About Us

There are four of Them: three girls and one boy, little stair-steps all. There are two of Us: best friends, co-parents and truly in love. The Six of us have epic adventures full of laughter and love, occasionally containing tears, but always together.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

The Importance of Being Free

I listen to NPR most mornings while I am driving Isaac to school. It is a nice time for me to catch up on what is going on in the world and it provides me with a little bit of thinking stimulation. Most days there is something really interesting on and some days there is even something on that is relevant to where I am in my life.

Last Thursday I heard a really cool story on Morning Edition. (You can find the whole story here.) To quickly sum up it informed that the amount of free play that a child participates in is directly related to their level of impulse control and self regulation. It turns out that when children participate in free play, they exercise something called private speech. (My kids exercise their private speech all the time. It is rather cute to watch them playing an intricate imaginary game and all the while their little lips are moving in some sort of narration...or private speech as I now know it is called.) And from private speech is created impulse control and self regulation. Now that there is a proliferation of toys and games that provide constant stimulation, children are loosing the ability to create free play. In addition the registration of children for constant class-like activities has cut down on free play time.

All of this brings us to the results of a study they talked about on the broadcast. Over 60 years ago scientists did an experiment to test self regulation at different age levels. They used a group of 3, 5, and 7 year olds. The three year olds couldn't stand still at all. The five year olds could for a short period of time and the seven year olds could pretty much stand still as long as the researchers asked them to. Then in 2001 some new researchers decided to repeat the experiment. But this time the results were drastically different. The three and five year olds were about the same level and the seven year olds were barely approaching the level of five year olds 60 years ago!!!

It was so interesting to listen to. I know that free play is important and even without hearing about that study I would have continued to attempt to avoid toys that are constantly stimulating/one dimensional. Dadam and I have made a conscious effort to avoid them. (I must admit that we avoid them also because they are highly annoying and damn hard to listen to over and over again.) But it's not just that the toys are annoying, it is that the kids are so much more interested, more thoughtful, more involved and more engaged when they make up and carry out their own games. We have blocks, but I'd say nine times out of ten they aren't used for building things; just today they were candy and yesterday they were something else. I love watching them play and seeing them act out the world they see around them, in their play. Happily enough, all that free play we allow and encourage (and force) them to do, creates children with impulse control and good self regulation.

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