The Ten Kinds of Play

If one of the hallmarks of the early years through the teenaged years is play, it helps us as parents to know about the different kinds of play and what these look like.  In this way, we can help our children achieve healthy play if healthy play is difficult for them.

The number one thing to do to help encourage ALL of the kinds of play I am listing below includes turning off all screens – TV, computer, video games, etc.  Stop them cold turkey.  This is important for all small children as we offer a gesture of protection, but this is especially important if  your child is having trouble with creative play.  And start to schedule in large amounts of “unscheduled” time.  That sounds contradictory, scheduling in unscheduled time, but children of today are rushed from adult-led activity to adult-led activity.  They need time to just daydream and be – that is the genesis of being creative.

Here are some types of play:

  • Large Motor play – climbing, jumping, swinging,  crawling
  • Small Motor play – Fine motor play might include things such as sorting objects, stringing objects, bringing objects in and out,
  • Rules- based play – You see this a lot in pick –up games led by children.  I saw this this weekend at a 4-H event where I observed a  very large group of children ages 8-14 or so were playing kickball.  They figured out where the bases would be, what the foul line was, how far apart the bases should be after a few rounds, etc.  They were making the rules and changing the rules as they went along.  Children do not acquire this skill in adult-led youth sports.  Youth sports NEED to be balanced out by neighborhood pick-up games that are led by children working together.
  • Construction play – Building play.  We often think of building forts, ships or houses but I would also include older children building ramps for a skateboard or bike.  
  • Make-believe play – we see this often in kindergarten aged up children.  At first props may be needed, but older children, even ages 9-11 often have elaborate make-believe games with characters and scenarios.
  • Language play – Using words for play – telling stories, playing with words and rhymes, circle games and songs…..  This can overlap large motor play in the case of jump rope rhymes or hand clapping games.
  • Playing with art – Modeling, creating music, drawing, making posters and puppet shows are all examples of this kind of  play.
  • Sensory Play – playing with sand, mud, water, gathering natural objects that have different textures. 
  • Rough and tumble play – Animals do this too!  This is how children often learn body awareness and boundaries.  This kind of play often needs to be watched to make sure boundaries are set for how aggressive or how dominant a player becomes, but it is important for children to play like this.
  • Risk taking play – Play can and should involve risk.  You most likely will not find this on a conventional playground, but out in nature and even in childhood games.  In a childhood game, this is estimating risk – can I steal to that base? can I run fast enough to make it to “home” without being tagged?  In nature, this might be how high can I climb in this tree?  Will this branch in the tree or log across this stream support my body weight?  This is an important kind of play.  I think this type of play can easily morph in the later middle school and high school years into things that are active, involve an element of risk, but are generally a safe way to get risk-taking behavior out there.  For seventh and eighth graders and up, think about dirt biking through a Motorcycle Safety Awareness club, a tree obstacle course with ziplines, more strenuous hiking and camping, anything with animals such as horseback riding or dog training, rock climbing, skiing, etc.  Help children develop their own abilities to assess risk.  This is an important skill for life.

What kinds of play are your children doing? Can you think of a type of play that is not on this list?

Blessings,
Carrie

Teens and Behavior: Is It All Just Hormones?

The short answer is no, not entirely.  I have been reading the wonderful, accessible book “The Teenaged Brain” by Frances E. Jensen, MD and Amy Ellis Nutt.  When we look at a teenager from a neurophysiology perspective sees more than just  hormones at work.  Some of the main points I took away from the first few chapters in this book regarding adolescent and young adult physiology follows:

Yes, hormones do rise.  The concentration of hormones does change; however the levels of hormones are not any different than the levels found in young adults.  So, if hormone levels are not any different than young adults, than what is the neurophysiologic challenge adolescents are facing that seems to make them more impulsive, more emotional than many  young adults?   (Although judging by some of the idiocy we are seeing on college campuses as of late, I guess this could be argued! LOL)

Part of the challenge is the way the brain is responding and  trying to regulate hormones  that have been previously dormant.  The brain is changing, and the  receptors in the brain and the neurotransmitters that go with these changes is profound.  Sex hormones are especially active in the limbic system, which is the emotional center of the brain.

Adolescents have an ability to reason that is as sharp as an adult’s reasoning, which is why an adolescent can perform well on standardized testing, for example.  Memory and the ability to learn new information is at an all-time high.   However, reasoning often seems to fall short in real life, for example,  a teenager’s perception of risk often falls far short of the reality of risk.  Why is this?

Part of this stems from the maturation pattern of the brain and part of it stems from the fact that a teenager’s brain gets more of a sense of reward than an adult brain because of the increased amount of dopamine that is released. 

The brain matures from the back to the front, and the parietal lobes mature late and the  frontal lobes are the last area to mature.  This is important because the parietal lobes help regulate being able to switch between tasks and help the frontal lobes to focus .  The frontal lobes help send inhibiting messages to the reward centers of the brain – but they are not fully developed and develop last.  They also function in prospective memory – the ability to hold in your mind the intention to perform a certain action at a certain time in the future.  (This skill is almost physiologically stagnant in children ages 10-14, so please don’t just expect them to remember!)Also, the prefrontal cortex that processes negative information, doesn’t work as well in teenagers’ brains.

When we crave what the brain perceives on a physiologic level as a “reward” and we get  a dopamine rush, the teenaged brain is less equipped to deal with shutting the dopamine reward of risky behavior down because of the less developed brain physiology.  Remember, the teenaged brain is about 80 percent mature and teens are hypersensitive from the standpoint of brain physiology to dopamine rewards.  The teenaged brain also releases more dopamine in response to a potential “reward” situation so it can be particularly difficult for a teen to resist situations, especially if negative consequences are never experienced, or if negative consequences are experienced, they are less likely to learn from the situation because they do not process negative information in the same way as a mature adult.  Therefore,  they are more likely to keep repeating the behavior.   This can help explain, for example, things such as addiction in teenagers is more strongly “stuck” in an adolescent’s brain and risk and reward system.

Based upon the above, we know the adolescents consistently disregard risks associated with sexual activity, alcohol, drug use.  We can add to this mixture a society that has devalued sexual activity and the peer role in risk-taking behavior.  Social isolation for girls and a lack of extra-curricular activities for boys increased risk-taking behavior (page 113).  This has nothing to do with the physiology of the brain per se, but we know environment and physiology always mix.    Mood and emotions also can be of profound importance in decision-making moments in teens as well.   

Lots of food for thought in this book.  I highly recommend this as a great read to help you understand and parent your teenager!

Blessings,
Carrie

Parenting Toddlers: A Hands-On Adventure!

Toddlers (which I deem ages one through three, with ages three and four being “nursery school” aged, and ages 5 and 6 being kindergarten aged) are in a very special place in life.  They are all about movement and doing!  They are developing speech!  They are discovering their world.

Parenting toddlers is a hands-on adventure.  It is not one to be embarked upon by yelling from the sofa, “Don’t do that!”  Get up and get moving with your toddler.  A toddler needs constant supervision and reasoning, and punishment does not have a positive effect. Spanking is harmful!  This  is a bulletin from 2012 from the American Psychological Association regarding spanking.  Thirty countries have banned corporal punishment in all settings, including the home. 

There has been much debate in the parenting of older children regarding the use of  rewards or even punishment in terms of  the use of “taking something away”.  (Of course if there is a safety issue with an object, it may need a boundary and a rest!)   I bring this up now, because if you are parenting a toddler for the first time, you are figuring out your parenting style and learning what works and what doesn’t.  You can see an article about the link between materialism and this style of parenting  here.  Here is an article about  “Rewards and Punishments” from the Natural Child Project.  Alfie Kohn has an article about “The Risks of Rewards”  here.   However, if one also searches Pub Med and other places for articles regarding the effects of rewards, I have found the research to be more conflicting and much of the research to be associated with either food/diet related or with children with ADHD.  More work is clearly needed in this area as it applies to real, in-life, parenting.

So, back to the present moment of living with a toddler who in turn is mainly  living in their physical body and who is exploring everything in the world new.  Here are some tools that may be of great assistance:

An Ongoing Loving Relationship with YOU.  That is huge.  Children need to feel connected and loved.   You are not going to do everything right in parenting a toddler, but you can still hold your child and love your child.  You can tell your child positive things, and you can actively respond to your child’s needs. You can listen!   Here is a bulletin from 1991 from the Pediatric Clinics of North America regarding active listening, natural consequences and logical consequences:  the importance of active listening and natural consequences.  Consequences are harder with toddlers (ie, rarely is a toddler refusing to brush their teeth choosing to get cavities and rarely is a toddler who won’t wear a jacket wanting to be cold or get sick), so we also need strong doses of loving limits housed within the following areas….

A Strong Rhythm to your day.  This means that you, as the parent, should be getting up at the same time each day, going to bed at a rhythmical time, providing meal preparation and meals about the same time each day and having a routine that your toddler can settle into. Work, play, rest and love are so important.

The Environment.  It is important that you look at the things in your home with an eye for beauty, order, and yes, putting things up you don’t want a toddler to get into unsupervised up.  Simplicity is key.  Toddlers do not need a million toys, but they do  some open ended toys along with doses of love, sunshine, work, play and rest.

Work.  Toddlers love to work and they need to move their bodies.  Everything will take more time, yes, but what else are you really doing?  Many parents whose toddlers watch a good deal of media have told me they do it because they need to fill up the day with something.  There is a beautiful post here about working with your toddler.

Play outside.  Going outside in the  morning and in the afternoon is not too much for a toddler – (and not just in a stroller or being worn either, let them run and play and get energy out and move!

And when things go wrong?

Distraction can help.  Distraction with singing, humming and moving through things can be helpful. 

Time-in for tinies.  If a temper tantrum ensues, try a  time in for tinies

Have strategies before the time of a melt-down.  Think it through.  Almost every toddler challenge known to man is listed in this back post, along with  ways to solve them.

Movement and singing.  If you want your toddler to put on his or her coat, try helping your toddler’s arm into the coat whilst singing a song about going outside. 

Always go back to the basics of sleep, rest, hunger.

Respect the need for protection for your toddlers.  Toddlers are not miniature adults.  They are wide open to the world and as such do not need a lot of stimulation.  Being in their own homes and neighborhood is enough of a world for a toddler.

Blessings and love,
Carrie

Talking to Children About Healthy Sexuality and Sex

One often hears the horror stories about parents trying to give “the talk” to their children, complete with mumbling, inaccurate terminology and a look of relief when their child has no questions for them and both parties can flee from the room.

In the United States, 13 percent of teens have had sexual intercourse before the age of 15.  Seventy percent have had sexual intercourse by age 19.  We live in a country founded by people who thought sex was rather evil, and we as a nation are obsessed with sexuality and sex in our media.   It is an odd paradox to say the least.  Our children are bombarded with messages about body image daily.  The freedom of the Internet and media in many families has led the average age of children to see their first pornographic act on the Internet at age 11.

These are serious facts, and the discussions about healthy sexuality and healthy relationships to counteract the messages our children receive every day can only begin with YOU by layering in talks about these subjects from an early age in a healthy, developmentally appropriate way.

First of all, like all things in parenting. these discussion have to start with YOU.  How do you feel about Continue reading

Books About Development of the Older Child

One thing I often hear from parents is that while there seem to be at least a good handful of books about the Early Years (0-aged 7) child, there does not seem to be that many books about development, parenting, and discipline for the older child.  So, today, I wanted to share with you some of my favorite titles regarding development for the older child.

General, Ages 7-14:

  • The Gesell Institute Books cover up to age 14
  • A Guide To Child’s Health by Michaela Glocker and Wolfgang Goebel has sections regarding all ages
  • Phases of Childhood by Bernard Lievegoed
  • The Developing Child by Willi Aeppli
  • Raising A Daughter ; Raising A Son by Don and Jeanne Elium

Specific to the Nine Year Change:

  • Encountering the Self by Hermann Koepke
  • I am Different From You by Peter Selg

Specific to the Twelve Year Change:

  • On the Threshold of Adolescence by Hermann Koepke

Specific to Teens:

  • Between Form and Freedom by Betty Staley
  • The Teenaged Brain by Frances E. Jensen, MD
  • Becoming Peers by DeAnna L’am  (for girls)
  • Education for Adolescents by Rudolf Steiner
  • Kinesthetic Learning for Adolescents:  Learning Through Movement and Eurythmy by Leonore Russell (while a eurythmy book, has great general insight into the stages of the teenaged years!)

Tools to Help in the Teenaged Years:

These books can be very helpful earlier in terms of  your own education and development, but I would not expect the techniques in these works to work well until children develop cause and effect reasoning during the twelve year change.  Read them for yourself and feel free to disagree.

  • Nonviolent Communication by Marshall Rosenberg
  • How To Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk – by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish
  • Liberated Parents, Liberated Children:  Your Guide to A Happier Family by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish

For the Big Picture of Life and Parenting:

  • The Human Life by George and Gisela O’Neil
  • Authentic Parenting:  A Four Temperaments Guide To Understanding Your Child and Yourself by Bari Borsky and Judith Haney
  • Adventures in Parenting by Rachel Ross

There are many wonderful books I have also gone through chapter by chapter on this blog; if you go to the “book reviews” button in the header bar and click, you will see a drop down menu with many different book titles.

Many blessings,
Carrie

The Sensory World

One of my favorite places to visit and check out is the website, The Sensory World http://sensoryworld.com/.  It has a wonderful magazine, and many free articles and resources for parents.  I saw the latest issue has suggestions for indoor sensory play.  I haven’t had a chance to read the article yet, but wanted to put together a list for parents for this winter season.

This time of year is in one way, wonderful, because we are over the often over-stimulating holidays.  However, in another sense, this time of year can be difficult for parents and for children who have sensory processing challenges due to the cold weather.  I am all for having children go outside when it is cold, but it also another thing when I am getting letters from readers in Canada and other places where the HIGH temperature for the day is –40 degrees Fahrenheit.  That is cold no matter what wonderful clothes one has for their child!

One aspect I think that often gets overlooked in sensory processing literature and by parents is that one of the best sensory things to do is not to find another thing to play with or buy (not that these things and gadgets are not fun!)  but to involve children in meaningful work.  Pushing against resistance is proprioceptive input, and proprioceptive input is wonderful for balancing all aspects of the sensory system.

Examples of meaningful proprioceptive work includes: Continue reading

Making Peace With Developmental “Spurts”

In infants, we often talk about “growth spurts”.  These usually occur, in infants, at the age of 3-10 days, between 3-6 weeks, between 2-4 months, and at 6 and 9 months of age.  The exact timetable is up to the infant.  During these periods, the infant may wake more for reassurance, may stool and urinate more frequently, may grow in size/length/developmental ability, may need very frequent feeding and the infant has a higher need to be cuddled and loved.

We often talk about this in connection with babies.  What our society talks about less frequently is developmental “spurts” in older children.  The Gesell Institute talks about periods of equilibrium and disequilibrium that continue from infancy into adulthood.  Every year in your parenting, there will be stages of equilibrium and disequilibrium.

Often the “symptoms” look the same – the need to eat and sleep more, possibly with more waking in children younger than 10, the growth and change in developmental ability (often AFTER the growth is complete…many children are more “clumsy” when they have had a sudden spurt in growth), and the child may need more emotional connection and nurturing.

It is a complete fallacy of our society, a fall-out of children becoming miniature adults in our society, that we tend to view four and five year olds almost as adults with adult regulation skills.  We often forget children are Continue reading