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In these unprecedented and uncertain times, play is critical to physical and emotional well-being, helping both kids and adults decompress and stay positive while providing countless learning opportunities.

“With families encouraged to practice social distancing and many schools closed, it’s more important than ever to keep playing together as a family,” says Anna Yudina, senior director of marketing initiatives, The Toy Association. “Play not only sparks joy, but has numerous benefits for kids and parents alike.”

To help families make the most of their time together, The Genius of Play, a national movement to educate parents and caregivers about play’s vital role in child development, has launched “Play Today,” a new online destination for families to stay well and play on. As part of the initiative, they are sharing play ideas and inspiration to keep kids busy and engaged.

Reasons to play today

• Play offers six key developmental benefits, helping kids hone their physical, emotional, cognitive, creative, social and communication skills.

• Research points to a direct correlation between play and stress reduction. In stressful times, play can bring comfort and relieve anxiety for everyone.

• Play stimulates little minds and keeps children engaged and learning even as schools remain closed.

• Play provides an outlet for creativity and imagination, lifting spirits and delivering much-needed positive emotions.

• Play brings families together and is an opportunity to make lasting memories that will live long after the current crisis is over.

How to play

• Let the kids lead the way! Encourage children to share how they want to play and to use their imaginations, plus things they have around the house, to put their ideas into action.

• Use toys to dial up fun and enhance learning. From stuffed animals, action figures and dolls to construction sets and science kits, there are thousands of toys that can ignite kids’ curiosity and spark hours of play and hands-on exploration. The American Academy of Pediatrics has acknowledged the importance of high-quality toys in early childhood to facilitate cognitive development, language interactions, symbolic and pretend play, problem-solving, social interactions and physical activity.

• For the most beneficial play and to create the most fun, it’s important for parents to select toys that match their children’s interests, abilities and developmental skills. For a research-based toy and play guide, parents and caregivers can visit TheGeniusofPlay.org.

• Use technology to connect with others. Throw a virtual dance party or take the kids on a field trip to their favorite zoo or museum.

• Get active. From “Simon Says” to action hero role play to musical chairs, there are endless ways to be active. Modeling fun physical activities can help instill the importance of movement.

Get inspired

Free online resources are available to provide families with play inspiration. The Genius of Play’s #PlayToday hub offers indoor and virtual play ideas, expert advice, and lots of games for families of all sizes to help them make the most of their time together. To access this information, as well as at-home learning resources for social distancing and expert tips from leaders in education and child development, visit TheGeniusofPlay.org.

“With families suddenly spending more time at home, there has never been a better time to play than today,” says Yudina.

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