All posts by Krystal

Risk is essential to childhood – as are scrapes, grazes, falls and panic

The Guardian author Kate Blinco hits the nail on the head with her article discussing the value of risky play for children and why parents need to back off and let their kids get bruised.

Children need to be exposed to risky play. For ‘helicopter parents’, this might be difficult – but kids need to learn to manage danger themselves

Risk is an essential component of a balanced childhood. Exposure to healthy risk, particularly physical, enables children to experience fear, and learn the strengths and limitations of their own body. However, before you book a one-way ticket to Beachy Head for you and the toddler, or dump the iPad-loving six-year-old in the woods with just a compass, let’s think about this more carefully.

For this generation of children, shuttled from padded soft play, to school, to club, to sofa, we’ve got a lot of work to do before they come over all Bear Grylls. As parents, many of us are unaccustomed to allowing even the tiniest degree of danger to enter the lives of our children. Surely it’s the job of a good parent to keep them safe? That’s why roaming distance (how far children play from home)has decreased by 90% in the past 30 years.

Read the full article here >>

The Flip Flop Factor

Why Day Care Kids Don’t Play Outside

Article originally published by the New York Times

Outdoor play at day care centers is often stifled because a child arrives wearing flip-flops or without a coat or because teachers don’t feel like going outside.

Those were some of the surprising findings from a new study of children’s physical activity in day care settings. More than half of American children between the ages of 3 and 6 are in child care centers or preschools.

Researchers at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center held focus groups with staff members at 34 area child care centers to learn more about how kids spend their time in day care and the reasons they may or may not spend time outside.

Many of their answers were unexpected. Day care workers keep children inside if they show up in flip-flops rather than sneakers or if they don’t have a coat on a chilly day. Sometimes, the entire class is kept indoors if one child doesn’t have appropriate clothes for outdoor play. One problem is that parents who don’t want their child going outside on a given day will intentionally keep the child’s coat so he or she will be kept indoors.

One surprising problem the researchers learned was about the mulch used to landscape playgrounds and outdoor spaces at day care centers. Staff members complained that kids eat the mulch or use it as weapons, or it gets caught in their shoes, making outdoor play troublesome for teachers.

“It’s certainly not something that we had anticipated as an issue, but judging by the amount of and intensity of the discussions among child care teachers, it really is,” said Dr. Kristen Copeland, assistant professor of pediatrics and the study’s lead author.

The feelings of teachers and parents also influenced whether children played outside. Although children learn important gross motor and social skills on the playground by learning to kick a ball or negotiate with another child for a turn on the swing, teachers said they felt pressure from some parents who were more concerned with children spending time on academic skills like reading and writing.

Some workers said outdoor play is too much trouble because it requires time to bundle up kids during cold weather. Other staff members just said they didn’t like going outside.

“Finding out what the barriers are is the first step in addressing the problem and getting more kids involved in more much-needed physical activity,” Dr. Copeland said.

The research, which was funded by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, was presented Monday at the annual meeting of the Pediatric Academic Societies in Honolulu.

Charter For Children’s Play

Children play best:

When adults are watchful but not intrusive, when safe ground lends courage to their discoveries and adventures.

When their trust in life is whole, when they welcome the unknown and are fearless.

When the world is shared with them. When there are places and spaces they can make their own.

When their games are free from adult agendas and when their transformations require no end-product.

When their senses are directly engaged with Nature and the elements.

When they are free to become gatherers, makers and world creators in their own time and in their own ways.

When they play with others and make relationships.

When they can play alone, be solitary and private.

When they can become new selves through their play with others and in their own imaginings.

When they can reveal themselves, their joys, sufferings, and concerns without fear of ridicule and when mystery and imagination are not denied by fact.

How Toys Impact Children’s Development

Michael Jayne shares his findings about how toys can impact a child’s development and why we might want to put a bit more thought into the toys we purchase and give our children.

Considering the amount of time children spend playing with toys, it seems strange that so little attention has been drawn to their contribution to development. It is even more surprising that the apparent disparity between girls’ and boys’ cognitive abilities in later years lasting into adulthood, especially concerning boys’ average higher aptitude for spatial and mathematical tasks or girls’ talent for empathy and language, has not been linked to the dualistic, gendered nature of children’s toys and the media.
Continue reading How Toys Impact Children’s Development

Neil Gaiman: Why our future depends on libraries, reading and daydreaming

The simplest way to make sure that we raise literate children is to teach them to read, and to show them that reading is a pleasurable activity. And that means, at its simplest, finding books that they enjoy, giving them access to those books, and letting them read them.

A lecture explaining why using our imaginations, and providing for others to use theirs, is an obligation for all citizens

And it’s that change, and that act of reading that I’m here to talk about tonight. I want to talk about what reading does. What it’s good for.

I was once in New York, and I listened to a talk about the building of private prisons – a huge growth industry in America. The prison industry needs to plan its future growth – how many cells are they going to need? How many prisoners are there going to be, 15 years from now? And they found they could predict it very easily, using a pretty simple algorithm, based on asking what percentage of 10 and 11-year-olds couldn’t read. And certainly couldn’t read for pleasure.

It’s not one to one: you can’t say that a literate society has no criminality. But there are very real correlations.

And I think some of those correlations, the simplest, come from something very simple. Literate people read fiction.

Fiction has two uses. Firstly, it’s a gateway drug to reading. The drive to know what happens next, to want to turn the page, the need to keep going, even if it’s hard, because someone’s in trouble and you have to know how it’s all going to end … that’s a very real drive. And it forces you to learn new words, to think new thoughts, to keep going. To discover that reading per se is pleasurable. Once you learn that, you’re on the road to reading everything. And reading is key. There were noises made briefly, a few years ago, about the idea that we were living in a post-literate world, in which the ability to make sense out of written words was somehow redundant, but those days are gone: words are more important than they ever were: we navigate the world with words, and as the world slips onto the web, we need to follow, to communicate and to comprehend what we are reading. People who cannot understand each other cannot exchange ideas, cannot communicate, and translation programs only go so far.

The simplest way to make sure that we raise literate children is to teach them to read, and to show them that reading is a pleasurable activity. And that means, at its simplest, finding books that they enjoy, giving them access to those books, and letting them read them.

Read full article here >

School Starting Age: The Evidence

Here is an article published by the University of Cambridge which discusses the advantages of starting formal schooling later and delaying literacy lessons until the age of 7. We tend to agree and that is why our preschool programs include children age 5 and 6.

Studies have compared groups of children in New Zealand who started formal literacy lessons at ages 5 and 7. Their results show that the early introduction of formal learning approaches to literacy does not improve children’s reading development, and may be damaging. By the age of 11 there was no difference in reading ability level between the two groups, but the children who started at 5 developed less positive attitudes to reading, and showed poorer text comprehension than those children who had started later. In a separate study of reading achievement in 15 year olds across 55 countries, researchers showed that there was no significant association between reading achievement and school entry age.

Read Full Article here >

 

Re-Thinking the Colorful Kindergarten Classroom

The space we inhabit on a daily basis leaves a deep impression upon our psyches. How calm or busy this environment is can say much about our inner lives though for most of us we don’t even notice it. One of the most significant differences of a Waldorf classroom is the quality contained within the space. Parents remark on it consistently.

In this article from the New York Times Jan Hoffman reports on a new study about the effects of busy walls on a child’s ability to focus and concentrate on their work.

Imagine a kindergarten classroom. Picture the vividly colored scalloped borders on the walls, the dancing letters, maybe some charming cartoon barnyard animals holding up “Welcome to School!” signs.

That bright, cheery look has become a familiar sight in classrooms across the country, one that has only grown over the last few decades, fed by the proliferation of educational supply stores. But to what effect?

new study looked at whether such classrooms encourage, or actually distract from, learning. The study, one of the first to examine how the look of these walls affects young students, found that when kindergartners were taught in a highly decorated classroom, they were more distracted, their gazes more likely to wander off task, and their test scores lower than when they were taught in a room that was comparatively spartan.

The researchers, from Carnegie Mellon University, did not conclude that kindergartners, who spend most of the day in one room, should be taught in an austere environment. But they urged educators to establish standards.

Read the full article here >

The Vital Role of Play

Why is it so important that we give our children opportunity for free play?

How could sending my child to an enrichment activity possibly harm their development?

Joan Almon explores the rational behind the “play principle”…

“creative play is a central activity in the lives of healthy young children.
It helps children weave together all the elements of life as they experience it. It allows them to digest life and make it their own. It is an outlet for the fullness of their creativity, and it is an absolutely critical part of their childhood. With creative play, children blossom and flourish; without it, they suffer a serious decline.”

Read the full article in the Waldorf Library here >

Raising Kids Who Care

Young children are increasingly engaged in structured activities such as dance, music, soccer and while these are good they are losing the opportunity for unstructured play and it’s hurting their development.

Playing in a playground where every tree is carefully planted has a different quality than play that takes place in a natural environment. Think back to a camping trip where your children played for hours barely supervised and imagine spending even an hour at the park that way.

Children’s emotional and affective values of nature develop earlier than their abstract, logical and rational perspectives
(Kellert 2002).

The natural world offers sensory stimulation and physical diversity which is critical for childhood experiences; it impacts their morals, values and actions. Children who live and play in close relationship to nature form a bond that lasts a lifetime.

Research shows that kids who are involved in nature have increased academic performance, attention spans, language and social skills. Nature also gives kids the opportunity to be more creative, imaginative, to problem-solve, and to self-regulate, which increases self-confidence and reduces stress.

Children need unstructured play time in order to learn about themselves and the world. Playing in a natural environment allows children to take risks, discover limitations and make judgements to a greater degree than playing in a soccer field. A child who has roamed the hills of their community is more likely to care about what goes on in that community.

From the shores of the Thompson River to the hills of Kenna Cartwright and Peterson Creek Kamloops is full of natural exploration opportunities. Best of all none of it will cost you a dime.

This article was published in the Natural Nurturing Guide in Spring 2014