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Monday, May 5th, 2014
Kids who spend a significant amount of time playing outdoors may have a deeper sense of purpose, fulfillment, and spirituality, according to new research at Michigan State University. More from the study’s press release:
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In the study, published recently in the Journal of the Study of Religion, Nature and Culture, children who played outside five to 10 hours per week said they felt a spiritual connection with the earth, and felt their role is to protect it.
“These values are incredibly important to human development and well-being,” said Gretel Van Wieren, assistant professor of religious studies. “We were surprised by the results. Before we did the study, we asked, ‘Is it just a myth that children have this deep connection with nature?’ But we found it to be true in pretty profound ways.”
For example, the children in her study expressed feelings of peacefulness and some believed that a higher power had created the natural world around them. They also reported feeling awestruck and humbled by nature’s power, such as storms, while also feeling happy and a sense of belonging in the world.
The study also measured children’s aesthetic values, finding that those who engage in free play outside on a regular basis have a deep appreciation for beauty (i.e., balance, symmetry and color), order and wonder (i.e., curiosity, imagination and creativity). For example: lush green bushes, pattern-like blue spots in water and fascination with bees’ nests.
Van Wieren and co-researcher Stephen Kellert, from Yale University, used a mix of research methods, including in-depth interviews, drawings, diaries and observation, as well as conversations with parents. Seven of the 10 children in the study – who were 7 to 8 years old – were from families with a Christian background.
The researchers also found parents of the children who expressed the highest affinity toward nature and the strongest spirituality spent significant time outdoors during their childhoods. And many of the parents believed such experiences shaped their adult lives and spirituality.
Image: Girl playing in the woods, via Shutterstock
Thursday, April 19th, 2012
Earlier this week, I promised some posts on new and exciting products I discovered at the Sandbox Summit at MIT. It turns out, the one that grabbed my attention most is actually more “exciting” than “new.” It’s the Double Fine Happy Action Theater game for the Xbox 360 game console, and it was released in February of this year.
Click here to see a video trailer for the game, which allows multiple players to transform their living rooms into balloon clouds, fiery lava fields, or bubbly seascapes. It’s not educational in any traditional sense of the word. It’s just plain fun for the whole family.
At the Sandbox Summit, Microsoft’s educational design director, Alex Games (pronounced GAH-mes), presented the trailer as an example of what can happen when learning is approached through the lens of play. The game is an example of how parents can “co-view” a piece of technology with their children, interacting on every level, and developing skills from physical fitness to quick decision-making.
According to Games, the co-viewing aspect, combined with the fact that the game takes place in a family’s living room, as opposed to in an invented, remote video game world, make it just the type of thing families should look for when choosing how to spend their leisure time…if they want to spend more than just a few minutes together as a family.
“We’ve moved toward really fast-paced, bite sized experiences, very similar to what is happening in social media,” Games said. But when it comes to learning, “there are certain things that it takes time and patience to develop.”
Image via http://marketplace.xbox.com/
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Monday, April 16th, 2012
Over the next few days, you’ll notice some different types of posts here at PNN. Your intrepid blogger will be attending the Sandbox Summit at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to hear what psychologists, educators, and entrepreneurs have to say about this question: What is the relationship between technology and play?
The Summit’s website describes its mission: “Play is how kids learn. Technology is an enticement. By creating a forum for conversation around play and technology, Sandbox Summit strives to ensure that the next generation of players becomes active innovators, rather than passive users, of technology.”
Stay tuned for what I anticipate will be fascinating insights, research, and ideas from the experts at the Summit, as well as some tidbits and sneak peaks of the newest, coolest techno toys around.
Ready to play? I sure am!
Image: Play button, via Shutterstock.
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Monday, April 9th, 2012
Nearly half of three- to five-year-old children do not have daily outdoor playtime with parents or caregivers, according to a new study published in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine. The study collected data on 9,000 families, and found that though mothers took children outside more often than fathers, half of the children did not get regular outdoor playtime at all.
CNN.com has more:
“There’s a big room for improvement in how parents prioritize their time and what they’re doing in the time they’re spending with their pre-school children,” said lead study author Dr. Pooja Tandon of Seattle Children’s Research Institute.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends children play outside as much as possible, for at least 60 minutes a day. Physical activity is not only good for weight control and preventing childhood obesity; previous research also suggests playing outside improves motor development, vision and vitamin D levels.
“There is evidence that play – just sort of the act of playing – is important for children’s development of their social skills and their peer interactions,” Tandon said. “Being outdoors affords children an opportunity to play in ways that they may not get to when they’re indoors.”
Researchers suggested that families address outdoor time with child care centers or preschools their children attend, or work with community groups and friends to devise creative ways to incorporate more outdoor play into kids’ routines.
Image: Empty playground, via Shutterstock.
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Wednesday, March 7th, 2012
A new 15-year study shows that the ways parents play with their children at age 2 has a direct correlation with how well they perform academically throughout their school years. Researchers from Utah State University’s department of Family, Consumer and Human Development (FCHD) followed 229 children from low-income families. Mothers, fathers, or both parents played regularly with the children, and some of the children also received Early Head Start educational experiences.
The study isolated four types of play that had a direct effect on later academic performance:
- Encouraging and engaging in pretend play
- Presenting activities in an organized sequence of steps
- Elaborating on the pictures, words, and actions in a book or on unique attributes of objects
- Relating play activity or book text to the child’s experience
The role of each parent also was a factor. The researchers looked at two different family types, those who lived with biological fathers and those who didn’t. They found that in both these family situations, children perform better academically when mothers teach more during play with their toddlers. When live-in biological fathers teach during play with their toddlers, they make an additional positive contribution to their child’s 5th grade math and reading performance.
Image: Mother and daughter playing with blocks, via Shutterstock.
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