Play Skills

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  • What is Smart Play?

    With the increased presence of technology in children’s products and toys, you may have come across the term smart toys. […]

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  • A Passion for Play

    February is the
    time of year for professing your true love, and I am not too shy to admit that
    one of my greatest passions is play. As a pediatric occupational therapist, I
    spend many hours of my week at play with children. The trunk of my car is full
    of games, toys, and equipment like balls and cushions. I design activities to
    foster skills in children that have developmental delays or disorders that make
    learning and living more challenging for them. Surprisingly, I often have to remind
    parents and teachers that play is actually a child’s occupation. It is through
    play that they learn, use their imaginations, problem solve, enhance their
    muscular coordination and strength, regulate their emotions, and develop their
    sensory systems to understand the world around them. 

    My passion for
    play is a direct result of witnessing the negative effects of schools
    decreasing recess time for young children. Hence, I have become an advocate for
    more playtime in schools. In recent years, societies have moved away from play
    by placing more concern on risk aversion, separating from nature, and
    succumbing to elements of modern living like increased technology. In addition,
    the implementation of policies like No
    Child Left Behind
    has placed more emphasis on testing and assessment
    scores. This has forced schools to find more time in the day for instruction,
    which has led to reducing unstructured play opportunities and free time for
    children. Research, however, shows unfortunate consequences have developed from
    trying to improve education in this way. In fact Boston University psychologist
    and author, Peter Gray, has studied the link between a sharp rise in mental
    disorders and the decline of free play over the last 50 years.

    As more therapists and educators
    become passionate about play advocacy, more attention is brought to this
    important issue. Subsequently there are more positive stories in the
    news including a 1st grade teacher in Texas who recently
    experimented with adding more recess time during the day. Over the course of
    five months, she reported her students were more focused, more attentive, less
    fidgety, and less likely to have discipline issues. I can only hope that more
    schools rethink their recess policies and return to providing more time for
    students to rest and reset their minds.

    I hope you find
    this insightful. If your child struggles with a lack of play opportunities in
    school, consider consulting with an occupational therapist to develop a plan
    for your home. Have a playful day!

    Amy Baez, OTR/L, The Smart Play
    Curator

    Amy Baez is a pediatric occupational
    therapist, award-winning handwriting author, and founder of Playapy. For more
    information about Playapy services and products, visit
    www.playapy.com or email info@playapy.com.

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  • ‘Tis the Season for Toy Making

    It is commonly
    known that the holiday shopping season is very important to the toy industry.
    Just last year U.S. retail sales of toys topped $18 billion. Interestingly, there is
    a trend that could save you money instead of having you spend it if you gift
    your child the opportunity to embrace his or her creativity. The biggest theme
    from this year’s Toy Fair in New York seemed to be maker toys, playthings that
    encourage children to create, innovate, and design which they make and modify
    with their own hands. These toys often consist of constructional pieces and may
    include initial instructions to start a project but also allow for a child to
    take on the challenge to create something new.

    image

    As an
    occupational therapist, I am in the position to play with children daily to
    prepare them for the responsibilities they face in school and at home. I
    consistently recommend to parents constructional toys and craft activities
    because the benefits are numerous. They improve the developmental skills of the
    hands, enhance thinking and strategy skills, keep a child engaged for long
    periods of time, increase self-confidence and self-esteem, and are fun and
    educational simultaneously. These benefits are not only good preparation for
    their childhood learning but for their future. Many businesses are now
    employing concepts like design thinking and prototyping to solve problems and
    improve products and services. In November, the city of Miami hosted Miami Make
    Week, where individuals signed up to join teams to make innovative solutions
    for the home that save resources. Participants also attended workshops and
    lectures on additional topics including robotics, 3D printing, software
    development, and traditional craftsmanship. It is great to see that this is how
    the future leaders of the world will be working, using creativity involving
    both the mind and the hands.

    For this year’s
    holiday season, I invite parents to think outside the traditional wrapped box
    and consider giving your child an open box full of items to create with
    including: cardboard, popsicle sticks, pipe cleaners, paper clips, construction
    paper, glue, markers, tape, scissors, and aluminium foil just to start. If this
    is too abstract or your child is too young, consider buying constructional toys
    or maker sets that give your child the chance to be creative and build. There
    are many brands like Lego, ThinkFun, WabaFun, and Funnybone Toys selling
    products that encourage the imagination and can turn your little ones into the hard-working,
    toy-making elves they are meant to be.

    I hope you find
    this tip helpful. If your child struggles with activities with that involve
    planning, creating, building, assembling, or completing age-appropriate tasks,
    talk to your pediatrician about consulting with an occupational therapist. Have
    a playful day!

    Amy Baez, OTR/L, The Smart Play
    Curator

    Amy Baez is a pediatric occupational
    therapist, award-winning handwriting author, and founder of Playapy. For more
    information about Playapy services and products, visit
    www.playapy.com or email info@playapy.com.

     ***Check out this video for some inspiration.***

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  • Just Say No to Preschool Pressure

    Recently I was having a
    conversation with a mother of three children under the age of six. She explained
    to me that one of her current concerns is that the new preschool her
    three-year-old was attending sends him home with homework. She was initially
    shocked and confused considering her older child did not have this demand. Her
    resolution was to adopt the saying from the 1980’s war on drugs campaign and to
    “just say no” to the pressure this preschool was putting on her child. I
    applaud her and encourage others to do the same. 

    Over the past ten years I
    have seen as increase in the demands placed on preschoolers to perform tasks
    that used to be introduced in kindergarten. I have had countless conversations
    with parents explaining that one of the reasons their child cannot complete the
    work given is become it is not developmentally appropriate. My resolution also
    was to “just say no” to the caretaker because there is no rule that homework is
    mandatory. In fact, the National PTA and the National Education Association created
    a 10-minute Rule established after extensive research from Duke University. The
    rule recommends that 10 minutes of homework is suggested starting in 1st
    grade and adding another 10 minutes per grade. Therefore Kindergarten students
    should not be issued any homework. Other research has also shown that an
    overload of homework is associated with a decrement in performance. As a
    therapist, I have noted that some children also suffer from decreased self-esteem
    and stress on the small joints of their hands from too many expectations. Yet,
    despite this rule, the average Kindergartener was found to be completing 25
    minutes of homework daily.

    How should you handle the
    pressure to do homework in preschool? You can keep calm and politely let the
    teacher know that your child will not be completing any homework at this age.
    Instead you will spend the time playing. According to Jay Giedd, a neuroscientist at the University of California, San Diego,
    most kids younger than 7 or 8 are better suited for active exploration than
    informational or educational explanation. He states, “The trouble with
    over-structuring is that it discourages exploration.” Hence, parents should take the time after school to
    engage with their child by participating in playful exercise and activities
    that improve and encourage creative, social, and fine motor skills like
    building with toys, coloring, drawing, assembling, and even food preparation. 

    I hope you find this tip
    helpful. If your child is having difficulty with age-appropriate activities for
    a preschooler, talk with your pediatrician about consulting with an
    occupational therapist for help. Have a playful day!

    Amy Baez, OTR/L, The Smart Play Curator

    Amy Baez is a pediatric occupational therapist,
    award-winning handwriting author, and founder of Playapy. For more information
    about Playapy services and products, visit
    www.playapy.com
    or email
    info@playapy.com.

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  • Why You Should Buy Fewer Toys for Your Kids!

    Why You Should Buy Fewer Toys for Your Kids!:

    We support this idea even though we do sell and recommend some toys and games. 

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