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  • Writer's pictureNick

Helping Your Kids Grow Through Play

Updated: Oct 15, 2018

All too often, I encounter parents who are concerned for their little ones' ability to thrive in school. They frequently talk about their kids not being able to consistently follow directions, socialize with peers appropriately, self-regulate their emotions, sustain attention in class, procrastinate too much, or problem-solve their way out of challenging situations.

You may have heard the term "executive functioning skills" or "self-regulation skills". These are skills that are crucial for healthy academic, social, and emotional development. The Harvard Center of the Developing Child defines these skills as "the mental processes that enable us to plan, focus attention, remember instructions, and juggle multiple tasks successfully." They provide the perfect analogy: "Just as an air traffic control system at a busy airport safely manages the arrivals and departures of many aircraft on multiple runways, the brain needs this skill set to filter distractions, prioritize tasks, set and achieve goals, and control impulses." I try my best to explain to parents that even though the expectation is for kids to eventually develop these skills, sometimes they need additional help in order to effectively do so. All children are born with the potential to develop these skills, but contrary to popular belief, these skills are not guaranteed. Luckily there are simple and effective ways to support your child in developing them.

Playing games like Concentration, or other card games that require retaining information for future use can help boost working memory.

Role-playing activities creates great opportunities to model, practice, and rehearse social behaviors.

Playing board games helps children practice turn-taking. It also helps them consider multple options that may have varying degrees of success that can help with decision making skills, and can improve communication in games where cooperation results in increased likelihood of success.

For more information on different things you can do with your child to help them further develop these skills, please visit the Harvard University Center On the Developing Child's website. The link below will take you to their activities guide section which contains a wealth of useful things you can do for your child.

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