When I was 7 I had a box of Barbies that I played with for hours acting out stories, coloring their skin and building them houses. While my sisters and grandmother were certainly around, no one directed me how to play with them or cared what I did to them.

At Minnesota Children’s Museum, we’ve taken the same approach with re-inventing our exhibits. We moved away from viewing exhibits as tools to teach kids about forests or oceans with specific ways of playing. Instead, we started thinking about each exhibit as an opportunity to help children grow foundational skills, such analyzing problems, coming up with ideas and expressing thoughts through child-directed, open-ended play.

We know that play develops “upstream” skills, which are the tools like creative and critical thinking that children need to do well in school — and life!

—Sara Kerr, Director of Content and Communications

Why It’s Good to Let Children Play

By Kristin Harbulak
Exploring Domesticity

It’s so important to let children play. However, so many parents today feel the pressure to direct their child’s every move and to provide structured opportunities for learning. Child-directed play is essential to learning, and we need to provide more opportunities and let children play.

We also need to give ourselves the freedom to relax and let the kids play and work through things on their own.

Who is with me!?

Why it's Good to Let Children Play #PlayMoreMN

Last week, this lonely stay at home Momma got the chance to get out without the kids and be among other adults, and what did we do? Play with toys and talk about kids! I was so excited to be invited to be a part of the Minnesota Children’s Museum Play Enthusiast Panel. What a great group to be a part of and the #PlayMoreMN initiative is definitely something I can get behind!

It felt like when you talk to one of your girlfriends, and finally make a plan to get together for the first time in forever. Then, that day arrives and you drag your feet moaning about having to get out of the house and dreading driving through the city. However, once you do it you have a blast and can’t wait for the next time!

Why It’s Good to Let Children Play

We walked into the boardroom at the Surly Brewing Company, and found toys covering the tables. The playful attitude was infectious. We didn’t just talk about the importance of play, we experienced it.

Why it's Good to Let Children Play #PlayMoreMN

The Minnesota Children’s Museum is doing a major remodel and the grand opening is on the horizon and should be completed by summer. We got a sneak peek at the new museum, and it looks amazing!! Each area is designed to address a specific area of learning and give children many different opportunities for open-ended play. My favorite, with The Scramble in a close second, is The Big White Room.

I love watching the transformation, and wish I could do this in our own home!

Not only is the museum remodeling with the importance of play in mind, they are working to increase awareness and start a movement to express the importance of play on child development.

When we let children play, they are actually developing skills naturally. The Minnesota Children’s Museum has identified some of these skills as the “Powers of Play” and incorporated them into different areas of the museum.

Powers of Play

  • Creative Thinking
  • Critical Thinking
  • Self-Control
  • Confidence
  • Collaboration
  • Communication
  • Coordination

We had so much fun chatting about the importance of play. We discussed the hurdles many parents have to let children play. We also talked about how we can help parents overcome those hurdles and inspire them with ideas for open-ended play. Then, we got to play a bit ourselves, without our kids, and just feel what the process of play is like for our children.

My favorite takeaways from the Play Enthusiast panel lunch

  • It’s ok to have relaxing child-directed play
  • There is too much pressure on parents to direct children’s play time and provide educational opportunities.
  • You’re not a bad parent if you let your child play alone
  • Play helps create a community that is more innovative and creative, which is a skill that is underdeveloped in young adults entering the workforce today.

Why it's Important to Let Children Play #PlayMoreMN

Our family is looking forward to the museum opening! We can’t wait to try out all the new exhibits.

All the talk about the power of play, really has me thinking about things we can do at home to encourage the kids to play more, exercise their creativity and problem solving, and build skills important for life… but more on that later…

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