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Posts Tagged ‘Michele Borba’

12 Surprising Benefits of Play

12 proven and surprising benefits of child-directed (aka unscheduled and spontaneous) play for our stressed-out, over-supervised kids.

By Dr. Michele Borba

Okay folks, I’m concerned. Over the last few weeks I’ve been reviewing studies involving children and play. “Shocked” and “disturbed” are the two words that describe how I feel when reading those reports.

Every study reaches one sad conclusion: Good old-fashioned play is quickly becoming an endangered pastime for today’s plugged-in, over-scheduled kids.

Worse yet, play is not only disappearing from our homes and neighborhoods, but our schools as well. And this comes at the same time when reports show that stress is mounting to  new heights in our kids while their mental health has plummeted to a twenty-five year all-time low. A good old fashioned childhood of cloud-gazing, leaf-kicking, and hill rolling is disappearing to be replaced by screens, earplugs, flashcards and tutors.

Facts About Today’s Play-Deprived Kids

  • Since the late 1970s there’s been a 25% drop in our children’s free play and a 50% drop in unstructured outdoor activities
  • Since the late 1970s kids time in organized, adult-supervised sports have doubled and the number of minutes devoted each week to passive leisure, not including watching television, has increased from 30 minutes to more than three hours
  • The average U.S. child is now “plugged-in” to some kind of digital device–not including cell phone and text–71/2 hours a day

The loss of play and even skepticism about its value may be partly due to a more competitive, “no-child left untested era” (don’t get me started on that one…), our increasingly hurried, quicker-pace life style, and the belief we have to schedule our kids with activity after activity to stretch those IQ points. Now Tiger Mom–and every media outlet our there appearing to quote her–is urging every so-called “Western” mom to halt those play dates and any child-chosen activity.

Whatever the reason, today’s kids are playing less and many experts–and the kids–are crying, “Foul!” and with good reason. Dozens of studies prove that play is not just a luxury but essential to our children’s healthy development.

12 Scientific Benefits of Play

We’ve always known that “kids and play” are just a natural combo. But new research also shows that letting kids engage in self-directed play has immense value for their social, emotional, cognitive and physical growth. Here are just a few of the proven scientific benefits of letting our kids get messy and doing something besides clicking those darn keypads and video controllers and paper and pencil tasks:

1. Play boosts children’s creativity and imagination. Play gives children the chance to invent, build, expand, explore and develop a whole different part of the brain.

2. Play stretches our children’s attention span. Playing outdoors just 30 minutes a day increases child’s ability to focus and pay attention.

3. Play and rough-housing boost boys’ problem solving abilities. The more elementary school-boys engaged in rough-housing, the better they scored on a test of social problem solving. (Don’t ya love that one!)

4. Play boosts self-confidence and self-regulation. Kids learn to become masters of their own destiny without an adult directing, pushing, managing or scheduling.

5. Play forges friendships, strengthens social competence and teaches social skills. Undirected play allows kids to learn how to work in groups, share, negotiate, communicate and develop core social skills they need not only now but for the rest of their lives.

6. Play helps kids learn to enjoy just being in their own company, entertain themselves and develop identity. Ease that guilt when your kid says, “I’m bored, Mom!”

7. Play reduces children’s anxiety and diminishes stress. A study published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry shows that play is also critical for our children’s emotional health because it helps kids work through anxiety and reduce stress.

8. Play creates joyful memories of childhood. Come on, no kid is going to remember the car pools and worksheets but the swings, jumping in leaves, playing leapfrog in the mud, blowing bubbles, building forts–those are the unforgettable childhood moments. Sigh!

9. Play boosts physical health and reduces risk of obesity. Henry Joseph Legere, MD, author of Raising Healthy Eaters points out: “Rises in screen time have led to the rise of a sedentary lifestyle for our children. In 1982, the childhood obesity prevalence in the United States was actually less than 4 percent. By 2004, that number had grown to about 30 percent.”

10. Play expands our kids minds and neurological development. Self-initiated play improve skills such as guessing, figuring, interpreting and is important to brain development and learning

11. Play builds new competencies, leadership skills, teaches lifelong hobbies, and develops resilience. “Play is what allows kids to manipulate their environment,” says a report written by Kenneth Ginsburg, M.D. of the AAP, “And how you manipulate your environment is about how you begin to take control, how you begin to develop your senses, how you view the world.”

12. Play nurtures the parent-child bond. Child-driven play also improves our parent-kid relationship.Play offers a wonderful opportunity for parents to see the world from our children’s eyes as well as strengthen our relationship when we join in.

In fact, playing with our kids is one of the few times when clocks stop and stress fades. There’s no judgments, schedules or time constraints that worry us. It’s just a glorious opportunity to give our kids our full presence, be in their space and enjoy each other’s company, and build those wonderful childhood memories. Keep in mind folks, there’s no rewind button when it comes to childhood!

So parents, why not just this week push pause and tune into your kids’ schedule? I dare you: take a Reality Check and see just how how unstructured, unsupervised time your kid has. While you’re at it, here are a few questions to help you assess if play should be added to the “Endangered Species List” at your home.

Reality Check: Could Your Kids Be ‘Play Deprived’?

How much are your kids plugged into some kind of a digital device?

How often are your kids glued to that TV or clicking that keypad?

How much free time do your kids have that is unscheduled, unplanned, unsupervised?

How often do your kids go outdoors to just recompress?

Do your kids know how to entertain themselves solo an adult, coach, teacher, or you whether it be indoors or out?

Do your kids enjoy the great outdoors?

How often (if ever) do your kids see you throwing off your shoes and joining in the unplanned, spontaneous fun with them?

Do your kids know outdoor age-appropriate games and have the equipment for those activities whether it be hopscotch, jump rope, Red Rover, I Spy, basketball, freeze-tag, kick the can, skateboarding?

Do your kids know how to self-entertain and do activities that would nurture their creativity or imagination on a regular basis?

Do you set a rule that when friends come to the house a minimum or no plugged-in devices are allowed?

Would your kid say that you encourage them to play unstructured?

How do you respond when your kids get messy? (Just asking…but remember letting your kids get messy every now and then is actually a great way to teach them that nobody’s perfect, accidents do happen, and teaches them to enjoy themselves and their own company).

Let’s remember: Play is an essential — not a luxury – for our children’s well-being. Thirty years of solid child development research confirms that play is crucial for our children’s social, emotional, physical and cognitive growth.  So check into your kids’ lives and make sure at least  a bit of “free time” is a part of their waking hours.

What do you think? Are our kids becoming play-deprived? And if they are, what do you see as the disadvantages?

Dr. Michele Borba, Parenting Expert.  You can also refer to my daily blog, Dr. Borba’s Reality Check for ongoing parenting solutions and late-breaking news and research about child development.

Michele Borba: How to Choose a Quality Child Care

by Dr. Michele Borba
Reality Check: Blogging About Parenting Issues and the Solutions to Solve Them
Posted on May 14, 2010

OK, you’ve read the results. You recognize know that the study says the key to reap academic and behavior gains for your child’s success is to find a QUALITY care giver. Of course you want a great day care for your child. But how do you know which facility is the best one for your child? How do you know which is a quality care facility? My strongest recommendation: Observe a few. And always observe when children are there. It will help you decide if it’s a place you want your child to spend part of his or her day.

Here are a few questions to ask yourself and the staff in making your final decision:

1. Does this seem like a place my child would like to be?
Use your instinct on this one. Can you see your child fitting in and being comfortable in this environment? Are the children enjoying themselves? Do they appear to be happy and active? Is there a variety of activities that are age-appropriate for the children? You know your child better than anyone, so rely on your instincts.

2. Are there rich, interactive language experiences?
Watch the staff interaction with the children closely. Are they talking with the children? Are the children communicating with the staff? Are there rich language experiences and if so are they “hands-on” (not just paper and pencil)? For instance, is the staff reading, speaking, listening to the children? Are there outings, art, dress up, and play type of activities in which children can communicate with peers? Is there a television and if so, is it being used as a “baby sitter”?

3. Is the staff knowledgeable about child development?
Ask the staff what their philosophy about early childhood education is (don’t worry if you don’t know their answer – make sure they have one). Ask how the staff is trained in child development and how frequently? How many of the staff are credentialed in early childhood education? How do they stay current on the latest child development research (such as this study)? What is the educational background and credentials of the supervisor?

4. What is the daily schedule?
There should be a consistent daily structure where children know what is expected. Is there a balance between physical activities and quieter ones? Watch the children. Are they doing the kinds of activities your child would enjoy doing? There must be rich language experiences and activities that stimulate cognitive growth to reap those gains. Make sure children are actively engaged in creative play, interacting with adults, and are not just sitting and doing paper and pencil tasks. Make sure the television is not used as a baby sitter! Then visualize your child in this setting: Is this a good match for your child’s needs, temperament and abilities?

5. What is the ratio between staff and children?
It’s always best to have a smaller number of staff to children. You want to make sure your child is being closely watched. You also want to make sure there is positive interaction (face-to-face!!) between that caregiver and your child.

6. Is the staff “kid friendly?”
Watch the interaction between the staff and children. Do they enjoy kids? Are they patient and kid-oriented? Are they respectful towards them? And (most importantly) do the children appear to enjoy the staff? The “kid friendly” rule has always been the one I was the pickiest about when choosing a school for my own children. A key to the study was that a “High Quality Caregiver” was warm, supportive and provided quality cognitive stimulation. Watch for those traits!

7. What is the discipline policy?
Ask what their discipline approach is for inappropriate children’s behavior – especially for hitting or biting. Ask, “How do you deal with aggressive children?”  Make sure they have a thought-out plan and you agree with their plan. Watch how the children interact with one another: are they caring or aggressive? If you witness an aggressive child, how does the staff respond? The NIH report found that the longer a child was in day care the more likely he would be impulsive at age 15. Habits are formed early. Make sure the facility has a proactive approach to behavior and knows how to replace acting out, aggressive behaviors with more appropriate ones.

8. Is the Day Care within my budget?
Are there any additional costs for the program such as materials or transportation? Find out the entire budget. Is it worth the cost?

9. Will my child fit in and be safe here?
Is it well gated? Are electrical sockets covered? Are fire extinguishers available? How well are they equipped to deal with accidents? Is the staff trained in CPR? Hopefully, there will never be a safety issue, but a good day care makes sure that children’s safety is a primary focus. What do you when my child or other children are ill? Find out what the policy is when children are ill at the center. Is there a supervised location where they can be removed from the other children? Could I see my child in this facility or with this care giver? Is this a place where he would fit in, feel comfortable and thrive? (Use your instinct! Get into the shoes of your child and see the caregiver or facility from your child’s eyes!)

10. Does the staff share the same values as I do?
These people will be sharing their lives with your child, so you want them to hopefully share a few similar values. Think through what are your core beliefs about raising your child and watch to see if the staff models them. For instance: Are they respectful? Do they require children to be courteous and are they courteous to children? Are they dressed neat and appropriately?

For more parenting strategies on this and 101 other issues refer to my latest book, The Big Book of Parenting Solutions: 101 Answers to Your Everyday Challenges and Wildest Worries. You can also follow me on twitter @MicheleBorba and subscribe to my daily blog, Dr. Borba’s Reality Check on my website, MicheleBorba.

Michele Borba: Study Finds Impact of Child Care on Teens

by Dr. Michele Borba
Reality Check: Blogging About Parenting Issues and the Solutions to Solve Them
Posted on May 14, 2010

Over 2.3 million American kids under five are cared for at day care centers. If you’re like most parents, I’m sure you’ve pondered the age-old question: “What impact does child care have on my child? Now there’s an answer.

A federally funded study by the Early Child Care Research Network just released results that will have parents and educators alike on alert.

I shared those results with Ann Curry this morning on the TODAY show. Here are key discoveries from this fascinating research:

Since 1991 researchers have been tracking over 1364 families. Children in the study were randomly selected at birth (all born within 24 hours of each other) from 10 different American locations and have been followed since one month of age. Upper, middle, and lower income families were represented. Investigators examined how differences among families, children and child care arrangements might be correlated to their health as well as intellectual, social and emotional development.  The children were evaluated periodically, most recently at age 15, with a host of measures. The study is significant because it is first to track children representing all demographics and incomes a full decade after they left child care.

Key Findings Parents and Educators Should Know

  • As the researchers point out, “Parents have far more influence on children’s growth and development than any type child care they receive.”
  • Academic and behavior gains from child care that endured until age 15 were slightly higher when children were involved with “high quality child caregivers.” High quality is defined as caregivers who warm, supportive and provide high quality cognitive stimulation.
  • Teens who were in high-quality child care settings before age 5 scored higher on measures of academic and cognitive achievement.
  • Specific academic areas (in order) that showed the highest gains at age 15: Reading, Vocabulary, Verbal Analogies, and Math.
  • Teen also reported fewer acting-out behaviors than peers who were in lower-quality child care arrangements during their early years.
  • Teens who spent more hours in child care in their first 4½ years of life reported a greater tendency toward impulsiveness and risk-taking behaviors (taking drugs, smoking, and alcohol) at age 15 than did peers who spent less time in child care.
  • More than a decade after parents stopped those day care payments the behavior differences were still evident.
  • Though differences in these measures among the youth were deemed small, researchers still considered them significant since the gains latest until age 15. Translation: high quality care giving in the early years affects children’s social, academic, and behavioral development in the teen years.

For parenting strategies and 101 other issues refer to my latest book, The Big Book of Parenting Solutions: 101 Answers to Your Everyday Challenges and Wildest Worries. You can also follow me on twitter @MicheleBorba and subscribe to my daily blog, Dr. Borba’s Reality Check on my website, MicheleBorba.