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There is Power in Play. Brain Power.

Over the summer, my dear friend who lives in Indiana invited my family to visit the John Ball Zoo in Grand Rapids, MI. We made the 2.5 hour trek, and as we were pressing our faces against the glass; observing all the unique animals and creatures, we came to the ape exhibit. As soon as you walked into the exhibit, you found a large sign with large print that read, “Play is……”


The sign went on to discuss how play is more than simply childhood fun or adult recreation.  “Play makes the brain work in unique ways that helps to develop it physically, emotionally, intellectually and socially.” Further down, more information about how only mammals and some birds play was posted. These animals are viewed as intelligent because of their complex behaviors. By studying play, the scientist found that the bigger the brain (in relation to body size), the more time has been spent playing.  Perhaps, this proves that play makes us all smarter? As I read this sign, I started to think about how I could be more intentional with my son to make sure that he was spending time playing every day.

As summer winds to an end and children are returning to school, family schedules begin to fill with appointments, errands, and work/school activities. Our lives become hectic, which leads to less time for children and families to play.  According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children should receive 30 minutes of structured physical activity, and 60 minutes of unstructured physical activity per day .

So let’s commit to make a play a priority!  Let’s make and keep time for laughing and enjoying the children in our lives.

NAEYC shares more info here about the importance of play and how it positively impacts a child’s social, emotional, physical and cognitive (intellectual) development.

Play ideas for each and every family:

  • Go on a nature walk and collect nature items
  • Use a sheet to play parachute
  • Build a fort in the house with sheets and pillows
  • Play make-believe (pretending)
  • Dress-up
  • Pretend play with a large box
  • Water exploration
  • Building with sticks and rocks
  • Nature art
  • Play with bubbles
  • Loose parts play: provide differing materials to explore and create (paper towel rolls, cotton balls, etc.)
  • Sidewalk chalk-play hopscotch
  • Playdough
  • Jumping in puddles
  • Hide and seek
  • Building with blocks
  • Sand play

Wayne RESA Great Start Readiness Program Early Childhood Specialist Guest Blogger: Michelle Vlodyka

Author: Wayne RESA - GSRP

Great Start Readiness Program is a Michigan state-funded preschool program for four-year-old children with factors which may place them at risk of educational failure. The program is administered by the Michigan Department of Education, Office of Great Start. Funding is allocated to Wayne RESA to administer the program locally. These blogs were developed and funded under a grant awarded by the Michigan Department of Education. Research on preschool programs and specific research on GSRP indicates that children provided with a high-quality preschool experience show significant positive developmental differences when compared to children from the same backgrounds who did not attend a high-quality preschool program.