play

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  • CHOOSE TO PLAY IN A MORE MEANINGFUL WAY

    The month of February is often associated with Valentine’s Day, a day that represents love and having being chosen as […]

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  • Potty Training: A Fun and Fast Way

    Since the invention of the disposable diaper in the 1940’s, parents have both struggled with and enjoyed the benefits of […]

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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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  • 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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  • Summertime Safety

    Summertime is a great opportunity for children to
    explore and challenge their growing bodies to reach new heights, but it is also
    a time when safety is of great importance. June is National Safety Month and the greatest concern parents have in the
    summertime is heat exposure. There are numerous articles that discuss hot car
    and water safety as well as the need for sunscreen and insect repellant when
    temperatures rise.  Many parents,
    however, are not aware that high temperatures and humidity indirectly can lead
    to accidents, the number one cause of childhood injury. According to a 2000
    journal article in the American Academy of Pediatrics, “exercising
    children do not adapt as effectively as adults when exposed to a high climatic
    heat stress. This may affect their performance and well-being, as well as
    increase the risk for heat-related illness.”

    With very hot weather and humidity, the body’s natural
    cooling system can fail and lead to issues like muscle cramps, exhaustion, and
    dehydration. Because children tend to ignore symptoms when they are having fun,
    they need reminders from caretakers to prevent injuries and accidents that can
    occur when their bodies are not functioning normally and are inclined to take
    more risks.

    In addition, time spent with water play and on outdoor
    equipment such as slides, swings, and obstacles courses can also affect the child’s
    vestibular system. This is located in the inner ear and provides a sense of
    balance and spatial orientation. With excessive movement or excessive water in
    the ear canals, this system can cause dizziness, loss of balance, and
    nausea.  

    What can you do to help?

    Step 1. Identify
    Symptoms. These can include: irritability, headaches, increased thirst or
    sweating, weakness, nausea/vomiting, dizziness, frequent falls, or cool/clammy
    skin.

    Step 2.  Provide Reminders. These can include: rest, removal
    of excess clothing, drinking water or sports drinks, and seeking cooler areas
    in shady or indoor, air-conditioned areas.

    Remember to consult with your child’s physician if
    symptoms appear to last for long periods of time. You can also see an
    occupational therapist if symptoms of an abnormal vestibular system appear
    regularly. I hope you find these tips helpful. 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’s publications, visit
    www.playapy.com
    or email
    info@playapy.com.

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