Make My Child a Genius: Learning Through Play

Please welcome FCC's latest guest blogger. It's Jennifer Milano from Stepping Stones Museum for Children in Norwalk and she's here to tell us about the importance of play for kids. Do you ever feel that kids just can't be kids these days? That they're all too overscheduled and super competitive from a very young age? My daughter is only two and I'm already feeling it. When I read Jennifer's piece below, it eased my mind and I hope it will do the same for you:

Every parent wants their child to be smart; we buy the "how to" books, decorate their cribs with sensory inspiring patterns, pop in the baby genius DVDs and soothe them to sleep with Mozart. While parents take all the necessary steps to make sure their child is on the road to become a success, at a young age, it's really all about play.

Play helps children make sense of the world and people. Most often, they are not even aware they are learning while playing. Think back to a common childhood memory: outside with friends, running in circles on a warm summer day. Did you know you were practicing social skills, enhancing motor skills, investigating your senses and exploring spatial relationships? Learning through play is a natural step for growth that prepares children for success in school and life. As parents and teachers, one of the most effective things we can do is supply an environment to make play a healthy and positive experience.

At home, encourage your child to play; make up a song together, hand them a paper towel tube, let them stomp in a puddle or create a safe space to explore. Participation is also important. Show your child you are interested in play; balance taking the lead with allowing them to direct the experience. If you value the desire to learn more, so will your child.

There are also opportunities outside of the home; many early childhood classes offer healthy environments that encourage play. Stepping Stones Museum for Children develops all of their museum experiences and programs around the concept of play and lifelong learning. The museum’s Early Childhood Classes, for children ages six months through grade 1, facilitates the important interactive play experience between the parent and child, as well as the social experience of being around other children. A wide variety of hands-on activities, books and the museum's unique exhibits are used to support the development of motor, cognitive, language and social skills–all while having fun through play!

So the next time your child passes up the opportunity to go over those flash cards with you again, take relief in the fact that they are learning through play. They might not become a superhero, but even superheroes started out with blankets tied around their necks.

On April 8 and 11, sample free mini-classes during Open House at Stepping Stones Museum for Children. Meet the museum’s educators, experience a mini class and learn more about Spring Early Childhood programs. Visit www.steppingstonesmuseum.org for more information.

Jennifer is Stepping Stone's Marketing Coordinator and she can be reached at jennifer@steppingstonesmuseum.org

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