“Want to get your kids into college? Let them play!” via CNN:

A recent article posted on CNN shares some fascinating insights regarding play and raising your children to be successful in college (and beyond).

Erika Christakis, MEd, MPH, an early childhood teacher and former preschool director, and Nicholas Christakis, MD, PhD and professor of medicine and sociology at Harvard University, say that kids are more prepared to learn, if they are taught using curricula that is play-based. They explain how play builds empathy, allows children to grow their self-control, and even improves their problem solving skills.

The authors site their personal experiences with college students struggling to get along with others and struggling to succeed in the collegiate environment. They mention what psychologists call “‘theory of mind’: the ability to recognize that our own ideas, beliefs, and desires are distinct from those of the people around us.” For example, “when a four-year-old destroys someone’s carefully constructed block castle or a 20-year-old belligerently monopolizes the class discussion on a routine basis, we might conclude that they are unaware of the feelings of the people around them.” This piece is yet another indication on how the importance of play permeates not just our relationships, communities, and personal happiness – but the extent of our success in education, future careers, and the ups and downs of life in general.

The article includes an example comparing a skills-based curriculum with a play-based curriculum: “In a skills-based curriculum” the authors offer, a child might “be asked to fill out a worksheet, counting (or guessing) the number of nuts in a basket and coloring the squirrel’s fur.” In a play-based curriculum, “a child might hear stories about squirrels and be asked why a squirrel accumulates nuts or has fur. The child might then collaborate with peers in the construction of a squirrel habitat, learning not only about number sense, measurement, and other principles needed for engineering, but also about how to listen to, and express, ideas.” It seems it’s not just about the act of being engaged in multi-dimensional tasks, but also the meaningful interactions that play requires and inspires.

As the authors wisely point out, it is “through play, (that) children learn to take turns, delay gratification, negotiate conflicts, solve problems, share goals, acquire flexibility, and live with disappointment.” Here’s to preparing our next generation with better problem solving skills, greater self-control, and deeper empathy through play!

Read the full article here!

“When we deny young children play, we are denying them the right to understand the world. By the time they get to college, we will have denied them the opportunity to fix the world too.”