Community Papers

Kids need room to play

Megan Zeni and Kelly Johnson help design play spaces that are developmentally appropriate and challenging.  -
Megan Zeni and Kelly Johnson help design play spaces that are developmentally appropriate and challenging.
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Megan Zeni and Kelly Johnson have a simple message—give kids some room to play.

The teachers and moms behind Room to Play create developmentally appropriate and challenging play spaces for children, and on Thursday, April 23, they’ll present a workshop in Richmond titled “The Playful Home: Preparing an Environment For Play.”

“We really believe in the academic value of play. We use the science of play to help families create imaginative and playful spaces in their homes,” said Zeni.

The workshop is part of the PLAY-ducation workshop series hosted by the Richmond-based kids’ clothing firm Peekaboo Beans.

“What we’re hoping to do is give parents some really practical strategies that they can take away that evening, go home and implement, that will help engage their kids in play activities that are very valuable later on when they come to the school environment,” said Johnson.

Play has a purpose, say Zeni and Johnson—it’s the work of a child and sets children up for academic success.

But often getting in the way is technology.

Kids are spending far too much time on screens, said Johnson, who encourages parents to “be the bad guy” and put strict limits on screen time for their kids.

“One of the reasons that’s a problem is because it’s a very isolating activity. They’re not engaging with other kids and developing that part of their brain that promotes social engagement, self-regulation, problem-solving,” said Johnson.

Zeni and Johnson host a blog ( that offers advice to parents. They also meet with families to help create efficient play spaces, most often inside the home, while ensuring toys are appropriate.

The April 23 workshop begins at 7 p.m. at the Peekaboo Beans Richmond headquarters, 610-13211 Delf Pl. Admission is by donation. All proceeds go to Playground Builders, a charity that builds playgrounds for children in war-torn areas. Save a seat by e-mailing

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