Play the Building Blocks to Success
According to Forbes, (Oct, 2013), there are 10 skills that businesses look for in their employees:
- Ability to work in a team
- Ability to make decisions and solve problems
- Ability to plan, organize, and prioritize work
- Ability to communicate verbally with people
- Ability to obtain and process information
- Ability to analyze quantitative data
- Technical knowledge related to a job
- Proficiency with computer software programs
- Ability to create and/or edit written reports
- Ability to sell and influence others
As a parent of a child with a disability, developmental or communication delay, or any other special need, reading this list can cause your hands to sweat and your heart to beat fast. Questions, fear and concern all run rampant, and are following by the comment, “are you KIDDING me!?!” “How can I help my child succeed at potty training or getting her homework done, let alone, succeed as an adult?!” “How do I wrap my head around all this information and where do I even begin?!”
You begin where your heart leads you and were you find joy… with the world of play. We don’t often think about play as providing the building blocks to success, but it certainly does. Those skills that are needed by successful teens and adults, begin as soon as a child can play. As Fred Rogers from Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood once said, ““Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood.” So if your child can play, then your child is learning. And if your child can learn, your child can be successful.
At AblePlay-Lekotek, we know how important play is to providing building blocks to inclusion and success; for it is through playing, that children develop those critical skills that they carry into their adulthood:
- Advances many cognitive skills like learning to focus and pay attention to detail.
- Helps children develop problem solving, organizational and planning skills.
- Promotes both short and long term memory.
- Stimulates language, negotiation, and communication skills.
- Builds confidence.
- Promotes creativity.
- Helps build leadership skills through team or collaborative play.
- Supports relationship building.
- Enhances the balance of body, mind and spirit.
- Teaches empathy.
- Provides joy.
Play also provides a critical skill that is often overlooked, but is now being touted as a key to success and positive mental health: resiliency. Resiliency is defined by the American Psychological Association as “the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or even significant sources of stress…. It means ‘bouncing back’ from difficult experiences.” Play has been, and will continue to be a means to providing children with that critical skill for emotional development. Anyone who has ever lost a game of Sorry!®, pulled the wrong Jenga® piece, or missed a goal by inches, knows the power of play and its crucial role in developing resilience, another building block to success.
So, let’s look at the Forbes list again, but through the lens of play…
1. Ability to make decisions and solve problems
- Play the game: Roller Coaster Challenge™
- Plan a scavenger hunt outside or around the house (hide a small toy and make a simple treasure map giving step by step clues about where the item is)
- Ask your child to put on a fashion show by picking out their own outfit for the day and walking the runway
2. Ability to plan, organize, and prioritize work
- Play the games: Find It®, Scrabble®
- Make a sticker chart with daily activities or chores
3. Ability to communicate verbally with people
- Play the games: Apples to Apples®, Happy Salmon®, and “The Telephone Game”
- Play “restaurant at home”, and ask your child to practice ordering their own meal and using manners at a real restaurant, or to be the waiter
- Round up a game of “Word Ball” by writing questions on a beach ball, then having to answer the question your right thumb lands on when you catch the ball
4. Ability to obtain and process information
- Play the games: Mimiq® Card Game, or Memory® matching game, and “Simon Says”
- Listen to a new song and try to recite the lyrics
- Engage in a game of Bingo or car bingo
5. Ability to analyze quantitative data
- Play the game: Clue®, Guess Who®?
- Use the Time Timer® in various ways: baking a cake, screen time, brushing teeth
- Cook or bake with precise measurements or use measuring cups or spoons while creating items using PlayDoh®
6. Technical knowledge related to a job
- Play with: Count Along Cashier by Leap Frog®, and Monopoly®
- Dress up and act out different types of professions: create a grocery store, pretend to teach a classroom, be a vet or run a zoo or vet with stuffed animals. Visit or tour the places where those professionals work (firehouse, farm, the zoo, grocery store)
7. Proficiency with computer software programs
- Play with: Code-a-Pillar by Fisher Price®, and time restricted computer games like Minecraft®
- Practice typing on the keyboard or visit the Keyboard Zoo to build keyboarding skills (www.abcya.com/keyboarding_practice.htm)
8. Ability to create and/or edit written reports
- Play with: any arts and crafts
- Create magazine collages or scrapbook
- Make a story book with drawings and narration
- Write a Mini science report- pick an animal to “research” and present information by printing out pictures, writing on colored paper, adding stickers, using patterned scissors or by making a habitat diorama
9. Ability to sell and influence others
- Play with: Seedling Little Farmer’s Market
- Create a lemonade stand
- Conduct a Bake sale (real or pretend)
Kathryn Lavin, MSW, Executive Director Kathryn received her master’s degree in Management and Policy (Jane Addams School of Social Work) and has worked in the disability field over 20 years; worked at the Institute on Disability and Human Development; served on the board of the National Association for Down syndrome; founding member of the Belle Center of Chicago; currently serves on the Chicago Community Trust’s Persons with Disabilities Fund.
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This post originally appeared on our July/August 2017 Magazine