Wednesday, July 13, 2011
Respecting Playtime as a Time for Development.
Play-dough introduces a new world of textures, colors, smells (and inevitable tastes) to a child. As if this is not enough for a child, many times play-dough is introduced with all sorts of accessories, cookie cutters, rolling pins etc. And if that is not enough, the presentation is completed with a crash course in how to make a pig, or a horse, or how to use a cookie cutter properly. The entire affair usually culminates with a pop-quiz about how many pigs there are or what color the dough is. The child may try to imitate what the parents did and failing to do only leads to frustration. This is because, in the child's eyes the parents have shown them the only way to use play-dough, and the child has done it wrong; they have failed to make a pig in the same way as their parent.
Instead of focusing on all the tools and accessories, presenting the child with a small piece allows them the patience to discover it for themselves. A child will look at it, touch it, smell it and may even put it in their mouth in the same way that they would most other objects. They may be more interested in the texture or plasticity of the play-dough and want to use it in a completely different way. A child will benefit from encouraging comments such as, "you are very focused in what you are doing." It is important for parents to avoid exaggerated appreciation and discard the applause that will leave the child feeling like they need to put on a performance. In this way, the child will not feel the burned of creating an artistic masterpiece and will instead enjoy the company of their parent during a moment of play and discovery.
When children are involved in playtime, using their hands to manipulate or build something, there is a simultaneous process of maturity taking place in the brain that does not need to be pushed or accelerated. Children who are given more opportunities to explore and discover new things by them selves will become more self confident and develop an intuitive curiosity when they are exposed to new things.
Playing with crayons is more complicated than simply putting the crayon and paper together and creating a drawing. A child will make several different discoveries during this time, for example they will discover how best to grip a crayon, or the thickness of a line depending on the pressure they apply. Taking this into consideration, the use of crayons is an important step in the development of a child and "showing them how," by grabbing their hand may undermine the learning process that is taking place naturally. Again, the goal here is not for them to make a Picasso, in fact there is no pressure on the child to understand and practice artistic expression at all. Parents must simply support this as an activity that will help their child develop their motor skills.
Reference: Different Learners by Jane M. Healy, Ph.D.
Spanish translation coming soon...