child building

Young Children and Game-Playing: Ten Suggestions for Parents and Care-Givers

child building

Kids lead very busy lives. There are so many books to read, places to go, people to see, things to do, and games to play.

Games help to fuel children’s creativity–and vice versa.

Here are ten suggestions for parents, babysitters, camp counsellors, and other care-givers to consider when thinking about games for young children:

  1. Keep it safe. Children should feel comfortable within their environment. A safe and properly supervised setting is necessary for free-spirited play, and also allows adults to step back a bit and let children work things out for themselves—and then feel a sense of accomplishment.
  2. Encourage both independent play as well as interaction. Sometimes kids like to be on their own. However, connecting with others can lead to wonderful opportunities for learning and discovery, help children develop relationships, and give them a chance to practice important skills like sharing, listening, and taking turns.
  3. Make it fun. Don’t be fussy. Get creative! Involve the senses. Let play be unstructured, and if possible take the activity outdoors so everyone gets some fresh air.
  4. Boredom is okay. It lets children figure out what they want to do next, and what interests them. Don’t feel you have to fill a child’s every waking moment with activities.
  5. Keep a bin with lots of stuff handy. Arts and crafts supplies, dress up clothes, boxes, blocks, books, and what ever else might capture children’s imaginations and enable them to create their own games.
  6. Give children time and space. Don’t pressure children into adhering to time frames that short-circuit their game-playing. When it’s time to wrap things up reassure them that they can still continue whatever they’re doing another time.
  7. Respect children’s preferences. If they’re not interested in a particular game, set it aside. Don’t force kids to play a certain game just because you like it. Perhaps it will be more appealing another day. Talk together about other options.
  8. Make it developmentally appropriate. That is, not too simple as to be a drag, and not too complicated as to be overly challenging or to cause consternation. However, it’s okay if kids confront setbacks along the way because that’s how they learn resilience. Even the simplest board games are designed to show children that they can recoup if they hit a snag or move in the wrong direction.
  9. It’s not about winning. It’s about the pleasure of participating in something that is enjoyable, and potentially a learning experience.
  10. Cultivate curiosity. Harness spontaneity, including seizing the moment and trying something different or innovative, and let children take the lead and show what they’d like to do. For example, it may be something technological (fine in moderation) or something totally silly, or cerebral, or artsy, or low-key, or somewhat rough-and-tumble.

Above all, be supportive—of children’s choices, interests, abilities, and creative impulses.

For more information see Beyond Intelligence: Secrets for Raising Happily Productive  Kids by Dona Matthews, PhD and Joanne Foster, EdD (House of Anansi, 2014) and visit www.beyondintelligence.net.

Links to related articles that focus on play and child development:

Help Children Develop Their Talents and Creativity Via Play – by Dona Matthews

http://expertbeacon.com/help-children-develop-their-talents-and-creativity-play/#.VMTxlt77V-V

Six Ways to Protect Our Child’s Play Time – by Andrea Nair

http://www.yummymummyclub.ca/blogs/andrea-nair-button-pushing/20140305/protecting-our-childs-playtime

Stressed Out in America: Five Reasons to Let Your Kids Play – by Katie Hurley

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/katie-hurley/stressed-out-in-america-5-reasons-to-let-your-kids-play_b_4869863.html

 

 

 

 

Child_swinging

For Smarter, Happier, Healthier Kids, Keep Moving! Eighteen Reasons to Ensure Your Kids Participate in Regular Frequent Activity

Child_swingingChildren who are physically active do better than others on virtually all developmental measures. They’re not only healthier, stronger, and more resilient to illness, but they’re also happier, more confident, more academically successful, and more creative than others. They sleep better, feel better about themselves, and become healthier adults.

Kids of all ages need frequent daily opportunities for physical exercise. Too many kids are spending too much of their time on screens or sitting at their desks, and not participating in the activity their growing minds and bodies need.

In a review of the research on young children and exercise, Brian Timmons at McMaster University and his colleagues concluded that frequent regular exercise is associated not only with better physical outcomes—motor skills, cardiometabolic health, body fat, bone health, etc.—but also higher scores on measures of psychological, social, and cognitive development.

In international comparisons of educational outcomes, Finnish students do exceptionally well compared to others in spite of the fact that they don’t start their academic education until the age of seven, and their school days are less than six hours long. One of the most potent success factors appears to be that they allocate fifteen minutes out of every hour to unstructured outdoor play, or recess.

Why is that? Here are eighteen evidence-based reasons that kids who are physically active do better than other kids on pretty much every measure of development—social, emotional, cognitive, academic, and physical. 

Eighteen Reasons to Ensure Your Kids Keep Moving

  1. Concentration, focus, attention. Exercise increases the flow of blood to the brain, delivering the oxygen and glucose required for keen concentration and focus.
  2. Memory, accuracy, and reaction time. When kids are active, their short-term memory and reaction time improve. Those with higher aerobic fitness are able to complete challenging cognitive tasks faster and more accurately.
  3. Academic achievement. Exercise stimulates brain cells to grow, branch out, and connect with each other, resulting in a greater openness to learning and capacity for knowledge.
  4. Creativity. Kids who exercise frequently have greater cognitive flexibility, the ability to shift thinking and produce creative, original thoughts.
  5. Strength, flexibility, and endurance. Kids need to exercise regularly in order to become strong, flexible, and resilient.
  6. Sleep. Children sleep better if they get at least thirty minutes of exercise a day.
  7. Weight. Kids who are sedentary tend to consume more caloriesthan they burn, resulting in extra weight. Active kids are more likely to maintain a healthy weight.
  8. Bone health. Just like muscles, bones grow stronger when physically stressed.
  9. Motor skill development. It’s only by moving that kids’ muscles and gross motor skills can develop.
  10. Heart health. Like all muscles, the heart is strengthened and its functioning improves through exercise. Exercise also helps to lower blood pressure, reducing the risk of heart problems later.
  11. Stress. Exercise increases norepinephrine and endorphins, reducing stress and enhancing mood.
  12. Energy. Regular exercise makes people feel more energetic.
  13. Diabetes. Exercise prevents sugar from accumulating in the blood by triggering muscles to take up more glucose from the bloodstream and use it for energy.
  14. Immune system. Frequent regular exercise improves the body’s ability to get rid of toxins and fight disease. Fit kids are less prone to colds, allergies, and many kinds of disease, including cancer.
  15. Confidence and self-esteem. Exercise improves children’s sense of well-being and their appearance, both of which contribute to confidence and self-esteem.
  16. Social skills. Kids who get frequent daily breaks learn how to cooperate, communicate, and compromise.
  17. Emotional well-being. Children feel calmer and happier when they’re getting frequent regular exercise. There are many reasons for this, including the first 16 reasons on this list. Additionally, though, exercise stimulates beta-endorphins and serotonin, which are associated with feelings of well-being.
  18. Health and happiness across the life span. Kids who get into the exercise habit early are a lot more likely to stay fit across their lifetimes.

It’s never too late to get moving. Studies of previously sedentary children who participated in increased levels of physical activity showed improved functioning in all these ways. Fifteen minutes of playtime every hour gives kids’ brains a chance to reboot, so they come back to their studies fresh and ready to focus.

For the research behind the reasons:

Systematic Review of Physical Activity and Health in the Early Years, by Brian W. Timmons and colleagues

How Finland Keeps Kids Focused through Free Play, by Tim Walker 

Kids and Exercise, by Kids Health 

The American Heart Association’s Recommendations for Physical Activity in Children, by the AHA

The Benefit of Exercise on Your Kid’s Brain, by Raise Smart Kid

Exercise for Children: The Cognitive Benefits, by Gwen Dewar 

Ten Benefits of Physical Activity, by Jane Forester

How Exercise Benefits Your Whole Body, by WebMD 

Five Ways Exercise Affects Sleep, by Cleveland Clinic’s Brain and Spine Team

For more ideas like this, see Beyond Intelligence, Secrets for Raising Happily Productive Kids by Dona Matthews and Joanne Foster

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Ten Strategies to Help Kids Who Procrastinate

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Many very capable children procrastinate. They may choose not to do chores or homework or clean up their rooms, or they may avoid something else altogether. It’s not that they can’t—it’s that they won’t. And it can drive parents crazy.
In Not Now, Maybe Later: Helping Children Overcome Procrastination, I discuss reasons why children put things off, what parents and teachers can do about it, and how they can help children and teens develop a sense of industry. Of course, every person is unique, and every set of circumstances is different. However, as a starting point to helping kids get down to business at home or at school, here are ten strategies to try. (And, many of these can be adapted to apply to adult procrastinators, too!)

1. Keep goals manageable, meaningful, and attainable. Clarify expectations, and celebrate small achievements. Finding pleasure in reaching goals can be motivating, leading to fulfillment, excitement, and pride.
2. Talk with (not to) children about why effort is gratifying. For example, it’s instrumental in building strengths. Encourage kids to reflect upon how they feel when they’re successful, and how they can apply their know-how next time they confront a challenge.
3. Teach kids about a growth mindset. Help them appreciate that accomplishment is a step-by-step process that demands time, perseverance, and resilience. Model this pathway to productivity in your own daily life.
4. Encourage children to plan ahead. For instance, they can list the steps involved in what they’re going to do, gauge how much time they’ll need, and acquire in advance whatever materials they might need. They can also try to anticipate obstacles in order to be better prepared to deal with them.
5. Reinforce children’s attempts to overcome their procrastination tendencies. Focus on the initiative and the process, not on the end result. The best kind of feedback is genuine, direct, constructive, and immediate.
6. Offer assistance as necessary. This might be at the outset of a task (when kids may first procrastinate), part way through (if they slow down), or toward the end (when they may need a little boost).
7. Rely on routines. They can be calming. Routines help a person feel organized and in control of what’s happening, and able to set a suitable pace. Strive for balance by leaving ample opportunity for breaks, relaxation, exercise, and play.
8. Help children and teens recognize their capabilities and limitations. Be attuned to their successes and their concerns. Help them develop good study habits and time management skills, and to recognize times of day when they work best—when they’re most energetic, and less likely to be interrupted or distracted.
9. Pick your battles. Not all procrastination is bad, and not all tasks are pressing. Be circumspect about what to ignore, and when to be patient. Don’t get caught up in power struggles. Sometimes kids just have to face the consequences of their actions—or inaction.
10. Sorry is not a strategy. Apologies for recurring procrastination quickly wear thin. Being repentant is best indicated by specific action that remedies the situation. Convey confidence in children’s abilities.
For more ideas about how to understand, manage, and prevent procrastination tendencies see Not Now, Maybe Later: Helping Children Overcome Procrastination (Great Potential Press, Jan. 2015).

http://www.beyondintelligence.net/books/not-now-maybe-later/

http://www.greatpotentialpress.com/not-now-maybe-later-helping-children-overcome-procrastination

 

Books by Dona Matthews, PhD and Joanne Foster, EdD:

Beyond Intelligence: Secrets for Raising Happily Productive Kids (House of Anansi Press, 2014)

Being Smart about Gifted Education, 2nd Edition (Great Potential Press, 2009)

Website – www.beyondintelligence.net