Wednesday, May 14, 2014

The Importance of Play for Families

By Lindsey Buller-Maliekel

Mornings in my household are a mad dash; a flurry of breakfast, dressing, and packing up to get us all out the door and to daycare or work on time. My one year old, Gil is beginning to know the routine: bananas and prunes, wash up, he gets dressed, and then I get dressed (while he stands babbling at me from the crib). Then we load up the stroller, put on coats and run out the door! But last Tuesday morning, the whole routine was put on hold as we made time to try out the Baby Rave Family Activity.

The New Vic Education team writes a Family Activity for every show, which is then posted on our website and emailed to all ticket-holders. We write the activities so that families can prepare for the show and experiment with the art forms from the performance in their own home before they come to the theater (or the activities can be used to extend the experience after the show). Normally, I have to use my friends’ kids to test out our family activities, but this time my 1-year-old was the perfect age to enjoy Baby Rave, which is recommended for kids from 4 months to 4-years-old.

So on Tuesday morning, we paused our morning rush and decided to try out the activities my team had prepared – we danced to music, played with moving fabric and explored light effects with a flashlight (find the full explanation of our Baby Rave activities here). My husband became an iPhone photographer to document the great time we had!

At first, my son Gil was a little hesitant – weren't we supposed to be rushing around at this time of the morning? Was it really OK to dance and play with this piece of fabric? But as we continued to explore moving the fabric, he couldn't stop smiling! By the time we took out the flashlight and started playing with light, he was deeply engaged in exploring and discovering – he became a light hunter, tracking the light beam as I bounced it from ceiling to wall and back again. We have included a short video of our 8 am dance party – please notice his slick baby dance moves! Get ready Baby Rave participants, Gil is ready to get down!

My kid had a great time, and perhaps just as importantly, so did I! It was so fun to be a co-investigator with my kiddo. I was able to be present in the moment and enjoy my time with him without trying to simultaneously manage something else. It was such a good reminder of how fun it is to play with Gil with my full focus and attention.

Play is so important to the little ones in our lives – Maria Montessori once said, “play is the work of childhood” and it continues to ring so true! As much as 75% of brain development occurs after birth – there is a lot of learning to do and a lot of playing that’s necessary during childhood in order for our kids to reach their full potential. And, as we here at The New Victory believe, it is not just the kids who benefit from playing – often, the benefits of playing together are just as transformative for parents.

Families that play together get to interact outside of the traditional roles we all fall into in our daily lives. With our Family Activities, for example, your 6-year-old can be the director and your 2-year-old can play DJ. They invite you to experiment and explore together,without any right or wrong ways of completing the activities. These interactions can deepen your relationship and enhance the quality of your family time, helping you create family memories that will last a lifetime. Think back on your own memories of your childhood: how many of your family memories involve laughter and joy? There is a world of difference between the role you play when you are helping your kid have fun (e.g. pushing them on the swing, buying them new toys, signing them up for classes) and the kind of fun you can have when you are playing together. The more fun you are having yourself, the more fun they will have, too. Playing as a family unleashes a torrent of creativity and imagination and allows your family to problem solve together, so really enhance your time together, make sure to turn off the TV, put your phone down, and really allow yourself to be present and in the moment.

In addition to our Family Activities, we have the pleasure of inviting families to come and play together at The New Victory through our Family Workshop, Arts Express and TXT Marks the Spot programs – try them out, too. Take it from this parent – a burst of play can turn a typically hectic Tuesday morning into the best part of your whole week!


  1. This is wonderful!!! I wish they did something like this in London, I am always taking my children to see London shows but something like this would be so good for them as well.

    1. Thank you for taking the time to read, Betty! We hope our Family Activities are helpful across the pond and hope you'll join us for a show at the New Vic if you're ever in NYC!