Children as young as eight are being sexually exploited online, Barnardo’s the UK’s largest children’s charity, has revealed. Full article
Those of us parenting in a digital world, frankly, don’t know what we’re doing. Warnings about the negative impact of screen time and social media abound. We are told that the internet is a breeding ground for cyberbullies and predators, a facilitator of social isolation and mental health challenges, and a mad scientist that is rewiring our kids’ brains so they can’t concentrate while also exposing them to an unmitigated cesspit of bad language and porn. These threats — combined with the lack of response from the big players in the tech field — have left parents floundering in a stormy, unregulated digital ocean. Full blog
Play does not have a beginning and ending. It is a fluid, continuous state of being, a way of engaging and learning about the world that has no end at all, if we allow it to be such. But when we turn play into something, when we structure it too much with our need to direct it and have outcomes achieved, play is no longer play for play’s sake; rather, it becomes work. Full blog
Helping our children navigate the stresses and strains of daily life is more important than ever. Full blog
Converging evidence shows a major shift toward independence around age four. Full blog
Sleep deprivation among teens spiked after 2012 – just as smartphone use became common. Parents who fear their kids are spending too much time in front of screens now have more reason for concern.
New research funded by the National Institutes of Health found brain changes among kids using screens more than seven hours a day and lower cognitive skills among those using screens more than two hours a day. Full blog
Baby laptops, baby cellphones, talking farms — these are the whirring, whiz-bang toys of the moment, many of them marketed as tools to encourage babies’ language skills.
But in the midst of the holiday season, a new study raises questions about whether such electronic playthings make it less likely that babies will engage in the verbal give-and-take with their parents that is so crucial to cognitive development. Full blog
Look at my baby dragons,” says three-year-old Rubens, gently stroking three polished stones. “They are sleeping now. Shhhh,” he whispers. Sitting under a tree nearby, two other boys hammer sticks into the ground. They are building a house for “the little people” – wooden figures, which staff have provided to inspire the children around this week’s theme of ‘small world’. Full blog
The BBC has published an article detailing new research on active students. “International research found that after three years of physically active learning, pupils were still more attentive following the activity…After one active lesson, a child can improve their Maths performance by as much as 16%. If your child learns in an active way, after two years, they could be four months ahead in maths and spelling compared to traditional seated classroom learning.” Full article here
Is your child getting enough ‘free play’?
Child-led free play – the unstructured time during which children can act out their fantasies, create their own rules, and explore the world at their own pace – profoundly benefits their early development.
As parents or teachers, we want to ensure that our children grow into happy and successful adults. Feeling anxious to make this happens, too often we are feeling pressured to fill their school days with classes and their after school time with ‘enrichment’ activities.
While extra academics, arts and athletics can bring value, the danger is children losing out on free play; that is, the unstructured time where they choose for themselves how to play.
Overwhelmingly, research into childhood development is showing how self-directed play is vital. It supports the healthy growth of children both emotionally, cognitively, socially and physically.
Here is an extensive list of evidence-based benefits that children get from free play:
To learn more about these benefits, read this article.
Not all play is equal
Self-directed free play has some essential features which make it so positive and separate it from organised activity and passive entertainment (eg screen time).
1) Children lead and make their own decisions
When children have the freedom to make their own rules and choose how and what they play with, they learn about the very process of decision making and consequences.
We can support them by providing open-ended materials and loose parts. These offer endless possibilities and children get to choose what objects and will become and how they will use them.
2) Children become immersed in their play
Most of us can remember times when we played until the sun went down. True play is something children can lose themselves in. It is free from unnecessary interruption and without the external input from adults or digital media. When children are given space and time to play by themselves, they get immersed in their fantasy role play or exploration of the world around them.
3) Play is spontaneous
In free play, children act impulsively and creatively. Within a moment, the narrative or game suddenly changes. Children are adaptable and this type of non-scripted play allows them to be flexible in their thinking and negotiate the journey with their peers.
4) Play is fun
An organised activity may externally look like play, but if a child is not having fun, then it can’t truly be called play. Fun is in the very essence of play. It is something children are drawn to as a fundamental need, just as important to them as food or sleep.
With so much positive research available in the field of child development, perhaps it is time to prioritise play both at school and at home.