P&P: Why is play actually important for child development?
Dr. KS: I am a fierce play advocate. Play is the most important thing a child can do. It is the foundation for everything. It is the place they learn the best and the place they learn the most. It is a place they can practice their social and emotional skills and perfect valuable real-life skills. But over the last century play has declined at an astonishing rate. It has been traded for formal education, structured learning, planned sports, excessive media consumption and adult-centric activities.
P&P: So, what is less play doing to our kids then?
Dr. KS: The effects of less play are being experienced by children in a multitude of ways. Kids mental health issues have increased as play has decreased. This has occurred primarily because, during play, kids get to feel in control and without that feeling that they are in control of their life, they feel helpless to the things that happen to them and around them, which increases the likelihood for things like childhood anxiety and depression. Not only are mental health issues rising, but creative thinking is declining. Today’s creative thinking children are tomorrow’s innovative adults. So between mental health issues on the rise, creative thinking on the decline and a global pandemic to top it all off, it is now more important than ever that we give our children the opportunity to play as much as we can.
P&P: What are the important parts of play and how can I encourage my child to play?
Dr. KS: Now, play can be anything your child decides it should be. But here is what we know are the two key features of play: self-direction and self-control. Despite popular belief, this doesn’t mean that play needs to be independent or self-initiated. Our kids might need a little help getting going, either by you or with other kids, and they might need a play partner to continue being engaged and to practice some of those important social and emotional skills that play is crucial for crafting.
P&P: Wait, does my child need specific toys to play with or can they just play outside?
Dr. KS: Play certainly doesn’t need toys of any kind. Play can happen anywhere with anything. I know saying this probably doesn’t make sense since I’m literally here to tell everyone about the toys I love that foster imaginative play and that grow with your child. But I need you to know that regardless of the quantity and quality of the toys you provide your child, if you give them as many opportunities as humanly possible to just play, they will have their best shot at growing into happy, creative humans.
P&P: So how are toys useful to play then?
Dr. KS: Even though play can happen anywhere with anything, all parents would likely agree that a great toy will engage a child and keep them busy in their own little world giving them lots of opportunities to practice their social, emotional and generally useful life skills. Especially indoors, on rainy days, when the midday summer sun is blazing or in the middle of a global pandemic. It’s our hope that our toy curation will help you find one of those toys that your child will love and that hopefully you will too (especially given you are very likely to be joining them in their play at some point!)
P&P: Okay then. Earlier you told us that you were going to tell everyone about the science behind the toys you selected. Why should parents care about the scientific evidence behind children’s toys?
Dr. KS: As a parent myself, I know that we are always trying to give our children the best we can, but when it comes to toys there is just so many options out there. We’re faced with decisions like: Will they play with it? Is it helping them learn? Is it stimulating their creativity? Will it grow with them? Among so many others. By curating a collection of toys and giving you the science behind why those toys are great for kids cognitive, social and emotional development, we are making some of your parenting decisions easier, so you can focus on the harder stuff (like how on earth do we practice gentle discipline without losing our sanity!?) The science doesn’t guarantee that every kid will love and play with every toy forever, but it does give you a more informed position on which toys to select for your brilliant little humans.