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Tuesday, February 26, 2019

10 Ways That Play Strengthens the Community as a Whole

Photo by Dan Keck (Flickr)

When I think of what makes my local community successful, I think of its economic conditions, social interactions, environmental stability, and cultural diversity. Play also contributes to the success of my community. As we promote play, let's consider the ways that play and playgrounds support a community's well-being.

Boost Cognitive Function

Everyone in the community benefits cognitively from play. When children play, they develop important cognitive skills like language, problem-solving, and strategic planning. Playing also improves memory and reduces dementia in adults.

Encourage Creativity

I love watching my girls and their friends make up new games as they play. Creativity is important for our kids' development, but it's also important for adults because it improves innovation, problem-solving, productivity, and positivity.

Develop Social Skills

I'm always looking for ways to prompt my girls to practice friendliness, compassion, and inclusion. They can learn these skills on the playground as they collaborate, cooperate, share, and play fairly with a variety of children. Adults, too, develop social skills and strengthen bonds with family members and neighbors as we play together in our community.

Improve Mental Health

Whenever my girls or I feel stressed, frustrated, or out of sorts, we play. The physical activity and fresh air clear our heads, reduce stress, and improve our moods. These same mental health improvements are available to everyone in our community as we relax, make connections, and play.

Stay Physically Active

To better our physical health and fight obesity, we need exercise, which we get as we play. One study showed that a park improvement project in Chicago resulted in a 37 percent increase in movement and physical activity. Walking, biking, or hiking around the neighborhood, joining a community rec center, or playing basketball, tag, or tennis are all fun, playful activities that encourage our families and neighbors to get more exercise.

Celebrate Diversity

One of my favorite neighborhood playgrounds features an inclusive design. Kids and adults of all ages and abilities can meet for fun and play. In this environment, neighbors learn to demonstrate compassion, celebrate diversity, and value all humankind.

Promote Teamwork

When one of our local playground areas needs a makeover, the entire community pitches in. We band together to pull weeds, repair broken equipment, and paint benches. We can feel proud to be part of a community effort that promotes teamwork and draws us together as neighbors.

Create Healthy Habits

We want our kids to adopt a playful lifestyle now so they can continue to enjoy the benefits of play when they reach adulthood. Let's prioritize play and make it a habit as we empower our kids and communities to transform their health, wellness, and well-being.

Preserve the Environment

While walking the perimeter of a local playground recently, my girls and I spotted squirrels, birds, and dozens of tree and plant varieties. All of these playground features beautify our communities, improve air quality, and preserve the environment for future generations.

Strengthen the Local Economy

Playgrounds and play boost the local economy through reduced environmental cleanup expenses and community health-care costs. Local restaurants, coffee shops, and shopping centers near playgrounds also enjoy higher sales, and properties located next to parks increase in value by as much as five percent. For these reasons, we can support play as we strengthen our local economy.

To help our communities succeed, let's play more. When we support our local playgrounds and encourage our kids to play, everyone wins. How does your community benefit from play?

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

Monday, February 25, 2019

8 Ways That Play Promotes a Go-Getter Attitude!

Photo by Josh Davis (Flickr)

Some children are naturally focused, independent, and motivated, but other kids need help developing a go-getter attitude. Personally, I want both of my girls to become more confident as they make decisions, take risks, learn from failure, exercise self-control, and develop a winning attitude. If you want the same for your kids, let's use play. It promotes a go-getter attitude in eight ways.

Play Prompts Step-by-Step Learning

Almost every skill our kids develop depends on a step-by-step approach. For example, our kids must learn to hold a shovel and scoop sand before they can build a sand castle. Let's give our children time to play, and they'll learn the importance of mastering the basics and persevering through each level. This understanding equips them to tackle school and work projects in a methodical, step-by-step way.

Play Promotes Desire and Motivation to Master Concepts

My younger daughter is determined to run a half-marathon this summer, so she runs almost every day, follows a strict strength training regimen, and eats a balanced diet. Interestingly, I attribute her desire and motivation to free play. When our kids choose their playtime activities, they usually choose the activities they want to do and are then motivated to succeed. Play allows them to develop inner fortitude that propels them to continue mastering concepts even when playtime is over.

Play Provides Opportunities to Practice

Our children learn by repetition. The hours they spend kicking a ball or drawing sketches eventually leads to improved skills. Play provides the practice time our kids need to master skills and realize that success depends in part on their motivation and commitment to ongoing self-improvement.

Play Improves Executive Functioning

The prefrontal cortex of the brain controls our kids' ability to regulate their emotions, solve problems, and make plans. These and other executive functions develop through play. As kids choose playtime activities, learn to solve problems, and practice emotional regulation, they also develop skills that help them make wise decisions and succeed in their endeavors.

Play Encourages Kids to Weigh Risks and Rewards

When our kids bravely try new play activities like climbing a high jungle gym or learning a new game, they decide that the rewards of the activity are greater than its risks. The commitment to leave their comfort zone, embrace potential failure, and exercise independence will increase their ability and motivation to tackle new ventures and reach their goals in the future.

Play Increases Focus

My girls can stay entertained for hours when they're engaged in a fun, playful activity. Over time, this ability to focus also enables them to stay on track and complete tasks like school homework, band practice, and job responsibilities.

Play Develops Self-Sufficiency

I sometimes hear my girls complain of boredom, but solo play plays an important role in developing a go-getter attitude. Children need to trust themselves and feel confident about their abilities as they tackle projects in their personal lives and their careers. Playing alone gives our children opportunities to take initiative, exercise their imagination, and be responsible for their own success.

Play Enhances Decision-Making Abilities

As our kids play, they make multiple decisions. For example, they select which brush strokes to use, what card game to play, and how to design their indoor fort. These decisions lay the foundation for our kids to trust their instincts or realize they can adapt and make better decisions next time. Overall, our children become more confident, independent, and motivated as their decision-making skills improve through play.

With a go-getter attitude, our children can achieve almost any goal they set their minds to. We can cultivate this important attitude in eight ways as we encourage our kids to play. In what other ways do you promote a go-getter attitude in your kids?

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

Friday, February 15, 2019

8 Black History Month Resources for Children

Photo by Clotee Pridgen Allochuku (Flickr)

In addition to Valentine's Day and Presidents Day, my girls and I celebrate Black History Month in February. Started in 1926, Black History Month is observed annually in February because Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln, two men who supported and influenced African-Americans in our country, were also born during this month.

I know we can celebrate black history all year long, but I like to use this occasion to emphasize and honor the achievements and contributions of African-Americans in our country's history and future. I've found eight resources that can help us to promote learning, understanding, and appreciation among our kids during Black History Month.

  1. Top 15 Children's Books for Black History Month: Celebrate and explore Black History Month with 15 stories that feature African-American themes and famous people. Kids can meet Jackie Robinson, discover jazz music, or learn about segregation. With these books, our kids can also find the courage to overcome adversity, celebrate their unique history, and feel inspired to make their own multicultural mark on the world.
  2. Black History Month Facts: Access the History Channel's Black History Month page to view videos and read articles that share facts and information about black history. Scroll to the end to the page to access all of the valuable information on this resource page. In particular, my girls felt inspired by the photo journal of black female politicians.
  3. About Black History Month: Discover Scholastic resources including a variety of stories and articles that tell kids more about African-American people and the numerous events that have shaped their history and culture. For example, you can read about the first black songwriter to write a country music hit and understand more about Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech.
  4. African-American Heritage Sites: My girls are using the National Park Service website to plan our next vacation. They want to visit African-American heritage parks and see the sights that commemorate historically significant events. They can also use this resource to find and learn about celebrations around the country that honor African-American heritage.
  5. Black History Month Lessons and Resources: Every time I visit the National Education Association website, I find dozens of lesson plans, worksheets, and games that can help my kids learn more about black history. This resource also equips teachers, parents, and caregivers to share facts and information about arts, science, and history. As a bonus, we can adapt each activity to any grade level.
  6. Black History Month Worksheets: Kids can learn more about black history with games, coloring pages, recipes, crafts, and informational worksheets from Education.com. The resources on this page cover a variety of African-American facts and people. Explore music, politics, writing, and science or make an African musical instrument in the classroom or at home.
  7. All About Black History Month: This PBS video tells us how Black History Month began and includes lots of interesting information about black history and famous black Americans.
  8. Black History Activities: From making a collage to re-enacting a story from history, ideas provided by Kids Activities can keep kids engaged and entertained as they learn. My girls especially like activity eight, which allows them to make their own inventions in honor of African-American innovators.

This February, let's teach our kids about Black History Month. These eight resources can help you promote learning, understanding, and appreciation. What other resources do you recommend?

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

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