For Earth Day, at Speak Wright Now, we began our group class by reading a story about two children that created a birthday party for a tree! We answered varied “wh” questions, sequenced the events in the story, shared our own experiences about being “green,” and then painted our own tree pictures! While our paintings were drying, we went outside for the physical enrichment portion of the group. On Earth Day we planted our “POET-Tree” from April’s poetry month! Last month our potted poet-tree displayed different poems for Poetry Month. The kids loved adding poems to the branches and watering the tree when it was growing indoors. Now, that it is Earth Day, our tree is planted in the play yard! The kids loved being little scientists and discovering new ways to be ecological!
I have recently been working in a public school for children with autism. The children go to school just like any other child, except these children rely heavily on the school bus system, so since the bus strike, attendance has been staggeringly low. It is great to see these children work and play in school, however, they have a very low budget, and some programs have been totally neglected. I am the first speech therapist to come into this school since September, that means these children have gone without services for 7 months (July, August, etc…!)! Most of the students are verbal, but there are students who rely heavily on communication devices, but get this: they do not have Board Maker or any program like it! This week, using whatever pictures I could find, I spent an hour drawing and then programing one device, it was my first experience doing so! Before I created this new page for the child, the only buttons he could press were totally impractical, like the days of the week and numbers– perhaps great if you are asking circle time questions, but NOT if you are trying to tell someone that you need help! Check out my work, how do you think I did? Next week will begin his intensive training to teach him how to use it effectively. I can’t wait!! =o)
Speak Wright Now loves team work, and so when Roger met Julie, they decided to team up and get married. Soon after they decided to add to their team and produced a child, or two, or three. Their latest venture, a program called “Sunday Funday,” which focuses on expending energy in a healthy manner as well as pragmatic and school skills, for children ages 3 to 10 years, has been a tremendous success! Julie and Roger are proudly announcing a new group for pre-teen and teenage children. This group, “Fit Wright Now,” will focus on healthy living, better life style choices, body image, nutrition awareness, and physical fitness. The group will be lead by Roger Wright, a certified personal trainer endorsed by the National Academy For Sports Medicine and is also a level one CrossFit personal trainer, Julie Wright will assist.
The group will meet twice a week for 45 minutes per session. Prices are as follows:
$25.00 for one 45 minute session, offered twice a week.
$200.00 a month when paying per session.
$150.00 for two 45 minute sessions per week.
One make up class allowed, within a 4 week time period, after the missed class.
No contracts. Ever.
Whatever Happened to Unstructured Play?
by Becky L. Spivey, M.Ed.
What is unstructured play?
Unstructured play is simply self-initiated and self-directed play without rules, organization, or goals. Unstructured play taps into the imagination, promotes creativity, fosters problem solving, and is stress free. According to an article published in 2005 in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, free playtime dropped 25% between 1981 and 1997. Music and dance lessons, sports, and TV replaced this free time. Today, new computers and electronic games have children assuming the roles of fictitious characters (not of their own imagination) to play games (by someone else’s rules) in order to reach different levels of competency (established by someone else’s goals). Whatever happened to playing outside (or indoors) with friends and/or siblings pretending to be someone with super powers, building a fort with sticks and rocks, parenting dolls and playing house, and policing the neighborhood to protect our citizens from evildoers?
Many parents today sacrifice their child’s free playtime in exchange for their participation in more structured activities: dance squad. sports teams, music lessons, trying out and making the orchestra, and any other type of “lessons” you can think of. Most importantly, there is the desire to keep children safe and secure from the outside world and its troubles – which understandably leads parents to exert more control over their children’s activities. Children now participate in more adult-moderated and supervised activities in classes that promote and promise safety and protection, personal enrichment, and predictability.
Are children losing out by not really playing?
Research says yes. Playing really is serious business. Some parents tend to see playing as a waste of time, but it’s actually anything but. When children are playing, they are developing all sorts of real life skills: problem solving, sequencing, organization, social skills, compromise, empathy, sympathy, and the list goes on.
Miniaturizes a child’s world so they can analyze and deal with it. Play primes children for learning. Children create and play games with rules (their rules), strategy, levels of success and failure, consequences, all which prepare them for entering society and its social institutions where they’ll live and work the rest of their lives.
Teaches them how to handle stress and conflict. Consider the spats and arguments kids get into when they’re playing with friends. More often than not, children will resolve or at least smooth over their disagreements before a game grinds to a halt. If they never have the opportunity to learn how to and practice the art of compromise, they will never enjoy the pleasures of friendly competition or working as a team – even as adults. That’s not good for anyone.
Provides plenty of problem-solving practice. When watching children play, you will see them solving problems the way they see them being solved by adults and others around them. This is a reminder to parents that our children always see, hear, study, and execute what they see us do.
Promotes discovery which is the basis for learning.You can explain a concept to children all day and they won’t understand it; but, when they discover something themselves, that’s when the light bulb really comes on.
Gives children a sense of power in a world in which they are essentially powerless. This is why kids love pretending to be someone with a sense of great power. They are often helpless in the real-world of “powerful” people like parents, older siblings, teachers, and other authority figures. Much of children’s fiction relates to this theme (think about Dorothy and her friends standing before the great Wizard of Oz).
What can parents do to give children more time for free play?
Change your mindset. Playing is a child’s job. Every minute of their day does not require structure.
Let children drop extra activities in which they no longer show an interest. When pouting occurs at the very mention of a scheduled activity, it is time to rethink the activity’s purpose.
Let your child be bored! Boredom produces very creative play!
Offer open-ended toys such as blocks, dolls, old clothes, costumes, and balls that encourage imaginative play.
Set TV and computer game time limits. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than one to two hours of screen time per day.
Encourage free time as often as possible. Depending on your child’s age and temperament, successful free play could be in 15-minute increments. As children get older, they’ll be able to entertain themselves for longer periods of time.
Gather the neighbors to see what you all can do to make the neighborhood a safer place for playing outside, specifically slowing the speed and flow of traffic. Ask for help from city officials.
Take turns watching each other’s children indoors and outside. Better yet, Self-directed or unstructured play bridges the gap between imagination and creativity. So while we think we are equipping our children with excellent multi-tasking skills and exposure to the fine arts with structured activities, we may be inadvertently robbing them of the creative and inspired realities of childhood.
Today, at Speak Wright Now, we focused on our five senses: sight, sound, touch, and taste!
We started the day by playing with different musical instruments: guitars, drums, egg shakers, sticks, bells, maracas, and a tambourine. We listened to music while playing our instruments, we sang along and danced together. We then formed a musical marching band! Using a colorful stretchy band, we took turns leading the marching band and being in the back of it. We discussed the different sounds we heard and described the way the different materials felt that made up the musical instruments. We felt a smooth plastic top of the tambourine, we noticed the colorful and spongy texture of the lollipop drum stick, and the shiny metal bells were very chilly from being in the closet!
After cleaning up the musical instruments, we sat down with our clipboards and pencils, it was time to turn into little scientists! The children thought about different food items before seeing them. Ms. Julie told the children to “visualize” potato chips, pretzels, and chocolate cheerios, the kids loved that! We all explained how we thought the items were the same and different: comparing and contrasting! After writing down our ideas on paper, or drawing them for the non-writers, we got to enjoy a “Tasting Texture PARTY!” We had potato chips, pretzels, and chocolate cheerios. Using blindfolds, we covered our eyes and only using our senses of touch and taste, we had to describe the items we were eating and then correctly identify them! No one was fooled at all!! We used our clipboards, paper, and pencils again to keep track of our tasting texture experiments! Julie and Roger were thrilled with how the children learned to compare and contrast, telling what is the same, and what is different! I am sure their teachers will be impressed when they return to school as Honorary Scientists on Monday!!! Way to go!
Today at Sunday Funday Roger led the children in numerous activities to encourage partnership with peers and individual coordination. To begin warming up Roger had the children learn proper technique for squats, lunges, hip circles, and straight jumps. Next the children worked on their balance by doing so on each leg. To make it more of a challenge and engage social skills. The children stood opposite one another, tossing a bean bag to catch between themselves WHILE standing on only one foot! There were LOTS of giggles while doing this! Roger then led the children on a proprioceptive adventure: crawling around like different animals such as alligators, bears, crabs, and on their sides like a sideways snake! Finally the children crawled and jumped over different obstacles before Julie took the lead.
Now the the kiddies expended all of their energy, Julie calmed them down by reading a weather relevant story, “Snowballs,” by Louis Ehlert. The students related the book to their own lives, sharing different experiences they had with the snow. We loved hearing all of their comments! The children then took turns creating their own snowmen. Each child was in change of a different item on the table, so the kids had to ask their peers for different things. They all learned to wait their turns, were patient with one another, and some even had to deal with disappointment when their desired item was taken by another friend. We were all so creative and loved comparing and contrasting the different snow creature. Two of the more unique creations were a self-snow-boy-portrait, and a snow puppy! Everyone did so well and we had such a great time with the project!! Today we really worked on understanding and listening to one another sprinkled with a heap of turn taking. The kids are really enjoying one another and they are certainly learning how to deal with the ups and downs of childhood friendships! Keep up the good work kiddies!
We at Speak Wright Now always take the time to relate to our students that great leaders can inspire an entire nation for change, as Dr. MLK Jr. did. We teach our students to foster relationships between themselves regardless of gender, race, or religion. We focus on character development and tolerance, for after all, we are all different with our own shortcomings! Every human has areas of weakness and areas of strength. We teach our students, and our parents as well, to stay focused, positive, and work together as a team, to lead a well balanced and happy lives– TOGETHER!