Playground season is over. It’s officially cold. Let’s all have a moment of silence. And then a moment for a silent scream as we contemplate all those after-school and weekend hours that we are about to spend indoors.
If you are reading this from California or some such climate, good for you. But here on the east coast…it is getting grim.
The slides, swings and general park-playtime that my son had been enjoying this fall are now replaced by indoor playdates that sometimes turn claustrophobic and chaotic.
So, to keep the body active and give a little support to the long afternoons, I like to do the game, “Animal Yoga”. Like with many of the Game Days on Child’s Play in Action, the idea is to set up the game and then either let the kids take over amongst themselves (if you are playing with more than one child) or let the game morph as they take the reigns and you continue to play with them, by following their lead.
Research shows mounting evidence of the benefits that well-developed play has on various areas of child development. Emotional intelligence, pre-reading, social skills and emerging math abilities, self control and other executive functioning skills can all benefit from “mature play” – where there is dialogue, turn-taking, and mirroring of adult behaviors. (Singer, Golinkoff, & Hirsh-Pasek 2006). So, don’t worry that you are getting intrusive. Pretend Play is elevated when parents and teachers get involved, give it a structure, and ask questions to keep the game purposefully directed and challenging.
“The truth is that play seems to be one of the most advanced methods nature has invented to allow a complex brain to create itself.”
-Stuart Brown, Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul
You’ll be surprised how Animal Yoga can insert itself into everyday life: before dinner the other night Nathaniel taught me his “Ostrich” pose (I couldn’t quite get it right, but it was definitely a good try on my part!), and we worked on “Hermit Crab” in the tub to practice blowing bubbles.
Watch the video to see our “expert weigh-in” from, Dr. Bronwyn Charlton of Seedlings Group, explain why this game helps children develop gross motor skills, embrace new challenges and build confidence.
If you need some inspiration for Animal Yoga, I recommend The Animal Book by Steve Jenkins or The Book of Animal Poetry, published by National Geographic and available in most bookstores or on-line.
Now I’d love to hear from you! What new animals and poses did your child come up with?
Share your pics with me on Instagram and make sure you pass along this idea to parent-friends who would enjoy it too.
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Singer, D.G., R.M. Golinkoff, & K. Hirsh-Pasek, eds. 2006. Play = Learning: How Play Motivates and Enhances Children’s Cognitive and Social-Emotional Growth. New York: Oxford University Press.
Brown, Stuart L., and Christopher C. Vaughan. Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul. New York: Avery, 2009. Print.