Play Grows Brains.

When you hear that play helps with brain development, what kind of play do you imagine?

I would define play as self-directed, freely chosen, and intrinsically motivated activities.

Makers of electronic toys would have us believe that we need these educational toys to ‘teach’ our children something. And yet the research has shown that the most simple toys that do not actually ‘do’ anything (non-electronic) are the best for play. It turns out that the electronic toys do not encourage parent-child interaction, whereas the simpler toys do allow for more interaction. It is those interactions (often compared to the serve and return) that facilitate neural development.

Glitter bottles
Sensory bottles are simple to make and are wonderful playthings.
Creative play with basic materials is so valuable!

Simon Nicholson’s Theory of Loose Parts has been a force in early childhood education and shows how play with basic materials above promotes creativity and discovery.

Do you imagine play in organized programs like gymnastics, soccer, swim lessons, piano lessons, karate, t-ball, and others? Yes, these programs may have a playful element; however, are they self-directed? Are children intrinsically motivated to participate? Maybe. And maybe not. In my opinion, organized sports are best saved for children ages 8 and up.

Read this Harvard Research Brief, The Science of Early Childhood Development to learn more.

Aside from educational benefits, there is another less obvious reason to promote children’s self-directed, freely chosen, intrinsically motivated play, one that is biological. In a review in the American Journal of Play (yes, there really is a scholarly journal on play), evidence is provided from controlled studies in rats and some primates. These studies show that when young animals are encouraged to play they develop improved social competencecognition, and emotional regulation later in life. Play experience also makes them more adaptable to unexpected situations.

Do children need commercially produced toys to improve their development?

No. That is all just toy company marketing.

It turns out the ‘toys’ that are going to benefit children’s development are for the most part free and easy to collect. And this is very good news for young families who are on a budget.

Reference:

Suggested citation: Center on the Developing Child (2007). The Science of Early Childhood Development (InBrief). Retrieved from www.developingchild.harvard.edu.

Family Literacy Week!

Did you know Family Literacy Week is January 26 – February 2 this year?

Supporting literacy does not require a lot of materials. It can be as simple as having conversations together, going for walks and noticing environmental print, reading a story or making a grocery list.

This year’s theme is “Read Together”.

Bookshelf at The Children’s Bookshop in Sidney, B.C.

Look here for some free downloadable resources you can use to support early literacy.

If you are local, you can also visit the Sidney Museum’s Lego Exhibit or at Mary Winspear, there’s a production of Matilda the Musical based on a story by Roald Dahl. Or look for similar opportunities in your home town. Family events like these are great for promoting literacy too.

How do you make literacy part of your family’s every day life? I hope you’ll share in the comments.

Promoting Physical Activity for Children

A Western University study suggests children attending child care may not be getting enough vigorous heart-pumping activity. In British Columbia, child care centres are now required to have an Active Play Plan to address this issue.

Research indicates that when outdoors, children are 10 times more active than indoors so getting children outside is the first step. Outdoor play has been associated with improved self-confidence. Read more here.

Lack of activity destroys the good condition of every human being, while movement and methodical physical exercise save it and preserve it.”
-Plato

Based on my observations, there are some children who are less likely to naturally engage in physical activity and may need extra encouragement to get active. I do believe if we find the thing we love and feel successful with, we will participate. This is true for children and adults.

What barriers are there to ensuring children are engaging in physical activity? How can we overcome those barriers? Let’s talk about it!

Victoria Art Gallery: Family Sunday!

Did you know that the Victoria Art Gallery features Family Sundays? https://aggv.ca/events/family-sunday-30/ The program happens on the third Sunday of the month and provides an opportunity for hands-on art making activities for all ages.

Art meets science with food color, dish soap and homogenized milk.

Sunday, January 19th from 2 pm to 4 pm at the Victoria Art Gallery at 1040 Moss Street.

What do you like to do on Sundays? Share in the comments!

Cover Reveal!

Drumroll please…. time for the cover reveal of our illustrated early chapter book titled the Lullaby Monsters coming in 2020!

The Lullaby Monsters by Cynthia Mackey and Paula Nasmith

Stay tuned for more information on pre-orders, book swag, release date and more! Go to my facebook page to sign up for my email list and receive notifications. You’ll receive a free Loose Parts Theory Resource Guide for Teachers and Parents. Click on Free Resource: Loose Parts Theory for Educators/Parents/Librarians.

Synopsis: In this night time adventure, big sister Kelsey is always her brother’s hero. She bravely helps with lost teddy bears, scraped knees and favourite picnic foods. But when Thomas cannot sleep because of the lullaby monsters, Kelsey isn’t sure if she can help, especially since monsters are the one thing she fears. When Thomas’ precious lullaby box is stolen, Kelsey must face her monstrous fear and in doing so, she discovers that the lullaby monsters are a lot like Thomas.

Illustrations in progress by Paula Nasmith

The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.” -Joseph Campbell

Book Reviews Help Authors and Readers

Did you know that most authors rely on book reviews? Book reviews make the book more visible to the reader. They help with sales. They help guide readers towards making an appropriate choice. It gives the reader an idea of what the book will be about and who might enjoy the book. If there are enough reviews it will actually help the amazon ranking. https://www.ingramspark.com/blog/the-value-of-book-reviews-for-indie-authors

Reading Pile

Many people read books and never give any feedback at all. If you read something and you really love it; then its worth taking the time to write a review. You can post to Goodreads or even send it directly to the author. You might even get a direct thank you note from the author!

You can see my book reviews on Goodreads and I also share some here on my blog. I’m currently reading The Color of Our Sky by Amita Trasi, and I’m deliberately savouring it rather than rushing through. What are you reading right now? Do you have any favourite picture books? Share in the comments!

Lego Inspiration at the Sidney Museum

Here’s a wonderful event that we are so lucky to have here in Sidney! On now through March at the Sidney Museum, there is a popular Lego Exhibition. https://sidneybia.ca/calendar-event/lego-exhibition/

A gift from one of my piano students!

Have a look at all of the displays and be inspired to see what you can create. At our house, we have quite a lego collection and though some of it is sorted into actual sets, much of it is a jumble. That really is no matter, though because the random pieces allow for new projects to emerge; ones that don’t match the picture on the box. And for some of us, it is best to work without an end product in mind and just see what unfolds.

The endless possibilities of lego.

So take your family to the Sidney Museum and see what creative potential may emerge. Do you have a photo of your own lego creation or one done by your kids? I’d love it if you’d share! Let’s see your lego creations.

The Power of Picture Books

Early interactions are important for young children ages 1 to 6 years and picture books or board books can bring together adults and children for a cozy experience that can strengthen relationships and prepare children for school and success in life. I love the power of picture books and this is a big reason why I write them.

The Canadian Paediatric Society has a program called Read, Speak, Sing that encourages parents to read to babies right from birth. Check it out! https://www.cps.ca/en/issues-questions/literacy

The Maisy series of picture books by Lucy Cousins was a favourite for my children. I could read those daily and they’d never be tired of them. They were a first choice at the library, and when my son learned to read, he would often read them to his younger sister.

What books do your children love to hear over and over? Share in the comments!