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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Deborah said...

That part about empathy is so critical. In my opinion, if the window of opportunity for young children to develop a sense of empathy is missed then it is so hard for them to relate to peers and keep good friends as they get older.

I really enjoy your blog Deborah. I would love to have you write a guest post for my blog sometime (in your spare time - LOL!)

January 4, 2011 at 7:35 PM
Play for Life said...

This is a great article I would like to share with our readers. It supports our 'play based philosophy' beautifully. I am particularly encouraged by your last two sentence - "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."

Donna :) :)

January 4, 2011 at 10:36 PM
Unknown said...

I found this blog via TeachPreschool (Thanks Deborah!) and I am really interested in your posts on brain development. I am currently working with an Early Childhood Center and would like to use some of your posts to share with teachers and parents.

January 5, 2011 at 3:15 AM
joanherlinger said...

I would add unstructured to "play" also. Allowing for kids to do their own thing and figure out how to fill their time is important in both developing empathy and creativity.

giving them a box of pre-chosen stuff or guiding them too much towards goals can stunt a child's creativity and resourcefulness in my opinion.
So give them paints or colours but don't give them the coloring in book, just give them the paper and let them do what comes naturally to them.

January 5, 2011 at 1:51 PM
Deborah McNelis said...

Deborah, Joan, K, Sherry and Donna,

Thanks for your valuable and very supportive comments!

Deborah, Yes empathy is a critical sill to learn early through relationships. I appreciate your comments and I would be very glad to do a guest blog for you.

Joan, Yes,unstructured play is so valuable for supporting creativity, and the opportunity for discovery. Thank you for the examples you shared.

Sherry and Donna, How wonderful that you are providing play based experiences. It is always so great to hear of programs with this philosophy! Glad the article supports your efforts!

K, I am thrilled to know the information I share will be valuable for sharing with others. It is my goal to make this all common knowledge. Thanks for helping to create further awareness!

We can so easily make a positive impact simply through ensuring EVERYONE understands what developing brains need most!

January 5, 2011 at 2:11 PM

In every work Self-regulation and cognitive skills is a necessary skill for getting proper result in life.

June 22, 2012 at 7:14 AM
Jenna Black said...

Funnily enough I actually just finished reading a blog post on the need for regulation in children up until school age. I totally agree that more self regulation is required to grow and develop capability in a child. sometimes we can be too overprotective and too structured (meaning only the best for our kids), which I am guilt of, but am definitely trying to work on!

July 2, 2013 at 1:35 AM
Unknown said...

The information in your post is really wonderful. I really like the information which you have shared.
Early Childhood Development | Cognitive Development In Children

February 6, 2015 at 6:46 AM

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