The Benefits of Activity for Preschoolers: Development of Life Skills

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    By: Paidea Child Development Center

    As a parent, what are the best opportunities I can provide my child so they can be successful in school and in life?  This is a question every parent ponders and one that is frequently asked of me.  I have watched many children grow up and many parents struggle with this challenging question and the decisions related to it.  I tend to think of answering this question in terms of helping children develop life skills.

    As Owner/Director of Paidea Child Development Center for the past 28 years, as well as being a parent educator and high school child development teacher, I believe that childhood is a time to learn life skills.  Life skills are learned through play.  Through play, children have a chance to learn to:

         Play without the need to be entertained by an adult
         Decide what to play
         Gather materials to play
         Learn to share and cooperate when playing with others
         Clean up
         Handle disappointment as well as success
         Control impulses
         Accept responsibility for ones actions
         Delay gratification
         Plan and carry out a plan
         Express feelings appropriately
         Emotionally connect with others
         Solve problems and make decisions

    Life skills can be learned at an early age if children have a chance to practice them and if they have adults who can coach and model these skills.  When learned young, these skills become second nature.  Typically, life skills are not taught in organized classes which are teacher-led with a focus on an outcome (i.e., learning a sport or learning a skill).  Instead, these skills are best learned when children are encouraged to be initiators and decision makers in their play, have opportunities to interact and negotiate with peers and have adults who know how to coach.

    I like to encourage families to slow down, spend time together, interact, and teach skills by doing things together. It can be as easy as going out in the back yard with family, neighbors, and friends and kick soccer balls around.

    Not only does this provide your child with the opportunity to learn and practice life skills, it provides additional time for parents and children to interact with each other.  Research shows time with your child is the best opportunity  you can provide to put your child on the path to success in school and in life.  I suggest pre-school children do not necessarily need to participate in structured classes and elementary age children need a balance of family time and activity time.

    This is the start of a discussion that is currently not in the mainstream, but one that is very important to explore.  Think about your fondest family memories when you were growing up.  What types of experiences come to mind?

         Building mud pies in the woods
         Baseball game with the neighborhood
         A day in the sand at the beach

    Together, we can create a list with endless opportunities for your children to build life skills.

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