become a musician! Make up silly rhymes or songs with your children. Lyrics can be as simple as your children singing about what happened at school that day.
- Before dinnertime, cover your table with butcher paper and have kids create their own masterpiece on the table! This will encourage family communication throughout mealtime.
“You can discover more about a person in an hour of play, than in a year of conversation”.
This is one of my favorite quotes of all time…because it’s just so darn true. As an educator and parent, I have found this to be spot on, over and over again. The times when I have gotten to know my students or my own children best have always been when we’re involved in a playful activity, or when I’ve over-heard them deeply entrenched in their own self-directed playtime.
What this quote doesn’t say however, is that play is also the most fertile breeding ground for enhancing communication skills in our children. Open-ended, self-directed play experiences provide a rich environment for children to communicate with their peers and get to know themselves amidst their own personal lands of make believe.
“…Play is also the most fertile breeding ground for enhancing communication skills in our children.”
The more opportunities a child has to build both verbal and non-verbal communication skills, the better. And play provides these opportunities like nothing else. Being effective communicators of their unique thought processes, creative insights, feelings and emotions is a key skill in overall school success. Play is so much more then just messing around. It is in fact very vital developmental work for children, specifically as they build, grow, and expand their communication skills every single day. Open-ended opportunities to play pretend, tell stories, design and build new things, create artistically, navigate a new game, or physically explore a challenging play space, provide young children opportunities to learn to effectively communicate their creative ideas, negotiate with their peers, play out their imaginations, and express who they are inside. Want to add more communication-building fun into your children’s lives?
Here are some simple and fun play tips to get you started.
- Bring on the puppets! There is something magical about a basket full of puppets and a make-shift puppet theater. Puppets encourage story telling, imagination building, and communication with fellow puppeteers. If your kids need a prompt, try improvising a scene that acts out something in their everyday life or a book they love. Or write a picture script together that helps guide the telling of an original story with a beginning, middle, and end.
- Make up silly rhymes and songs together. Want a way to make running errands with your little ones more playful and engaging? Try making up silly songs and funny rhymes as you go. Have them look around at what they see on your adventure and use it as fuel for their verbal play.
- Stock that dress-up bin! Whether our kids are playing on their own or with a pal, there is nothing quite like a bin full of costumes to get the creative communication flowing. And when you can… jump into the scene with them once and awhile! Make-believe is a key way young children work through what’s going on inside, and learn about the world they live in. So keep that dress-up bin fully stocked and accessible at all times.
- Create your own “would you rather” questions for your next family dinner. This is a great way to encourage playful communication at all those big family gatherings headed our way this holiday season. Have your kids help you create “would you rather” conversation cards and then place them on your holiday table. Things like “would you rather be a knight or a dragon?” or “would you rather jump into your favorite book or your favorite movie?”
- Take talking tours of your neighborhood or grocery store. Ask playful questions or make up fantastical stories as you take a walking tour of the neighborhood, grocery store, local park, or mall. Things like “If you could be any one of these vegetables for a day, which one would you be?” Or use the things you see as you go to create an instant story, with each of you adding a line at a time.
- Give kids loads of opportunities to be one-of-a-kind artists. The best way to encourage our kids to playfully create is by having the tools they need for the job readily available. Have a designated drawer or cupboard full of crafty materials and give kids time to explore it on their own. Then, ask them to tell you about what they’ve created…in as many words as possible.
- Write all over the table! One super way to get the whole family playfully communicating is by turning your dining table into a giant doodle pad. Simply cover it with butcher paper, set some colorful pencils or washable markers into a pretty vase in the center, and have your kids draw about their day, jot down funny jokes or riddles for the family to figure out, or create their perfect meal in sketch form at their place at the table.