Make Summer Your Opportunity for Fun Learning

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Summer is here but that does not mean learning stops! The beauty about learning is that it is lifelong, constant and it happens even when we are least aware of it. Children are naturally curious about the world around them and every interaction with your child is a learning opportunity. Why not take the opportunity this summer to continue your child’s learning in some fun and interesting ways.

Play-based Learning

You may think you’re just playing with your child but in fact, what you are doing is teaching them valuable skills and knowledge. Play-based learning can be seen as learning through play. It is a familiar concept in early childhood settings where young children’s learning and development are fostered through play.[1] Play is important to children’s development, besides being fun, play helps to develop children’s reasoning, language, physical, social and emotional skills.[2] A simple game with building blocks teaches children mathematical concepts, the nature of the physical world and how to manipulate their environment, which are early foundations for science, technology, engineering and mathematical (STEM) knowledge.[3]

Summer provides a great opportunity for families to relax and enjoy each other’s company and that involves play. Play is not only good for children, it is also great for adults. The benefits of play for adults include relieving stress, making you happy and strengthening your relationships[4]. Research shows that people who engage in play have stronger relationships and are less likely to be involved in criminal activities[5].

Tips for Play and Learning this Summer

Now that we know some of the benefits of play for children and adults, here are a few tips for play this summer:

  1. Hide and Seek – this traditional game is always a hit with children. It involves physical activities and lots of imagination. Who is better at finding the hiding spots in the house and around the yard – you or your children?!
  2. Peekaboo – babies love this one! Engage your baby by covering your face with a blanket or both of your hands for a few seconds. When you reveal your face, you say “Peekaboo!” The Peekaboo game helps babies as they develop object permanence, which is the knowledge that things still exist even when they are not in sight[6].
  3. Ludi – the main board game in many Jamaican homes, is a great game for both children and adults to enjoy. Ludi is a very strategic game that helps with problem-solving which is necessary to beat your opponents and early Mathematics skills for deciding your moves when you throw the dice.
  4. Dominoes – another board game staple for Jamaican family gatherings, Dominoes is a fun game that both children and parents can play. Similar to Ludi, Dominoes involve the critical thinking, strategic moves and Mathematics skills needed to beat your opponents.
  5. Water Play – this play activity is full of fun and helps children stay cool in summer. Besides that, water play presents opportunities for science and Maths learning. During water play, children can learn about the nature of things, what will sink or float. Mathematical concepts such as quantity can be learnt too – full, half-full or empty, less/more and same/different.[7]

Of course, there are lots more fun play activities that you and your children can get involved in that will continue learning this summer. Tell us about some of your play and learn activities in the Comments section!








Connect Positivity…Think!

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I recently had the pleasure of looking up to the sky and seeing not one, not two, not three but eight kites flying! I was immediately a child again, marvelling at all the beautiful kites flying in the clear blue sky. I have such fond memories from childhood of kite season, around April and May, when the neighbourhood children were busy designing and creating their kites. I remember the excitement I felt watching my brother and his friends fly their kites, comparing whose kite was bigger and prettier and whose kite could fly the highest. So, you can imagine my delight that day when I saw eight kites flying high in the sky. Of course, this delight was at the beauty of the kites but also, seeing the kites was in and of itself a great thing.

Not to sound like an oldie but goodie, but kite sightings have been rare in recent years. Think about it, when was the last time you saw kites flying? And how many did you see?

Those kites in the sky signalled to me that in this pandemic, our children were still playing. And that, they were also engaged in executive planning in the creation and design of these kites. I also would like to think that some of them got help from the adults in the family with sourcing materials, help to design and strategies on how to successfully mount their kites. They also probably needed permission to go to the ball field or go on the housetop to fly their kites. One thing for certain though, is that the flying kites represent something bigger: our children are connecting to positivity. If these kites are flying in Kingston, there are probably more kites flying all over the country.

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Kite flying is a past time that is fun, interactive, involves learning and achieving a number of skills. This is also true for many games and play activities that children and parents are engaged in this crisis. During the recent curfews, I regularly heard the familiar sound of dice on a Ludi board and Dominoes being slammed on tables in my neighbourhood. Like the children flying kites, families were connecting to positivity during the restrictions with games at home, drawing on old but familiar ways of enjoying family time and the lockdown.

While we do not need an outbreak of COVID-19 to remind us that we need to invest in more positive interactions with our families and children, being together at home has given us extra time to increase those positive interactions. The outbreak has removed some of the trappings of modern life, like, time spent commuting to and being at work, doing school runs and using the weekends to catch up on chores, to allow us to connect and increase our positive interactions.

We know from research the importance of positive and responsive interaction to children’s development. We see it in our own lives that positive interactions in childhood have had a meaningful impact on us. Positive interactions like playtime, reading together, talking, cuddles, warmth and understanding are ingredients for optimum child development. Parents engaging in positive activities like playing games at home, talking and reading together will help our children during this time of crisis and also increase their resilience for whatever else the future might hold.

As we continue to celebrate our children during Child’s Month, let us think about all the different ways we can connect positivity in our daily lives!

Using Play to Support Your Child with Autism

Autism month continues here on the ECC’s Blog!

With schools closed due to the outbreak of COVID-19, many parents are now supporting their children’s learning with home-schooling activities. This is no different for parents whose children are on the autism spectrum. While we understand the challenges some parents of typically developing children are now facing with working from home and home-schooling their children at the same time. Parents of children with atypical development, such as children with autism, might be experiencing an especially challenging time. One way to deal with the challenges is to incorporate play in your daily routine with your children.

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Why is Play so Important?

Play is an important aspect of your child’s development and should be incorporated into learning activities because play makes learning fun! Through play, children learn about themselves, others and the world around them.[1] Play helps children develop important skills that they will need in life, such skills are, academic, social, thinking, communication, resolving conflicts and problem-solving skills.[2]

Children with autism benefit from play like other children. Incorporating play in everyday activities can help your child with autism develop important skills. Because children with autism do not have typical development like their peers, they sometimes need more guidance to learn new skills and play offers that opportunity to parents. Through play, parents can learn with their children, understand their children better and know the best ways to support their children’s development.

Tips for Play with Children with Autism

Get Involved

Structured or guided play is a great way to support your child with autism. Structured play is when adults guide the play activities for children. They become involved by providing the rules of play, providing resources for play and letting children know when play starts and ends.[3] Although adults are involved in play, they should be careful to guide play but not take it over. This means that, as you plan structured play with your child, you should let your child’s interests and passions guide your plans for the play activity.

Involve Activities that Promote Social Skills

Autism is a disorder that affects social skills. Social skills are the rules and abilities that guide our daily social interactions.[4] Humans are social beings, which means, we come into this world pre-wired for social interaction. During our development, our relationships and interactions with the people in our lives teach us how to behave and respond in a variety of social settings. This learning is based on experience and some social rules are taught to us directly, like, how to behave in public or at a formal gathering. Social rules learnt through experience usually involve our ability to read body language, facial expression, recognise and understand emotions. Most people have the ability to “pick up” social cues from interactions[5], however, children with autism do not have this natural ability and need to be taught directly. Combining guided play with activities to promote social skills could be beneficial to your child with autism.

Some examples of these play activities are:

  • Games that involve turn-taking – parents can play games of back-and-forth that teach turning-taking with toy cars, trucks, balls, etc.
  • Games to teach children to recognise emotions – parents can do art with their children by drawing or painting faces with different emotions. During these activities, parents can talk to their children about the various emotions, what situations can bring about these emotions and how to appropriately express them.
  • Games that re-create certain social situations – walking your child through various situations they may encounter outside the family setting is a great way to help your child develop his or her social skills. Parents can create play activities that focus on different scenarios like meeting someone for the first time, asking a friend at school to play, etc. Getting siblings and other family members on board with these play activities not only enhances the fun but it extends the number of people your child can interact with, which is similar to the real-life social situations they may face outside the home.

The suggestions above are not limited but they can be a starting point for parents who are looking for creative ways to support their children with autism. It is key to remember that play is at the foundation of these activities, so, they should be fun for both you and your children. Also, let your children with autism guide how you structure these play activities by getting to know their interests and passions.