Object Play: Are Your Child’s Playing Habits Disrupting Learning?
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We see our kids play with their toys every day. They play with everything from video games down to those cardboard boxes you keep meaning to take out to the recycling bin. But what if I told you that not all play is created equal. I’m sure we’ve all heard how important it is to limit screen time and encourage active play. It makes sense. Active play provides exercise in a world where obesity is a real problem. But you might be surprised to find that it’s much more important than just a healthy body. It could be the difference between a healthy mind and learning difficulties.
When children participate in object play (including any toys, even items like pots and pans, as part of their play), they’re actually developing important skills for school. Object play promotes many skills. Two of those skills that we see a lot of struggles with at our center are hand-eye coordination and eye tracking. These skills are vital to reading and writing. When kids can’t track a straight line with their eyes or can’t coordinate motion between their hands and eyes, how can they read through a line on the page or up on the board? How can they write or color within the lines? How can they form letters and numbers properly?
In a research summary on play and learning, Dr. Rachel E. White from the Minnesota Children’s Museum said, “Object play also contributes to cognitive development, including learning about the nature of objects, problem-solving, creativity, and foundational skills for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.”
5 Ways to Improve Object Play
If you’ve noticed the struggles with reading and writing and you’ve seen the lack of coordination work its magic, you’re probably wondering what you can do to help them out. Lucky for us and them, the solution is in the play time. So here are some toys and activities that promote healthy object play and hand-eye coordination and eye tracking.
Whether your kiddo plays catch with you, a friend or simply throws the ball up and catches it themselves, they’re busy training their brain. Aiming the ball to throw it to a partner trains the eyes and hands to work together. Watching the ball in order to catch it trains the eyes to track and then position their hands to receive it. Some of the most effective balls for children to play with are sensory balls like you see here and like you will see at many therapy centers.
Bean bags, like you see here, have pretty much the same training value as a ball, but because they’re smaller and softer, they can be a little easier on uncoordinated hands as they work on their catching skills. When they play with these, make sure to encourage them to keep their eyes on the bean bags. Tracking won’t improve if they avoid tracking because it’s hard.
For the kiddos who can’t seem to keep their eyes on the balls or bean bags, scarves, like the ones you see here, can be good alternatives. When scarves are thrown, they slowly flutter away or back down. The decreased speed makes them easier to track and catch, and they look cool on top of that so they’re likely to hold your child’s attention while it’s on the move.
Balloons, like the ones you see here, are also good for the kids who have an extra hard time. They are float in the air slower like the scarves, but they don’t have to be caught. Bumping the balloon back up is a good variation to these kinds of activities. Make sure your child watches the balloon as they hit it in the air and have them track it with their eyes as it falls back into their hands. This will help their tracking and hand-eye coordination. And keep-the-balloon-off-the-ground is usually a favorite game among kids of any age.
Ring toss, like the one you see here, is a fun game that can help with a little sharper tuning on the hand-eye coordination. This differs from playing catch as the target is smaller and your child can’t move to catch a ball that wasn’t quite aimed properly. It also encourages a different type of throw.
Integrated Learning Strategies is a Utah-based center dedicated to helping mainstream children and children with learning disabilities achieve academic success. Our services provide kids with non-traditional tutoring programs within the Davis County, Kaysville, Layton, Syracuse, Farmington, and Centerville areas. Areas to find Integrated Learning Strategies include: Reading tutors in Kaysville, Math tutors in Kaysville, Common Core Tutors in Kaysville, Tutors in Utah, Utah Tutoring Programs
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