Learn Through Play

The power of play to boost
children’s development!

The science of brain development is providing concrete evidence that there is real power in play. While often dismissed as “just fun,” play is the vital activity that children use to learn about and interact with their world, and gain the mental, physical and social skills necessary to succeed in their adult lives. For a child, play is the vehicle for exploring and learning, developing new skills, and connecting with others. Through self-directed play, children can follow their interests, explore the unknown, link outcomes with choices, conquer their fears, and make friends.

Play also has important links to developing key skills that serve as a foundation for life-long success, including critical thinking, communication, problem solving, and collaboration. Often referred to as 21st century skills, these capabilities complement core subject matter knowledge and are highly valued in a world that is increasingly complex, competitive, and interconnected. At Girias Children’s Explorium, we strive to provide a rich environment that stimulates children’s natural curiosity and creativity.

We work closely with researchers to develop play-based learning activities for children to explore. The Museum is a multi-sensory, hands-on, active, and child-centered environment which offers children unique opportunities for playfulness – to freely and joyfully explore, engage and connect with the world in which we live.

play and learning

“Play is the highest form of research.” — Albert Einstein

Cognitive research has shown the important connection between early childhood experiences and intellectual development. The most important time for a brain is when it is young and growing. Humans are born with 100 billion brain neurons, which make connections through synapses that “wire” the brain for thinking. Early childhood experiences affect the types and amounts of these synaptic connections. To develop the area of the brain responsible for higher-order thinking, children need to have rich experiences that stimulate all of their senses. For a child, play is a critical path to those experiences that engage their senses and provide the
foundation for future learning.

Play is at the root of creative thinking. Playfulness can help us do our jobs better, and find more innovative solutions. Play can help us be more adaptive, collaborative, spontaneous and joyful.

101 types of play!

Girias Children’s Explorium aims to encourage children and families to play together at the Explorium, at home and out in the world in more ways than we can count. Every day, there is a wealth of opportunities for adults and their children to play and grow together.

We have chosen 101 of our favourites and we share them with you here. See how many of these can you try together this year!

  • After it rains, take off your shoes and stomp and splash together in the puddles that the storm left behind.
  • Cook together…but don’t follow a recipe! See if you can create a delicious cake, or cookie, or veggie dip from scratch without any help from a cookbook. How did it turn out? What would you change? Compare your recipe to one you find in a cookbook or online.
  • While waiting for your food to arrive at a restaurant, make an origami with the napkin.
  • Paint a moustache on your face and negotiate a business deal with your parents.
  • Put on a play based on your favourite story.
  • Find an ordinary (or extraordinary) object and look at it closely: examine every detail, describe what it smells like, what it feels like (are there different textures to it?); if you have a magnifying glass see if that shows new details you hadn’t noticed. Even familiar objects start to take on new characteristics when they are explored close-up.
  • Draw a crazy scribble and give it to someone to make a picture out of. Or, make a bunch of doodles together and then make up stories about them.
  • In the car, look for the letters A to Z, in order, on signs, license plates or billboards.
  • While you are waiting for a bus, try to find shapes in the environment around you (squares, triangles, circles); or anything red, blue or green…practice those powers of observation!
    Find random objects around the house that have at least one thing in common; see if someone can guess what connects them.
  • Then, have the person that guessed find their own objects to challenge you with.
  • Plant some seeds from a fruit you ate and watch them grow. Try tomatoes or avocados especially.
  • Make shadow puppets out of recycled materials, and then put on a play that you make up with those puppets. You can pull the shade off of a lamp and use the bright light to help with your puppets.
  • Play your favourite music and have a dance party with family and friends! Make up a new, silly dance move to teach to everyone.
  • Take turns making up new moves.
  • Create a collage out of old newspapers, magazines, mail, art work, maps….
  • Find a place that no one knows about.
  • Make paper dolls and accessories.
  • Play sardines: it’s like hide and seek, but only one person hides and everyone else looks. If a seeker finds the hider, the seeker squeezes into the hiding space with him. No giggling!
  • Learn how to juggle!
  • Pour cream into your coffee, but don’t stir! Watch the beautiful patterns it creates as it swirls around.
  • See how many clothes you can pile on top of each other then try to do jumping jacks.
  • Lift up a rock and see what you observe underneath it.
  • Make face paint and paint yourself (and your friends!) silly.
  • Watch the clouds and talk about what (or who) they look like. Make up stories about these cloud objects, animals and people.
  • Lie on the ground at a local park and see who can count the most different kinds of bugs.
  • Create your own crazy jumps, spins and tumbles.
  • Tickle each other.
  • Make your own tangram set and see how many shapes you can make.
  • On a long car ride, look for license plates from every state.
  • Round up single socks to put on a puppet show.
  • Fill spray bottles with water and some food colouring and paint the mirror.
  • Have a parade at home with any drums or shakers you may have…or make your own instruments with pots, pans, wooden spoons, etc.
  • March around the house singing songs you love and keeping the beat with your instruments!
  • Learn origami!
  • Build a pillow fort and defend it from your stuffed animals.
  • Create a drawing using only the letters in your name.
  • Spin around and around on the grass until you fall down, then watch the world swirl around you.
  • See how many sounds you can make with objects in your kitchen.
  • Make a snow globe – glue an object to the inside top of a baby food jar, add water and glitter to the jar and close it up. You can glue the lid to the jar or use “thread tape” to help keep it from leaking. Try mineral or baby oil instead of water – does the glitter “snow” fall differently?
  • While you wait in line, make up stories about the other people in line. Are they spies on a secret mission? Are they here to surprise the cashier? This is especially fun while waiting at the airport, train station or bus stop.
  • Take a song you know and make up new words.
  • Invent your own card game.
  • Read together; change the storyline or ending of a familiar book/story to see who notices first what you changed.
  • Make paper fortune tellers and go tell everyone their fortune.
  • Cut a variety of fruits and vegetables open to observe what’s inside. Then, eat the fruits and vegetables!
  • In the grocery store, shop by colour (especially in the fruits and vegetables aisle) – what foods do we need that are green? How about red?
  • Have a freeze dance! Put on some music and dance like crazy. When the music stops, freeze in whatever wacky position you’re in.
  • Play tic tac toe: the goal is to NOT get three in a row.
  • Have a jump roping contest.
  • Build structures using straws and pipe cleaners or paper clips to connect them together.
  • Make crazy hats out of paper, paper grocery bags or fabric.
  • Practice pouring – give your young child a small plastic pitcher and a few plastic cups in the bathtub and ask them to fill the cups with the pitcher…then ask them to fill the pitcher with the cups! Experiment with different sized cups.
  • Play “Thing-Go Bingo” on a long car ride (especially if it’s a daily commute) – each player picks 5 things they think they’ll see on their car ride…first person to spot those 5 things calls out bingo!
  • Throw a bed sheet over your dining room or kitchen table to make an instant clubhouse.
  • Make up songs about your daily chores or routines, like taking out the garbage, washing the dishes or going to school.
  • Freeze plastic bowls of water with plastic animals in them.
  • Finger paint on the tile wall in the bathtub.
  • Go on a monster hunt – take turns being different kinds of monsters.
  • Add a cup of dish soap to a gallon of water, swirl it around and go outside to blow bubbles! Can you make a bubble with your hands?
  • Make up your own constellations while you look at the stars.
  • Tell silly jokes, make some up and laugh, laugh, laugh.
  • Play catch! Try to move as far away from your partner as you can and still reach them with your throw.
  • Fill balloons with water and freeze them, peel off the balloon to get a round ice (cube?).
  • Invent your own language; speak it with your brother in front of your parents.
  • Learn a new game.
  • Gather a few flashlights and in a dark room play flashlight tag, tell stories, or make light patterns on the ceiling and walls.
  • Turn a leftover box into a car by cutting out windows, a door and by drawing wheels.
  • Make a tape drawing using different coloured tape.
  • Do a texture hunt in your old magazines at home – find something that looks: fuzzy, rough, slippery, slimy, bumpy, soft, etc.
  • Grab a big glass bowl filled with water and some food colouring – experiment with colour mixing my adding one drop of food colouring at a time.
  • Play 20 questions.
  • Pretend that you and your child haven’t met before, and strike up a conversation at the playground. Encourage your child to ask questions and trade information.
  • Dress up like your favourite super-hero. Don’t have a costume? Make one!
  • Pick a scene from a favourite movie and try to act it out together from memory.
  • Use books, cardboard boxes, and other stuff in your living room to make a castle.
  • Make a big spider web out of string and try to untangle it.
  • Make an obstacle course inside or outside with pillows, benches, jump rope, anything you can go over, around and through.
  • Anything can be a hat. Wear something unexpected on your head.
  • Try to sing an entire conversation, instead of speaking.
  • Walk around the house like a zoo animal.
  • Make mud pies.
  • Build card houses.
  • Grab a variety of fruits & vegetable, predict which ones will sink & which will float, then toss them in a sink or bin full of water & find out!
  • When you are waiting in line anywhere, ask your child to estimate how many people are in line in front of you, and then count them.
  • Try again with how many people are behind you. Then estimate how long it will take to get through the line.
  • Dance around with scarves in your hands.
  • Make homemade instruments and start a band.
  • Go on a 10 minute walk around your neighbourhood and find things that start with the letter “S”.Then try a new letter.
  • Have a “serious contest”: stare at each other, and try not to smile or laugh.
  • Play broom ball – brooms + any size rubber ball = hours of fun.
  • Make different shapes and outlines of objects with cooked noodles and then eat them.
  • Blow on a mirror and then use your finger to make smiles.
  • Try walking around the house wearing each other’s shoes and click photographs.
  • Use differently coloured grains to make a card.
  • Imitate with exaggeration one funny trait of each other.
  • Do vegetable painting.
  • Plan a treasure hunt.
  • Make a wish! Write it down on a kite and fly it together.
  • Enact your favourite nursery rhymes.
  • Make a miniature model out of play dough.
  • Make robots, storage boxes, sculpture, out of empty cereal boxes.
  • Buy fruits and vegetables in the colours of the rainbow and make an interesting salad.
  • Style each other’s hair differently.
  • Lastly do write down the activity that you enjoyed together on a small chit of paper and collect them in a box.
  • Read them out aloud at the end of a year.