Author Archives: hcccentralregion

Play, Prescriptions and Purpose

A recent report by the American Academy of Pediatrics suggested that doctors should write prescriptions for play during early-childhood checkups.

The report made national and even international headlines, shining a spotlight on the concept of ‘prescriptions for play’.

Few people who work in early child development would be surprised by the report’s contents. We’ve been saying many of the same things for a long time.

“Play is not frivolous; it is brain building,” the report said.

“Pediatricians can play an important role in emphasizing the role of a balanced curriculum that includes the importance of playful learning for the promotion of healthy child development,” the authors wrote.

In an opinion piece in the Washington Post September 14, children’s author Katherine Marsh decried the current thinking that:

“Play can’t be just what children do or what they enjoy — it has to serve a purpose”

She continued:

“No one wants his or her child to become a purposeless adult. But part of the joy of childhood is doing things because they anchor you to the moment, not because they will reap future benefits or rewards. There is a sense of mindfulness children feel when they play that so many of us long for as adults. This is why the AAP report is so important — and why we need to implement its philosophy by trusting ourselves as parents and teachers, not by following doctor’s orders. True play is freedom from purpose, and no doctor can prescribe that.”

Prescriptions might be a stretch, but it cannot hurt for family doctors to talk to parents about the vital role of play in childhood.

As for the ‘purpose’ argument, well, no activity can be classified as ‘play’ unless it involves fun and joy. But play DOES have a purpose.

In a sense, play is the work of children. They learn how things work. They explore and discover. They learn how to participate in group activities. They learn how to navigate the world around them. Play prepares children for adulthood.

We can acknowledge that purpose without fixating on it. Fixations can be unhealthy. Play, on the other hand, is part of healthy child development.

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Summer Time

Find a flower, bend down low;

Breathe in its scent, long and slow.

 

Hold a firefly in your hands;

Watch the flicker as it lands.

 

Lie on the grass, eyes open wide;

Count the clouds from side to side.

 

Feel wet sand between your toes;

Wash it off with garden hose.

 

Put a berry on your tongue;

Taste the sweetness, old and young.

 

Feel the sun’s warmth on your skin;

Smell that fragrance; breathe it in.

 

Wake to hear the songbirds sing;

Watch a hummingbird’s tiny wings.

 See, touch, smell, taste, listen:

Summer’s promise lures and glistens.

 

Play and learn.

 

Mud Pies and Puddle Boots

We are nearing mud puddle season, that messy and marvelous time when puddle boots are a necessity.

One spring when I was a child, our farmhouse was an island with floodwaters coming within six feet of it on all sides. That was a very good year for puddle boots, but not so good for other things.

The floods did not happen every year, of course, but we could always count on puddles. My sisters and I remembered going to the beach in the summer, sitting on the sand in the shallow water and making waves with our hands. Why couldn’t we do that in the puddles in our yard?

We went to the house to get our swimsuits and told Mom what we were going to do.

“I don’t think that’s a good idea,” she said, but she did not forbid us to do it.

We dashed back to the puddles and sat down in the water.

It wasn’t much like being at the beach, after all. First, the water was cold. Second, wet mud has a completely different texture than wet sand. And third, the disturbed water was dirty.

We needed baths afterwards and our bathing suits needed to be laundered. We did not ever try it again

But we learned a lot that day, things we would not have learned as quickly or as well without the experiment.

It may be wet and messy, but playing in mud puddles is good for children.

A child’s neurological system is naturally designed to seek out the sensory input it needs in order to develop into a strong and capable individual. If a child is spinning in circles just for fun, it is because he or she needs that sensory input. Movement and physical play facilitate the development of new connections (synapses) among brain cells and the overall organization of the brain. As these connections develop, child’s fine and gross motor skills, socialization, personal awareness, language, creativity, problem solving and learning ability are improved. This is why they need to climb the trees, jump on the bed, run through the woods, splash in mud puddles. These are all natural and necessary experiences that will encourage their cognitive skill development.

You can read more at https://novakdjokovicfoundation.org/splashing-mud-puddles-beneficial-children/

Or go to http://www.letthechildrenplay.net/2011/08/10-reasons-why-we-should-let-children.html Here is a condensed and paraphrased version.

1. Playing in the mud can make you happier.

Scientists have discovered something that playing in the mud can lift your mood.  Recent studies have revealed that dirt contains microscopic bacteria called Mycobacterium vaccae which increases the levels of serotonin in our brains, helping to relax, soothe and calm.

2.  Playing in the mud connects you with nature.

If you never know something, it’s hard to care about it. Many kids these days never know the outdoors beyond the school playground or their own backyards, if they even have one.   

3.  Playing in the mud can make you healthier.

Research has shown that playing in the dirt – including very wet dirt – is good for a child’s immune system.

4.  Playing in the mud can make you smarter.

Studies have found that playing in the dirt can make you smarter.  The same release of serotonin that occurs when playing in M. vaccae dirt has also been shown to improve cognitive function.

5.  Playing in the mud helps children to learn and develop.

Sensory, hands-on play feeds children’s brains.   Playing with mud – a delightfully sensory experience – can help children to learn and develop.

6.  Playing in the mud helps develop positive dispositions.

Having an area outdoors set aside for mud play – a mud patch or a mud pie kitchen for example – provides a space for children to retreat to for some time alone in a soothing sensory experience or to play with peers co-operating, communicating, negotiating and sharing.

7.  Mud is a wonderful art medium.

Mud can be moulded and decorated and it responds differently than sand, clay or play dough.

8.  Mud play welcomes all comers.

Mud is an open-ended material that meets the different needs and interests of different children.  A younger child might be right into the sensory experience while older preschoolers are busy making their own mud bricks.  With mud, there is something for everyone.

9.  Playing in the mud encourages creative thinking.

Playing with open-ended materials like mud stimulate creativity and imagination – things that are hard to jump-start later in life.

10.  Childhood memories.

Which brings me back to my own memories and perhaps yours as well.

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Mother Goose and other rhymes

Ring around a rosy

Pocket full of posies

Husha husha

We all fall down.

For years I’ve heard that the origins of this nursery rhyme lay in London’s Great Plague – rosy cheeks brought on by fever, posies to ward off the danger, and the final, inevitable death. What a gruesome rhyme, I thought, to sing with your children.

Well, it turns out that the plague plot line is not accurate. For one thing, the rhyme does not appear in any anthologies before 1881, long after the plague was over. For another, the symptoms mentioned in the song do not match those of the bubonic plague. And finally, there is a second verse with the final line “We all get up”. Which, of course, we couldn’t do if we were dead.

“Falling down’ and ‘getting up’ refers instead to a simple curtsey or dance movement.

This and other stories about favourite nursery rhymes can be found in the book “Oranges and Lemons: Rhymes from Past Times” by Karen Dolby (Michael O’Mara Books Limited, 2015).

It is interesting to read about the origins of some of the rhymes that have entertained and educated children for more than 500 years.

The queen with the mouse under her chair, for example, was England’s Elizabeth 1.

The little lamb that followed Mary to school one day is based on a true story that happened in the United States.

“Pat a Cake Pat a Cake Baker’s Man” was first quoted in 1698.

“Rain rain go away” dates back to the time of the ancient Greeks and Romans. Children, who were believed to have special power to affect weather, would chant it to make the sun come out.

It is said that Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote “There was a little girl who had a little curl” on the spur of the moment while holding his infant daughter.

Many rhymes were designed as learning songs – the alphabet, numbers, the days of the week. Others as an aid to making choices (“Eeny Meeny Miny Mo”) and still others as an inducement to sleep (“Rock-A-Bye Baby).

A was an apple pie

B bit it

C cut it

D dealt it

E eat it

F fought for it

G got it

H had it

I inspected it

J jumped for it

K kept it

L longed for it

M mourned for it

N nodded at it

O opened it

P peeped at it

Q quartered it

R ran for it

S stole it

T took it

U upset it

V viewed it

W wanted it

X, Y Z and ampersand

All wished for a piece in hand.

 

The fact that they have survived is a testament to their value. The times may have changed, but the needs of our children have not.

Puss in Boots

Food bowl

If the food bowl fits…….

 

Many of us, when we’re feeling overwhelmed, Google baby pictures to get our daily dose of oxytocin, the hormone associated with bonding and empathy, among other things.

Some of us, judging by the number of cute kittens on social media at least, get the same feel-good warmth from feline photos.

Not too long ago, a 15-second video made the rounds of Facebook. Two kittens, two rubber boots. One in each.

The kitten in the right boot stays hunkered down inside his rubber home. All you can see are eyes.

The kitten in the left boot, on the other hand, is trying to scramble up. The weight of his paws forces the rubber to fold in on itself and down he goes again.

Sometimes he manages to get two paws into the boot beside him. It looks as if he is trying to get on top of his sibling. He does not succeed, but he keeps trying.

It is obvious that the kittens are playing, although the challenge of getting out of the boots may prove more difficult than they at first imagined. And mother is nowhere to be seen.

She has given them the independence to figure this out for themselves.

If animals play, this is because play is useful in the struggle for survival; because play practices and so perfects the skills needed in adult life” Susanna Miller

I have not been able to find out who Susanna Miller is, or what her credentials are, but I can agree with her sentiment.

It is even possible to extend the thought to humans. Children learn about their world and how to live with others in it through play. And sometimes parents need to step aside to let that play happen.

Something to think about.

 

If you would like to see those kittens for yourself, you can go to:

https://www.facebook.com/topretriever/videos/1807075689607254/

Glow, little glow worm

Firefly

At the end of each school year, the country school I attended would hold an evening picnic. There would be a pick-up ball game, adults and students playing together, followed by a weiner roast and potluck supper. As daylight faded, children entertained themselves by catching fireflies. Some with forethought had brought along glass jars in which to hold the insects. Others held the fireflies captive between two hands, spreading fingers slightly to watch the lights inside.

My memories of those nights are hazy. I remember few details. Except for the fireflies. I never forget the fireflies.

“Fireflies in the Garden By Robert Frost 1874–1963

Here come real stars to fill the upper skies,

And here on earth come emulating flies,

That though they never equal stars in size,

(And they were never really stars at heart)

Achieve at times a very star-like start.

Only, of course, they can’t sustain the part.”

Robert Frost, The Poetry of Robert Frost

 

Warm skies, the stars are listening.

Country night sings her song.

Fireflies light the distance.

Making me want to sing along.

– Ruthie Foster

A BEETLE BY ANY OTHER NAME

We call them fire flies or lightning bugs. We call their larvae glow worms.

Shine little glow-worm, glimmer, glimmer;

Shine little glow-worm, glimmer, glimmer

But they are not flies. They are not bugs. And they are not worms.

They are beetles. And they are bioluminescent throughout every cycle of their lives. Even their eggs glow.

They are the world’s most efficient light producers. They produce cold light, too, which is lucky for them. If their flickering produced as much heat as it does light, they would likely be burned to a crisp.

Their light is their language; it is how they talk to others of their species.

So many fascinating scientific facts to be learned if you stay outside to watch the fireflies.

“Magic is seeing wonder in nature’s every little thing, seeing how wonderful the fireflies are and how magical are the dragonflies.”

― Ama H. Vanniarachchy

What’s more, we’re having fun doing it.

I wish I was a glow worm,

A glow worm’s never glum.

“cos how can you be grumpy

When the sun shines out your bum.

– author unknown

Magic and memories. Fascinating facts and fun. All in the great outdoors.

The recipe for a perfect summer.

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What I Heard at the Fathering Conference

People who work in parent-child programming are accustomed to attending conferences where women outnumber men by a significant margin.

It is a novel – and enlightening– experience to attend a conference where there are as many male participants as there are female, and where the majority of the presenters are male.

The national Fathering Conference in Winnipeg March 1 and 2 was just such an event.

Sponsored by Dad Central Canada, the one and a half day event was entitled “Side by Side: Strategies for Working with Vulnerable Fathers”.

Attending any conference always involves choices – ‘which breakout sessions do I attend?’ – and one person’s notes may not look anything like another’s as a result. When I reviewed my notes after the conference, I found these nuggets.

Father involvement:

  • Is greater in the upper and middle classes
  • Affects child development
  • Is affected by vulnerability and marginalization

Words I Will Not Forget

“I have not failed; I have just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

What makes a father vulnerable:

  • Mental illness
  • Incarceration
  • Military career
  • Newcomer status
  • Domestic violence
  • Aboriginal background
  • Youth
  • Non-residential
  • Racialized
  • Special needs

(I think I would add socio-economic status to the list. Poverty equals vulnerability in many cases and this supports the earlier statement that father involvement is greater in the upper and middle classes.)

Five strength-based assumptions:

  • Fathers desire to have regular interaction with their kids.
  • Fathers have an innate ability to nurture and care for their children
  • Fathers focus on success in all areas of their children’s lives
  • Fathers have important and unique gifts to bring to families
  • When we strengthen fathers, we strengthen kids.

Words I Will Not Forget

Adolescence is a stage, not an age.

What do dads want in a dad’s group? (as selected by dads in Ontario’s Niagara region).

  • Peer to peer
  • Evening
  • Facilitator with lived experience
  • Accessible location
  • Topics of interest
  • Food
  • child care
  • “not like school”
  • Group of dads

Words I Will Not Forget

Every time you say the words “at risk”, it is potentially prejudicial.

For further information and resources you can go to www.dadcentral.ca