How to have meaningful play with your child (according to a childhood education expert)

Quality playtime is so much more than just keeping your child entertained for an afternoon. It’s actually thinking about what you’re putting in front of your child and how play can help boost key skills. With brands like Rose & Rex, you can turn playtime into a learning experience for your child. From fine motor skill work to cognitive development, there is no shortage of opportunities for growth. 

We spoke with Lauren Vien, Education Director at Rose & Rex. She’s passionate about childhood education and development and believes every child deserves the tools to succeed. 

Tell us about yourself.

I have a masters in Early Childhood Education and Special Education from NYU. I spent over 10 years teaching in private Manhattan preschools before joining the Rose & Rex team as Education Director. I live on the Upper West Side with my husband and two young children. As a family, we spend most of our time building with couch cushions, preparing plant-based meals, and scooting to neighborhood playgrounds.

Tell us why you joined the Rose & Rex team.

After spending over 10 years teaching in private Manhattan preschools, I joined the Rose & Rex team. Though I sometimes miss the hustle and bustle of an early childhood classroom, I’m grateful to spend so much time (and energy) with my own two children. As Education Direction for Rose & Rex, I create resources for families, such as online content and workshop experiences. We recently released the Rose & Rex Guide to Positive Language Strategies, which I authored.

Can you explain Rose & Rex's Positive Language Strategies?

The Rose & Rex Guide to Positive Language Strategies is a 45-page PDF that offers parents, caregivers, and educators language strategies- for both challenging moments and everyday conversations.

Real life example:

Instead of saying, “Don’t throw sand!”

Try saying, “Sand stays inside the sandbox.”

This simple shift clarifies your expectations and reminds your child how to play safely beside his or her peers.

Rather than emphasizing negative behavior, positive language teaches children kinder, safer alternatives that they can (and will) use independently.

Why is positive language important?

The way we speak to and around our children has a direct impact on how they feel about themselves and the way the interact with others. Positive language empowers children to modify their own behavior. This means less hovering for us and more problem-solving opportunities for them.

When should parents introduce positive language?

Children are constantly observing the world around them, particularly the people they love and trust most. They learn critical social cues, such as body language and tone of voice, from an early age. When children hear us repeatedly resort to negative language, such as “Don’t do this…” or “You can’t do that…”, they doubt their own abilities, miss out on valuable problem-solving opportunities, and struggle to resolve social conflict.

Tell us about Rose and Rex's giving back initiatives

We believe that all children have the right to play! To make this possible, we give back a percentage of every purchase to our charity partner, Second Chance Toys, an organization that rescues, refurbishes, and donates toys to children in need. We also recently began working with Welcome Baby. Every purchase from our Valentine’s Day Edit will benefit the work they do: providing low-income pregnant women with a package that contains everything a newborn needs in the first month of life.

What are some of the most popular Rose & Rex products?

Calm Mind Kit - I recently introduced this to my three-year-old and I'm already noticing a difference in his ability to express what his body "needs". These days, as a tired mama of two, I typically choose 15 minutes of sleep over a morning mediation practice. I'm so grateful to practice mindfulness through PLAY with my son!
Every Day Play Deck. This beautifully photographed deck was created by one of the most inspiring educators I know, Lisa Zaretsky. She asks, "What can you do with what you already have?" and offers creative prompts for using common household items (combs, cardboard tubes, etc.) as play materials. PERFECT for travel. Lighter than packing every toy my children love and I'm always confident that we'll find these items wherever we're heading!
Oli & Carol Natural Rubber Bath Toys - Bath time is the perfect opportunity to reconnect after a hectic day. These are my very favorite bath toys because they are made from plant-based rubber and natural food dyes. Designed without holes so I don't have to worry about icky bacteria.
Cheengoo Ice Cream Rattles - I love these hand-crocheted rattles made from organic bamboo yarn. A family favorite since my daughter's newborn days. My children now use them as pretend play props.
Grapat Montessori Sorting Bowls - This set of small wooden bowls gets more love than other play material in our home. Perfect for sorting, stacking, and serving pretend meals to a dozen beloved stuffed animals.

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