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

Posted on: Nov 14th, 2018

Photo of Dr. Grass and Child Playing

Dr. Brenda Grass (Agnesian HealthCare, a member of SSM Health), in helps a child build a tower with giant blocks at the Children’s Museum of Fond du Lac.

November 14, 2018 – 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 fourteen 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.

“Kids need unstructured time to play. Play builds brains by allowing kids to experiment, be creative, take risks and test boundaries.  These play experiences result in learning lifelong needed tools such as positive motivation, communication and negotiation, and often these experiences lead to joyful discovery.  In Fond du Lac, we are fortunate to have the Children’s Museum to foster free play, and therefore this skill building, in a safe and fun environment,” said Brenda Grass, MD, Pediatrics / Internal Medicine at Agnesian HealthCare, a member of SSM Health.

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 Andrea Welsch of the Children’s Museum of Fond du Lac. “Our exhibits and programs 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 parents, early childhood professionals 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.


The Wisconsin “Prescription for Play” campaign is a joint initiative by Wisconsin’s Children’s Museums.

“Prescription for Play: What Science Says About the Importance of Play for Children and Families” Webinar is Monday, November 19, 3:00 p.m.-4:00 p.m. EST, presented by the Association of Children’s Museums. Attendees can register online at:

“The Power of Play: A Pediatric Role in Enhancing Development in Young Children,” Pediatrics, September 2018, Vol 142, Issue 3, from the American Academy of Pediatrics Clinical Report