A Balanced Diet of Play #GeniusOfPlay

Children learn through play. Duh!
But, in the same way a child needs to eat from all of the food groups to have a balanced diet, many children might need encouragement to diversify their play diet.
I was an early childhood teacher for two years, and I noticed a trend that many of my three-year-old students had difficulty with fine motor skills.
Their hands could not grasp and cut with scissors. They could not pull on something with strength. Their grips and pincer grasps were weak and they had more difficulty with pre-writing tasks (we call it “mark-making” in the biz!).
These children required physical therapy to get the abilities that used to be a natural part of a child’s physical development.
Why? I’m sure there are many theories, but mine is this: Play has changed.
Before the “digital age”, children played by manipulating their environment. Pinching dirt into a tiny wall. Rolling play dough. Finger painting. Crawling on the ground and asking to eat their snack out of a bowl on the floor like a dog.
Now, many toys react to the child with just a push of a button or by sensing the child’s motion. There is a greater pay off for less physical manipulation than with traditional toys.
iPads and video games have their place, even in the preschool classroom, but they can not fully replace the role of traditional, hands-on play.
As children play, they learn to solve problems physically and socially, and to develop fine and gross motor skills.
Even in hospitals, staff use play as therapy to help their pediatric patients reach critical milestones.
Gross motor skills, what you might think of as “sporty” abilities, are developed as a child learns to reach, grasp, crawl, run, climb and balance.
Fine motor skills (things you can do in a chair) are developed as children handle small toys. Playing to develop these abilities has a big pay off for memory skills AND attention span!
Play is so important there is a company devoted to creating community for parents who want to support their children in play! Visit Genius of Play for great tips from parents, educators, and industry experts of all kinds about how to encourage your child’s genius through play.

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