Pretend Play Builds Brains and Relationships

Remember creating a “fort” out of blankets in the house or over the clothes line? Maybe it was a can to can string phone?  Pretend Play does great things for your child’s brain! Playing “dress up” or “tea party” or “Pirates” is very important “work” for their developing brains.

What is Pretend Play?

Children learn through imaging and doing. While they play, they test what they have learned from talking with parents and watching the world around them and make it their own– how things work, and what doesn’t.

Playing face to face, with your child– encouraging them to lead and explore, with you as a playmate following and their lead– gives you a window into the way their brain is learning about the world.

Often it involves new uses for common items.  Remember how they can get hours of fun out of empty boxes? Sometimes they prefer the box the toy comes in to the toy itself. Their brains love being creative with bowls, spoons, blankets, wood blocks, puppets, dolls, play figures and dress-up clothes.

How can play boost the brain?

They actually learn to solve problems, coordinate, cooperate, and think flexibly while “building” a post office in the family room, creating a restaurant, clomping around in grown-up shoes, becoming a pirate or teacher of stuffed animals, or building a stick and rock structure outdoors. What fun to exercise their growing imagination as the sandbox becomes a dinosaur bone excavation site!

 

 

Play with your child!

How do I play with my young child to build her brain?

Parent sets up the play environment but lets the child determine the course of play. The parent doesn’t model or drive the interaction, but follows and responds to the child’s choices

Pediatrician, Dr. Dipesh Navsaria says, “Children need to interact with people, not products.” Parent-child interaction is our most effective brain building activity. He suggests scaffolding play. When we resist the urge to tell them what to do, how to play; their brains kick into action. Encourage exploration and laugh together when things don’t turn out as planned. Ask, “What could we try to make that work?” rather than suggesting a solution. When they come up with it themselves-especially after many attempts– they will be justifiably satisfied.

Scaffolding builds on what the child has already figured out—using open-ended questions to move them to the next level. Help him go from “what he knows” to “what else could he know?” Let her lead the play – who says what, and the unfolding story.

Add Music

Music and movement ramp up brain building benefits. Make up songs together about what’s going on. Find ways to sing and dance while picking up toys, bath time, sorting laundry, cooking and anything else making it fun. Call and answer sounds and gestures, move to music by skipping, hopping, galloping, or twirling. There are no limits! Pretending with music, movement and laughter will grow brain connections while you make marvelous memories! Pretend play needs flexible time. Maybe leave the make-shift post office set up for a few days so the play option remains. Concepts they learn for themselves will last, and your relationship will grow. Great investment!

Resources:

Dr. Navsaria – http://www.navsaria.com/home/index.html

Bright Horizons – http://www.brighthorizons.com/family-resources/e-family-news/2013-importance-of-pretend-play-in-child-development/

Pretend Play- http://www.scholastic.com/parents/resources/article/creativity-play/importance-pretend-play

 

 

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Sidebar

 

Remember these 5 steps to help build your child’s brain.

 

  1. Look Look into their eyes and follow what they are looking at even before they can talk.

 

  1. Follow   Let them lead play while you follow, responding to their words, sounds, actions and ideas

 

  1. Chat  Talk (or sing) out loud to them about what you are doing together.

 

  1. Take Turns Encourage them to watch and copy you talking, playing or exploring, and you do the same.

 

  1. Stretch Ask “open” questions Build on what your child says by asking “open questions” like “What do you think about that?” “How do you feel about…?”

 

Adapted from downloadable tips from Vroom: Brain Building Basics

http://www.joinvroom.org/sites/default/files/Vroom%20Brain%20Building%20Basics_1.pdf

 

 

 

Humor to Boost Business Climate

Successful businesses work hard to create a comfort zone for both customers and employees. How can we reduce the fear factor, increase productivity, encourage collaboration, enhance creativity and problem solving, and build relationships? Researchers tell us humor can do all of this and more.

How is this possible? Understanding where they’re coming from:

The brain’s “internal security system” called the “Amygdala” is tagged with keeping us safe and alive. When we encounter a threat, this system flies into action shutting down everything we don’t need for immediate survival—thinking, digesting, empathy, compassion, resting, immune system, social skills, coping, and many others.

Have you ever noticed difficulty with problem solving, decision making, collaboration, productivity, and general well-being while stressed? Laughter releases chemicals that shift our brain’s energy forward to the thinking brain or Prefrontal Cortex. Voila! Mental clarity!

A Brain Workout – Every time you hear a joke:

Just as the body’s muscles can fade when they aren’t exercised regularly, the brain needs challenges to stay sharp. Hearing a joke sets off a split second complex process that extends to other people.

  1. The sound enters your ear.
  2. The Vestibular system sends it to the language center in your left hemisphere
  3. That auditory center makes sense of the words.
  4. The message zips across the Corpus Collosum to the right hemisphere where the right frontal cortex stores social memories.
  5. The hippocampus processes emotion.
  6. Dopamine surges the brain’s reward center (Nucleus Accumbens) and you feel good.
  7. Brain stem takes over the muscles that make you laugh
  8. Your brain spreads the good feelings to others whose brains are “tuned in” to yours.

This explains the “you had to be there” effect when we try to recreate the connection for someone else who didn’t share the original funny experience.

Social Connections

In our own brains, the cells that fire together “wire together” forming connections between them. The same thing happens between people when they share an experience – telling a joke, completing each other’s sentences; their brains fire together, laying the groundwork for relationships. Connections form between two people just as neural pathways between parts of a single brain.  Relationships between friends are strengthened when we laugh together.

Laughter is contagious. At the sound of someone laughing, our own brain responds. Our own internal “Happy Juice Factory” releases – Dopamine, Serotonin, and Endorphins to give us a natural rush—free, legal and no “residual” problems. Rely on laughter early and often!

Creativity – Problem Solving

Several researchers document the benefits of humor on creative thinking. Robyn McMaster’s study noted that finding new connections is at the core of both humor and creativity—so they complement each other.  “In fact, humor is highly correlated with both creativity and intelligence … A dose of humor releases the chemical serotonin in your brain, which improves focus, increases objectivity and improves overall brainpower.”   (A Dash of Humor Ups Performance and Creativity at Work by Robyn McMaster, PhD. Brain Based Biz, Sept 2008)

 

Problem solving improves in a similar way. Exercising the brain through humor keeps it agile and ready to view novel solutions.  (Positive affect facilitates creative problem solving” by Alice M Isen, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 1987, 52, 112-131)

Humor Heals

Finally, the health benefits of humor have been documented for centuries.  Norman Cousins wrote about healing himself of degenerative arthritis during the 1960’s through reading humor books and watching comedy shows– Three Stooges and Charlie Chaplin and massive doses of Vitamin C. (Anatomy of an Illness 1990)

In business and in daily life, humor creates healthy resiliency and success. When we can see the humor in challenging situations and poke fun at ourselves, even setbacks have their benefits. “She who laughs, ‘lasts’.”

Print Resources:

  • Humor, stress and coping strategies by Millicent H. Abel (study 2002)
  • A Day in the Life Your Brain by Judith Horstman (2009)
  • Wake Up Laughing by Rachel St. John-Gilbert (2011)
  • “A Dash of Humor Ups Performance and Creativity at Work” by Robyn McMaster, PhD. Brain Based Biz, Sept 2008
  • “Positive affect facilitates creative problem solving” by Alice M Isen, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 1987, 52, 112-131

Online Resources:

  • http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/stress-relief/art-20044456 April 21, 2016
  • http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/04/22/laughter-and-memory_n_5192086.html
  • https://www.google.com/webhp?sourceid=chrome-instant&rlz=1C1CHWA_enUS605US605&ion=1&espv=2&ie=UTF-8#q=businessolver%20west%20des%20moines
  • Humor boosts overall brainpower. “A dose of humor releases the chemical serotonin in your brain, which improves focus, increases objectivity and improves overall brainpower.” by Andrew Tarvin http://www.humorthatworks.com/benefits/30-benefits-of-humor-at-work/
  • “Give your body a Boost with Laughter” by R Morgan Griffin, WebMD 2012