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When children play, they learn.
It’s that simple.

Parents can make a child’s play even more powerful. It’s not hard.

Minnesota Children’s Museum launched the “Let’s Play!” initiative to help parents and other caregivers enhance the learning that happens naturally through play.

Here are some tips and suggestions:

Make Observations

“I noticed how you flipped the piece over so it would fit”
“I see you connected the tubes to make the water flow”

Ask Open-Ended Questions (ones that don’t have a right/wrong or yes/no answer)

“What do you think?
“How did you…?”
“Why do you think that happened?”
“What ideas do you have?”

Pose Challenges

“I wonder what would happen if…”
“What would you do if…?”

Talk, Talk, Talk! Start Conversations

“Tell me about that time…”
Use new and unexpected words

Lead by Example

Show you’re eager to play and learn, too
Model confidence, cooperative behavior and flexible thinking

Slow Down

Don’t rush an activity
Observe with purpose – notice and describe details

Guide Without Taking Over

Be a great sidekick during any activity by asking questions to spark your child’s thinking:
“What have you tried so far?”
“What else will you try?”
“What do you think would happen if…?”
Give children time and space to work through challenges on their own

Remember: Attitude is Everything

Remind yourself: Children are capable people
Focus more on the doing, less on the outcome
Avoid imposing one “right way” of doing things
Embrace repetition – give children time to do something again and again
View a child’s failures (and your own!) as learning opportunities
Try not to get frustrated – you’ve had more practice than they have!
Make play a priority – for your children and yourself

Powerful Play


Play is a big deal here at Minnesota Children’s Museum.

The museum’s No. 1 mission is to spark children’s learning through play. We hope to see kids (and adults) play more.

We believe our entire community benefits when children get the time, space and freedom to play.

What kind of play are we talking about?

The short answer is “powerful play.” Here’s what that means:

Powerful play is…

Captivating and fun – Kids are focused and having a good time
Active and challenging – Kids are moving and thinking
Self-directed and open-ended – Kids are taking the lead and exploring freely

What does powerful play look like in action? If your child is doing all of these things at once, it’s powerful play:

Having a good time – My child enjoys the activity.
Showing interest – My child is alert and engaged.
Moving and thinking – My child is physically and mentally active.
Exploring freely – My child is choosing what to do and how to do it.

Play is particularly powerful when the activity is driven by a child’s own interests. That is, when adults guide without taking over or step back entirely. And it’s got to be fun. If a child is not having fun or doesn’t want to be there, it’s not powerful play.

It’s probably not powerful play if a child is…

Following a set of specific instructions
Watching passively
Working toward a single correct answer or trying to do something the “right” way
Being told or shown by an adult what to do and how to do it

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