playtime

  • Playing Together

    I have strong memories from childhood of playing together with friends. Before I was old enough to explore the neighborhood […]

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  • Screen Less, Play More

    The newest episode of Amy’s Affirmations is a call to parents to decrease screen time and increase play time. Yes, […]

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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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  • The Smart Play P.L.A.N.

    Women are known as natural planners.  Many plan their weddings.  Many more plan their pregnancies and create a birth plan.  Yet, not so many have a plan for playtime.  

    As a pediatric occupational therapist, I often meet parents that don’t realize how much is involved in play until they notice a developmental delay.  After all, playing isn’t something that many people think of as being complicated since it’s the backbone of childhood.  However, what if parents approached play with a plan?  Since a plan typically involves achieving a goal, wouldn’t it make sense to make a plan for achieving the milestones of development? But, who has time for that….

    So how do you make smart play simple? I suggest you follow the P.L.A.N.- The Position-Lesson-Action Nexus.  This simple 3-step concept is about creating a connection of thoughts while playing with your child. 

    Position

    In what position is your child’s body?  

    image

    Changing positions allows for the body to have different opportunities and challenges.  Changing the position of the head can create a different sensory experience.  Putting weight of the hands can create more stability in the joints closer to the core of the body.  You have many options: sitting, standing, kneeling, lying on tummy, lying on back, on a ball, on a swing, on hands and knees, legs crossed, etc.  Learn to explore these options to vary your play time.

    Lesson

    What lesson or skill are you addressing?

    image

    There are several areas of development that you can address separately or simultaneously. Therapists are trained to do this easily but as parents you can learn to do this as well. Try to think in broad terms.  You have many options: sensory processing, development of hand muscles, thinking skills, strengthening, development of large muscles, balance, visual skills, etc.  Learn to focus on different skills so that you aren’t always working on the same thing.

    Action

    What activity is your child completing?

    image

    Playing is all about doing something.  This is usually the part that parents find easy.  Give a child a toy and a demonstration and let them figure out what to do with it.  You have many options: painting, building, coloring, drawing, catching, kicking, pointing, locating, exploring, rolling, listening, bouncing, following directions, etc.  Remember to vary play time so that even if you are working on the same skill you are using different toys, games, or materials to keep your child interested.

    Nexus

    This is where the magic happens.

    image

    When you incorporate the 3 elements listed above into one activity you create the nexus.  Above you see this in action.

    1. Position- lying on her tummy to encourage strengthening, endurance, and weight-bearing on arms, elbows, legs, and hips.

    2. Lesson- development of small muscles of the hand, thinking skills, visual perceptual skills, and development of large muscles.

    3. Activity- building with blocks.

    This connection is where regular play becomes smart play…and it can be just that simple.  

    I hope you find this tip helpful.  

    ~Amy Baez, OTR/L

    Pediatric Occupational Therapist & Founder of Playapy

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