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As a parent, we all worry if our kids are smart enough to succeed in the future. We want them to grow to be happy and well adjusted with great paying jobs. We want it all for them including that they are successful at school. So often we push them with extra homework and studies. As a mom of grown kids, a teacher, and involved in school boards, I have reflective perspective. We should not worry as much when they are little about their academics. We should worry more about how much time they have to play.  

Learning through play and experiential learning offers abundant opportunities for young minds to grow and develop into well balance, intelligent adults. 

 In the book, Einstein Never Used Flash Cards, Dr. Kathy Hirsh-Pasek makes the case that younger children need the opportunity to just be kids, and that too many parents try to get their children to turn into academic geniuses at too young of an age. In U.S. News and World Report, Hirsh-Pasek states: “We know a tremendous amount about how young children learn, based on 30 years of wonderful science. The research shows that real learning has to take place in context – and that play is the best teacher. 

 A child can improve his or her memory through play. Studies have shown that playing improves a child’s memory and also stimulates the growth of the cerebral cortex. Games, D.I.Y. kits, construction and building toys, and other playtime activities can help kids learn how to memorize important facts and details. Better memory skills also lead to improved problem-solving skills, which kids can apply to their everyday lives. 

Playing has a major scientific advantage – it can help to grow brain cells. When kids play and explore new places, physiological changes happen in the brain. A substance called BDNF is released. This substance can be crucial for the growth and development of brain cells. In a way, playing can be considered “brain food!” 

 Besides being a kid’s favorite activity, pretending can improve language skills. Scientists have discovered a link between playing that involves pretending and language development. The benefits are increased when children play “let’s pretend” together. Children who engage in pretend play can make significant improvements in their receptive and expressive linguistic skills. This means they better understand what is being said to them as well as what they are saying. 

 Playtime also helps to make kids smarter by teaching them how to solve problems creatively. There are two basic types of problems for people to solve. Convergent problems have only one correct solution or answer. Divergent problems have multiple solutions. When kids play, it helps them to develop skills that assist them in solving divergent problems. Kids who engage in play also come up with more creative solutions to those problems.  

 Here are a few ideas when thinking about how different kinds of play can make our kids smarter! 

Challenge their minds 

Your child’s brain is like a sponge ready to soak up everything it comes across. Age appropriate games help stimulate their mind and develop skills. STEM games and other board games, building blocks, and puzzles are all smart toys that build smarts. Encourage this curiosity.  

Get them Physical  

Whether it’s organized sports or just playing in the yard, children need physical activity to stimulate their senses. A study by the University of Illinois concluded that fit children perform better academically. They also have higher levels of self-esteem and confidence. As a parent, encourage your kids to get out and you can get out there and play with them. 

Listen and Play Music 

Research from the University of Toronto showed that children who studied music have higher IQs as adults. Music feeds the soul and brightens imaginations. Music is a tremendous vehicle to open up your child’s mind to many new wonders. 

 Pick out Video games 

There are many games on the market now designed to develop your child’s learning skills. They promote strategic thinking, creativity, and teamwork. Many video games have downsides obviously, but some can also be wonderful for developing motor skills and memory. 

 Interact with Your Kids 

Scientists suggest that children that are loved, played with and cuddled have a much better mental growth than those who do not enjoy much attention and love at home. 

Complete Exposure STEAM 

Indulging your kids in activities that develop both sides of the brain is necessary. The left part of the brain works for logic, reasoning and language whereas the right part works for art and creativity. For a smarter kid, it is vital to expose them to things that work in developing both sides of the brain. include interesting and challenging games and activities in your kid’s regular routine. Look for STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) toys. 

 Kids love to play!  If you want to get your kids started on the right track, support their desire to play every day. Creative play encourages them to get their bodies and minds in motion. From problem solving to physical activity, teamwork and so much more, your kids are learning every step of the way!  

An article by Reisa Schwartzman, President, Griddly Games, Inc