Your Brain on Play


kids playingStudies are showing the importance of playing. We’ve read Peter Gray’s fabulous work on the topic. Research is indicating that not only will play lead to more creativity, but it also will help with problem-solving and critical thinking skills.

When Michael, now 25, was forced to sit in a classroom all day for Kindergarten and 1st grade, I knew we were going to have a problem. He was a wiggler. And a talker. Being still was not his nature. Looking back years through the years, and thinking of all the kids we’ve known, it’s clear to me that most kids are not hard-wired for stillness.  Little kids, being forced to conform, rewarded for defying their nature, stifling so much of their core… all contributed to to our decision to bring Michael out of the classroom and home to learn.

But I just read this article from NPR, More Active Play Equals Better Thinking Skills for Kids?. I’m always fascinated with how the brain works. They did research on over 100 kids in an after school program. Even small changes in the children’s physical activity resulted in a better ability to focus and an increase in brain activity.

While this is written to help kids have better school performance, that doesn’t have be OUR focus. Maybe our kids want to problem solve better, maybe they are getting frustrated with a computer game. Because we’re home, we can switch it up as quickly as we want to.  Take a break, try a few minutes of dancing around the house, or racing to the mailbox, stimulate that portion of the brain that needs a little pick-me-up, and then see if the situation changes.

Brainstorm with your kids about what they could do for this little physical exercise – no sense in you coming up with a list that they don’t even like! Maybe it’s a bike ride, or shooting some hoops. What would they like to do? If they’re little, maybe they’d like to bat some balloons around the room or somersault down the hallway?

Be sure to talk to the kids about the point of all of this. All of us want to be better at those things that interest us. Learning how our own  brain works can be fascinating! When kids can see a direct cause and effect, they’ll be much more likely to give it a shot.


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