Have you ever wondered if your child is getting to play enough? Many experts and educators believe that play is a major driver of early development in children. The more a child plays, the more they learn about themselves, and the world around them.
We asked certified play expert, Peter Reynolds, his opinions on screentime versus three-dimensional play, as well as the educational and developmental benefits of play. Peter is a veteran in the toy industry, having spent over 35 years with leading toy manufacturers such as HABA, Hape Toys, and BRIO. Throughout his career, as well as now with HABA USA, Peter continues to embrace the "power of play" in all aspects. See what he has to say about the importance of play below!
Is too much screentime really harmful? Why?
Authentic, fun three-dimensional play is a critical, major driver of early development. According to NPR, the brain is wired differently when you play with a screen versus an actual toy. Three dimensional play with a toy will help develop all parts of the brain by stimulating sight, sound, and touch, compared to two-dimensional play with a screen. If you give your child an iPad, the screen is driving the play. Three-dimensional play will allow a child to play without limits, as well as to master a toy, such as building blocks, and their brain will build more connections.
"Lack of authentic, three dimensional play and the substitution of two dimensional screens is an epidemic and is a major threat to the future of our children and our society."
Peter Reynolds, HABA USA
What is the age range mentioned on a toy's packaging based on?
The Consumer Product Safety Commission says that you have to adhere to safety guidelines, as well as to the "appropriateness" of the child. The greatest difficulty for manufacturers is that children grow in stages, not ages. People will always buy a toy for their two-year-old and three-year-old because they think they're exceptionally smart. Others will say that that same toy is too young for their child. It is challenging to discern what is appropriate for each child, and that is why the guidelines are so general.
"Children grow in stages, not ages."
Peter Reynolds, HABA USA
How would you communicate the educational value of a wooden toy over a battery operated toy to parents?
The thing with a battery-powered toy is that the child is instantly attracted to it, but ultimately, they will be less attracted to it because there's not a lot for them to do. With a battery operated toy, play is limited because a child can't play with it as an open-ended toy, whereas a train on a track encourages the child to pretend play and use the train in multiple ways. It's like being in the gym – you lift weights, and with time, you get bigger and stronger muscles. The child is working on his/her fine motor skills and cognitive skills by playing with a toy, such as matching all edges of the building blocks while stacking them. In essence, play is for children. They will show you what they want to play with if you give them the opportunity. Play is the only place where what you do with something consistently, connects all different parts of your brain.
"Let your child play themselves into Harvard."
Peter Reynolds, Haba USA
What is your opinion on future of educational play for young children under age of 5? Will there be more technological products and more apps?
Children are getting more and more screen time, and less and less "real" play time. We will have a society that is less compatible with life if we do not allow them to play with real toys. Children who have less play and less contact with human beings are likely to have a challenging future ahead, and can end up as the types of people who are not able to live a normal life.
Playing with toys is an important way for your child to express themselves, and their creativity. Play is the foundation for their education, as well as the rest of their lives. The next time your child picks up a toy,help them explore the toy, watch how they play, and watch them learn!
What are some of your child's favorite toys? Share with us in the comments!
Photo credits: Bonnie Garcia (feature photo, boy with ball)
Jenny Moloney (little girl with tiles)
Liz Hall (little girl with train)
Ashley Sorrendeguy (child with toys at bottom)