As an adult, have you ever been instructed to just play?
Recently I attended a Minnesota Children’s Museum gathering of bloggers, librarians, professors, and other kinds of “play enthusiasts.” It was over lunchtime at Surly Brewing Company in Minneapolis (an awesome place to visit for work, social gatherings or just to hang out, by the way).
We met in a conference room and were welcomed by the Minnesota Children’s Museum leadership team as we sat at a table full of toys. Tiny toys, bigger toys, Mr. Potato Head, ribbons and other colorful objects that would have been grabbed and played right away if my kids were with me. But we were (mostly) a group of moms, and we were invited to play while we waited for the meeting to begin. I explored objects I had never seen before (or probably just couldn’t remember existed when I was a kid). What better way for adults to discuss play than by experiencing it too!
Play is so important. As noted in this article in the February issue of Minnesota Parent, the American Academy of Pediatrics describes free play as “important for healthy brain development.” However, research shows that kids are spending less and less time doing unstructured play.
The Minnesota Children’s Museum realizes the importance children getting the time, space and freedom to play, and offers experiences that nurture the 7 “powers of play” – skills children need to thrive that they can gain from playing.
We discussed play and what kinds of things make it difficult to make time for play (like work, tiredness, electronics). Then we divided up into two groups and were given toy construction/building sets to play with. It was more fun than I expected – and I was proud of my creations! All the moms created something unique, chatted and cooperated as we went along. And I got to brag to my kids later that I got to play with toys that day!
And of course, we learned about the exciting things coming to the Minnesota Children’s Museum when it reopens this June! There will be new exhibits including “Super Awesome Adventures” with a lazer maze and “Imaginopolis” with a pool noodle forest.
Here’s a preview of The Big White Room in one of the spaces, “Creativity Jam.”
My takeaways from the Play Enthusiast gathering:
- Parents are pressured to structure their child’s time
- Parents should encourage children’s free, unstructured play
- Powerful play involves three things – personal motivation, mind and body engagement, and individual exploration
- Play teaches kids valuable skills for life
- The Minnesota Children’s Museum is being redesigned around the power of play and 10 new exhibits will give children space and freedom to explore through open-ended, child-driven play experiences
- This experience taught me to make play more of a priority for my kids, and not to feel afraid to play, too!
My family can’t wait for the Minnesota Children’s Museum grand re-opening this June! There are so many things we’re looking forward to – including features like The Scramble!
Learn more at mcm.org.
(And check out Surly Brewing Company in Minneapolis if you get the chance – it’s a neat place!)