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Get Ahead Kids - Vol. 6, No. 2 - March/April 2014

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The Art of Play

By Dorte Bladt

When little Anna came in for her check-up the other day, it was like meeting Tigger from Winnie the Pooh. She bounced in, laughing and chatting, jumping up on the table and talking about all the exciting new things in her life. Her lovely new teacher, the nice new friends she was making, and all the fun activities she was planning to take part in this year.

Anna is typical of the many kids who are refreshed and eager to get started on the 2014 school adventure. A large number of kids are especially keen on the after school activities - swimming, tennis, taekwondo, soccer, dancing, music, footy, gymnastics, drama, surfing, and scouts.

These physical activities promote social skills and stimulate the brain in a different but just as important way as school activities. Physical activity is essential not only for physical health such as heart, lungs, weight control and decreasing risk of diabetes, but also improves brain function that facilitates learning, mood and energy.

Given the child of today has a number of structured physical activities, chores and homework, it appears that children have less and less time left for "play". By "play", I'm referring to unstructured, unsupervised, no adult rules, no screen time, time to do whatever the child creates.

Unsupervised does not mean allowing children to enter unsafe zones - only to allow the kids to make their own rules, decisions on pecking order and solve their own conflicts.

According to an article by The American Academy of Pediatrics, free play is essential for brain development. 'The Importance of Play in Promoting Healthy Child Development and Maintaining Strong Parent-Child Bonds' talks about how play is essential to a child's development as it contributes to cognitive, physical, social and emotional well-being.

Play is so important to optimal child development that it has been recognized by the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights as a right of every child.

Child directed play allows children to be creative and use their imagination to build their physical, cognitive, and emotional strength. The child will create and explore a world they can master, taking initiatives they know how to handle to ensure success.

This helps to improve confidence and resilience and allows them to work on their fears. During undirected play children learn how to work in groups, to share, to communicate and negotiate, to resolve conflicts, to care for others and to learn self-advocacy skills.

When kids play by themselves or in groups they practice decision-making skills, move at their own pace, discover their own areas of interest, and ultimately engage fully in the passions they wish to pursue.

Child directed play means what a child will do when no-one is watching or suggesting to them what to do, and they have the free space to do it in. This is a natural impulse and definitely not a waste of time. This is how a child learns about themselves and their world!

The play can be by themselves or with siblings or friends. It can be inside or outside, with or without toys or equipment; the old shoe box becomes a house, a garage, a rocket or a dentist's chair. The chair becomes a cubby house, a mountain, a school or a space ship. The garden becomes the Great Dividing Range, the Pacific Ocean or a racetrack. The sky is the limit.
What may look like time wasting activities, these are the most brain stimulating activity a child can do!

Child directed play doesn't mean you as a parent are excluded from this fun. Far from it! Playing with your children is a wonderful way to connect, to make them feel safe, loved and cared for. Just follow your child's instructions, let your hair down and enjoy the fun and games they come up with.

Plato stated "You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation."

About Dorte Bladt

Dorte has a special interest in paediatric spinal and nervous system health. She checks your spine to assess if the bones, muscles or ligaments are working properly and will gently, safely and naturally correct it to allow the body and the nervous system to function better. Dorte also provides advice on which exercises would be beneficial as well as which position to sleep, stand and sit in for the best possible posture.

More Information

Dorte Bladt
Doctor of Chiropractic
Family Chiropractic Centre Charlestown
2 Lincoln St, Charlestown NSW 2290
P: 02 4942 4842


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