Admit it, when you get together with your childhood friends, there comes the point in the conversation where you all crack up laughing over some silly game you invented ‘back in the day’. Whether that was your nonsensical variation on cops and robbers, or the utterly ridiculous dressing-up outfits, or perhaps making each other hundreds of friendship bracelets, we all look back on these memories of spontaneous fun with nostalgia.
But did you know that these moments of running, laughing and, yes, even arguing over who gets to be cop, were actually shaping you into a well-rounded adult?
It’s true! Science has proven that free play, the type of play where children self-direct, deciding what to do and how to do it, has a myriad of benefits. Kids who engage in this kind of fun are working on their socialization skills, learning how to empathize, and even figuring out how to resolve conflicts among a group. The idea is that when children are allowed to take the helm, they will step into a role of leadership, figuring out how to teach their peers the rules of a game while keeping the peace within a group of different personalities.
That’s not all, either; there are countless reasons as to how play enables our kids to develop necessary life skills. WeTheParents has put together a comprehensive infographic detailing the numerous benefits, and the science behind them, of child-led play.
So the next time you watch your kiddo playing and think that one day, she is going to have a great story to look back on with her friends, remember that she is also building herself into a more well-rounded, happy, and fulfilled person, one game at a time.
Hobbies offer more than just something to do in your downtime, especially for children. Hobbies can help shape kid’s personalities by increasing their confidence and contributing to their feelings of independence. Some of the best hobbies for kids are those that teach patience, encourage their creativity, and enhance critical thinking skills. You can help your kid explore various hobbies by letting him join you in your favorite pastimes or getting him the right supplies and materials he needs to pursue his passions. Here are some ideas to get you started.
If your kid is a creative mind who loves to draw or paint, he may also love activities like pottery, candle-making, sewing, and digital art. Making art is a wonderful way for your kid to express his feelings and learn how to see things from a different perspective. And, since art is a subjective experience, every kid can feel good about the art they create. This ultimately contributes to greater levels of self-esteem. You can help your child get started by taking him to art museums, celebrating his artwork by hanging it up in your home, and enrolling him in art class.
Some kids just love to run around and play games all day. If this is your kid, consider getting him excited about sports like basketball, soccer, or even skateboarding. Besides getting regular physical activity, these hobbies help your kid build social skills and learn how to accept constructive criticism at a young age. The lessons learned in sports can translate to academic success as children apply the same dedication to their studies in school. Try playing sports together in the backyard, taking your kid to local games, and signing them up to join a junior team in your community.
Reading and writing are two hobbies that can increase your child’s vocabulary and sharpen his writing skills. According to AptParenting, taking the time to read through a book helps kids concentrate on and better learn the message of a story. Take your kid to events at bookstores or libraries. You can even encourage your child to write a letter to his favorite author or make up a story of his own.
Did you know that learning an instrument can actually benefit your child’s academic performance? It helps kids with counting, recognizing patterns, and thinking mathematically. Kids who learn to play music may even process auditory and visual information faster. Scholastic recommends getting your kid to join the school band, enrolling them in music lessons, and using the internet to search for kid-oriented instrument tutorials.
Most children naturally love outdoor activities. Try to encourage their love of nature so it sticks with them as they grow up. For children, being in nature increases creativity as they engage in imaginative play, and is especially helpful for kids who have ADHD or problems focusing due to its calming effects. Spark curiosity for wildlife by taking your kids out birdwatching or camping. Geocaching is another fun type of outdoor adventure that anyone can take part in and is a wonderful bonding activity for parent and child.
If your child is too young to pick up an instrument or take a drawing class, you can still fuel his future interest and knack for certain hobbies with fun educational activities. For example, creating patterns with your child is a great way to improve his fine motor skills, and playing a simple game of Jenga can help hone his concentration and focus. Even playing with magnetic letters on the fridge can encourage your kid to get into reading as he becomes interested in learning new words.
Although encouraging your kids to pick up hobbies is a great idea, try not to structure their play. Free play helps kids learn to be creative and discover their interests on their own. If possible, provide the supplies, encouragement, and assistance that your kid needs to pursue his hobby of choice and then let him take off with it. You’ll be amazed at what he comes up with!
Article by: Maria Cannon
As the weather starts to warm, it’s natural to want to spend more time outside. Not only is it a place of fun and relaxation, but for autistic children, the outdoors can also be a stimulating space that can promote motor skills, social interaction and tactile sensory integration. Take advantage of the nice weather and encourage your child to spend time doing great outdoor activities. Here are some suggestions to consider.
Reduce Sensory Overload
Autistic children are prone to sensory overload. To help create an emotionally safe space for them, find a quiet area to be their space and obstruct their view of a busy street and neighborhood with trees or tall fences.
Give them a shady area that they can retreat to when they want some peace and quiet. Make sure you have some fixed furniture and elements in your backyard as the unpredictable can be intimidating for them. Having a few items that don’t change will help keep them comfortable.
Get Down in the Dirt
Gardening is an excellent activity to do with your child and can help them overcome any sensory issues. Slowly introduce them to a variety of textures from moist dirt to silky flower petals. Often gardening creates a quiet fascination with children and can help ease their anxiety.
This is also a great way to practice their ability to follow directions and can strengthen their social skills. Teach them how to use gardening gloves, proper tools and let them experience the joy and patience of watching something grow.
Break Out The Binoculars
Activities that the entire family can participate in are a great way to combine learning and education. Birdwatching is a great opportunity to do this and can be done from the safety of your own backyard.
Start by adding bird feeders to your backyard, or better yet make some together by rolling a pinecone in peanut butter and birdseed. Go Explore Nature encourages you to invest in a field guide and make a game of identifying the different birds. To further encourage the activity, get a pair of child-friendly binoculars or try going for a nature walk.
Set Up Camp
Backyard camping is the perfect balance of letting kids feel safe and secure while still creating a new experience. You do not need expert-level equipment for your own backyard. Parents Magazine recommends seeing what you have around your house first. You really only need a pop-up tent, some sleeping bags, a backpack and a flashlight.
Plan a night of activities and try to use the house as little as possible. Pack your dinner and clothes and try and settle in for the night. However, if your child is having difficulty sleeping and wants to go back in the house, that is OK. A good night’s sleep trumps an “authentic” outdoor camping trip.
Give Them Some Wheels
It is not uncommon for autistic children to have balance issues or difficulties not feeling in control, however, do not be discouraged from teaching them to ride a bike. It may just take more time and patience to do so. Bike riding can strengthen their motor skills, balance and sensory processing.
Keep the training wheels on until they have built up the muscles. Take your time to teach them to balance on their own. Hold on to the back of the bike until they feel comfortable with you letting go.
For many kids, being outside offers a sense of freedom and a chance to explore. This does not mean you let them run loose. They can still feel this within a restricted and safe environment; secure your backyard with a fence or safety barrier. Remember to supervise your children, as much for their own actions as for a car that they might not notice coming down the street.
There are so many ways to enjoy the outdoors. It offers a calming space where autistic children can explore, gain new skills and become more comfortable with their surrounding environment. Encourage outdoor play and do not hesitate to get involved. Let it be an opportunity to learn and bond.