Unsupervised Play: Yay or Nay?

This post about Unsupervised Play is brought to you through a collaboration with myself and The Genius of Play. All opinions are 100% my own.

This morning I was working from home and got to experience the joy of listening to my two older children as they were playing in my son’s room. The conversations they held sounded very “grown” – such as “make sure the baby has a clean diaper” and “I’ll cook dinner so you can take a break tonight”. Surely modeled after the example Greg and I give them, their simple act of playing house (with Evan’s firefighter house and characters) spoke volumes to me. They know how to play and we are teaching them good things. 

Where was Greg during this play? He was feeding the twins their breakfast in another room. Where was I during this play? I was working in my office across the hall from Evan’s room. Shock! Our kids were engaged in unsupervised play…and not only engaged in it, they didn’t have to be told to just go play!

unsupervised play

What is unsupervised play?

In our house, unsupervised play is any play that takes place when an adult isn’t in the same room. It challenges them to fight off boredom and to make up ways to interact with each other without the help or influence of us adults or technology. Honestly, it helps us to get our to-do lists and work done, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t listening/checking in. Unsupervised play is showing our kids that we trust them (and letting them know when they’ve broken that trust).

Unsupervised Play: Outside vs Inside

But what about when that play is outside and unsupervised? Again, all parents are going to have opinions. When The Genius of Play posted the video below on social media, it gained many comments on the topic.

Things sure are different than they were in the 80’s and 90’s when I grew up, but we keep our boundaries pretty tight around here, too. As you know, we let them explore the wild but with our supervision. When they do get to go outside and have unsupervised play, I (imagine) they are pirates and princesses, braving the “wild seas” of our backyard. We have a fenced in backyard, but the kids don’t get to run out back whenever they want – we need to be downstairs so we can see/hear them.

Will that change as they get older? Honestly, likely. We’ll trust them more and give them a little bit of freedom. But for now, our unsupervised play will continue to take place within the four walls of our house where we can check in on them every ten or so minutes.

Tell me – what are your thoughts on unsupervised play in and outside of the home? 

I’ve teamed up with The Genius of Play to help raise awareness around the vital role play has on kids’ lives and development. They are currently sharing this set of videos to bring awareness of some hot play topics to the table – head out and see what you think! Let’s help each other navigate the world of parenting.

Stay on top of your parenting game when it comes to play! Follow along with The Genius of Play on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Their website is full of creative ideas and advice on play – be sure to check it out!

Enter disclaimer text

Go Be A Kid! (Tips for Independent Play)

Enter disclaimer text (These tips for independent play come from lessons I learned via Genius of Play.)


Every.Single.Day…we have to yell GO BE A KID to Arianna and Evan. I can be paying the bills, yet they’d rather be staring at me and claiming they are bored, oh so bored because life is oh so boring and it makes my Irish stir up. This week, instead of yelling, I am making a pact with my kids. They are going to go be a kid (aka Independent Play) for at least 60 minutes a day without parental intervention.


Back in July, I signed a pledge with the Genius of Play that I would help them reach their goal to “help guarantee 1,000,000 hours of pure fun (and beneficial) play this year” among American kids. Play is important because (according to Genius of Play), “through play, kids learn how to interact with others and develop skills critical for childhood development”.

Independent Play

So, how am I going to make sure my kids go be a kid this week? I’m going to encourage independent play! Genius of Play offers up some tips for Independent Play including:

Find toys that encourage open-ended play

Role-play toys (dress-up clothes, pretend food sets, cars, dolls, action figures, etc.), construction and craft materials (blocks and bricks, art supplies, etc.) and kids’ instruments are great for open-ended fun!


Start with shorter play periods of five minutes and work your way up to longer stretches of time. Remember that it’s actually okay for your kids to get bored – oftentimes they’ll get creative and find an exciting new way to play all on their own.

Take time to observe

Even if you’re not actively playing with your child, you can still watch! It’s important to make note of how successfully they’re playing on their own, what works and what doesn’t.

Independent Play
Source: thegeniusofplay.org

Ok. So I am not going to just yell that they need to go play. This mom is going to do the following this week to make play time successful:

  • I’ll be sure that they are aware of where the toys that encourage open-ended play are located in their rooms. They both have “Dress Up” totes in their rooms, but we probably could use a review of what’s in them because I’m not sure that it all fits any more.
  • Even though it isn’t necessarily called out in the tips from the Genius of Play, I’m going to set a timer for 5 minutes when they go off to play alone. If all is going well, I’ll stop by their rooms to praise them for playing on their own when it dings.
  • I’ll watch, but from a distance. My desk sits in a location that I can see into their rooms, so this is a bonus for me. I will get a little bit of work done and ensure that they are playing.

If I can do those three things all five weekdays this week, we’re sure to be yelling GO BE A KID a whole lot less. And just like anything in this parenting thing, there is still a lot more to learn when it comes to teaching kids how to play. The Genius of Play campaign is full of ideas to help YOU raise smarter, happier, healthier kids. Check them out at www.thegeniusofplay.org and on Facebook.

As I tell my kids…there’s not enough time to be a kid, and plenty of time to be an adult. Go enjoy it! And parents? It’s our second chance at being a kid, so go have fun, too!

What are your momfessions for getting your kids to play? Did you take the pledge to play? Tell us about it! 


The Mountaintop

Disclaimer: I received tickets in exchange for this review. All opinions, however, are 100% my own.

Source: City Theatre

It’s late night on April 3, 1968. The audience is in the walls of Memphis’ Lorraine Hotel, room 306. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. enters the room for the last night of his life. This night followed one of Dr. King’s legendary speeches, his famous “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech.

In a mix of history and fiction, playwright Katori Hall depicts Dr. King’s last night as one spent “with” Camae, a hotel maid, as he waits for his friend Ralph to return with a pack of cigarettes.

Admittedly, at first I was a bit uncomfortable watching as Dr. King (played by Albert Jones) and Camae (played by Bianca LaVerne Jones) took City Theatre’s stage with some dirty, flirtatious dialogue. It felt on the verge of irreverent, but something told me, “just wait, just wait”.

(L-R) Bianca LaVerne Jones, Albert Jones Credit: Kristi Jan Hoover
(L-R) Bianca LaVerne Jones, Albert Jones
Credit: Kristi Jan Hoover

As Camae brought to light some of the things about Dr. King (that may or may not have been true), it was evident she knew a lot about him. And with good reason.

I won’t spoil the play, but the dynamic between Dr. King and Camae came to a beautiful intersection. It ends with a moving look at how “passing the baton” in the Civil Rights movement went from Dr. King to today. It was so intense that I told Greg I thought he was going to squeeze my hand off…after we gave a standing ovation through tears. I knew I was going to cry!

(L-R) Albert Jones, Bianca LaVerne Jones Credit: Kristi Jan Hoover
(L-R) Albert Jones, Bianca LaVerne Jones
Credit: Kristi Jan Hoover

In short, this is a must-see for anyone who is able to make it to City Theatre by February 9.

City Theatre Presents: Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike

Disclosure: I attended City Theatre’s Media Night for Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike in exchange for a review on my blog. All opinions, however, are 100% my own.

Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike
Source: City Theatre

City Theatre is opening their 39th season with the production of Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike through November 3, 2013.

“Vanya and his sister Sonia tolerate the mediocrity of their middle-aged lives in Bucks County, PA, until their movie-star sister Masha returns for a visit that shakes things up. With her boy-toy Spike in tow, Masha incites a madcap family reunion complete with all the comic genius that only Christopher Durang (Mrs. Bob Cratchit’s Wild Christmas Binge) can deliver.”

Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike was the winner of the 2013 Tony Award® for Best Play and  was written by Christopher Durang and directed by Tracy Brigden.

Greg and I were invited to attend press night – and it was also our first time to visit City Theatre. When I first went out to the City Theatre website, I took one look at a preview photo and anticipated we’d be laughing our way through this play – a great date night fit for us!

We were right. The story begins on the porch of the house Vanya, Sonia, and Masha grew up in, the house where Vania and Sonia cared for their elderly parents through death…and never left. On this day, just like any other day, they are looking for their good omen, the blue heron that frequents the pond behind their house. The pair (brother and adopted sister) eventually argue over coffee and Sonia dives into a “woe is me” phase that I just couldn’t help but identify with. Five minutes in, I knew the play was going to speak to us somehow.

Movie star sister Masha shows up with her (young) boy toy Spike and the hilarity begins. The family dynamic, the jokes, the reality of it all had me in a good laugh for most of the play. If you ask Greg, he might tell you my favorite parts were when Spike had his shirt and pants off, but he’s wrong (although his “reverse strip tease” is definitely something to be seen, ahem).

Throughout the weekend, housekeeper Cassandra warns the family, “Beware!”, foreseeing omens  of trouble ahead. (Amirah Vann captivated me in this role – she was definitely a stellar pick for the role. Facial expressions, muscle movements, and tone all made her a perfect fit.) And there is trouble ahead-regarding the family home that Masha pays the bills on.

Cast Photo, courtesy of City Theatre

And ah, yes. Nina (the woman in the lower right). The neighbor’s niece, Nina runs into Spike while he’s out at the pond (Greg much?) and returns with him to meet Masha. She is an aspiring actress and ends up helping Vania share a big secret that he’s been hiding (more on that in a moment).

Following a night at a neighbor’s costume party, Vanya, Sonia, and Masha’s lives begin to change. They realize they are in their fifties and life just isn’t the same as it once was. For Masha, it’s been 5 failed marriages. Sonia’s led a lonely life and has hope that perhaps one day her prince will come. And Vanya, sweet “Uncle Vanya” (as named by Nina). He’s been in the shadows of a dramatic family all of his life and deserves a chance to speak his mind.

Costume Party, courtesy of City Theatre

And Vanya gets that chance when Nina’s reading of the part of a molecule gets interrupted by Spike’s millennial multi-tasking. Actor Harry Bouvy presents a stellar monologue tirade about how generations do not understand each other and how things are so different now than they were back then. Greg and I kept whispering, “incredible!”, “amazing!”, and “wow!” throughout what must have been five minutes of Vanya having his moment. It truly was incredible, and I can’t really find another word to describe the part of the play I most identified with (specifically because this scenario may very well have recently happened in our lives).

Playwright Christopher Durang peppers references to characters and themes from Chekov, but it’s not necessary to understand Chekov’s work before you go. Trust me, you’ll still find yourself laughing out loud, perhaps shedding a tear, and identifying with someone in the play.

Greg and I have never been to a play together (okay, besides a kid’s play), and as we were seated talked about the last time we’ve been. It’s been all too long for both of us, and time we start scheduling more nights on the town like this. We may not have been theater majors, not fully understanding the references, lighting, costumes, and other aspects that others around us were watching for, but we had an amazing time. Pittsburgh’s quite lucky to have gotten their hands on this play that just left Broadway a few months ago.

Congratulations to director Tracy Brigden and the entire cast of Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike!

Here are the details for you to know if before you go:

Regular Run Schedule

Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 7pm

Thursdays and Fridays at 8pm

Saturdays at 5:30 and 9pm

Sundays at 2pm

 Weekday matinees will be performed on Wednesday, October 23 and Wednesday, October 30 at 1pm.

There will be no evening performance on Wednesday, October 30.

Where: City Theatre, 1300 Bingham Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15203 (South Side)

Tickets: $35 to $55

Box Office: 412.431.CITY (2489) or citytheatrecompany.org

Parking: (Because I always fret about this) Arrive early. There’s a lot just down the street from the Theatre with $7 parking, but it’s limited. Get there early, enjoy the lounge or the courtyard. There is no late seating, and you don’t want to miss this.