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June 6, 2017 | New York, NY – Most kids score an “A” in play – just watch them on the playground to see how easily they adapt to virtually any situation. But parents don’t get high grades when it comes to understanding the actual value of play, according to a panel of respected parenting experts and educators convened by The Genius of Play™ at The Children’s Museum of Manhattan. The panel’s findings are included in a new report now available to the public: “The State of Play in America,” A Special Report by The Genius of Play. The panel report offers guidance on key issues of concern to today’s parents and educators, including the growing role of tech in kids’ lives, safety concerns that may limit children’s independence, and the importance of recess or play breaks in aiding and encouraging learning.

According to panel moderator, parenting journalist Dana Points, play is more than fun and games – it’s essential. “Through play, children develop social, emotional, and cognitive skills they will use throughout life,” she says. “Yet the time kids spend playing has decreased due to overly structured schedules, increased screen time, and diminished recess in schools. Parents need to recognize how crucial play is – and how they can help their children learn, explore, create, and evolve through play.”

The experts’ consensus: parents are faced with dozens of decisions every day, from monitoring their kids’ health, education, and safety, to deciding how best to teach them skills they will need as adults. They often forget about carving out time for play – or, they erroneously dismiss play as “empty time.” However, The Genius of Play, along with many other child-focused organizations and educators, has evidence that play is one of the most essential elements of learning.


  • There's no "right way" to play.
    Kids learn through all play, but not all play must be structured and not all play is the same. Kids may take part in active, cooperative, creative, and even solitary play in a single afternoon, with and without actual toys.
  • Play is a strategy for learning.
    Enrolling children in a program to learn a particular skill is not the same as just letting kids play. The pressure parents feel to make sure their kids are getting the best training can be counterproductive to the positive emotional, social, and skill-based learning they get through play.
  • Recess is not empty time
    Recess can actually help kids learn. Research shows that children, particularly boys, are much more attentive after recess, and children are less attentive when there are longer periods before recess.
  • Kids today are safer than ever.
    While parents have a natural concern for their children’s safety, statistics show kids today are safer than ever. Parents need to teach their kids problem-solving skills to help them make better decisions and then set certain parameters in terms of knowing where they are, giving them space, and trusting their judgment. That’s how kids learn to be independent and confident, which prepares them for success in life.
  • Technology can be a great teaching tool, but parents need to guide the process.
    Parents should give kids time to explore virtual worlds and tech-based play, but set limits, just as they do with everything else. Parents can also be role models in how to use technology in a responsible way.
  • Let kids lead play – it’s their agenda, not yours.
    We learn much more from our children when we interact and play with them on their terms. Just being present plays a significant role. It’s important to have a caring and consistent adult in a child’s life.

“Play, in all its forms, from a simple game of catch to creating an imaginary world with dolls, has been shown to help build skills that create happier, healthier, and more successful children,” notes panelist Leslie Bushara of the Children’s Museum of Manhattan. “Play is truly the ‘work of childhood,’ and play is a strategy for teaching children how to adapt to new situations, interact with others, and solve problems which prepares them for success in school and life."

Moderated by veteran journalist Dana Points, former editor-in-chief of Parents and Fit Pregnancy and Baby, the panel included: Nancy Schulman, head of the Early Learning Center at Avenues: The World School; Kim McCall, New York/New Jersey executive director of Playworks; Dr. Erik Fisher, author and emotional dynamics expert; and Leslie Bushara, a key member of the Children’s Museum of Manhattan’s education team.

“The State of Play in America,” A Special Report by The Genius of Play can be downloaded at

About The Genius of Play ™
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. Visit for easily accessible play ideas and tips, expert advice and other play resources. It’s More Than Play!