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Free, Creative Play Grows Self Control and Discipline

10.05.09 Free, Creative Play Grows Self Control and Discipline

I've written on Non-Toxic Kids about the benefit of hours of free play and an extensive article at the Scientific American.

Now, a new pre-kindergarten and kindergarten program called Tools of the Mind is showing that children who develop skills to participate in extensive role playing are showing a stronger ability to self regulate (a current educational term is called "executive functioning"). This skill set is crucial in academic and life success. New data and revelations about creative play are in a new article from The New York Times .

According to the article, "Originally a neuroscience term, it refers to the ability to think straight: to order your thoughts, to process information in a coherent way, to hold relevant details in your short-term memory, to avoid distractions and mental traps and focus on the task in front of you. And recently, cognitive psychologists have come to believe that executive function, and specifically the skill of self-regulation, might hold the answers to some of the most vexing questions in education today." You've got to read the article to understand how this relates to a child’s growth and development, but the potential is astounding. And a few early education programs are putting this idea into practice, and following an untraditional path. Essentially, they are teaching children how to do this extensive pretend play, if they do not do so already, and offering lots of time and exploration to do it.

Today, play is seen by most teachers and education scholars as a break from hard work or a reward for positive behaviors, not a place to work on cognitive skills. But in Tools of the Mind classrooms, that distinction disappears: work looks a lot like play, and play is treated more like work. When I asked Duckworth about this, she said it went to the heart of what was new and potentially important about the program. “We often think about play as relaxing and doing what you want to do,” she explained. “Maybe it’s an American thing: We work really hard, and then we go on vacation and have fun. But in fact, very few truly pleasurable moments come from complete hedonism. What Tools does — and maybe what we all need to do — is to blur the line a bit between what is work and what is play. Just because something is effortful and difficult and involves some amount of constraint doesn’t mean it can’t be fun. Isn’t it nice to also show our kids that work and play do not have to be separate?

This is what our daughter does everyday, all the time. If fact, it is hard to pull her out of her pretend world, to say, eat, go to the bathroom, or run an errand. While this is endlessly frustrating, I am happy that she is engaged in developing her creative world and self regulation. How does this play into her cleaning up after this extensive play? Lest I realize, there is more to life right now than a clean house (and now at least I have this creative play excuse.) This article is a great read.

Click here to check out some creative play toys here at MightyNest.com!

Posted in: Imaginary Play
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