Monica Dreger, VP of Global Consumer Insights, Mattel. kindly shared with us these compelling ideas about the importance of play during these trying times.
Now more than ever, play is an essential part of keeping a normal routine, while also fostering kids’ imagination, creativity, and intellectual stimulation. It’s a difficult time for parents to navigate keeping their kids entertained while maintaining a sense of calm. We are tasked with more than ever before and have become everything to our kids.
Having recess—yes, even now that school is out for the year—is essential for a child’s physical, social, and emotional development, according to the American academy of Pediatrics.
As a parent of three children myself, I am concerned with short (keeping kids engaged) and long term (mental health) effects at this time. Children are more aware of what is happening than you may think and are seeing their parents deal with the many stressors, whether that be how to get the groceries they need, the possible loss of a job, or learning of a loved one who is sick.
From talking to kids every day, we know that they want to feel connected to their parents during this time. No matter how difficult it may be, it’s essential to take time to talk and keep playing with them.
Recognizing the unique challenges that parents and caregivers are facing right now, Mattel launched an online digital resource, the Mattel Playroom, to serve as a “living room,” so to speak, for parents and caregivers to find inspiration for their families to connect and play with new activities and content each week. Playmobil has released a five-minute video explaining the cornovirus outbreak to kids and parents. Check out other toy manufacturers to see what they offer to help.
In addition to leveraging online resources to keep kids entertained, try giving them a challenge that allows them to be curious and creative while using their resources. Here are some ideas:
Have Kids Plan a Themed Family Night
With events and vacations you were looking forward to being postponed, create new dates on the calendar and challenge kids to plan a themed family night for a destination by putting two to three names of countries they’d like to visit in a bowl. Encourage kids to make an itinerary, art activities (draw a flag or famous building/architecture, person, etc.), food (cook a meal native to the country), story time (read a book or article), discover and share (let kids research and present findings), take a virtual field trip, research a game from that country and play it.
When kids feel lonely, try a virtual playdate to engage with friends and family. They can play “I Spy” or Pictionary.
Hack the Toys you Already Have at Home
If you’ve played all the games you have at home a thousand times already, challenge everyone to create a new rule or way to play a game. For example, play UNO in a new way by coming up with a storyline for each card, like Green 3, and each player can continue the story.
Plan an Indoor or Backyard Camping Trip
Turn your living room into a campground for your kids by bringing in the tent, rolling out the sleeping bags and making sure the flashlights have batteries. Encourage kids to work on drawing constellations during the day to put up at the camp for night stargazing. Enjoy their favorite campfire stories, sing-a-longs and games, and serve s’mores for a treat before snuggling in the blankets for some light reading. Or, if your backyard permits it, do the entire camping experience there.
No matter how you keep your kids entertained at home, the important part is that you keep playing. Play, laughter, and smiles will help to reassure them that the world is okay, and it will help bring a bit of much-needed normalcy back to their lives. #
Monica Dreger is a behavioral psychologist who leads a team of child development experts, researchers, and formerly trained academics that all have the privilege of talking to kids and parents every day.