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Minnesota State University, Mankato
Minnesota State University, Mankato

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The Power of Play

Minnesota State Mankato hosts seventh annual "Parent-Child Play Day."

2015-06-15
Jessica Bies, Mankato Free Press, 6-13-2015

It was the bubble to beat all bubbles.

Round and glistening, shining in the sunlight, it drifted across the parking lot and toward the nature center at Rasmussen Woods. It bobbed along, wending its way through the crowd of kids until ... pop!

Time to make another one.

“This is the seventh annual play day,” Heather Von Bank said Friday. The Minnesota State University, Mankato professor works in the family and consumer science department, and every summer teaches a five-week course on the role of play in child development. At the end of the class is a parent-child play day at Rasmussen Woods.

Her students are tasked with coming up with fun, low-cost activities for kids. Many of them — such as blowing bubbles — can be easily done at home. The materials — dish soap, water and corn syrup — are something most people already have.

“Play can be made and found anywhere,” Von Bank said. “You don’t need to buy all kinds of crazy expensive toys to have fun. That’s what we want to show people.”

Not only that, but they want to drive home that playtime isn’t just for kids. Adults can also have fun blowing bubbles, drawing with chalk, building forts or sticking their hands into cloud dough, Von Bank said.

Maddie Leventhal, one of her students, completely agreed.

“It’s fun for us, too,” she said. “It’s fun to play with the kids. Me and my classmates were playing with the bubbles earlier ... and it’s fun to see parents get engaged.”

Play, of course, teaches kids important skills, such as depth perception, problem solving, imagination, social cognition, creativity and abstract thinking, Leventhal said.

Though the Minnesota State Mankato students provided the the formula for bubbles, the kids had to get creative and make their own wands.

They could either use a coat hanger or twist one out of a pipe cleaner.

At the cloud dough table, children made castles and villages out of the squishy, sand-like mush.

The entire version of this story is available online here or can be read in a print copy of the Mankato Free Press. Call the Mankato Free Press at 625-4451 or (800) 657-4662 to find out how to purchase a print copy. The Free Press also prints select stories online at www.mankatofreepress.com.

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