Anna Yudina has been leading the non-profit Genius of Play initiative to educate parents and caregivers about the benefits of play and provide families with fun and free resources to make play an important part of every day.
380 The Power of Play
How can you encourage creativity, emotional regulation, problem-solving, and resilience in your child? PLAY!
Free play is absolutely vital for a child’s life. In this episode I talk to Anna Yudina from The Genius of Play, who reminds us that there is no substitute for free, unstructured play for kids and we parents have to protect that time. We also talk about TOYS—what are the essentials your kid needs?
The Power of Play - Anna Yudina 
*This is an auto-generated transcript*
[00:00:00] Anna Yudina: The science says that unstructured play is great for building this feeling of self-awareness and discovering your passions.
[00:00:12] Hunter: You are listening to the Mindful Mama Podcast, episode number 380. Today we're talking about the power of play with Anna Udina.
Welcome to the Mindful Mama podcast. Here it's about becoming a less irritable, more joyful parent. At Mindful Mama, we know that you cannot give what you do not have. And when you have calm and peace within, then you can give it to your children. I'm your host Hunter Clarkfield. I help smart, thoughtful parents stay calm so they can have strong, connected relationships with their children.
I've been practicing mindfulness for over 20 years. I'm the crater of Mindful parent. And I'm the author of the best selling book, raising Good Humans, A Mindful Guide to Breaking the Cycle of Reactive Parenting, and Raising Kind confident Kids. Welcome back my friend. If you have not done so yet, please hit that subscribe button so you don't ever miss any of these great episodes.
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In just a moment, I'm going to be sitting down with Anna Udina, who has been leading the nonprofit genius of play initiative to educate parents and caregivers about the benefits of play and provide families with fun and free resources to make play an important part of every day. And I love this because I've been a little bit obsessed.
Play. I think recently just it makes me so sad to see the lack of time that kids have for play. We talked recently about the power of outdoor play with Angela Hanscomb in episode 375, so make sure you listen to that. And we talked about it in episode 3 73 with Peter Gray, the. On play and learning. So there's so much there.
This is so important. We're going to talk to Anna Udina about it as well. Anna reminds us that there is absolutely no substitute for free unstructured play for kids, and we as parents really have to protect that time. And we also talk about what toys are the essentials that your kids need. I know you're gonna.
This episode, so join me at the table as I talk to Anna Udina. Okay. I am so thrilled to talk about play, and I'm really excited to talk about ways we can encourage kids to have screen free play, and so we're gonna get to some of those ideas with that, but, I know now that things are really different right now than they used to be with kids.
Probably when you and I were little or whatever, I mean I, what I see now, I mean what kids have a lot less time to play now than they used to. Is that correct?
[00:03:12] Anna Yudina: I think you are right. Kids are busy , everybody is busy these days, and there is this thing called overscheduling, which is. Something that happens to a lot of families, cuz there's so much to do.
There is school, there's work, there's social activities, there are a lot of structured activities. So a lot of kids participate in organized sports, for instance. They take dance classes, they take language classes, math, there's all those enrichment and extra curriculum activities. , those are fantastic because they allow kids to choose something extra and meet other kids and explore and learn but the important thing to remember is balance.
So I always go back and you will hear me say that a lot, going back to that idea of balance between structure, structured and organized, and something that's more like work and what we call. . And what is play? Play is usually unstructured. It is spontaneous. It's fun. It's something that, that a kid just wants to do.
It doesn't have to be planned for, it does not have to have a specific learning goal. So that kind of free exploration, imagination, creativity is. Very important. And the types of skills that kids build from that kind of play are a little bit different from what they would learn in a dance class, let's say.
And you're right, we are seeing that because kids are doing so many other things and, school demands and everything that unfortunately, sometimes it's just there's no time for play. By the end of the day it's like you've done your checklist, you've done a lot of things, but have you actually played, have you had.
Downtime, should do something just for fun.
[00:05:11] Hunter: So it's, and interesting is you work for a nonprofit that promotes play and it seems like crazy that we should even need that. You know what I mean? Like that , because play is something that all mammals do, right? Little lions are playing in the Savannah like kittens and puppies are playing like squirrels.
I saw these like three squirrels outside my window going crazy, playing. So we're seeing it like in the whole animal kingdom, yet we're just to, we're taking that time that kids need to play a away from them and they're missing some important benefits.
And I think this is important to just underscore, and this is so interesting, and I'm sure you probably know about what's his name? Stuart Brown who did the play histories of all these people. And so Stuart Brown did this research of all the play histories of like 6,000. I don't forget what it was like.
And then all of these serial killers, which was so fascinating. Yes. And he found out that the one thing they all had in common was that they were not allowed to do unstructured imaginative play as a kid was so crazy. So maybe you can talk to that and then what are some of the benefits that you know, our kids really need from this unstructured play?
[00:06:34] Anna Yudina: Absolutely, and I'm so glad you mentioned Dr. Stewart Brown. So he really is an authoritative researcher of play and what he did, he looked at incarcerated people who committed those horrible crimes, and he reconstructed their childhood memories and their childhood histories, like you mentioned.
And what he found was that one common element was they all. Play deprivation. So what he said that the opposite of play is not work. , the opposite of play is actually depression. The evolutionary importance of play is complex, but it also is simple. So basically play is how kids are wired to learn and not only learn, but also develop social connections and develop emotional skills like empathy, right?
When you think about people who commit those horrible. And we read about their psychological profiles. A lot of times what they have in common is they lack empathy. What is empathy? They're not able to relate to other people to understand their feelings. That is the problem, and that is exactly the kinds of skills that kids are learning in play.
So they may not be learning necessarily that shoe by. For, but because a lot of play is happening in social situations with other kids or with other adults, and it is extremely important to understand how your play partner is feeling, what they're going through and relating to people through play. In fact, on the subject of empathy, I wanna mention a groundbreaking study that was done by Mattel.
About two years ago it studied doll plays specifically, so kids playing with dolls, and the study was super cutting edge. They actually used neuroscience and they scanned the the brain activity of the kids who were playing with dolls. And what they found was that the same areas were activated that are responsible for the development of empathy.
So when kids were playing with dolls, even when they were playing on their own, let's say there's no other, kid in the room or adult, it's just, playing with your favorite doll. But kids were developing, they were activating the same regions in the brain as we use, should develop.
Feelings of empathy. So that just goes show that play has this very deep evolutionary importance, even on the neuro neurological level. It is happening literally in our brains.
[00:09:26] Hunter: It's so fascinating because you think about what we've been programmed to push on kids, right? Is like learning, like literacy and learning all these academic skills.
But the truth is that, like you said, you're not learning. Two plus two is four, but nobody. Almost needs to know that anymore, because we have computers at our fingertips. And some of the most, those kind of skills are actually, memorization skills or the, that kind of, they're actually in some ways like not as valuable anymore.
And in fact, the skills that are more valuable are, these are interpersonal skills. Those are the one. Can't be outsourced. That, that the skill of being able to relate to another human being, the empathy, creativity, right? That's incredibly important for the future. That can't be outsourced either, right?
We need to we, that those are, these are the most important skills that our kids need and they're developed in this kind of play.
[00:10:28] Anna Yudina: Absolutely, and I'm so glad you mentioned creativity because there was a survey of CEOs of the largest corporations in the world, and basically it asked, what are the most important skills of employees?
What are you looking for in the people who are going to work for your company? And the number one skill was creativity. And the reason probably is, as they say, the world is so complex now, the technology is moving forward so fast that a lot of jobs that people will have to do 20 years from now, 30 years from now, 50 years from now, they simply do not exist today.
You are. Sending a kid to school, they're learning two by two is four. They're learning a lot of different things, but at the end of the day, that can all be different in 30 years when they will actually be in the workforce. But one thing that is not going to be different, it's ability to solve problems and to think out of the box and to try different things and to learn from failure and going back to play.
A lot of play, especially free unstructured play. It's that kind of exploration and it's that trial and failure. And I always use this example of you're building a tower, for instance, right? And you're almost done and it's tall, and you put that last block building block and it all comes tumbling down because you didn't.
Think about gravity you didn't measure, right? Or your little brother runs into the room and knocks the tower over. You have to start all over again for different reasons. But basically it demonstrates that a lot of times we fail, we don't achieve our goals at the very first attempt. And if you look at how kids play, there is like this constant trial and error there is constant.
Let me try this. Oh, okay. It didn't work. It fell. Why, what can I do differently and. The good thing about play is that it's like this risk free zone. So you can try as many times and fail and learn as many times as you like. You're not gonna be penalized for that. It's not an exam. So a lot of what's happening in schools, and you mentioned that, you know there are test scores, they.
memorization, things that are supposed to happen. There is like very specific knowledge and answers, let's say, that kids are supposed to know to certain questions. So that can be very stressful. And that is also, there is one question. There is only one right answer, right? So on a test it's either this or that.
If you take a multiple choice, it's either E, a, B, and C. It's not either or all of them. But in life, a lot of times should solve really complex questions at work, in science, in art, in pretty much any area of life. The answers are not so straightforward, and you have to try different things, and you have to have this resilience and creativity.
Let me, okay, this didn't work. What else can I do? How can I try to approach it from a totally different perspective? And those are the kinds of things that happen naturally in play. It allows kids to unleash that creativity and really try those things in a risk free zone that they're comfort.
Comfortable doing those things, unlike in school or, on a test, right? When you can get penalized for getting the answer wrong. .
[00:14:11] Hunter: Yeah. Yeah. Or even, these things you mentioned this trial and error, failure and innovation, and then even going back to empathy and things like that, like those, we should also mention that those are things that don't happen as much right.
In structured play. So sometimes we think, oh, it's. It's like safer. It's a better bet for my kid to be in like a, a little soccer league or with a play that's structured by an adult. They think people think that's safer because maybe kids won't get in as many arguments and the adult will be there to figure things out or anything.
But there's some things you're missing and that kind of structured environment that, that are coming through right in free play that we should, I wanna just underscore
[00:14:55] Anna Yudina: here. Absolutely. . Yeah, absolutely. And I always, again, go back to that idea of balance. Structured activities are great and there is a lot that kids can learn from team sports and following the rules and knowing the structure is important and how to navigate those group dynamics.
But the unstructured play is especially great for creativity, but also for building that feeling of independence and being able to figure out what you wanna do, how you wanna structure it, what. What it is that you wanna achieve. So those really important, I think self self organizational qualities, self-direction.
What I think I'm trying to say is the self-direction, right? What happens? I think when kids are constantly in activities that are organized by adults. Sometimes they lose that sense of what they want to do and what is the direction that they wanna take? Cuz everything has been organized, have everything has been pre-planned.
But in life. The truth is that ultimately it is up to us. , how to structure our own path, what kind of career you wanna pursue, what kind of education? What are your passions? What are you interested in? Your mom and dad, they're unfortunately, as much as they love you, they're not gonna be able to answer those questions for you completely, cuz the answer needs to come from inside yourself.
From your knowledge of yourself and knowledge of your passions, and that can get lost unfortunately in those structured activities where you constantly shuffled from this thing and that and everything is predetermined. So the science says that unstructured play is great for building this feeling of self-awareness and discovering your passions and.
what do you really like to do for fun? That is a very important question to answer, and we know that the biggest success in career and in life comes from that convergence of your passions and what you truly enjoy. And then the opportunities and the training, and all the formal hard work that you invest, into becoming who you wanna be.
But without passion, without truly loving what you do, it is very hard to achieve success no matter how much formal training you have. Yeah,
[00:17:30] Hunter: It's interesting, even when you think about, like, when I've heard people talk about like intelligence or I was talking to some nurse, listen to yourself, neuroscientists talk about intelligence and thinking about the idea that you can't, you absolutely cannot.
Measure any kind of intelligence outside of interest, right? Outside of what you like. What you're describing. Passion. Like when we have passionate interests, like we have massive amounts of intelligence in something, right? And that's when we get this sort of drive. That's so fascinating. But one more thing before we get to the screen free activities that we can encourage.
What about also I was thinking. Don't kids like play out their feelings? Isn't this also something, this sort of e emotional development is something that's important that's in, associated with the free unstructured play?
[00:18:22] Anna Yudina: Absolutely. Super important. And I'm sure that you are reading about it as much as I am the mental health crisis, right?
Amongst kids and adults, but kids especially of all the different ages , the emotional benefits of play are super important because what you said is absolutely true. Play is how kids process their difficult emotions. They're processing what is happening in their life, whatever they're going through.
It may be something they went to childcare or kindergarten and there was a conflict, or maybe an adult yelled at them or they got into an argument over a toy and. That comes with certain emotional burden and the kids, they would use play to basically process those emotions. So you might see a kid get into an argument with his teddy bear or the true toys, had an argument, a doll, and.
A toy soldier had an argument and that would be a way it may be funny to look at, but it's actually, it's not funny. It's deep and it's absolutely important cuz that allows them to work through those emotions and develop this self-regulation and also emotional resilience so that, They know how to respond to those kinds of feelings the next time that they experience those kind of emotions.
So emotional benefits of place. Super important for that healthy mental development and emotional development, and that's one side of it. The other side of it is just the stress relief. and the outlet that play provides. A lot of play is happy moments. It's laughter, it's active, so kids are burning calories and also burning stress away.
So balancing play with sit down activities with schoolwork, with structured activities is also important cuz otherwise you're not providing this stress relief. So things. Building up, but they're not fighting an outlet so there is that as well. It's processing emotions, but it's also just giving your yourself an emotional outlet through play.
[00:20:38] Hunter: Yeah. Yeah. You gotta burn that off for
[00:20:41] Anna Yudina: sure. It works. I do it all the time. You know what? I've had a bad day. I go and I take a class, a fitness class, . . And I move, I dance, I, whatever I should. And it helps all the time.
[00:20:58] Hunter: Yeah, I'm with you. I'm totally with you there. So we know that we don't really, there's a whole bunch of there are some like, great, like creative games kids can play online and, we don't really need , but I feel like we don't really need to encourage our kids to play those games.
Like they're gonna be pulled into that, through their friends and all those things. But we do wanna have like fun ways to, for, to encourage kids. Get out of our houses, like our house. The insides of our houses are way too interesting at this point, , unfortunately. So I wanted to talk to you about ways that we can.
Encourage some screen free play and maybe we could like go through some different ages. Does that sound good, Anna?
[00:21:43] Anna Yudina: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, so this is exactly what the genius of play, the nonprofit initiative that I work for this is what we're all about. We are about encouraging spring free play.
For kids of different ages. And the age is exactly how we approach that. So on our website, all the play ideas and activities, they are organized by different child ages and also by developmental benefits. Cuz there are actually six. Physical, cognitive, social, emotional, creativity and communication. So different activities stimulate different kinds of benefits.
A lot of them are gonna tap into more than one. So if it's physical, it does not mean that there is no social component in that, for instance. But it's always good, when parents are selecting activities if they want for. Simulate that emotional development in their child. Then we have activities like emoji bingo for instance, or emotional animals that you can play with kids who are little.
And that is a good example actually for, I would say like starting with three, between three and six. Basically taking an animal and imagining that animal is experiencing an emotion. For instance, imagine the body. Sad. Could you show me a sad bunny? And the kid is okay, try and show, imagine what a sad bunny would look like and why is the bunny sad?
And having those conversations in a playful way and in a way that kids that kids can relate to. They all love animals at this age. They all love their bunnies and bears and other. So that allows you to have those conversations and for kids to explore different emotions and even think about, okay, what makes them sad?
As opposed to what makes them happy. And that is the beginning of that empathy. If that makes me sad. , if I do this, will it make my sister sad? Would it make somebody else sad, right? . And that is a great way, around five years of age, 4, 5, 6 is when kids are actively developing those emotional abilities.
So that is a great activity to have with them at the time. And that's just one example and that can be done inside and outside. I know you mentioned outside, we have a lot of games for outside. Some of them are really classic, like bubble blowing games, for instance. And that can be done with kids of mixed ages, I would say.
So if you have a family of several kids and one is three and the other is eight, they can all participate and have fun and we go beyond. Blowing bubbles. We give you a recipe for how you can make your own bubble mix. And that is fun for kids to learn a little bit about science. You mix this and that and you can blow your own bubbles, right?
And what goes into that? And then we have tag with bubbles where basically it's a. Spin on the classic game of tag, but instead of touching somebody, you touch them with your bubble. So it's a little bit more . More complicated, depending on the strength and direction of the wind that can get into that.
Can be, that can be a lot of fun. And there are a lot of activities like that. We have a shadow tag, which is another twist on the traditional game of tag. We have classic games like green. Red light, green light. And then we have activities like action figure float, for instance, where you use household objects and you can play inside or you can take it outside to a pool, or anybody of water that you have.
Just. Put water into a tub and you use household objects and kids create their own flotation devices, if you will. Little boats. . And then it's a competition. Which boat can go fastest? Which boat is not gonna sink? Which boat is gonna carry the most? Wait. It's called Action Figure Float cuz we encourage families and kids to use their favorite action figures as passengers in the boats.
And there's so many conversation about science that you can have, why is this boat sinking and this one keeps going, right? What is the difference? Oh my God.
[00:26:18] Hunter: You're taking me back, Anna, because we have a creek near my house and we, my girls made boats for that. They made so many different kinds of boats for that creek.
Like it was like we made tons of boats and I hadn't thought about that in so long. And so I really appreciate you helping me remember all the boats. Yeah,
[00:26:36] Anna Yudina: And that's just one example. We literally have hundreds. Hundreds of different activities, but I hope that those examples give you the idea of the kind of things that we have, and they're all super fun.
You can search by a child's age and you can find something that you know there will be a good fit for your family.
[00:26:55] Hunter: That's an awesome resource. Cause a lot of times, a lot of play, right? Like sometimes it's just go be bored. Boredom is not the enemy. It's okay to be bored, just go find something to do.
It's right around the corner that's okay. But it is can be fun to have a bunch of ideas ready. So I like the idea, dear listener, you don't have to always be your kid's entertainer. But then you've got this amazing resource, like the genius of play.org website, where you can have all these activities that are really fun and can be really open-ended and creative and stuff like that.
So I love the classic games like TAG and stuff like that. I remember when we would. , get our kids from the bus stop when they were little, like there'd be a bunch of kids and they'd play some kind of tag. I can't remember. It was like this. They had, it was like they had all these like variations on, of course, that we did.
They didn't have any TV tag that we used to have. .
[00:27:53] Anna Yudina: No bubble, no, no bubble tag. .
[00:27:56] Hunter: No. No bubble tag. But but those are great. I love that. and, but play also can be valuable for us as adults to be connecting with our kids. Are there any for that sort of, those young ages we were talking about three to six, can you think of any of the activities that are great for maybe an adult and child to play together to, to have that connecting time?
Cuz a lot of times adults, we. , we tend to just wanna calm our kids down or sit them down and they need some they need like that there, there's, there are things like like rough and tumble play, right? Like that we can do with them. That actually is really like positive and connecting, and I'm sure you've got some other examples like that.
[00:28:43] Anna Yudina: Yeah. Absolutely. And that can be anything, like you said, that can be a physical activity like hide and seek for instance. Just a basic examples. Kids love should play hide and seek with adults. Cause I think it gives them such a boost of confidence when they hide and an adult cannot find them. Even if it's only for five minutes.
So it can be something like that. Or another great way to engage in an activity with kids is find something hands on. We have activities like fireworks in a jar, for instance, again, where you mix different components, you mix some food coloring, and you create this amazing. Fireworks in a jar. So great activity for 4th of July, or any occasion when, you know, when there is fireworks and again, allows you to spend time with your kid, teach them something maybe spark their interest in science and mixing things together so you never know.
How far that can go. So activities like that are great. Board games, card games. We have rules for goldfish, for instance, on our website, on the genius of play.org. It's an old card game, but there are a lot of rules, marbles. , that's one of our very popular activity, how to play marbles. So really
[00:30:09] Hunter: marbles.
Lot of my girls love gold fish. But I've always wondered how marbles was played, cuz you read about it in books and stuff. .
[00:30:17] Anna Yudina: Yeah, it's . I wouldn't be able to tell you step by step. We literally wouldn't she put it up on the website because there are many variations and Yeah, definitely you can.
Simple, or you can make it a little bit more complicated. But we analyze what kind of activities people are looking for. And actually a lot of people are searching for marbles, which is why we edited to our website.
[00:30:46] Hunter: That's cool. Yeah. That's so cool. We can go and play marbles. Kids will be like, yeah.
[00:30:52] Anna Yudina: goldfish collect biggest marble.
[00:30:55] Hunter: Go Fish. Definitely. Yeah. Micros played a lot of Go Fish. , they loved playing. Go Fish it. It's a classic and I have to say Hide and seek. So actually we were recently vacationing with a friend of ours in and were staying in their family house.
And we played a game called, which is like a variation of hide and seek called Beckon. And the adults played, the kids played and there was there was someone who's it, who searched. And someone, and the kids are older, right? Like they. 14, 14, 12. . And there was someone who was it? There was a, like a prison and the person who was it, if you, they found someone, they brought them to prison, but then if, when the person who was, it was out searching, someone else could becken them out of.
Prison. They could look at them and wiggle their little finger and pull them out of prison. So it was like this whole like elaborate game where we were like running around this house and pulling each other out of prison. And it was so fun. And I hadn't played something like that in so long.
And it was really like this great stress reliever. Nobody. Watched a movie that night. We all just played Beckon. We were exhausted. We were running around like crazy. It was great exercise. So it can happen with teenagers too. , .
So do you, what other ideas do you have for the older kids like that?
[00:32:28] Anna Yudina: For the older kids we are, I was gonna say we are, one of the trends that we are seeing in play is actually called . So it's a combination of a kid and adult, somebody who is not a kid anymore, but is really interested in playing and. within that trend, what we are seeing a lot of games definitely, but games that have like adult themes.
Something that you would not necessarily play with a five year old just for the type of questions that they have, whether they're tri based or it's an original game, but basically adult oriented, but something that a group of adults can do together and probably can even do virtually. We saw a lot of.
Game nights happening virtually during the pandemic, for instance, as people were looking to continue those social connections and, continue to benefit from play in some shape or form. So definitely a lot of games. Another direction is collectibles. So a lot of adults are collecting their favorite characters.
For instance, star Wars. So a lot of kids who were very much into Star Wars movies as they were growing up. . Now they are adults, but they are collecting the figures a lot of time. They could be life size or big figurines. They're going to shows that are for fans of those types of movies. They are interacting with other folks that are into this kind of stuff.
And Star Wars is just one example. So a lot of collectibles. Definitely. Oh. Final. I think building
[00:34:05] Hunter: Dungeons and Uhhuh, Dungeons and Dragons is having resurgence too, isn't it?
[00:34:11] Anna Yudina: Yeah, absolutely. Interesting. Yeah. Yeah. And the building, if you look at what Lego does now, in the products and the building sets, a lot of them are actually not for kids.
They are building sets, but by the colors and their visual aesthetics. Themes, that there are more geared towards adults. Building and doing something with your hands is definitely another kiddo activity that is very popular. .
[00:34:43] Hunter: Okay, so we've got the adults covered and we've got the little kids covered, but what about in between?
Our teenagers and tweens are like, they're doing a lot of Minecraft, they're doing a lot of online stuff. What are some things that we can, lure them outside or away from screen time to do?
[00:35:01] Anna Yudina: Teenagers are all about socializing. making friendships. So I think as much as possible, any kind of team games can be sports based for sure.
, anything that they can choose as teams competing, building those connections, like the types of games that you know, that we used to play in a camp when we were twins and teenagers, for instance. And we would spend the summer in the summer camp. Those types of things I would recommend for teenagers. So it's all about making connections.
It's all about socializing. This is the time and age to choose that, and that is absolutely what they would benefit from the most. Plus those kinds of gains are usually very physical. . One thing that that comes to my mind personally is the obstacle course. I love obstacle courses. And I know some families that have teenagers and during the summer they would organize an obstacle course in their backyard, or, if it's.
Safe to do it in front on the street, they would do that. I know people who have even closed the streets and worked with their towns to close the street and organize a play date. I think there is, in Maryland they have that annual play day where they close a local street and a lot of families come together and.
All kinds of activities. They have obstacle courses, they have hula hoop competitions and a lot of different things like that. And it is good for teenagers as well as for younger kids. Some of the activities they they will be great for kids of big stages. And I think some of those like obstacles and competitions are exactly the type of things that teenagers would actually.
love should take a part in and show how good they are or just laugh and show how bad they are. , it's okay, so everybody can have fun.
[00:37:06] Hunter: Yeah. Cause when you're. When you're little, like you, you're as your brain is developing a lot more, right? You need that, really need that unstructured play. You need that pretend play and all that.
But like when you're getting into tween and teenage, you're not doing pretend play anymore. It's just not something you're doing. So then those structured things that, that sounds good. I love the idea of like op making obstacle courses. That's really that's really wonderful. Awesome. So for what I know as.
For as far as let's go back to thinking about that the ages preschool and elementary ages and at least for what I discovered with my girls was that less was definitely more as far as like kind of the toys and the objects we had around, like we needed things that I, and I was totally skeptical of this, like things that could be anything.
And I remember reading about. Having a box of silk scarves and thinking, oh my gosh, that's so like crunchy granola. Sure, my kids are gonna love silk scarves. Like completely skeptical about it. And then it turned out my kids . Those silk scarves became everything. They built everything out of all these silk scarves.
They became baby holders. They became bandages. They became outfits. They could do, they were. Most multipurpose toy I'd ever seen in my life. So what I've seen anyway in my own experience is that kind of less is more as far as as it can carry a lot of chaos if there's a lot to put away.
But, so what are you seeing as far as what are some of the, what are some of the essential toys maybe that we should have around and what are some that we should maybe not worry about?
[00:38:58] Anna Yudina: . Yeah. So you're hitting on something really important. When experts, when we ask experts what are the characteristics of a good toy, right?
What should parents look for when they're looking for toys? So overwhelmingly, they say it should be open-ended, and what it means is exactly what you said, that a toy can be played with. in a large number of ways. So there is no one way to use it because if there is only one way to play with a toy, a lot of times what happens, a child gets excited and then once they figure it out, they're like, okay, that's it.
So they lose interest and they just go to something else. So they'll scar. Those silk scarves are great because they can be anything. Absolutely. They. Skirt. They can be a flag , they can be a hammock, for your favorite doll. Absolutely anything. So open-endedness is important and basically to what extent can a toy encourage your child's imagination.
This is really key. Activate imagination. Does it invite the child to use their imagination in many different ways? So that's what I would recommend. Definitely less and more. Less is more in terms of multi-use, multi-purpose. That's why scarves are great. That's why, basic aspo kind of toys, well basic construction, bricks and blocks, things that you can use to.
anything, right? Not necessarily a certain type of tower, but absolutely anything. It can be taller one day, it can be a castle another day, it can be a crib, it can be a boat. Basic toys like that are absolutely essential. Anything related to being creative with arts and crafts you. Colors pencils, pa pain, crayons those types of things that, that don't require much, but a piece of paper or, maybe it's a surface, maybe it's a mess free, like colorings.
Kid which could be very helpful. So you don't have too much cleanup, but those are great. Another popular kind of like open-ended toy potty or slime, or any kind of compound. Something that you can. Mold with your hands. And there is another added benefit. Obviously it's creativity, imagination, but also you are working with your hand.
It is a so called multisensory toy that involves more of your senses. It's not just touch, but it's smell and. , the texture. So a lot of senses are working as you are playing with those toys. So those are great. Absolutely. And then basic toys like dolls and action figures and little play sets with furniture, clothing, dress up, again, like I'm talking components, right?
It's components of your play. So you can use a doll. , any kind of story you create, you can recreate any type of your favorite superhero movie with the action figures that you have. You can have a classroom situation with your stuffed animals. You can give them a math lesson or a reading lesson, which is a lot of kids love to do that, they use their stuff, animals and balls as little students and they are the teacher.
So those types of toys are fantastic cuz again, you can use them. So many different ways and they almost become like actors in your child's movie. And the child is the director of that movie, the director of play. .
[00:43:08] Hunter: Yeah, I guess it's like a great sense of autonomy. I can totally remember doing that with all my stuffed animals.
being your teacher. . Yep. Anna, it's been so great to talk to you. Listen, dear listener, you should definitely check out the genius of play.org. They have so many great ideas that you're gonna love this resource. It's so great. Is there anything we missed, Anna, any final words that you wanna share before we wrap up?
[00:43:36] Anna Yudina: Yeah, we have been in the pandemic for the past couple of years and a lot of parents, a lot of families had more time than usual, and a lot of them rediscovered play. We saw that by the amount of traffic, shower, website, and parents were really looking for things to do with their kids. So now the world is going back to normal.
Things are opening up and as a result it's good, but also families and kids are becoming busy again. So my final words would be, again, going back to that idea of balance and the importance of play as you getting busier as kids are going back to school and you going back to work and the. Packed and schedule with exciting things.
That's all great. But just remember that there is absolutely no substitute to free unstructured play, and it is an important part of your child development in addition to everything else that they choose. So remember that balance and remember to make time for.
[00:44:46] Hunter: Thank you so much for listening to this episode. Are you inspired to protect a play now? I hope so. Yay. I, our kids need it so much, right? I think that the more we spread the word about this, the better. It's just, let's protect this time for our kids. They're losing it. So let's spread the word.
Help me spread the word, share this episode. It's a really easy way to help protect kids play, and to mi put it in the zeitgeist and put it in our culture that, valuable and important is to just spread the word right? And an easy way to do that is to share this episode. So share it on your Facebook, on your Instagram stories.
Take a screenshot, tag me in it at Mindful Mama mentor. I would love to see what your takeaways are. If you're inspired by this, that means the world to me when you let me know what you're thinking about the episode. And if you wanna support the podcast, please support the podcast. Please leave rating and review.
It is like the number one way. Leave it on Apple podcasts or leave it on Spotify. Both even better. And share it around and we're changing the world, right? As more and more of us talk about these ideas, gather around them, support them, it makes such a difference. So thank you when you do that.
You're getting into the holiday season update on me. I am able to stand without my crutches now, but not like all the time, so I'm I'm gonna be back on my crutches to do a holiday. Evening tonight with my family at, there is a place nearby us that we love so much. We get a membership for called Longwood Gardens and it's so beautiful, like world class arboretum.
I highly recommend it. If you are in the Delaware Valley area, I hope that you, whatever holiday you're celebrating. . I hope you're enjoying it and not letting go of the things that are too stressful, that aren't worth it. Giving yourself permission to have some ease during this time. I invite that for you and I wish you a beautiful week.
I. Thank you so much for listening. Listen, the Mindful Mama podcast coming up, we have just a few episodes left in this year. Next week we'll have the best of Mindful Mama 2022. So you'll find out what are the most popular episodes of this year, the top five. And then next year we have some amazing guests, some big guests coming on the podcast that I'm super excited for.
We're gonna be learning so much it's gonna be an epic year for the podcast. I'm so excited. So share the word, let other people know about it, and hold some space for yourself for some relaxation and ease. You should not feel any guilt for having time to just be you, right? Give your time, your kids time.
To be themselves, right? To have unstructured play. And we model that, you know how we model that by giving ourselves time to be us, to be like whoever you are outside the role of mom or dad, right? Who you know, like for me to give me time to be hunter rather than mom. That's important.
And when your kids see you prioritizing time to experie. This earth and to just have ease. You show them that's okay in life, right? It's so important. So give that to yourself. Live what you want your kids to learn, show them that they don't have to fill their lives every second with busyness and show them by not doing that yourself, right?
By giving yourself some ease and space. And I will see you next week, my friend. Thank you so much. For listening and I will see you next week. Take care. Namaste.