The Genius of Play understands the importance of fun. Play is very important for children, a fact that an organization known as The Genius of Play has been actively promoting for years. The Genius of Play is a national movement to raise awareness of play’s vital role in child development, spearheaded by the Toy Association. Deeply rooted in research and facts, The Genius of Play is a leading resource on the physical, cognitive, social and emotional benefits of play that serve children throughout their lives. The Genius of Play enables today’s busy parents and caretakers to use the power of play to help raise a happier, healthier, and more productive next generation.
The Genius of Play recently partnered with Scholastic to create an educational program to help parents and elementary school teachers nationwide learn about the valuable skills and benefits of play for children. The program launched in March of 2018 and runs through the summer months, during which parents and educators can access activities, resources, and more at Scholastic.com/thegeniusofplay.
The Genius of Play, a nonprofit initiative dedicated to promoting the importance of play in children’s learning and development, today announced its educational program collaboration with Scholastic. The program aims to help parents and elementary school teachers nationwide learn about the valuable skills and benefits of play for children in grades 2-5. Parents and educators can access resources, activities, and more at Scholastic.com/thegeniusofplay.
The Genius of Play experts suggest that children have a balance of indoor and outdoor play, quiet and active play, traditional and digital play, and activities done alone and in a group, as play is critical to a child’s learning, success, and well-being. The organization’s joint collaboration with Scholastic will offer parents and educators a digital destination featuring printable activities for school and home, as well as resources, ideas, research, and more information from TheGeniusofPlay.org.
The website also provides teachers with suggested easy-to-implement lesson plans featuring fun ways to incorporate play into classrooms while meeting higher academic standards, with a focus on activities that enhance literacy and math skills. Parents will have access to take-home print materials with play ideas for busy days and suggestions of new games to try both indoors and outdoors.
There is a wealth of research that clearly shows the important impact of play on the brain. The benefits of play-infused learning is remarkable. Hence, it is critical that parents and educators alike have easy access to play-based activities that are designed to enhance children’s physical, emotional, social, cognitive, creative, and communicative development. Since its launch in June 2015, The Genius of Play has generated over 1.5 billion impressions and 15 million engagements among target audience. The initiative was nominated for the 2015 Shorty Awards in the non-profit category.
Recently Anna Yudina, the Director of Marketing Initiatives of the Toy Association, granted Kidskintha an exclusive interview where she discussed the benefits of fun and how The Genius of Play is promoting these concepts and implementing them in educational institutions.
Meagan Meehan (MM): How did you initially get interested in working with toys and games and how did you find your way into the Toy Association?
Anna Yudina (AY): I used to work for a toy company in a product development role, so I learned a lot about making toys that are both fun and beneficial to children. When I was offered the opportunity to help The Toy Association build The Genius of Play initiative, it immediately resonated with me because of the potential to make a difference in the lives of kids and help our society embrace play as a critical part of raising the next generation.
MM: How did you get involved with The Genius of Play and can you explain a bit about the backstory of its formation?
AY: The Genius of Play was formed with the ultimate goal of helping parents raise happier and healthier kids through the power of play. Play in today’s society has a little bit of a marketing problem. While experts and researchers can go on and on about the benefits of play, parents often dismiss it as “unproductive” time. Even in families with kids as young as pre-school age, priorities are often given to formal education and organized activities, and it becomes more intense as the child grows older. Unfortunately, this often leads to a host of negative consequences, including increased stress and anxiety, reduced creativity, and poor social skills. We started The Genius of Play to help counteract these negative effects and provide parents with facts, tips and ideas to inspire more play.
MM: This group has cited some wonderful research about the benefits of play. Were you surprised by just how beneficial play actually is to kids?
AY: Believe it or not, I was! Even though I worked for a toy company before and knew intuitively that play was important, I did not realize just how much it impacts every area of child development. Some connections are less obvious than others. For example, in one study young children who played with building bricks had significantly higher language scores six months later, compared to a control group.
MM: How do you find researchers to work with and do you actively seek new play-based studies?
AY: We go to a lot of conferences and also research experts who are passionate about play online and on social media. This allows us to stay on top of any new information and studies about play. For example, there was a very interesting study that came out last year and linked superhero play with developing tenacity and grit. Kids who were asked to perform boring tasks while pretending to be a superhero were more likely to complete the task.
MM: What prompted The Genius of Play to partner with Scholastic and how do you think this collaboration will benefit both organizations?
AY: We are always looking for new ways to share the information and resources we have with a larger audience of both parents and educators. Scholastic was impressed with our research and the practical tips and ideas we offer to parents. We decided to collaborate to develop educational materials that would help bring more play to the classroom, while inspiring families to play more.
MM: Why did you decide to create an educational program centered around play and how exactly does the curriculum work?
AY: Our vision was to create a program that would offer something to both teachers and parents. For teachers, there are play-based lesson plans for grades 2-5, with a focus on activities that enhance literacy and math skills. Parents will find downloadable materials with facts about play and quick ideas they can do with their kids both indoors and outdoors, as well as resources, research, ideas and more from TheGeniusofPlay.org. All program materials can be accessed through a dedicated microsite at Scholastic.com/thegeniusofplay.
MM: How many subjects are you planning to teach via this debut program and which toys are being used?
AY: I just wanted to clarify that the goal of this partnership is to provide content and materials that can be utilized for teaching rather than teach specific subject matter. There are many different categories of toys that could be used to enhance the activities, including dolls and action figures, dress-up costumes, construction sets, science kits, arts & crafts, and many more. While we do not feature any specific brands, the program provides suggestions of the types of toys appropriate for each lesson plan.
MM: Do you think toys can teach better than textbooks in the majority of cases?
AY: It is important to remember that these are not mutually exclusive. In fact, it’s the combination that’s the most powerful. Textbooks are great for teaching very specific information, while toys can facilitate unstructured, open-ended play that nurtures fundamental skills and abilities such as problem-solving, imagination, and social-emotional intelligence. Toys are also generally more fun than textbooks, and there is a lot of evidence that we learn best when we are engaged and enjoying the learning process.
MM: If this program is successful, do you think that certain schools—likely privates or charters—might implement entirely play-based curriculums?
AY: Schools that rely on play-based curriculums already exist, but we hope that there will be a lot more of them. One of our experts, Dr. Debora Wisneski, wrote an insightful article on the benefits of play-based preschools. Parents can have a lot of impact by choosing an educational environment for their child that encourages playful learning.
MM: Do you think the rise in homeschooling and cyber schooling will impact the popularity of play?
AY: A lot of The Genius of Play fans and supporters homeschool their children, so I think there is definitely a connection. At the same time, homeschooling is more of an exception than a rule. We need all parents to embrace play and make it a higher priority in raising their kids.
MM: What other programs and/or studies is The Genius of Play currently working on?
AY: That would be a very long list! Right now, we are gearing up for a live expert panel event at the Smithsonian Museum in April. We are also about to release a special report on the role of digital play, with tips to help parents make educated choices when it comes to choosing traditional and digital media for their kids. In addition, we publish new expert advice on our website and have recently launched a series of Facebook Live chats with our experts. The best way to take advantage of all the information and free resources that we offer is to follow us on social media and check TheGeniusofPlay.org for updates.
MM: How do you hope The Genius of Play will evolve over the next decade?
AY: We envision The Genius of Play to become a well-known, trusted, go-to resource for parents and caregivers to learn about the importance of play and access easily actionable ideas on how to incorporate play into their children’s daily lives. We are also looking to work more with the education system on ways to bring more play to our schools, such as infusing curriculums with play and empowering all teachers to utilize play as a key educational tool. In the long term, we may be exploring the relationship between play and healing and possibly even expanding the concept of The Genius of Play beyond kids to emphasize the importance of play for everyone.
MM: Is there anything else you would like to mention?
AY: Just two words – GO PLAY!
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Meagan J. Meehan is a published author, poet, cartoonist, and produced playwright. She pens columns for the Great South Bay Magazine, Blasting News, and Entertainment Vine. She is also a stop-motion animator and an award-winning abstract artist. Meagan holds a BA in English Literature and a MA in Communication. She is also an animal advocate and a fledging toy and game designer.
Meagan is a contributing editor to Kidskintha writing on Toys, Games, Entertainment, and other topics that are happy and fun!