Saturday, August 28, 2010

Another example of the benefits of play

In my 6+ years as a mama, I've found that one of the very best (and also hardest) parts of parenting is letting go of stress and worry and totally committing to playing with a child.

When I am sitting on the rug with familiar blocks, puzzles, and toys in front of me, my mind sometimes wanders -- to my grocery list, freelance deadlines, and bills.

That being said, periods of focused play with my kiddos are also some of my happiest times as a mom. I love to sit and watch a quiet, focused child work on a new skill.

It is largely for this reason that I just signed Colin up for a Parent/Toddler class at our Montessori School. With my older two children, I have adored that hour-and-a-half a week where I am 100% focused on playing with the perfect little being before me. I can't wait to do the same thing with Colin in just a few weeks.

While I am on the topic of play, I wanted to tell you about a new book I just read called Everyday Play: Fun Games to Develop the Fine Motor Skills Your Child Needs for School by Christy Isbell.

This book was written by a pediatric occupational therapist. She advocates the very sensible view that kids can work on their oh-so-important fine motor skills by engaging in a variety of creative activities at home. I love the idea that learning critical skills should just be another part of the many types of play that a child engages in on a daily basis.

Isbell has some great suggestions for fun and creative activities that will get your child working with his hands. I am particularly fond of the following ideas (and many of them remind me of the activities in a Montessori environment):
  1. Use a wooden mallet to hammer golf tees into Styrofoam.
  2. Using tongs and tweezers, challenge your child to pick up a variety of small items (like Legos).
  3. Squirt two colors of fingerpaint into a resealable plastic freezer bag. Encourage your child to use his index finger to make lines or shapes in the paint and mix the colors together.
  4. Use play dough to teach your child how to use his thump, index and middle fingers to create small "peas."
Everyday Play also includes a helpful "Frequently Asked Questions" section for parents who want to know more specifics about their child's fine motor skills.

This book has been a helpful reminder to me of the many benefits of sitting down one-on-one with a child and engaging them in an interesting "play activity." Plus, I love the idea that you can accomplish this by simply using items you already have around your house.

And with that thought . . . I am off to dig out my mini-muffin tins, tweezers and some small items for a sorting activity I have planned for Brendan tomorrow afternoon.

Disclosure: I was provided with a review copy of this book. That means I didn't pay for it myself.


Emily said...

A great book that discusses the *importance* of playing with your kids is "Playful Parenting." I highly recommend it.

Megryansmom said...

My work is child's play and I am always looking for new ways to keep everyone entertained. I love the paint in a baggie idea! Can't wait to try it out with my little friends