Back to Playtime!
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.
- Make time for more developmentally powerful playfulness into your busy school days.
- Leave at least one night open a week for family fun play! Try out a new game or visit somewhere new with the whole family.
- Let your kids engage in imaginary play. Dress up as a pop-star and belt out your favorite song!
- Turn chores into a game! Make of list of things for your children to “spy” on your next dog walk or long car ride.
As our Facebook feeds starts to fill up with first-day-of school snapshots, one can’t help but feel the collective anticipatory excitement as kids’ everywhere head into a new year of learning and growth. But while a new school year is loaded with wonderful new friends, experiences, and adventures, it can also mean an over-stuffed schedule, demanding daily routines, and academic pressures that can result in a whole lot of stress for our youngsters.
So how do we help our kids balance the demands of a new school year with their need to learn and grow through play? It’s a challenge, but with a few simple strategies, it’s fully possible and super beneficial to our childrens’ overall well being.
“Along with providing your kids with at least 60 minutes of wide-open, self-directed playtime per day, find ways to make your time at home together more intrinsically playful.”
As parents, we set the tone and “vibe” of our homes. We are super- “models”, like it or not. And if it’s apparent that we appreciate and value play as a key component in our children’s social, emotional, and cognitive development, then they will too. Along with providing your kids with at least 60 minutes of wide-open, self-directed playtime per day, find ways to make your time at home together more intrinsically playful. From my days as a preschool and elementary school teacher, one thing I know for absolutely sure is that children learn through play better than through any other vehicle.
Here are 5 simple ways to incorporate more developmentally powerful playfulness into your busy school days.
- SING more together! Whether you are carpooling, making dinner, cleaning up the breakfast dishes, or walking the dog, singing silly or familiar songs with young children not only provides some much needed stress relief, it also helps promotes recall, word recognition, and rhyme.
- Leave one night a week open for spontaneous FUN! It’s so easy and temping to power-pack our weeknights with all sorts of after-school activities for our kids, but there is big benefit to leaving space for spontaneous playtime. Take time to visit a new playground, play a new game, build something together, paint, draw, sculpt with dough, dress up and make a video, ride scooters around the neighborhood, etc.. The key here is to let your kids playfully lead the way!
- Visit the “land of make-believe” more often. Very young children regularly use pretend play to learn about and navigate the world are them. But as kids enter school, there is often little time left for make-believe’s big developmental benefits. While your older child’s pretend play may look different now, it still packs a powerful punch of increased creativity, communication skills, problem solving, and social and cognitive skills. Encourage kids to continue to pretend and create with things like puppets, building sets, blanket forts, backyard play structures, dress-up cupboards, and craft supplies.
- Embrace those “play-dates”! And then step back. Play dates seem to be a polarizing topic among parents…you either love em’ or hate em’. Either way, providing out kids with SELF-directed play time with their peers is incredibly important for their social, emotional, and cognitive development.
- Harness the power of PLAY in your everyday. Challenge yourself to recognize and lasso up ways to make the most mundane chores and daily must-do’s opportunities for connection and growth for my family. Try keeping a riddle book in one of your kitchen drawers for breakfast time fun (riddles are great for the brain!), write down 10 things for your kids to “spy” on your next dog walk, or hold a surprise “emergency evacuation” due to playground withdrawal!