April’s Parenting Tip: The Importance of Play

Mar 25, 2023

What do most happy children, successful businesspeople, teachers, and scientists have in common? They love to play and understand that play is an important part of learning.

According to Beverly Anderson, Executive Director of Ebenezer Child Care Centers with locations in downtown Milwaukee, on Milwaukee’s southside, and in Oak Creek and West Allis/Wauwatosa, “Research has shown that play is FUNdamental to living a healthy and productive life. It positively impacts a person’s physical, social, intellectual, and emotional development. Yet, as adults in a work-obsessed society, it is something we often eliminate from our daily ‘to-do’ list.”

Anderson says the benefits of play are so impressive that parents should incorporate some form of creative play into their children’s lives every day. She adds that children who regularly participate in creative play have better problem-solving and adaptive abilities. They learn how to manage and transform their “negative” emotions and experiences and are supercharged for learning.

Inspiring Creative Play
Anderson says one way you can inspire creative play is by reducing the control you exert over play time. “Provide your children with a creative environment, and then sit back and allow them to be spontaneous and become creative spirits,” says Anderson. Using open-ended materials allows for children to direct their own play-based learning, as there are endless possibilities for what children can do or make.

“Tell them that it is okay to not always have the right answer to a problem as long as the answer they provide is innovative and shows some thought.”

Anderson says it is also important to encourage your children to use their creative energy to its fullest and always see a project to completion, rather than give up on it half-way through.

Creative Games Worth Trying
Anderson suggests having children build a project, such as a robot, with things from around the house. This way you can use parts that move, make noise, and have unique shapes. The robot also has no specified requirements, so however it is made, it is made right.

Another idea is to start a story and have each of your children add onto it. You can have children draw pictures of what they think will happen next as well, or even find materials to make ideas from the story come to life.

Still one more idea is to provide your children with props, either new materials or something they show interest in, and observe how they use them to imitate the things, people, animals, and machines they see in the world every day.

Things That Prevent Creative Play
Anderson says there are a number of things that are currently preventing children from participating in creative play. They include standardized testing, reduced free play and outdoor times in schools, and non-educational shows or video games where prepackaged scripts can limit a child’s imagination. Overuse of electronic toys can also be overstimulating and reduce children’s creative thought processes. And often, our rushed, overscheduled lives make it difficult to promote time for creative play.

Tips to Enhance Your Children’s Creative Play Time
Reduce screen time: Turn off or limit time for TVs, smart phones, computers, and video games. Encourage make-believe play to inspire your children’s inner creativity.

Choose open-ended toys: Your children’s imagination is the engine of healthy play. What were some of your favorite things to play with when you were a child? Boxes, blocks, balls, and stuffed animals or dolls can all be excellent stimulants for creative play. Another option is adding a variety of tools, containers, or even toys like cars or animal toys to familiar materials like sand, water, or rice to find new ways to play.

Encourage outdoor adventures: Try to get outdoors every day, so your children can run, climb, find secret hiding places, and dream up wonderful adventures.

Let your children’s creativity soar: Avoid interrupting or taking over play but be available as needed to play with them, ask questions about what they are doing, and introduce them to new things. Let children know their play is important.

Ebenezer Child Care Centers is a not-for-profit, locally based agency committed to providing early childhood programs from the heart. The agency prides itself on being different from other child care providers in that it offers a home-like atmosphere; individualized, nurturing care; and structured curriculum that is virtue-based for every child’s developmental stage.

Every Ebenezer Child Care Center focuses on all aspects of a child’s development: cognitive, physical, emotional, and social. In addition to providing quality care, the agency also offers other educational programming all aimed at helping parents.

The agency has locations in downtown Milwaukee, Oak Creek, and West Allis/Wauwatosa. The agency’s main office is located at 1138 S. 108th St in West Allis. For more information, please  call 414.643.5070.