Sunday, August 9, 2009


As school draws to a close, summer, a time for less structure for many families, will soon be upon us. It is important to remember that play is an important part of childhood and helps develop a critical cognitive skill called executive function. Central to the skill of executive function is the ability to self-regulate. Executive function is the ability to regulate one's own behavior.
In an article, Creative Play Makes for Kids in Control, Alix Spiegel states, "Executive function--and its self-regulation element--is important. Poor executive function is associated with high dropout rates and drug use. In fact, good executive function is a better predictor of success in school than a child's IQ."

The most important kind of play in which children should engage is creative play. Howard Chudacoff, a cultural historian at Brown University, says that until recently children
engaged in unsupervised, freewheeling imaginative play. Chudacoff says, " They improvised their own play; they regulated their play; they made up their own rules.
Self-regulation is a critical skill for kids. Unfortunately, most kids today spend a lot of time doing three things: watching television, playing video games and taking lessons. None of these activities promote self-regulation.

When our own children were little they loved to dress up and imagine they were someone else. They also made up plays for my husband and I to watch, which is what they are doing in the picture.

This summer some of my grandchildren spent lots of time at our home. I decided I better practice what I preach, so I gave them some old sheets and bungee cords and told them they could build a fort around our trampoline. They played in their fort for hours. My husband and I also helped them build stilts and they spent many hours learning to use them. It took a lot of stamina on their part and encouragement from us but they were so proud of themselves when they were successful!

Providing for creative and physical play puts more responsibility on parents. It is messy and kids need more help and support than when they watch TV or play video games, but it is so worth out efforts. One of my favorite children's books is Roxaboxen. It is a true story of how children in Arizona built a make-believe town called, Roxaboxen, on a hill in the desert. It is a beautiful example of self-regulation. Do you have ideas for creative play? If so, please share them on this blog in the comment section. And have fun playing!


Jim said...

These are good ideas! Keep up the good work.

smiliesar said...

When I was a kid and older (able to drive a lawn mower) we hitched up a little pull wagon to the lawn mower and my little sister and our friends would pretend to be pioneers walking along the trail. When I was little 4-5 also would go out in the field and roll around in the tall grass and make a house with all the different rooms needed (kitchen, bathroom, bedrooms). One other memory I have is making mud hamburgers and pies along with panning for gold in the little stream that ran through our property (all with just a pie tin).