Thursday, February 21, 2008

Play Builds Serious Skills

NPR had an excellent report this morning on the business of play. We've known that "quiet play time" for Elliot is an absolute essential part of his day, otherwise his head seems to explode and he turns into a wild thing. I love spying on Elliot and seeing him choreograph his "guys" knights or action figures in these elaborate situations (while he's whispering in a high pitched voice). This activity seems to put him in a Zen like zone. Asher gets into the zone by mutely running puzzle pieces on the floor and pretending they're cars (he's our special fellow). Maybe the quiet play time will help them improve their self regulation in the end.

From the report:
It turns out that all that time spent playing make-believe actually helped children develop a critical cognitive skill called executive function. Executive function has a number of different elements, but a central one is the ability to self-regulate. Kids with good self-regulation are able to control their emotions and behavior, resist impulses, and exert self-control and discipline.

We know that children's capacity for self-regulation has diminished. A recent study replicated a study of self-regulation first done in the late 1940s, in which psychological researchers asked kids ages 3, 5 and 7 to do a number of exercises. One of those exercises included standing perfectly still without moving. The 3-year-olds couldn't stand still at all, the 5-year-olds could do it for about three minutes, and the 7-year-olds could stand pretty much as long as the researchers asked. In 2001, researchers repeated this experiment. But, psychologist Elena Bodrova at the National Institute for Early Education Research says, the results were very different.

"Today's 5-year-olds were acting at the level of 3-year-olds 60 years ago, and today's 7-year-olds were barely approaching the level of a 5-year-old 60 years ago," Bodrova explains. "So the results were very sad."

Sad because self-regulation is incredibly important. Poor executive function is associated with high dropout rates, drug use and crime. In fact, good executive function is a better predictor of success in school than a child's IQ. Children who are able to manage their feelings and pay attention are better able to learn. As executive function researcher Laura Berk explains, "Self-regulation predicts effective development in virtually every domain."

Herman Dune - I Wish That I Could See You Soon

Just discovered Herman Dune, they're Swiss/French and have been around for a long time. Love the pink hood. Fun music.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Affirmations for the Ages - Developmental Psychology

When I first heard these affirmations (from HELP! for Parents), they really resonated with me. Keeping them top of mind and repeating them to the boys as appropriate, has a way of magically diffusing a situation and getting to the emotional heart of a struggle. The birth to 6 months affirmations are appropriate for any age.

Being: Birth to 6 months

  • I'm glad you're alive
  • You belong here
  • What you need is most important to me
  • I'm glad you are you
  • You can grow at your own pace
  • You can feel all of your feelings
  • I love you and I care for you willingly
Doing: 6 Months to 18 Months
  • You can explore and experiment and I will support and protect you
  • You can use all of your senses when you explore
  • You can do things as many times as you need to
  • You can know what you know
  • You can be interested in everything
  • I like to watch you initiate and grow and learn
  • I love you when you are active and when you are quiet
Thinking: 18 Months to 3 Years
  • I'm glad you are starting to think for yourself
  • It's ok for you to be angry and I won't let you hurt yourself or others
  • You can say no and push and test limits as much as you need to
  • You can learn to think for yourself and I will think for myself
  • You can think and feel at the same time
  • You can know what you need and ask for help
  • You can become separate from me and I will continue to love you
Identity and Power: 3 to 6 Years
  • You can explore who you are and find out who other people are
  • You can be powerful and ask for help at the same time
  • You can try out different roles and ways of being powerful
  • You can find out the results of your behavior
  • All of your feelings are ok with me
  • You can learn what is pretend and what is real
  • I love who you are
Structure: 6 to 12 Years
  • You can think before you say yes or no and learn from your mistakes
  • You can trust your intuition to help you decide what to do
  • You can find a way of doing things that works for you
  • You can learn the rules that help you live with others
  • You can learn when and how to disagree
  • You can think for yourself and get help instead of staying in distress
  • I love you even when we differ. I love growing with you.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

My Perfect School

Elliot often says he wants to be a teacher when he grows up (along with professional air hockey player) but he grumbles about going to school, "it's too much work!" So I asked him to tell me what types of things they'd do in a school he'd like to attend.

"The teachers would listen to the kids about what they want to do. First we would go to a professional basketball game and then come back for a Mexican fiesta with lots of snacks like chips and salsa. We could learn about Spanish and Mexican culture. Then our parents would come to the school and we'd have ice cream. Next we would play video game wars, where everyone in the school competes for a prize."

Meeting Mischa

The boys were so gentle and sweet with Mischa, pretty in pink. She slept the whole time, but we got plenty of cuddle time in with her before we left. Elliot was primed for the LA heat pledging to wear shorts and t-shirts everyday, luckily we got our respite from the Seattle freeze.