behavior · brain · community · health · mental health · Nature

Vermont Physicians Will be Prescribing Day Passes to State Parks – Champlain Valley News

Healthcare providers already recommend this in Japan and Korea, so glad to see it getting picked up in North America too.

vt20gov20council20photo201_1496178303788_22174713_ver1-0_640_360
Dr. Elisabeth Fontaine writes a prescription for exercise for a patient at Northwestern Medical Center. Photo: Vermont Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports

This summer, Vermont physicians will be prescribing active play in Vermont State Parks to promote healthy lifestyles and prevent chronic health issues.

The Vermont Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports along with the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation gave doctors free day passes to state parks to give to patients.

These “prescriptions” follow the principles of Exercise in Medicine (EiM), a global health initiative to promote physical activity.

In some ways this is just a promotion for Vermont’s state parks, but so what?! In an era when we are taking less vacation, park budgets are being slashed and use is being restricted in other ways, including parks potentially being shut down permanently, this is a great way to encourage people to get out into nature and just breathe fresh air, stretch their bodies, and move!

“Studies have demonstrated that outdoor exercise is associated with increased energy and revitalization and decreased depression and tension,” said Dr. Elisabeth Fontaine, a physician at Northwestern Medical Center and a member of the VT Governor’s Council.

“The sun also helps to create through your skin Vitamin D3, which is important for bone health and metabolic function,” Dr. Fontaine continued.

In addition to handing out state park pass prescriptions, the VT Governor’s Council is also encouraging doctors to talk with patients about the importance of exercise.

“The Park Prescription program is a perfect way to highlight the connection between outdoor recreation and personal health. Spending time outdoors, connecting with nature and being active all help keep us strong in both body and spirit,” said Director of Vermont State Parks Craig Whipple.

“And state parks offer the ideal settings for valuable outdoor time,” Whipple added.

For more information, visit www.vtstateparks.com.

Advertisements
behavior · brain · children · cognition · emotion · environment · family · happiness · health · learning · mental health · play · psychology

Why I Play-Fight with my Kids

In some ways this seems like an overly obvious, unnecessary post. Of course parents play fight with their kids! Right? Yet I am surprised by how few MOMS play fight with their kids.

I do. And I love it! I didn’t think I would enjoy it as much as I do, but I do. Here are my top reasons why.

1. It teaches them body awareness – How hard do I have to push to make something happen? How strong am I before I get pushed over? How do I get myself back upright? How hard is too hard to hit? Also being aware of how strong they are now versus a month from now is important too as they grow and get bigger and stronger; I’ve known too many bigger little kids that don’t know their own strength.

2. It teaches them spatial awareness – How far away is that body I am playing with? Where are my legs and arms while I’m wrestling? Oops, now I’m upside down, how does that make me feel?

3. It makes them feel loved and given attention.

4. It’s fun! I’ll bet almost everyone at one time or another has played slug bug, tickle time, or wrestled with your sibling, or started a real fight with your sibling that by the end you two were both on the floor laughing.

5. They feel safe acting out being big and strong and knocking me down or punching me and knowing that I can take it.

6. Kids who play fight with their dads are being shown that men are big and strong. For somewhat feminist but mostly totally selfish reasons, I want them to know that women (i.e. ME!) can be big, strong, and tough too.

7. Along those same lines, grown-ups who play fight with kids are demonstrating that when people play or play fight, they are being respectful of each other’s boundaries, and if you don’t feel safe you can and should ask the other person to stop. If the other person doesn’t respect your boundaries then kids learn that’s not okay and they get time out or kids or grown-ups stop playing with them. This is a super-critical skill that is missing in so much rhetoric, both physical and verbal, in our society today.

8. As their mom, it is so fun to watch my kids get stronger, faster, more coordinated, and more creative in their physical play. They mix strategies, including saying silly things to catch me off guard, which is all part of the art of play.

9. Finally, I want to promote physical play of all kinds with kids and grown-ups alike. Whether that’s boxing, hiking, jump rope, tricycles, making forts, tree-climbing, or just going for an exploratory walk around the neighborhood, I support it.

I’m sure there are other reasons I’m forgetting, but those are my main ones.

My husband teaches natural movement classes, and before that parkour and martial arts. Slowly more women are joining the adult classes in all of those fields. But especially in the kids’ classes, the moms are just as likely to join their kids, but almost none participate given the opportunity. Why?! Some women (and men) don’t like physical contact activities. And that’s totally fine. But more often than not women are intimidated. I say no more fear! Get in there and push someone.

Why do you play fight with your kids? Or why don’t you? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

UPDATE: I wrote a follow-up post about safe ways to roughhouse with your children that you can find here.

brain · disease · health · mental health · play

Why I support doll therapy for Alzheimers

I heard an interesting story on NPR today: the increase in doll therapy for patients with dementia:

dolls-2-7dd7449e40a36336a5c1ae6519aa62028c092060-s800-c85

Guzofsky, who has Alzheimer’s disease [pictured above], lives on a secure memory floor at a home for seniors in Beverly Hills, Calif. She visits the dolls in the home’s pretend nursery nearly every day. Sometimes Guzofsky changes their clothes or lays them down for a nap. One morning in August, she sings to them: “You are my sunshine, my only sunshine. You make me happy when skies are gray.”

No one knows whether she believes she is holding a doll or a real baby. What the staff at Sunrise Senior Living do know is that Guzofsky, who can get agitated and aggressive, is always calm when caring for the dolls.

Doll therapy is catching on at nursing homes and other senior facilities across the country. It’s used to help ease anxiety among residents with dementia, who can experience personality changes, agitation and aggression. But the therapy is controversial.

Supporters say the dolls can lessen distress, improve communication and reduce the need for psychotropic medication. Critics say the dolls are demeaning and infantilize seniors.

Full story here.

I understand the concern that critics may find this kind of treatment demeaning to seniors who now need care to do basic everyday tasks.

However, let’s think of this as something else: Play Therapy.

It’s true that it can be hard to tell if the patients realize this is a toy doll or real baby. However this could potentially be very similar to a child’s imaginary play with dolls or an imaginary friend: kids know it’s pretend, but also get very invested in their pretend world, taking care of their babies, feeding them, changing them, snuggling them for comfort.

I also agree that the positive results – reduced stress, increased verbalization, and more – without the use of medication, make it worth more exploration rather than outright rejection because of its use of toys and play. Maybe the nay-sayers should give it a try.

brain · health · mental health · youtube

The Importance of Staring Out Of The Window

THIS!

Staring out the window is often associated with a lack of attention or productivity, but in this film from The School of Life, we examine the activity (or lack of activity) as a highly productive pursuit that we might rarely make time for anymore: Discovering the contents of our own minds.

Source: The Importance of Staring Out Of The Window | The Kid Should See This

autism · behavior · brain · children · education · environment · learning · play · robotics · school

Beyond BB-8: How the Sphero is helping students with autism learn

So often we hear about technology disrupting play and stunting or being less effective than “traditional” types of education. Rarely do we see technology blending in with education and children’s play and really supporting child development and learning.

This is one exception.

A school in Australia that works with autistic kids has adopted several Sphero robots (like BB8 from Star Wars), and has incorporated Sphero into both indoor and outdoor play.

Not only is it robust enough to be taken outside and played with alongside building blocks, it can also be used to teach coding away from a basic screen. “For kids with autism … around 90% of the information processed is what they can see. They’re very visual learners,” he said.

It can also help kids feel more comfortable in the school environment. Smith explained how some young students, around six and seven years old, often find it stressful to leave their classroom and travel to other parts of the school.”Early on, we found that if we let them guide Sphero: ‘Let’s take Sphero for a little adventure around the school,’ they would actually, with no trouble, go into the assembly or sport hall if they had Sphero with them,” he said. “It’s almost like they were brave and overcame their anxieties for the sake of showing Sphero.”

Sphero is robust enough that it can be used for paint projects, or just exploring in the dirt.

Just like Christopher Robin and his Winnie the Pooh, being able to use a proxy like Sphero to help explore the world can be very powerful and enabling for kids of all abilities, but especially kids on the autism spectrum.

More at: Beyond BB-8: How the Sphero is helping students with autism learn

behavior · brain · children · creativity · mental health · play

Letting imagination win – The Washington Post

I am definitely competitive by nature, as well as a game-rule follower, but I also appreciate and value the ability to think beyond the rules and explore “what if?” That is essence is the entire definition of play, questioning, what else can this be used for. It helps brains grow and is also the spark behind science, art, math, and all the other great discoveries. It’s nice to see that other people also understand and appreciate that need to explore and ask “what else does this do?”.

At 8 and 6 years old, my daughter and oldest son prefer to pick out the pawns from board games and use these figures for imaginary role-play rather than play the games themselves. This drives my mother crazy, and not just because the kids also use her antique water bird decoys as super villains.

“Aren’t they a little old for this?” my mother asks, exasperated and reaching under the couch to capture roving tokens from Clue and Monopoly, setting the games back in their proper boxes “for the umpteenth time today!”

The truth is that my children are not too old for it at all. Nor are they too old for those evening song and dance numbers in which anyone over the age of 21 is required to sit in a row, sweaty thigh to sweaty thigh, while the children put on a variety show after little to no rehearsal.

read the entire article at Letting imagination win – The Washington Post.

behavior · brain · culture · health · play · Social

Play Doesn’t End With Childhood: Why Adults Need Recess Too | NPR

I’ve already shared this article via Twitter, but it is so important that I just had to re-share via my blog. If there was one mantra I would want to be known for it’s that adults need play. Humans need downtime. Humans need breathing room. Humans need play at any age!

A father and daughter try out a public park piano in Seattle, WA
A father and daughter try out a public park piano together in Seattle, WA

Childhood play is essential for brain development. As , time on the playground may be more important than time in the classroom.But playtime doesn’t end when we grow up. Adults need recess too.

The question is, why? To answer this question, Dr. Stuart Brown says we need to clearly define what play is. He’s head of a nonprofit called the National Institute for Play.

“Play is something done for its own sake,” he explains. “It’s voluntary, it’s pleasurable, it offers a sense of engagement, it takes you out of time. And the act itself is more important than the outcome.”

So, let’s take gambling, for instance. A poker player who’s enjoying a competitive card game? That’s play, says Brown. A gambling addict whose only goal is to hit the jackpot? Not play.

Brown says that children have a lot to learn from what he calls this “state of being,” including empathy, how to communicate with others, and how to roll with the punches.

read the whole article, including more insight from Stuart Brown, a long-time play research and advocate, via Play Doesn’t End With Childhood: Why Adults Need Recess Too : NPR Ed : NPR.

I have met and chatted briefly with Dr. Brown and read his work, and he has done some pretty interesting work on play over the years, using both primary and secondary research (I even cited him in my thesis).

I could easily go on a rant here as to why adult play is so important but so undervalued, but for now just read the article and leave any comments either here or on the actual article’s page.

anthropology · behavior · brain · children · community · culture · education · environment · happiness · health · learning · play · psychology · Social

Plug for the NGO Right to Play

I tweeted about this short film yesterday, but I really feel like this is worth giving some space on the blog for.

The value of play is important for teaching life skills like conflict resolution and collaboration, health lessons, healing from trauma, building community and just overall survival as a child and human being, the work this organization does seems simple but is hugely important.

This short video highlights some of the incredible impact that play can have on a child, or group of children.

You can also visit the organization’s website at Right to Play.

Play matters!

 

behavior · brain · cognition · creativity · environment · happiness · health · Nature · work

Why You Should Take Your Work Outdoors

Happy Friday. I got to start off my work day sitting on my back patio drinking coffee. Here’s why more people should do the same.

Do you feel stifled by the four walls of your office or cubicle?

There’s a reason for that.

Trapping ourselves indoors has created what health experts call a “nature deficit disorder” — depression or anxiety resulting from too little time spend outside. Getting outdoors can do great things for your health. Reducing stress, lowering blood pressure and improving immune function are among nature’s health benefits. What’s more, incorporating elements of nature into your workday can also give your brain a boost, resulting in increased productivity, focus and creativity.

Harvard physician Eva M. Selhub, co-author of Your Brain on Nature, says a drop of nature is like a drop of morphine to the brain, since it “stimulates reward neurons in your brain. It turns off the stress response which means you have lower cortisol levels, lower heart rate and blood pressure and improved immune response.”

Turning off the sensors that are involved in the stress response allows the higher brain centers to be accessed, resulting in increased concentration, improved memory, greater creativity and productivity and reduced mental fatigue. While Selhub says spending 20 minutes a day outdoors is recommended, studies have shown even looking at photographs of nature can deliver some of the same cognitive benefits as physically being outdoors. A 2008 study at the University of Michigan showed students who looked at photos of nature performed better on tests of attention and working memory than those who looked at photographs of urban scenes.

More reasons, and tips how, via Entrepreneur Magazine

behavior · brain · children · cognition · creativity · culture · happiness · health · mental health · psychology · Social

20+ Drawing Ideas and Activities | picklebums.com

Staying playful and creative sometimes requires going back to your roots, or at least your crayons. Drawing, scribbling, doodling, and coloring have all been found to help with destressing, thinking out ideas and problems, and keep brains active into old age.

Drawing is also a great learning activity with lots of fine motor skill and development, problem solving, language development and social learning opportunities… (Editor’s note: all of which tie into the above-mentioned benefits, and these skills are all useful for both grownups and kids to practice and refresh on a regular basis).

Drawing is a way for children everyone to process their world, to represent and share their ideas and to explore new skills and information.

Drawing with Geometry Tools
Drawing with Geometry Tools
Graph Paper Drawing
Graph Paper Drawing
Collaborative Doodle Drawings
Collaborative Doodle Drawings

see all 20+ Drawing Ideas and Activities at picklebums.com.

If you think this is just “kid’s stuff” I dare you to try some of these, especially the collaborative drawing exercise. It’ll (potentially) expose some growth areas of yourself and/or others very quickly. 😛