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What's Going On In There? How the Brain and Mind Develop in the First Five Years of Life
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Creative Play Suggestions for Parents and Children

By Brenda J Grom



As adults we go to work every day and hopefully it is work we enjoy. Play is the work of children and often times learning through play can be more effective than being taught in a formal setting.

As parents we know that all children have their favorite television programs, but recent studies have revealed that it's best that preschoolers not spend more than two hours a day in front of a screen, i.e. television or computer.

During a child's first five years, development proceeds at a pace exceeding that of any other phase of life. During this time the brain undergoes its most dramatic growth, and children rapidly develop the cognitive capacity that enables them to become intellectually curious, creative thinkers.

Two questions parents might ask themselves are: Is the time my child spends in front of a television or computer enhancing their development? Is the time my child spends not interacting with their environment a lost opportunity for growth?

If your answer to the above questions comes down on the side of play, the following are inexpensive and fun ideas to encourage your child as they wean themselves from sitting in front of a screen for hours at a time:

1) Remove cushions from the sofa and place on the floor. Children have great fun jumping off the sofa onto the cushions while pretending they are diving and swimming. Do make sure all items that might cause injury are removed from the area.

2) Beach Day! Get out the beach towels, bathing suits and balls and take a trip. Use chairs as the vehicle of choice and designate a place that will serve as the beach. Be sure to talk about what you see as you travel, and especially what you see at the beach.

3) Go camping! Make a tent by draping blankets or sheets over a table. Have children pack a picnic lunch for the family to eat while camping inside the tent--get cozy with your children.

4) Make play dough food and play restaurant. Children can take turns making the food and serving the customers. Use a toy cash register and play money to pay for your meal. Note: Making your own play dough is a lot more fun!

5) Play office by using old computer keyboards, office equipment, phones and envelopes.

6) Use birthday napkins you have from previous celebrations. Make a cake and light candles while singing "Happy Birthday to Us!" If the children help in measuring and stirring they are learning math and sequencing during a fun family activity.

7) Make the birthday party really festive by having the children find small objects to wrap in tissue paper. Make sure you have a large amount of tape so the children can wrap the gifts themselves and surprise one another.

8) String macaroni or beads of different sizes on shoe strings or yarn to make necklaces or bracelets to wear. If you paint the macaroni the day before and roll it in glitter it adds a little glitz to the activity. Be sure to make a sample so the children can see there is a pattern to follow. This is a great introduction to patterning and sequencing while having fun.

9) Have a backwards day by wearing mismatched clothing. This might be best on a day you have no need to leave the house. Kids love when mom or dad act silly!

10) If you have wooden steps to your basement you might suggest your children paint the steps. Provide each child a small bucket with a small amount of water and a paint brush and rags. They can take turns painting and wiping dry and you have clean steps. My kids loved this activity. I'm sure this isn't breaking any child labor laws, so go for it. This is also a great warm weather outdoor activity.

Children love doing just about anything they see adults do. By including your children in family cleaning activities it's a learning experience and an opportunity to do something important as a family. Through this process they learn to take ownership and pride in their surroundings.



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Please visit my website http://preschoolsource.org for preschool information and guidelines for parents, teachers and administrators.



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