When I was growing up, I played outdoors a lot. We didn’t have a television because my mom thought it would rot our brains out. I know that is extreme, the point was we filled our time with going outside, being creative and playing in the creek. There was not much time for being sedentary in my family. We played outside together, worked together, played long board games and my sisters and I made up lots of dances in the living room (and made mom watch our performances). What I didn’t know is that my parents were building my brain and giving me a healthy lifestyle.
How things have changed.
“A UK survey conducted by the National Trust found that modern children spend half as much time outdoors as their parents did, despite the fact that 96% of the parents surveyed felt it was important for kids to have a “connection to nature.””-www.theatlantic.com/magazine
Children need to play outside. It’s one of the building blocks of brain development. When kids play outside, they learn cause and effect. They test their limits. The first physical science experiments happen in our own backyards-
- when a child throws a rock in the stream and the water smacks him in the face.
- when a child jumps from a swing and feels the jarring in his knees.
- when he climbs a tree and falls two feet.
- when he builds a dam and stops up the water in the stream
These are all brain builders. A child who has time to test his limits, build, create and pretend is growing the logic portion of his brain.
Play helps children teach themselves to regulate their emotions.
“University of Denver researchers Elena Bodrova, Carrie Germeroth, and Deborah J. Leong found that children teach themselves to regulate their emotions and think before they act when they play. For example, if a child is pretending to be Olaf from Frozen, they may pretend they’re melting when they come inside or insist that they like warm hugs. In each case, they consider how their actions will correlate with how Olaf should act in a given situation.”- Whitbyschool.org
If anyone has ever played make believe with a child, you know that kiddos play out relationships. They play Mom, Dad, sister, brother, super heroes, soldiers, or fill in the blank. My eldest used to ask me to play with her. She just told me what to say and I said it while her character was the star of the show (kind of like her). This is one of the ways kids figure out relationships. Often we hear children playing with the same words they hear us using -“It’s okay, mom is here” or “If you do that again you are in trouble”.
Play gives children a chance to practice what they’re learning.
– Fred Rogers
The Scientific Re-do.
When children have had trauma in their lives and struggle with regulation, play can help fill in the gaps missed in brain development. Organized play with a point can help. Acting out a scenario the right way and the wrong way helps a child form new pathways in his brain. This is a non threatening way of doing a re-do. This can be done with puppets or just acting it out. Try acting out the wrong way to ask for something and then the wrong way. Kids definitely enjoy the wrong way, they may giggle, but the right way will stick!
Scientists have recently determined that it takes approximately 400 repetitions to create a new synapse in the brain – unless it done with play, in which case it takes 10-20 repetitions.” – Dr. Karyn Purvis
Movement is Important.
Movement in play, indoors and outdoors are part of the pathway to healthy brain development. What a video game and screen time can’t do is amplify time, they simply spend it.
“Unlike television, nature does not steal time; it amplifies it.” Richard Louv, Last Child in the Woods.
Organized play can teach skills and create a new synapse in the brain quicker, more efficiently and with more smiles than just going through the motions. While it’s tempting to fill time with screen time, remember you can’t get that time back. It’s spent on something that doesn’t have a great return. Educational show are great, but actually doing activities together -indoors or out- produce a greater reward.