Thursday, February 21, 2008

Let 'em play

Check out this story, “Old-Fashioned Play Builds Serious Skills,” featured on NPR’s Morning Edition today. Reporter Alix Spiegel looks at how imaginative play helps children develop good self-regulation (a solid predictor of their future success in school). As children play make-believe, they engage in “private speech,” laying out rules of play for themselves that ultimately help them develop a cognitive ability called executive function that helps children self-regulate and control their emotions and behavior. Researchers argue that the less we “set up” play for children, the better we facilitate true imaginative play. So it’s an argument for limiting TV and video-game time; buying fewer toys (a stick makes for more imaginative play than a toy Star Wars light Saber, they say) and especially fewer battery-operated toys; encouraging kids to play outside -- with nature and their imagination as their only props; building more play time into pre-school programs; and generally descheduling kids (because too many lessons and programs rob children of time to imagine on their own).

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