Why do children NEED to play? 4 big reasons to support play in preschool.

With rapid shifts in values within our education systems (which often don't align with early childhood research), we are quickly losing sight of the importance and value of play for preschoolers and early elementary aged children.  Many families still value play but for others the worry and concern for future academics has prompted parents to drive preschools to adopt more structured curricula.

Here are some (because there are many) reasons children NEED to play:

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Midtown Lutheran Preschool Highlights: Fall 2014

We did it!  We are half way through our second year of operation of our play-based and bilingual preschool with happy kids and families.  Below are photos from August through December!  It's amazing how quickly our children grow and how much they learn!  We are grateful for the children, the parents, and Redeemer supporting and encouraging us along the way!

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"I have to talk to my preschooler about what?!"

One of the hardest parts of parenting is discussing and addressing hard topics with a child – death, sexuality, “bad” people, homelessness, bullying, current events, etc.  Even though we know the questions will come, we are never quite ready, are we?

Here are some tips to reflect upon, and prepare you, for when those questions arrive because they will!

1. Understand your personal values.

Make sure as you become a parent and your child grows you know how you, and your partner, feel about certain things.  If you don't hold a specific view on an issue, or your view is open, that's okay, but own it and be ready to explain honestly to your child you aren't sure about something either.  It’s similar to apologizing to your child – admitting you don’t know something, or need time to think about an answer, shows your humanity and vulnerability.  Don’t be afraid to be direct and honest about your family values. 

2.  Have direct conversations.

Answer questions as clearly as you can and only the question asked – no more, no less.  Take a moment to breathe and give thought to your answer and explain to your child it's what you are doing.  They’ll wait.  Do not avoid topics or tell your child to not ask “that” question.  These reactions lead to fear and shame and your child will find answers elsewhere - likely places you may not want influencing him/her.  Additionally, if your child is asking you questions which raise red flags about a person in their life, school, etc. make sure to calmly inquire further and make sure your child is safe and secure. It is our job to find out what might be beneath concerning inquiries.

3. Model your values and views.

A parent can answer all questions by the book but if you aren't living in a way in which reflects what you say your child will notice.  As you reflect on your values and views be sure your life expresses your true feelings.  Again, if issues arise where you're not sure where you stand, express this to your child.  Current events are a great example where as adults we might be collecting information about a topic and have not come to a conclusion or opinion.  Explain the process of reflections and your thinking to your child as this is modeling thoughtful and wise behavior.

4. Understand, and remember, questions and imaginative play can be ways for children work out feelings and consequently build trust with you.

Children’s behavior and questions can make us uncomfortable and worried.  Be sure to support your child when they are working through confusing and curious times in their life.  Being open, honest, and supportive will build trust and reinforce them turning to you for answers, not others.  Be watchful of their behavior but avoid shaming and embarrassing them if what they ask, or play out, makes you uncomfortable. If you're unsure about their behavior, ask questions so you can figure out from where inquiries and curiosities are coming.  Directly tell your child you are happy he/she asks you questions and explain how you and home are safe places to talk about hard things.

How have you handled hard questions and topics in the past? How will you handle them in the future?

Gift Giving for Preschoolers

It's that time of year when gift guides are roaming the internet and Facebook feeds.  So, I have gathered my favorite ideas to pass along.  These are all great for preschoolers but will also hopefully give you creative gift ideas for all ages.

Experiences and Time

Giving the gift of time is my favorite.  My first reason for this being people tend to remember experiences over things.  The other reason I love this one is it doesn't fill anyone’s home with stuff.  Time experiences to give would be tickets to events, theater or museum, memberships to area attractions, or a meal out.

Subscription Gifts

Many great gifts come in subscription form from magazines (there are many for preschool age) to monthly treat packages. NatureBox is a company that sends monthly healthy snacks, Kiwi Crate sends projects and crafts, and Little Passports sends global learning activities.


From traditional wood unit blocks to Legos and Duplos blocks are a great toy.   Other block ideas are items like pattern/tangram blocks, magnetic blocks (like Magnatile brand), and Lincoln Logs.  Children practice many skills while playing with blocks like spatial, math, engineering and creativity.

Imaginative play

Think about all the ways a child might make-believe.

Playmobil is a favorite brand of ours with many diverse themes kids will love.  Not all figurines need to be fighting action figures.  There are also many gender neutral dollhouse figures and sets (like those from Hape brand) and stuffed animals can be used for make-believe too. 

Others that will add to a child’s imaginative play stash are puppets, dress-up outfits (remember, you could hit up sections at your local thrift store), and child-sized kitchen center or woodworking area.

Physical Activity Toys

Classics like bikes (look into balance bikes for kids 18 months and older), balls, scooters, t-ball stands, soccer goals are all fabulous toys to take life outdoors and make wonderful gifts.  Just don’t forget the helmet with a riding toy purchase!  Safety first!


Look for board and card games age-appropriate for your child.  Peaceable Kingdom has many cooperative and simple games for early learners that parents will enjoy too.  Puzzles are another activity that are educational and fun for kids.

Books and Music

Books make great gifts! Holidays and birthdays are a nice time to spend a little extra and invest in hardback picture books. Check out the American Library Association's list for notable books of the year HERE.

Consider giving music for your children to listen to and/or musical instruments for them to play.  The blog Let's Play Kid's Music has a great list HERE.


Science makes great gifts.  Hit up an educational toy store for fun science kits and check out Insect Lore online for bug kits and supplies (although you will likely want to wait for spring or summer to have bugs delivered).

Craft Supplies

Always searching for supplies when your child feels like painting, coloring, gluing?  Make a box full of supplies into a gift that can be pulled out quickly when requested.  Include an assortment of these items: crayons, markers, paint, paintbrushes, paper, glue, tape, 3-D items (pompoms, pipe cleaners, cotton balls, popsicle sticks).

Utilitarian Items

You would be amazed how excited kids will get about useful items.  Use gift-giving times to give a cute umbrella or pair of rain boots, real kid-sized tool set, a fun lunchbox with and water bottle, or a backpack or suitcase.  Think about what your child needs and a fun way to give the item and make him/her excited about it.

Do you plan to give any items like the above this year?  Who are the recipients? 

Any ideas of your own to add to the list?