Posts Tagged ‘Impulsivity’

Let the Kids Play!

Tuesday, October 8th, 2013 by admin

(Your child’s success may depend on it!)

In 1955, Mattel was the first company to advertise a toy before the Christmas holiday season. Overnight, children’s play became focused on THINGS instead of activities, more specifically, their own, imaginative play. In the second part of the 20th century, there was more concern about safely, so parents moved toward safe play environments, like adult-moderated classes providing their children with enriched lives and improved self-esteem. These changes in how children play have led to changes in their cognitive and emotional development.

Psychological Researchers, back in 1940’s, conducted a series of tests on children, ages 3, 5 and 7. Standing still was one of these activities. The 3-year-olds could not do it at all; 5-year-olds for about 3 minutes; and the 7-year-olds could stand still as long as the scientists asked them to. In 2001, Dr. Elena Bodrova at Mid-Continent Research for Education and Learning repeated the experiment and the results were drastically different.

The 5-year-olds were acting at the level of 3-year-olds sixty years ago; 7 year olds were barely approaching the level of the 5-year-olds. The children were less likely to have self-regulation skills. This is the ability to control emotions and behavior – It’s a key component of a broader set of skills called Executive Function. Kids with good self-regulation are not impulsive; they have self-control and discipline. Good self-regulation is a better predictor of success in school than a child’s IQ.

Self-Regulation predicts effective development in virtually every domain, says researcher Laura Berk, from Illinois State University. She found that make-believe is a powerful tool for building self-regulation. While in imaginative play, children engage in private speech. They use this speech to say what they are going to do and how they are going to do it – laying out the rules of play for themselves.

Private speech has been found to be predictive of Executive Function. Adults engage in private speech as well; we use it to surmount obstacles, master cognitive and social skills, and to manage our emotions. The more structured the play, the more children’s private speech declines. Kids are not getting the chance to police themselves. When they have the opportunity, the results are clear: self regulation improves.

Yale psychological researcher Dorothy Singer found that teachers and administrators are starting earlier and earlier in basic fundamentals. Because of all the testing, kids are working on educational skills and drills, and playtime is being squeezed out. In the rush to give children every advantage — to protect them, to stimulate them, to enrich them — our culture has accidentally compromised one of the activities that helped children most. Make sure your child gets time to work his imagination in his own creative way!