Take back childhood
I was a child of the ’70s and a teen in the ’80’s. I had the best childhood! My mother booted me out the door on Saturday mornings and said come back when I was hungry for lunch. Lunch was PB&J handed to us through the screen door and told to come back when the street lights were on. We drank out of the hose (like barbarians) and ran around the neighborhood like feral children until the street lights turned on. We had dinner at the table and then all sat around watching the one television channel we received with our antenna. No binge watching. There was no streaming. We could not channel surf. We lived like cavemen…or so it seems through the eyes of today’s children.
Somewhere we have lost a piece of our childhood in today’s modern, fast-paced world. Children have lost the simplicity of childhood. The magic in simple toys. Quiet times. Outdoor play. I know not every neighborhood is safe to play outside but there are still better alternatives than plugging into a device to waste away the day.
Why are games like Pick-up Sticks and Jacks so important? It is more than a game. These simple non-tech games work a variety of skills children can not learn on a tablet or computer. According to the OT Toolbox, the following skills are worked on when playing a simple game of pick-up sticks
- Hand-Eye Coordination
- Visual Scanning-Visually scans the pile and each player can pick up only one or two certain colors to make the game harder.
- Visual Motor
- Pincer Grasp is encouraged by picking up the sticks. Children need a pincer grasp for managing items like zippers, buttons, and snaps.
- Color recognition
- Precision grasp and release is a needed skill for fine motor tasks and manipulating small items.
- Open Web Space-Picking up the sticks encourages an open space between the thumb and pointer finger, needed for handwriting.
- Figure Ground
- Spatial Relations
- Visual Discrimination
Games like jacks, marbles, hopscotch, jump rope all have an educational benefit. They are working fine and gross motor skills. These skills are the foundation by which a child can learn to hold a pencil, ride a bike, or even run.
It is important for children to learn how to entertain themselves in a quiet space. When I say quiet space I don’t mean one of silence as play should be noisy. By quiet play, I mean one with no television or device. It is ok for kids to be bored. When children are bored they develop creativity. Allowing a child’s mind to wander allows them to daydream which sparks creativity.
When a child has nothing to entertain them it exercises their imagination. The imaginative play is so important. Give a child a big box and some markers and they will soon create a rocket ship. Give a child some pots and pans and a spoon and they will become a rock star. Quiet play is also important to develop independence. You will not be there all the time for the entirety of your child’s life. They will need to learn how to wait in life. In a grocery store line, at the doctor’s office, and at school to just name a few. It is ok to let them daydream.
So “experts” (you know the guys in the white coats in the labs doing research) say children need to spend at least an hour a day in green space. Otherwise knows as the great outdoors!
Studies have shown that
- Children with greater exposure to green spaces, particularly while at school, had improved working memory and decreased inattentiveness
- During a one-year period, children exposed to significant green spaces had a 5 percent increase in the development of working memory and a 1 percent decrease in inattentiveness
- Past research revealed children attending schools with greater amounts of vegetation scored higher on academic tests
Get those children outside. Let them play with chalk, let them get muddy, et them run through the park, let them work on their social skills by learning what it means to share the slide, to take turns on the swing, play together in a sandbox. Don’t let the weather deter you, bundle them up and let them roll around in the snow, put on a raincoat and let them splash in puddles. Not only will you be helping improve your child’s brain you will be making memories that will carry well into adulthood.
For more suggestions on how to get your kids outside click here.