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Being Playful

An Essential Part of Childhood

Play is the most natural behavior of us humans. It may also turn out to be the most important behavior, especially in children.

Recent studies over the past decade show that play develops creativity and social and emotional skills — not to mention healthy bodies and an active style of living. Play builds self confidence, develops problem solving abilities and lets children take ownership of their work. Unfortunately, research shows that play seems to be vanishing from children's lives. Play Research and Trends

Children Play at Habitot Children's Museum

Our Exhibits Let Children Choose

At Habitot, we embrace the sometimes untidy business of unstructured play by providing a safe and contained place for it. Imaginative, intimate exhibit areas allow young children to choose their own play, to decide how long or how little they will play in each area.

Exhibits are multisensory and are thoughtfully designed to encourage children to interact socially — like two steering wheels on most pretend vehicles and curvy edges on the waterplay tables so that children can be really close. The diversity of children at Habitot provides opportunities for interacting, planning together, negotiating, and for taking on and sharing roles in dramatic play, all critical skills in school and in life.

There are no rules for how to use the many loose parts. Children often take fruits and vegetables from the Little Grocery Store into the Rocketship exhibit — evidence of two-year olds planning ahead for eating on their space voyage — or to float down the River Ramp — a classic experiment in cause and effect.

“I think a big part of free play is having space to do it in, a space that isn’t ruled over by adults,” says Joan Almon, executive director of the Alliance for Childhood.

What does true play look like?

Adult Role is Critical

Adults play an important role in facilitating children's play, both at Habitot and at home. Parents must be willing to tolerate a little more unpredictability and a little less structure. They must be willing to allow children to choose. Children more than welcome their participation — as long as it doesn't mean taking over or doing it the adult way. Parents must put down the mobile phones, and “and just sit down and have fun,” say kids.

What can adults do to facilitate play?

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