by Rachelle Lipschultz
Play….so important to both children and adults, yet as adults we rarely take the time for it. Increasingly, parents are also being pressured to make sure their children are engaged in educational activities rather than play. But this is an impossible demand, because play is educational. It stimulates brain development in children, and helps them to develop a wide variety of skills. In this issue of the e-zine, we focus on the importance of play and what parents can do to promote learning through play.
If you’d like to learn more about this topic, you may wish to explore our courses “Our Children and Play” (FON 304) and “Designing Family Play Spaces for Children” (FON 321). Both will be offered during the Fall semester. Information and registration instructions may be found on our fall brochure. We hope to see you soon!
In addition to the article on play, this month we are also pleased to bring you a letter from Dr. Lou Aymard, the director of the Family Outreach Network:
There is no finer investment in our future than our children. Parents share the awesome responsibility of raising physically and psychologically healthy children in today’s fast-paced society. Family Outreach Network offers practical courses that will help future parents, parents, and grandparents with the challenges of childrearing. Our courses cover a broad spectrum from Preparing for Parenthood (FON 323) through Grandparenting (FON 328). We also sponsor free public service programs including the Brown Bag lecture series and the Let’s Chat About Children town hall meeting.
Children with physical or psychological disabilities often require a tremendous amount of a parent’s time. Less attention is given to the siblings of these children. This fall our Weekend Family Life Education Series will examine practical techniques for parenting the sibling of the special needs child.
You do not have to travel to campus to improve your family life skills. Try our online course, Understanding Adolescents, or contact us about coming to your school, church or community center to teach a parenting course. We build strong communities one family at a time. We build strong families by making parenting a priority.
Encourage your friends to join Family Outreach Network by completing the coupon on the back cover of our newsletter or by using our subscription form. If you have questions about parenting and family life please call us at 410-777-2159.
Lou Aymard, Ph.D.
Director, Family Outreach Network
CHILDREN AND PLAY
by Rachelle Lipschultz
Why is play so important?
As adults, we tend to divide activities into “work” and “play”—those that are productive and educational, versus those that are just fun. For children, play is work; it is how they learn about themselves and their worlds. Consider the game of Simon Says. This may seem like a simple game to an adult, but in reality it involves a great many skills. The players must understand the rules, remember them, and be able to communicate with others; they need to maintain focus in order to decide whether or not to imitate Simon; they need a sense of fairness in order to decide when somebody is out of the game; they must be physically able to imitate Simon’s actions; and they may need to negotiate who gets to be Simon first.
Other games promote just as many skills. Playing with blocks involves planning, decision-making, counting, and distinguishing colors; it also helps children learn the laws of physics. (Gravity is gravity, even if they don’t know the word for it!) Pretend play involves communication and negotiation, and gives children an opportunity to order others around—something they rarely get to do. Clapping games promote hand-eye coordination, but also usually involve rhyming words, thereby promoting phonetic awareness. There is no such thing as play without learning. This is true for children, adolescents and adults.
What can parents do to promote learning through play?
- Check toys for safety hazards. Be alert to sharp edges, small pieces, and cords which can wrap around a child’s neck.
- Turn off the TV. Television may be fine in very small doses, but even the best shows cannot equal active play in terms of stimulating creativity, encouraging physical activity, and challenging children’s minds. The same is true of computers and video games.
- Good toys need not be expensive, nor do they have to be marketed as “educational.” Yes, expensive blocks may stimulate development, but so can empty plastic food containers. You can buy drawing paper in the store, but most kids will be just as happy coloring on the back of your junk mail. And while there’s nothing wrong with Baby Mozart CDs, there’s also nothing wrong with the classical music radio station.
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