Thursday, June 18, 2015

"Love. Talk. Play." this Father's Day

Washington's "Love. Talk. Play." campaign is well-established across the state, but in case you haven't heard, the study-based initiative advocates a healthy, loving and educational relationship between children and their parents beginning at an early age.

A child’s early experiences shape his or her brain structure and cognition. “Love. Talk. Play.” has teamed up with researchers at the University of Washington’s Institute for Learning and Brain Sciences (I-LABS) to look at the science behind why love, talk and play are important to the development of babies and toddlers.

In honor of Father's Day, consider how dads might play a role in daily special interactions with children. 

Social interaction and imitative learning play an important role in early brain and behavioral development. Love is just as important as nutritious food to raise a healthy child. Your gentle touch, attention and understanding help your child grow in every way. 

Dr. John Gottman discusses this role in his book, Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child. 
"Dads have a pivotal role in their children’s lives. Research shows that when dads act as an emotion coach, by valuing and encouraging emotions, children do better in school, handle moods better and recover from emotional events faster," said Gottman.
Activity idea: Read with your child. "Love. Talk. Play" suggests cuddling with your child while reading, giving them your full attention. 

Children’s early language skills predict future reading abilities, and skills not developed early are difficult to remediate later on. As soon as your child is born, start talking, singing and rhyming about anything and everything. Check out the recent Seattle Times article regarding a study that found differences in the way mothers speak to children versus their fathers. 
“Even in singing to babies, moms will sing ‘Twinkle, Twinkle,’ and ‘ABC’ and dads will sing rock songs," said Tonya Bergeson-Dana, assistant professor at Indiana University Medical School, which runs the Babytalk Research center. 
Whether it's a high-pitched nursery rhyme or a rock anthem, communicating with your child is vital for healthy development.

Activity idea: Teach your child a song. "Love. Talk. Play." suggests sharing a song you enjoyed as a child.

Human cognition and innovation depends on memory, logic, mathematical reasoning, and the manipulation of physical tools and abstract symbols. Playing is not only fun; it’s also how your child learns. In another recent Seattle Times article, the effectiveness of play in learning is highlighted. 
"Play is often perceived as immature behavior that doesn’t achieve anything," says David Whitebread, a psychologist at Cambridge University who has studied the topic for decades. "But it’s essential to their development. They need to learn to persevere, to control attention, to control emotions. Kids learn these things through playing."
Check out the recent DEL blog post about play and learning that references Dr. Whitebread, and another blog post by Paul Nyhan for "Love. Talk. Play" partner, Thrive Washington called "Students are Ready for More STEM and Play in Preschool, Two Studies Find."

Activity idea: Make a meal together. "Love. Talk. Play" suggests letting kids play with pots, pans, spoons and cups to pretend to cook or making a game out of trying new foods.

"Love. Talk. Play." is sponsored by Thrive by Five Washington, the state’s nonprofit public-private partnership for early learning, the Department of Early Learning (DEL) and the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, and it is supported by many other statewide and local organizations.

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