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More risks on school playgrounds linked to happier children

Medical X-Press – Staff Writer

“Children from schools with greater risk and challenge in the playground environment report being happier at school and playing with more children, according to a study published online April 24 in Pediatrics. Victoria L. Farmer, Ph.D., from the University of Otago in New Zealand, and colleagues conducted a two-year cluster-randomized controlled trial in which eight control schools were asked to not change their play environment, while eight intervention schools increased opportunities for risk and challenge (e.g., rough-and-tumble play), reduced rules, and added loose parts (e.g., tires). At baseline, one year, and two years, 840 children, 635 parents, and 90 teachers completed bullying questionnaires.”(more)

How Kids Learn Better By Taking Frequent Breaks Throughout The Day

KQED News Mind/Shift – Timothy D. Walker

“Although I favor the Finnish model, I realize that unleashing fifth graders on the playground every hour would be a huge shift for most schools. According to Pellegrini, breaks don’t have to be held outdoors to be beneficial. In one of his experiments at a public elementary school, the children had their recess times inside the school, and the results matched those of other experiments where they took their breaks outside: after their breaks, the students were more focused in class (Pellegrini, 2005).”(more)

How Play Is At The Heart of Many World-Changing Inventions

KQED News Mind/Shift – Katrina Schwartz

“Though we speak our own language all the time, we don’t tend to notice how it works until we learn another one. Until then, we lack the necessary perspective: As the German poet Goethe said, “Those who know nothing of foreign languages know nothing of their own.” When we learn a second language, all the “decisions” our language invisibly makes for us becomes visible. We notice how our way of describing the world is just one of many, and that there is a dazzling variety of ways in which we could see the world if we had the language to do so.”(more)

What Preschoolers Need From Adults

Education Week – Kate Stoltzfus

“Christakis, whose career has focused on the well-being of children and their families, published The Importance of Being Little: What Young Children Really Need From Grownups last year. In the book, she argues for a rethinking of the purpose of preschool and proposes several changes to preschool curricula. According to Christakis, chief among early-childhood education’s current problems is that it neglects the role of play in learning. She recommends that preschools devote more time to cultivating children’s imaginations, instead of focusing on test preparation and the recall of numbers and letters. The Importance of Being Little also explains that educators and parents would do well to re-examine their mindsets on the teaching of young children by recognizing their preschoolers’ capacity for problem-solving, deeper learning, and forming relationships.”(more)

Tackling childhood obesity using structured play times

Medical X-Press – Todd Devlin

“How important is physical activity in children under 5? It’s a question Trish Tucker, a professor in the School of Occupational Therapy, tackles on a daily basis. She’s currently involved in a major research project that aims to get young children moving – early and often. The childhood obesity rate in Canada has increased significantly over the last several years. But it’s more than a recent trend. According to the federal government, obesity rates among children and youth have nearly tripled over the last 30 years. The negative impacts – on the individual and on the health-care system – can be significant. Obese children are more likely to become obese adults, and they’re at a higher risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and other cardiovascular illnesses. One of the major factors cited is a lack of physical activity. Government of Canada statistics show only 9 per cent of children and youth, aged 5 to 17, get the recommended 60 minutes a day of moderate to intense physical activity. It’s clear addressing the issue early is key.”(more)

Preschoolers with autism show gains after play-based program

Medical X-Press – Sarah C.p. Williams

“Treatments for autism spectrum disorder that appear promising in a research lab often don’t work as well in real-life settings. But one intervention, developed over the past 15 years by UCLA scientists, has been shown to be effective in reducing symptoms of autism in preschool-age children, even when it’s carried out in facilities with less substantial resources and by mostly young teaching assistants. “Children who received the intervention were more engaged with their teacher, used more communication gestures and words than did children who were not in the intervention,” said Connie Kasari, the paper’s senior author and a UCLA professor of education and psychiatry. The study was published online in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry.”(more)