July 24, 2013

Good Old Fashioned Play

Frank sent me an article on NPR titled "Old Fashioned Play Builds Serious Skills" by Alex Spiegel yesterday that is a good read for people with kids. The article discusses the way that children spend their time has changed a great deal over the century. The issue is, studies and many psychologists believe that the changes in what children are doing have also changed kids' cognitive and emotional development.

"It turns out that all that time spent playing make-believe actually helped children develop a critical cognitive skill called executive function. Executive function has a number of different elements, but a central one is the ability to self-regulate. Kids with good self-regulation are able to control their emotions and behavior, resist impulses, and exert self-control and discipline."

Building Cognitive Imagination Skills playing Pirate of the Sea ;)
I like the suggestions they provide for better ways to play that develop self regulation. Here are a few of the ideas below:

  • Simon Says: Simon Says is a game that requires children to inhibit themselves. You have to think and not do something, which helps to build self-regulation.
  • Complex Imaginative Play: This is play where your child plans scenarios and enacts those scenarios for a fair amount of time, a half-hour at a minimum, though longer is better. Sustained play that last for hours is best. Realistic props are good for very young children, but otherwise encourage kids to use symbolic props that they create and make through their imaginations. For example, a stick becomes a sword.
  • Activities That Require Planning: Games with directions, patterns for construction, recipes for cooking, for instance.
  • Joint Storybook Reading: "Reading storybooks with preschoolers promotes self-regulation, not just because it fosters language development, but because children's stories are filled with characters who model effective self-regulatory strategies," says researcher Laura Berk.
  • Encourage Children to Talk to Themselves: "Like adults, children spontaneously speak to themselves to guide and manage their own behavior," Berk says. "In fact, children often use self-guiding comments recently picked up from their interactions with adults, signaling that they are beginning to apply those strategies to themselves.
Another one they don't mention in the article is taking your kids out climbing or for a bike ride! Cooper occupies himself for hours straight playing in the dirt and with sticks while we are in the woods each weekend. Lily too. Hoping to get out both days this weekend to climb, but the forecast says temps reaching 100! Seriously? Looks like lakes and pools are on the agenda instead.

This girl wants to climb up this SOOO bad!

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