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Play Remains Essential For All Regardless Of Age
Monica Dreger

Not only are families everywhere adjusting to working from home or perhaps just staying at home but they may be trying to figure out how to make staying at home fun during these unprecedented times that we are living in. With the catch phrase of “Play is never canceled.” #KeepPlaying, Mattel and their play experts created the Mattel Playroom which is a free online website that is filled with resources and activities.

Play expert, Vice President of Global Consumer Insights for Mattel, and mother of three, Monica Dreger shared some tips and ideas for those trying to make the best out of the situation. Some Mattel brands that families may be familiar with are Barbie, Creatable World, Hot Wheels, Fisher Price, American Girl, Jurassic World, Thomas and Friends, Mattel Games, and Mega Blocks.

The website was launched a few weeks ago with the idea to bring new content, activities, and ideas to families everywhere that are free to encourage fun and play at home. They have two sections; one for parents and one for kids in the Playroom online.

“The whole idea of the website is that all kids are different so we don’t want to have a pre-prescribed plan that works for a specific kid,” said Dreger. “So that is why we have so many different options on there because parents know their kids best and they can gravitate to whatever activity or planner or something that works for them specifically.”

With 20 years of consumer insights experience, behavioral scientist Dreger expressed that there should be a variety of play for kids at home and not just one game or one activity. In order to create a positive distraction from a negative situation, the ability to enjoy a wide variety of play is a step in the right direction. Virtually the play experts at Mattel stay in constant contact with parents and kids and they found that they want ideas on repurposing toys and games they already have. One idea she shared was to make a new rulebook for the UNO card game.

“We found little things that you can do to repurpose the games you already have,” she explained. “So when we play UNO we have three kids and each time we play one of the kids gets to swap a rule, you know take out a rule that they don’t like and incorporate a new one. Another thing we do is combine two different games like UNO and Skip-Bo and then try to combine them and see how you can create a game with two different card games.”

Since parents are homeschooling due to school closures Dreger explained that it is possible to use play to learn. For example, to incorporate learning and playing together for the younger kids use Mega Blocks to build things as well as learn to count and discuss the different colors.

For the older kids using Hot Wheels and the tracks to discuss gravity and how it works as well as understanding how the cars get through the loop and how fast the cars can go.

“Two other things we found important is that fun is creating an entertainment calendar; a lot of kids nowadays are missing planned events,” added Dreger. “They are feeling a little discouraged or a little frustrated so we advise parents to create an entertainment calendar and create events. For example next Saturday do a home day spa with your daughter or son and another day do a themed dinner and have them participate in the dinner. What we did in our house is I had my kids create a date night for my husband and I. So they had to get together and figure out what they would have for entertainment which my youngest one ended up being a DJ, what would they serve, how would they serve it, kind of planning the whole thing and depending on the ages of the kids obviously you would help or not or preplan to help them a little.”

The second thing was connecting with people as kids long to be with their peers and spend time with their friends the virtual play dates may be an option for families. On the Mattel Playroom they have different backgrounds like Barbie, Thomas, Hot Wheels, and American Girl that can be the back drop on a zoom play date.

She said, “When you go into zoom you can do like a fun little background and that inspires play, it inspires creativity and story telling that they can do with their friends.”

Learning a new hobby individually or as a family during the down time at home could be a great way to spend time. For Dreger they started meditation as a family in the morning which she also included on the playroom website as Mattel has a partnership with Headspace.

“That is included in the website in the playroom and it is free for everyone,” she said. “You can go in and there are these cute little very kid friendly segments of meditation. You can do that together as a family or alone or start the day or unwind (from) the day at night. So those are the kinds of activities and stuff that we are here to help parents navigate during this tumultuous time.”

On the Mattel Playroom website: there are also links to museums and zoos for families to take a virtual tour.

Board games are another way for families to enjoy time together for all ages.

“Play is therapeutic it has psychological and developmental benefits especially at a time like this,” stated Dreger. “Play actually relieves stress, promotes creativity and self-expression and adds intellectual stimulation. It can be a communication bridge between parents and children especially the young ones that are not in the discussion like the older ones to get a glimpse into their world and how they are feeling. We find through our research many times when you watch kids play with their action figures or their dolls and they are story telling kind of how they are feeling and what is going on in their world and parents can get a glimpse and understand where they are emotionally during this crisis.”