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Play is Food for the Brain and Helps Children with Cognitive Delays
Children need to exercise their brains. Playing helps stimulate children's growing brains and improves cognitive function, especially in children with special needs.
Medical doctor, author and play advocate, Dr. Stuart Brown has researched and written extensively on the subject. In his book, “Play”, he notes that, “Play is essential to our social skills, adaptability, intelligence, creativity, ability to problem solve, and more. Play is hardwired into our brains—it is the mechanism by which we become resilient, smart, and adaptable people.”
Brown goes on to point out, “…new research suggesting the direct role of three-dimensional-
The need for play was one of the founding principles of the National Lekotek Center, a nonprofit dedicated to connecting children with disabilities to the benefits of the play experience. They believe that most toys fall into one of four categories of developmental potential: cognitive, physical, sensory or communicative.
Ellen Metrick, Chief Toy Evaluator helped develop a system of rating and reviewing toys in relationship to specific needs of children with disabilities. Some examples of cognitive developmental toys are:
• Building blocks--helps with teaching cause and effect
• Pushing a toy car along the floor--develops visual tracking skills
• Puzzles and memory matching games--work on a child’s matching skills
• Graduated stacking toys--build teach kids about sequential ordering of thing
Metrick tells parents that encouraging a child to play is as important to his or her brain as it is to make sure their child gets a healthy portion of protein in their diet every day.
Websites like webmd.com understand the urgency of this by educating parents. As they state, “As parents, you should understand the role of play in your children's lives. Stephanie Pratola, a registered play therapist and clinical psychologist in Salem, Va., states that play helps children form attachments. As one of the ways that children actively communicate with others, "it's their way of relating. It helps to build the relationship,"
Parents need to encourage their child with special needs to get a healthy dose of play every single day. The good news is that it is a lot easier than getting them to eat their green vegetables.
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AblePlay is a website at www.ableplay.org that researches, rates and reviews current toys for children with special needs. Their research categorizes toys according to cognitive, physical, sensory and communicative benefits and specific disabilities. AblePlay is part of the nonprofit National Lekotek Center, the leading authority on play for children with disabilities www.lekotek.org.