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Monday, December 23, 2019

Unoccupied Play: What it is and Why it is So Important

Photo by pexels (pixabay)

Children play in many different ways and for many different reasons, even when it may not look like "traditional" play. Unoccupied play, may appear as random gestures and sporadic movements most commonly demonstrated by infants from birth to three months old. As random as they may seem, they are a meaningful attempt by the child to explore and learn about their environment and personal space. Unoccupied play helps to prepare babies for future play experiences by building their confidence and helping them to learn about their environment.

The building blocks of solitary play

Unoccupied play is precursory to solitary play, during which children play alone rather than others. Solitary play typically lasts through two years of age. The exploration of space and movement during unoccupied play prepared children to play alone and concentrate on activities while beginning to learn about cause and effect and explore creative play.

Sensory experiences

The exploratory movements of unoccupied play allow children to experience different sensations, textures, and materials. They may begin to practice manipulating objects and understand space. The freedom of unoccupied play encourages children to come to their own conclusions and make decisions without organization or expectation.

The development of motor skills

Although appearing as unengaged and stationary, young children are in fact engaged in unoccupied play that helps build a baby's motor skills, preparing children for more refined play in the future.

Understanding personal space and potential

During unoccupied play, infants may explore their range of motion and the potential they have to change their environment. Stretching, kicking, grabbing and gripping help babies build strength and challenge their muscles. These movements prepare them for more complex motions and sequences of movements as they develop.

Parents of young infants can keep in mind the many benefits of unoccupied play as they learn to engage with their children and support their development. It may not look like anything remarkable, but this phase of development is just the beginning of your child's play experience; soon enough they will be enjoying all of the different types of playground equipment.

The Different Stages of Play

Unoccupied Play

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

Monday, December 16, 2019

10 Ways to Have a More Playful 2020 No Matter Your Age!

Photo by tookapic (pixabay)

A new year is right around the corner and many of us are starting to gear up for our annual resolutions. This year, I'm choosing to make 2020 the year of fun and playfulness. Join in on the fun this year with some of these different ideas I've put together.

Explore Exercise as Fun

Many of us make an annual fitness resolution this time of year. Eat better, drink more water, exercise more. We sign up for the gym and by May, we've lost the momentum and motivation to achieve our goals. Let's make this year different by experiment with fitness. Try something new outside of the gym.

Dance Away Dreariness

This year, take time to dance more. Dancing releases endorphins that energize the body and spirit and is a great way to have some fun. Whether you take a dance class to learn something new, get together with some friends for a night out at your new favorite club, or simply dance around your kitchen with your kiddos to lift your spirits at the end of a challenging day, make this year one that is full of dance and laughter.

Walking Work Meetings

When so many of us endure days at our desks, it is important that we take steps to live healthily. Instead of your weekly board meeting in conference room 3, suggest to your team that you take a walk and talk. This might not work for all meetings, but when possible, get your coworkers to lace up their sneakers and join you for a power walk while you hash out the latest updates and progress reports.

Love Your Local Flavor

It's easy to overlook the charm of the town or city you live in after a while. This year, make a commitment to rediscovering your city and all of the wonderful things that it offers. Explore the latest happenings at the local library, visit local museums, support local businesses by patronizing shops in your downtown shopping district, support your local theater, enjoy a night of music with a local band. There are so many fun and unique reasons to love your town and it's time to dive into the scene and experience the unique local flavor around you.

Try a Trampoline Park

Trampoline parks, both outdoor and indoor have become popular among families looking for something new and exciting to do together. One of the biggest draws of these parks is that parents get to play with their kids, rather than standing on the sidelines.


Staycations are a wonderful and relaxing way to have fun with family and friends. Take a few days or a week to relax locally, within a few hours of home; doing this allows for the benefits of a vacation without the stress and drawbacks of expensive travel and planning.

Find a Friend

Make 2020 the Year of the Friend. It can be tough to find friends for adults and families, but with the help of technology, it can be made easier. Peanut is an app made for moms to help them connect with others in their area that they might like to meet up with for play dates at the park or playground. Use online resources and apps to make real-life connections and find friends to share the fun with.

Play in the Pool

Swimming is an excellent way to have fun, relax, and get some exercise. And you don't need to own a pool to enjoy swimming. Many communities offer recreational swimming at community pools. You can also find a local hotel with an indoor or outdoor pool and book a room for a single night. This will give you access to the amenities to enjoy.

Join a Club

Take your hobby to the next level by joining a local club or group with the same shared interest. It can be so much fun to connect with others who share something you are passionate about. It can also help you reach new levels of mastery as you learn from others.

Find the Fun in Family

As with many things, fun also starts at home. Turn to your family, including kids, to brainstorm fun things that your family can do together. Allow for constructive conversation and include the kids in the decision-making to ensure that everyone has a say and the activities are varied.

Habits of Playful People

The Benefits of Being a Playful Person

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

Thursday, December 5, 2019

15 Vital Things Parents Should Know About Play

Photo by Skitterphoto (pixaby)

Play is an integral part of our children's growth and development, and outside of pure fun, there is so much to be gained from play. A healthy body and mind can both be aided by unstructured and structured playtime. The following are some of the many ways children can benefit from play immediately and in the long term.

Bonding through play

Play at any age or phase of development gives children and parents the opportunity to bond and learn about each other. During early development and young elementary, children and parents can develop deep connection and trust through play. The time and attention given to a child during uninterrupted play is invaluable in the bonding experience and can lay the foundation for a healthy parent/child relationship in the future.

Building motor skills through play

Play in many forms is an exercise in gross and fine motor skills, it allows children to practice important movements, focus, strength, and attention. Play is also an excellent way to observe a child's motor skills without interfering with the child's natural reactions and instincts.

Play to find balance

Finding a healthy balance between work, academics, family obligations, and fun is important in every family, because when one of these areas is out of whack, all others are impacted. When making a family schedule, it can be helpful to actually write playtime into the schedule, as that is often the first thing to go by the wayside when people get busy.

Play to reduce stress

When children are engaged in play, they may begin to relax. Nervous or anxious children may be more willing to engage when that engagement is facilitated through play. It is largely accepted that western culture values work and busyness over relaxation and play when compared to other parts of the world. Prioritizing play allows children to shed the weight of the day and relax without expectations or restraints.

Play to explore emotion

Dynamic play allows children to safely explore different emotions as they take on different personas through acting or role playing. This type of play also helps children to better understand a range of emotions from different perspectives. The emotional development practiced through play can translate into real-life application and help them to be more mindful, compassionate individuals.

Making the most of family time through play

Playing as a family, similar to bonding, helps to build a healthy parent/child relationship. It also facilitates important learning opportunities for children to help them to better understand what it means to be a team player, to share, and compromise. Children are observant and can learn a lot from watching their parents and other family members interact.

Children benefit academically from recess and play

Studies have shown the value of recess in our schools and we know that it is important for our children to exercise both their body and their mind daily. Play allows for a necessary mental break that helps in the processing of learned information. It also aids in a child's ability to focus in the classroom.

Leaving room for play is important for a child's mental health

Making time for play is important for a child's mental health. Again, in a culture that largely values full schedules and work, it is important that children be allowed to play in order to balance out the mental load of learning. Anxiety and stress may both be linked to a child being overscheduled or feeling great pressure to perform.

Promote a child's independence through play

Play is a great way for children to learn independence. Too often children are fed instructions on what they need to do and how they need to fill their time. Leaving a child to play without instruction challenges them to come to their own conclusions and empowers them to make decisions. Independent play also helps them to stretch their creative muscles.

Promote an active lifestyle through play

Play is a great way to instill in our children the importance of physical activity and allows them to explore movements that are healthy for their mind and body and bring them joy. If children are given the opportunity to play and exercise as a means of fun, they may be more likely to have a healthier approach to fitness as they grow and view it less as a chore.

Find more about the author: Kim Hart