Wisconsin Children’s Museums and Health Care Providers Join National Call to Issue a “Prescription for Play”

Today, pediatricians and health care providers across Wisconsin issued a joint call with Wisconsin’s children’s museums: Let the children play!

Late last summer, the American Academy of Pediatrics released a clinical report “The Power of Play: A Pediatric Role in Enhancing Development in Young Children,” highlighting the numerous benefits that play provides for children and urges doctors to intervene to “prescribe play” to children everywhere.

As parents look for safe and supported ways to include play in their children’s lives, Wisconsin’s children’s museums are eager to help. Wisconsin has more children’s museums per capita than any other state in the country, with fifteen museums in communities across the state.

To emphasize the connection between the importance of play and the resources that Wisconsin’s children’s museums offer, children’s museums across Wisconsin are partnering with local pediatricians and health care providers. Collectively they are issuing a “prescription for play” to all Wisconsin children.

Jenny Brault, MD: “Too many kids today have play scheduled for them-think play dates instead of backyard friends, organized sports instead of the sandlot, music lessons instead of just tinkering at the piano, etc. Through play, kids cultivate life skills and self-worth; the magic comes when kids try out and discover things for themselves, including how to keep going after they fail. I firmly maintain that play enhances the creative thinking we value in our society and limits the stress and anxiety seen earlier and earlier in kids today. Viva la Vida!"

Every parent wants the best possible start in life for their child. Every community wants their children to grow up to be healthy, happy, productive citizens. If there were a drug or supplement that could boost children’s social-emotional, cognitive, language, and self-regulation skills, then everyone would demand it for their children; yet all of these benefits are readily available from the simple act of play.

 “Children’s museums are both a destination for play and a resource for parents,” said Emily Rendall-Araujo, Executive Director of the Above & Beyond Children's Museum in Sheboygan. “Our exhibits are designed to be interactive and to stimulate children’s innate creativity and imagination, building critical thinking skills that last a lifetime.”

Wisconsin’s initiative is part of a growing national conversation about the importance of play. On November 19, 4 p.m. (CST), the National Association of Children’s Museums is hosting a public “Prescription for Play” webinar for both parents and children’s museum staff to talk with the authors of the American Academy of Pediatrics report and highlight how children’s museum are already championing these recommendations in our communities. The webinar is open and free for all who register. A recording of the webinar will be publicly available and widely shared. 

Even as science is showing how critical open-ended play is to children’s mental, physical and social development, playtime is being squeezed out of children’s schedules to make room for more instruction—or even in favor of screen time. Many children also lack safe places to play. Children’s museums provide the safe, creative play places that Wisconsin’s families need for their children.