#ParentingWin: Simple Ways to Raise Happier, Healthier Kids

Make Play a Priority This Summer

Summer camps, sports practices, music lessons and maybe a road trip or two. Is your family’s summer schedule getting crowded?

It’s a good time to remember to carve out time for good old-fashioned play – getting dirty, goofing off and making up your own rules.

What’s so important about playtime? It’s one of the best “summer enrichment” activities you can provide for your kids.

In fact, as playtime gets squeezed out by academic pressures, screen time and highly structured activities, science is telling us that play is not frivolous at all, it’s vital. The American Academy of Pediatrics and the World Health Organization recently released reports detailing the social, emotional and cognitive benefits of play – and strongly recommended more playtime for kids.

Play IS Learning

When kids play, they build their brains and bodies. They develop important skills that help them succeed in school and life – skills like creative and critical thinking, communication, collaboration, confidence and more. They also learn executive functioning and social-emotional skills, build grit and become independent.

Plus, when kids play, they get physical activity, experience joy and strengthen bonds with friends and family. Simply put, play is crucial to raising healthy, happy kids.

Kid-Powered Play

Not all play is equal. While all kinds of play are beneficial, the most powerful kind of play is open-ended, child-directed play. That’s when your child is doing an activity they are leading without a set result as a goal. You can tell when your child is involved in this type of play when they are:

  • Having a Good Time
  • Exploring Freely
  • Showing Interest
  • Moving and Thinking

Get the Most Out of Play

You are your child’s first – and often favorite – play partner. Here are a few simple ways you can get the most out of playtime with your child:

  • Let Kids Explore Freely. Give your child the time, space and freedom to explore their world through play. When needed, guide without taking over. (“What have you tried so far?”)
  • View Mistakes as Opportunities. Overcoming mistakes builds a child’s confidence and creativity. Help them find a solution (“If you could do it over, what would you try?”)
  • Embrace Repetition. Hearing “again!” again? It’s ok – doing things over and over is how kids build confidence, develop their bodies and master their world.
  • Focus on the Process. Kids get the most out of the process, not the outcome. When you express joy in the process, you help your child to think critically and solve problems. (“I see how you…”)
  • Pose Challenges. Add plot twists to play. When kids try new things and overcome obstacles, they develop resilience, confidence and more. (“What would happen if…a rhino showed up?”)

This summer, put open-ended playtime at the top of your priority list. By preserving this time, you’re helping your child build skills that will take them far in school and life. For more tips and resources on play, visit mcm.org/parent-resources.

Playful Learning at Minnesota Children’s Museum

This summer, we have a special lineup that you won’t want to miss. From new exhibits to special events and  a free block party all focused on creative and critical thinking, a trip to the museum is sure to be a family memory-making adventure. Learn more at mcm.org/summer-to-the-max

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St. Paul, MN 55102

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