By Lisa Newman ι Nov. 15, 2013

“When you asked me what I did in school today and I say, ‘I just played.’ Please don’t misunderstand me. For you see, I am learning as I play. I am learning to enjoy and be successful in my work. Today I am a child and my work is play.” — Anita Wadley

Have you and your family visited the library’s Imagination Station, taken a stroll through oneImagination Station of the Born Learning Trails located at Oakdale or Kennedy parks, or played in the new sound garden located at Oakdale Park? (These are just a few free and fun places in our community where you and your children can play.) If you haven’t had a chance, I’d encourage you to put these on your to-do list. Additionally, here are a few tips for you to make play time for your children more rich and meaningful:

Provide sufficient time for play. Children need time to explore an activity, make up a story or wrestle with a playmate. They become frustrated if play is interrupted often or is cut short. Chewing on and exploring a new toy takes time as an infant. Fashioning a pyramid out of blocks takes time. Inventing a game with neighborhood children takes time. Parents should allow children to play in sufficiently large blocks of time for imagination to develop and interactions to take place.

Arrange for variety in play experiences. Different kinds of play lead to different kinds of learning experiences. Picture or story books help with concentration. Balls help develop coordination and motor skills. Dress-up clothes provide for creativity and social interaction. Often, giving children fewer toys of a wider variety is more important than dozens of complicated toys.

Explore play with children. Children enjoy directing their own play much of the time but can benefit and gain ideas from a parent’s feedback or example. For example, introduce a child to a new game such as kickball or help him or her fashion a pyramid out of building blocks. Children will enjoy your involvement and you can model play for them. Also, you can enjoy yourself!

Respond to a child’s invitation to play. Play with adults can help children develop as they learn to sing, play catch, listen to stories, create art work or engage in other play activities. Say “yes” when a child asks you to play with him or her.

Help children have positive play interactions with others. Parents can help children learn to have positive play interactions with other children. Assist children to engage with each other and begin play experiences, provide guidance if needed and aid them in resolving concerns or disagreements if necessary.

Taking time to play as a family is important. Family activities help develop strong bonds, which can last a lifetime. Families who play together are more cooperative, supportive and have better communication.

Consider coming to a Bonding Thru Board Games program on the second Friday of each Bonding Thru Board Gamesmonth at 4 p.m. at the library in the Youth Services department. Playing board games is a win-win for families. Games allow parents to teach children to take turns, how to win, as well as how to lose. More importantly, games allow families to have an enjoyable time together.

Hope to see you Dec. 13!

Lisa Newman


Lisa Newman, Family Development Agent, K-State Research and Extension Central Kansas District, can be reached at 309-5850 or by email at