What a funweek we had with our Safari theme. We all had fun exploring different animals and where they live in so many different ways. Not only did we do lots of learning and playing, but we created fun crafts such as binoculars and vests using recycling materials, such as binoculars and vests, that we used during other activities throughout the week. We did yoga activities based on animal movements, and experienced food by creating giraffes, snakes and other animals using different fruits, bread and other food items. Great way to explore food for those who love it, and for those who tend to avoid new food items. Scavenger hunts where all about fosteringthinking and problem–solving skills. Our exploratory campers had to figure out clues to figure out what animals were hiding for them to rescue. Activities about animals were a great motivation for our explorers to engage in writing and coloring activities. What a blast we had with this jungle safari adventure!
Week 3 – Celebration Week!
Last week it was all about celebrating our 4thofJuly. In preparation of all the excitement and overflow of sensory activities our campers were going to be exposed to during the Independence Day celebration, our explorer campers engaged in many activities aimed at giving them opportunity to prepare them to what was coming up, and to practice self-control. On Thursday, after the 4th of July, our older campers planned and organized a celebrationparty we were having on Friday, while our younger campers practiced dancing songs and created sensory firework and ornaments for the party. Friday came and we all had so much FUN! Seeing our explorer campers just having such a great time playing with their friends, dancing, playing with balloons, beingkids! After all, research indicates that children learn best in an environment which allows them to explore, discover, and play.
My memories from childhood involve vivid images, varied odors, scents, flavors,voices and textures. I see myself dressed up in my mother’s clothes, wearing high heels and green eyeliner all over my face. I see myself helping my grandfather prepare the pasta for his home-made lasagna or counting the dry beans for the frijoles. I see myself cuddling under the blankets and my grandmother singing bedtime songs. I see myself with my brother in the backyard playing with the water hose, full of mud. I still see my painted face, smell the lasagna, taste the frijoles, hear the songs and feel the mud.All these sensory rich experiences and personal interactions provided the base for the development of my cognitive, motor, speech, language and social emotional skills. These experiences were “accidental”. They were not purposely designed by my family to stimulate my skills. They were just part of life. What do you remember from your childhood? Probably your memories are very different to mine and they might involve other family members, caregivers, teachers or peers. All these memories are contained in the album of experiences that facilitated the development of your unique set of skills in all areas of development.What experiences are we providing to our children in our modern lives? What memories are they saving in their album? Our hectic non-stop weekly routines and responsibilities make it difficult to provide our children with these rich playing experiences that build memories and skills . We tend to turn to the I-pads, I-phones and gaming devices to keep our children quiet and busy while we get everything done. We use them as pacifiers, nannies and “play-pals”. Sometimes this is OK. I do it too! These are different times and we need to take advantage of the many benefits technology brings. We need to embrace it, but we also need to remember that it does not replace the quality and depth of personal interactions. When used too often, it can isolate our children and keep them out of our world; they create their own little world of images and voices. When I was a child there were no I-phones or I-pads, so I had to go to the kitchen with grandpa or go to my mother’s closet and get creative! Now days children are bombarded with stimuli that not necessarily build solid sensory, motor, cognitive and language skills. Unlike my parents and grandparents, today parents must be conscious and purposely provide experiences that contribute to building developmental skills.
How can you do it? By bringing them to the closet! By bringing them to the kitchen! By letting them get wet and dirty! By letting them hear our voice, YOUR voice! By singing, dancing, creating, PLAYING!
When caregivers engage in play activities with their children, they have an opportunity to facilitate and reinforce the growth of their skills across all areas of development. Help your child build memories with vivid images, varied odors, scents, flavors, voices and textures! Help them build skills!
In this article we continue exploring the benefits of Play. When a child plays, they are doing more than having fun. They are developing a set of skills, that are the keys of learning, called Executive Functioning Skills. These skills include: self-control – controlling impulses, flexible thinking, following instructions; planning and organization – set goals, plan, and get things done, creating ideas, problem solving, adjusting to changes, prioritizing; regulating our own emotions – calming down when facing disappointment, when transitioning from one activity to another, and many more important skills. Executive functioning skills are considered to be even more important than cognitive levels. They help us in school and in every-day life, and can be easily developed through play. Let’s explore what happens during some typical games:
Playing Peek-a-boo – playing with your child, this game involves hiding behind something and suddenly reappearing, saying “peekaboo.” Your child has to wait for mommy to reveal herself. Sometime mommy says “peek-a-boo” fast, sometimes mommy takes longer and your child keeps waiting to see mommy again (sustaining attention, self-control). While the baby might not yet understand that you’re hiding right there the whole time, baby learns that you will reappear, he just has to wait and enjoy (thinking, problem solving).
Hide and seek – hiding an object, child needs to remember which toy he will be looking for (memory); figuring out where to look for to find the toy – under a table, behind the curtain, inside a basket (problem-solving, concepts of space and language such as under, behind, inside). Another option is when your child and dad take turns hiding. When your child is hiding, he has to figure out where to hide – behind a couch, under the bed (concepts of space, language, problem solving, planning); She has to be quiet, not moving and not making sounds (self-control); and when mom finds him, he will experience emotions – happiness, surprise, disappointment of having been found so fast.
Pretend Play – Games where children get the opportunity to act and dress up like people they know, and to use tools that allow them to play roles – dolls, dress-up clothes, household furniture, utensils, blocks, vehicles, construction tools, and musical instruments.
Doctor Pretend Play – Child and/or mommy are sick and need to see a doctor. You can be the doctor first (taking turns), and your child is sick and has to stay still because he needs a shot (self-control, controlling emotions to know it is not really going to hurt). Now it is dad’s turn to be sick. Your child is the doctor now. He has to give dad a check-up – asking you to open your big mouth and stick your tongue out, saying “where does it hurt?”, taking your temperature, giving you a shot (practicing/learning language skills, imitating movements and actions, planning, attention). You can also be your child’s baby. “Daddy” is taking you to the doctor. He might be worried because his baby is not feeling good (emotions). When taking baby home, “mommy” has to walk slowly because her baby is not feeling well (self-control).
Restaurant Game – Dad and/or child can take turns being the waiter taking the orders. The “chef” cooks and a lovely meal is ready! Order needs to be served – Your child will get the carrots, chicken nuggets and milk you requested (listen to your wants and needs, memory, following instructions, planning). If the restaurant does not have milk, he might have to let you know there is no milk, and ask you what you want instead (problem solving, reasoning, language, flexibility). When it is your child’s turn to order, he will have to come up with his own order (thinking, making choices, planning, flexibility, frustration tolerance, making choices, adapting to new situations while remaining calm).
Going to Grocery/Toy Store – Having to make a list of what you will buy at the store. Figuring out how they will get to the store, how much they will have to pay, bringing bags home (organization and planning, memory, thinking, attention).
Board Games – Playing board games is an easy and excellent way to spend free, enjoyable time together. Board games help develop many skills while having FUN! Board games require following rules (self-control, working memory), establishing who goes first (problem solving), waiting for one’s turn (self-control, flexibility, frustration tolerance), accepting losing, and enjoying winning without saying or doing things that might hurt others’ feelings, adjusting to the unexpected (emotional control). Having to think before acting during his turn – e.i, where to move the next piece (planning / thinking).
Jenga – Game requires to have to put it together before removing pieces (impulse / self-control). Removing pieces require players to think before acting, as well as being aware of and controlling one’s actions and movements (self-control). When things do not go well – pulling out a piece and destroying the whole structure, being disappointed is a typical feeling, however, child can be ready to play again (frustration tolerance, self-calming / self-control).
The more children develop skills that allow them to participate in the games for longer periods of time, their attention span increases.
Play occupies a central role in children’s lives by developing Executive Functioning Skills that will benefit from later in life. Children who build and develop their executive functioning skills will have an easier time paying attention, following directions, doing and turning in homework at school , playing with peers, learning new information, being flexible, and many other things. Play helps grow healthy and creative people. It is clear, play is quite more than just having FUN. Support your child when he needs help. Allow your child to think. Enjoy spending such beautiful time with them.
At Thinkering Kids Therapy, we use engaging, motivating, safe and fun activities – Play – to capture children’s interest to actively participate in therapy. By playing, therapists and parents engage children through activities each child enjoys by following the child’s motivation. Play is a powerful tool that makes a great impact in children and parents.
What is play? Play is any activity where our children engage in for enjoyment and recreation, rather than a serious purpose. Play is the universal language, and the truly work of childhood. Play is motivating and fun. It helps support all areas of children’s development including learning how things work, physical skills, the art of thinking, communication, reasoning, problem-solving, attention span, flexibility, social skills and many other skills that are crucial for success in school and in life. Besides, play generates so many opportunities for you to enjoy playing with your child, and for your child to enjoy time playing with you! Just by playing with your child at least 20 minutes a day, as part of your daily routine, you will start seeing positive changes.
Join us next week to continue exploring The Power of Play!