The Power of Play


Play is fundamental to a child’s development. Just like food and water give a body fuel to grow, play fuels the brain. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, play contributes to the cognitive, physical, social, and emotional well- being of children. Early childhood represents a critical time in brain development as more than 80% of brain growth happens in the first 3 years of a child’s life. And the single strongest predictor of vocabulary in a child by age 3 is the quantity of words spoken to them. Beyond the first 3 years children are still learning so much from play…communication skills, social norms and boundaries, empathy, self-esteem, confidence, and relaxation. They’re also often tapping into their imagination and creativity through play. Through books they are exploring different times, places, and people which open their minds up to other points of view and offers an escape.

Unfortunately, so many children today are born into situations where play takes a back seat. Parents are working harder and longer than ever, children are overscheduled, and resources both at home and schools are slim. Toys and books are considered a luxury and it creates a play deprivation. Where resources are scarce, children are at a disadvantage. Students who cannot read proficiently by the end of third grade are four times more likely to drop out before high school graduation.

No one says it better than Mr. Rogers when he said:

“Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children play IS serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood.”

Photo: A Little Photo Studio

Photo: A Little Photo Studio


Who We Are

When *play started, Ann always envisioned the store would be a resource for the community and in many ways we believe that has happened. We’ve hosted classes, story times and events. We’ve donated to schools, local nonprofits, and meaningful causes, but over the years we’ve felt like we could be doing more.  More to get toys into the hands of children that really need them, support families that are struggling, and teach about the power of play in a child’s development.

This led to the creation of ‘play every day,’ a charitable arm of the *play store. Our goal is to get at least 365 toys and books into the community every year. Our mission is to ensure Chicago children have the tools for long-term success. Our vision is to change lives through play.

Ann Kienzle is a 23-year toy industry veteran and the founder of *play in Logan Square and Lincoln Park. She is also a Certified Play Expert.

Amy Gray is an educator with years experience in teaching and administration at the middle school level. She has a background in English, Language Arts, and Social Studies.

Amy and Ann are sisters to their brother, Mike. The three of them spent their childhood in Illinois and Wisconsin being told “go play” daily.



Photos: Danielle Ellis

Photos: Danielle Ellis


What We Do

Play Every Day partners with schools, advocacy groups, children’s hospitals and shelters to get toys and books into the hands of children in the greater Chicago area. Our focus is on children and families that do not have access to the resources they need. The target age for recipients is 0-10 years old.

Beginning late 2019 we will offer Power of Play workshops for parents and caregivers that focus on the importance of play in a child’s development, how to choose toys and books for your child, and how to give them the freedom to play on their own.

Play and early childhood development resources for parents and caregivers are coming to the site soon.


“When a child enters the realm of play he also enters the realm of potential and possibilities”
-Jean Bailey