Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Playing and pretending helps children develop critical cognitive skills. Through play children develop skills called, executive function. The main aspect of this higher level brain skill is the ability to self-regulate. When this area of the brain is well developed, children are able to control their emotions and behavior, and are better able to resist impulses, and have a greater amount of self-control.

Self-regulation is a necessary skill for success in life. Children need unstructured play time to develop these abilities. Sadly, most children spend more time, watching television, playing video games, attending academic focused programs or adult directed lessons. It is much more beneficial to be playing with friends outdoors, creating with various materials, building with blocks or playing make-believe. 

In the recent CNN Opinon article, Want to get your kids into college? Let them play, Erika Christakis and Nicholas Christakis shared the following:

"Through play, children learn to take turns, delay gratification, negotiate conflicts, solve problems, share goals, acquire flexibility, and live with disappointment. By allowing children to imagine walking in another person's shoes, imaginative play also seeds the development of empathy, a key ingredient for intellectual and social-emotional success.
The real "readiness" skills that make for an academically successful kindergartener or college student have as much to do with emotional intelligence as they do with academic preparation. Kindergartners need to know not just sight words and lower case letters, but how to search for meaning. The same is true of 18-year-olds.
As admissions officers at selective colleges like to say, an entire freshman class could be filled with students with perfect grades and test scores. But academic achievement in college requires readiness skills that transcend mere book learning. It requires the ability to engage actively with people and ideas. In short, it requires a deep connection with the world.
For a five year-old, this connection begins and ends with the creating, questioning, imitating, dreaming, and sharing that characterize play. When we deny young children play, we are denying them the right to understand the world. By the time they get to college, we will have denied them the opportunity to fix the world too."

For extremely easy ways to ensure children get the play their growing brains need even during your busy everyday life, get the unique Brain Development Activity Packets to have fun ideas right on hand!

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