With standardized tests on the rise, academic standards seem to be growing faster than our kids. “School-age” seems to also have this downward creep as formal education seems to start earlier and earlier. Play is being squeezed out in the name of getting ahead faster. Unfortunately, the benefits of what seem to be silly interactions are being grossly overlooked. Much of traditional play actually builds a solid foundation for reading, writing, and arithmetic.

Educational Coloring - Voices from the Ville

Asking our kids to sit down to table learning before they have had their due share of running, jumping, climbing, and digging in the dirt will actually set them up to labor through their academic career. Counter-intuitively, improved academic skills seem to come not from starting earlier or practicing more but from spending more time just being a kid. So what does that look like and how can we as parents understand and help our children receive the maximum benefit from play?

Playing Outside - Voices from the Ville

Eye Contact.

Why it’s important

For most it’s hard to imagine not looking that sweet, chubby face in the eye. There is a reason we seem to be wired to stare into the eyes of our little ones. Oxytocin, a hormone that is connected to bonding and empathy, is released during eye contact. Eye contact also helps our children’s brains make millions of synapse connections that will eventually translate to emotional maturity and the ability to track words across the paper.

Activities to Try

Peek-a-boo seems to be universal. You can also try reading facing your child rather than having her sit in your lap. For older kids, try a staring contest.
Bubble Fun - Voices from the Ville

Cross-lateral activities.

Why it’s important

Our mid-line is an imaginary line running vertically down the middle of his body. Because our brains have two sides with separate and distinct functions, it’s important that they are working together. Integrating the brain’s two sides through activities that cross the mid-line or utilize both sides of the body simultaneously are important for self-regulation and fluent reading and righting.

Activities to Try

Crawling is one of the best cross-lateral activities. Reaching for bubbles or balloons across the body and fingerpainting large forms are also fun ways to continue brain integration after the crawling days are over. For older kids, swimming and martial arts both promote cross-lateral movement.

 

Down and Dirty Playtime  - Voices from the Ville

Appealing to the senses.

Why it’s important

Our five senses are our connection to the world. How we integrate the information from our sensory systems largely affects our behavior.

Activities to Try

Be sure to find fun things that use each of the five senses such as exploring a variety of textures and sounds, hanging and spinning, and tasting different foods.

Don’t forget our sense of feeling also includes knowing how hard to touch something and where we are in space.

 

Images Source:// Author’s Own

 

What are your thoughts?…

Melissa Corkum

Melissa Corkum

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A photography-dabbling, veggie-loving, housework-hating, triathlon-trying, black belt-seeking, grace-needing mom, Melissa blogs primarily about homeschooling and raising kids from hard places. She has 6 kids ranging from 6 to 15.