Stories about: importance of play

9 lessons building teaches kids (and parents)

Meaghan O’Keeffe, RN, BSN, is a mother, writer and nurse. She worked at Boston Children’s Hospital for nearly a decade, in both the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit and the Pre-op Clinic.  She is a regular contributor to Thriving.

Meaghan_OKeeffe_1For kids, play is about more than having fun—it’s almost a full-time job. It’s how they explore and process the world around them. But good play isn’t just about having fun. It’s about learning, too.

That’s why building toys like blocks, connector sets or LEGOs are so great. Not only do they promote creativity in letting the child come up with new projects to create, but they also offer a crash course introduction to a few physics laws. (Quite literally when they first learn that their tower can’t have more blocks on the top than at the bottom!)

Building sets are fun and relatively inexpensive teachers that can engage kids of all ages, without keeping them tethered to a videogame controller. Here are just a few ways they promote development during playtime…


Every chance to build is a blank slate. Every structure is a different skyscraper or school or quirky house. Each creation is different in some way. The power of a child’s imagination is limitless and blocks help unleash that creativity.


My son has a hard time sitting through a movie. He needs to move, needs a break from the attention it requires. But when it comes to LEGOs, he can spend an hour building.  He barely moves a muscle. I see him pick up a tiny piece and attach it in a very specific way to whatever he’s making. The rest of world melts away until it’s just him, that small LEGO, and his breathing.

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Playing it safe in the heat

How hot is the metal at your child's favorite playground?

Slides, seesaws and jungle gyms remind us of carefree childhood days, but as we get older, the allure of playgrounds becomes much less simple. These outdoor havens are great ways to encourage physical activity in kids, but strong summer heat can also cause them to become danger zones. Here, Lois Lee, MD, MPH, director of trauma research at Children’s Hospital Boston, breaks down summer playground safety and suggests ways to keep your outing safe.

Recent reports of children who have burned their hands and feet on hot playground gear underscore the need for shady spots in playgrounds. “Ideally, it would be great for kids to have access to shaded playgrounds to keep cool and out of the sun, but it’s not always realistic,” says Lee. She recommends making sure kids have sunscreen on their faces and bodies, dressing them in lightweight, protective clothing and keeping them out of direct sunlight between the hours of 10 am and 2 pm, when the sun is most intense.

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Taking back childhood: staying off the slippery slope to WALL-E land

Claire McCarthy,MD

If you haven’t seen the movie “WALL-E”, you should.

Not just because the robot hero (named WALL-E) is wonderful, but also because the movie is a great cautionary tale.

The movie takes place in the future. Mankind has polluted earth so badly that it is uninhabitable. Everyone took off in a spaceship that now roams space, leaving only robots (like WALL-E) behind. The people spend their days sitting in moving seats, watching huge TV’s, and eating super-sized portions of junk food. They are all incredibly fat, and between their size and the fact that they sit in the moving seats all day, they can barely walk (I know this sounds awful, but it’s actually a happy movie.)

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