It’s Fairy Tale month here at the center and the kiddos are loving the pretend play area. Pretend play is a very important aspect of learning and is, many times, dismissed or overlooked. Fred Rogers says “Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from learning, but for children, play is serious learning”. Children practice and explore a full range of skills including social emotional, language, critical thinking skills and many more.
What can you do at home to help your child who has communication/social challenges develop their play skills?
- Get on the floor! Just being on their level, accessible and genuinely ready to play with your child is a HUGE step. Divided attention is a major cause of challenging behavior. Putting your phone on silent and giving your full attention to a good playtime will do wonders for your child.
- Get silly and dramatic! Don’t be afraid to “Do the voices” when you read a book or play. It’s a wonderful opportunity to model how to play and shows the kids that you are all in! Please never underestimate the power of engagement.
- Provide enriching environments and experiences. Although you may have to cut your times short in new environments or with new experiences, please don’t let that deter you from exploring. This gives the kids experiences to draw from and practice whilst playing. For example, a walk in the woods gives them context when playing “Going on a Bear Hunt” with you at home. Play comes much more readily and natural when children have experiences to pull from.
- Don’t be afraid to rough-and-tumble! Studies show that roughhousing specifically works the executive functioning part of the brain. Heather Shumaker writes in her book on play:
“Studies by Dr. Jaak Panksepp show that rough-and-tumble play helps to develop the brain’s frontal lobe, including the prefrontal cortex. This is the key brain region for executive function, the most complex human abilities. These include self-control, resisting temptation, reasoning, focused attention, working memory, problem solving and cognitive flexibility….having strong executive function is the top predictor of kid’s success.” So, let your inner wild, child out!
Challenge yourself to a few really good play times with your children this week! I promise you will get as much out of it as they do. Your relationship with them will be strengthened and their world will grow. Happy Playing!
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