How do I help my child get ahead academically? How can I make sure my child is on track academically? The answer will surprise you! Let them play! Discover how playing supports all domains of child development and helps prepare your child for school!
I love this video. I share it a lot. I mean A LOT! If you haven’t seen it yet, take time and watch as Dr. Peter Gray so eloquently explains how the decline of play increases anxiety, depression, and narcissism in children and adolescents.
I get asked frequently by parents of young children how can they help their child get ahead? My answer is play. Just let them play. Encourage play. Allow for good, old fashioned, screen-free play. Unfortunately, it is not the answer everyone is looking for. It seems too simple to be true. As a result, children are not getting the opportunities they need and deserve to play and because of that, they are actually lagging behind. Don’t believe me? Watch the video!
Being in my field, I always pay attention to early learning centers and schools while driving around. Obviously, since I can only see the outside of the center from my car, I pay close attention to the design and makeup of the playgrounds.
I am amazed at how many school playgrounds have nothing …. natural. The playground equipment is metal and plastic. The toys are metal and plastic. The bicycles are metal and plastic. The ground is rubber. No part of nature is available at all when children go outside to play. No grass. No sand. No trees or plants. No wood. And, due to awnings that cover the entire playground, some of them allow no access to the sun.
Author Richard Louv introduced the term “Nature-Deficit Disorder” in 2005 with the publication of his best-selling book, “Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder.” He coined the phrase to serve as a description of the human costs of alienation from nature and it is not meant to be a medical diagnosis (although perhaps it should be).
In a time when children are staying inside attached to digital technology more than ever, the least schools can do is provide actual access to the natural outside world.
The future will belong to the nature-smart—those individuals, families, businesses, and political leaders who develop a deeper understanding of the transformative power of the natural world and who balance the virtual with the real. The more high-tech we become, the more nature we need. – Richard Louv
What can schools do? Bring back the sand box. Plant some grass. Provide loose parts made out of wood, rocks, sticks, shells, and really anything that comes from the outside world. Use wood mulch for the ground covering. Just think natural.
What can we do at home? The same thing.
We know children need to playing more, but let’s make sure they are also interacting with nature as well!
Here are some great blog posts to give some ideas for a natural playground.
Pediatricians agree that playtime is very important to a child’s development! (And by play, they don’t mean playing on an IPad or watching TV!)
What is a major difference in children of this generation and children of the past?
Children today do not live in a 3D world. Think of life before television; what did children do? I’m sure when not working or doing chores to help the household, they created their own toys, their own games, and they ran around being a part of nature. Essentially, they were active and engaging all of their senses and enhancing their motor skills. They were living in and experiencing their worlds.
Children today spend a lot of time living in a 2D world. What does that mean? How much time is spent by today’s youth playing video and computer games and watching TV. What about all of the apps that claim to help children increase academic performance? My philosophy is it still is not as stimulating as experiencing real life! Watching a screen is passive, even if it claims to be interactive! It is still sitting down and looking at a 2D object.
Yes – that is right – keep calm and play. No matter how you “slice and dice” it, play is the way young children learn best. It is inherent, it is natural, and it is the design of optimal learning.
With early childhood education and preschool being such a hot, trending topic right now, everyone is putting his/ her hand in the pot giving his/ her two cents on what we should do to improve effectiveness and achievement. It gets overwhelming – test scores, research, assessments, common core, funding, teacher performance – being spewed from people of all walks of life – politicians, reformers, business professionals, policy makers, and yes – even educators. Being a specialist in education and development of children birth to eight, I just want to stand up and yell, “KEEP CALM AND PLAY!” Take a deep breath, relax, and just play. It is amazing what children learn in those unstructured environments – you would be surprised!
Am I saying just place children in an empty room and expect them to develop and learn? No – but when an environment is strategically planned with intentionality and purpose to promote play by a teacher knowledgeable in all domains of child development for children birth to five, it is compelling how effectively and rapidly the children learn. And what does that environment look like? More about that later …. Until then, “Keep calm and play”.