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How to identify and play to your child’s strengths

Strengths are the activities, relationships and ways of learning that energize people. They are the inner qualities that make us feel most alive and because of that, they are the places where we have the potential to make our most meaningful contributions to life. Strengths are different than interests because strengths are innate and children will be drawn to them for their entire lives, while interests may be fleeting. When strengths and interests combine, children can develop passions. Strengths can be developed at a very early age and parents can help out. Below are some simple guidelines to get you on the way to helping your children discover their strengths.

How to identify and play to your child's strengths

1. Use play and cultivate the imagination.
During imaginative play, children are free to unleash and exercise their Strengths. Watch children at play and you will learn a great deal about what they prefer, how they socialize, and the unique ways they view themselves. Play encourages cognitive enrichment and emotional growth.

2. Seek out what makes your child unique.
Little quirks can be clues to strengths. Something as simple as a child’s tendency to demand that his mother use a certain purse over another may signal a strength in something as seemingly unrelated as design. What initially may look like “showing-off” might be an early sign of a child who has a strength for entertaining. Sometimes the most unusual things signal the areas of deepest strength.

3. Keep a Strengths Journal.
Take note of the things your child does — anything that strikes you about his/her behavior. Here are a few of the kinds of questions that will guide you:

• What causes your child to express joy and happiness?

• What are the things that keep his attention the longest?

• Are there sounds or words he reacts to more than others?

• Is he generous? How does he show this?

• Does he show sympathy? Is he caring or funny? Give examples.

• What are the first thing he says in the morning and the last thing he says at night?

4. Create family traditions.
Creating family traditions helps children discover their relationship strengths. Relationship strengths are the things you do for and with other people that make you feel proud. In order for children to figure this out, they need to reflect on their interactions with others and recall the ones where they felt the most positive. Family traditions give children positive memories. How do you celebrate birthdays? For example, if you have a tradition of making the birthday child a king or queen for the day and you repeatedly do the same nice things — like let them choose their favorite meal — later in life children will recall this and be more apt to want to do this for others. The more traditions you develop where children have an active role in creating meaning for others, the easier it will be later in life to identify what causes them feel good contributing to others.

5. Listen to children.
They know their strengths better than anyone. In order to listen effectively, you must
ask a lot of questions. Avoid questions that can be answered with a simple yes or no.
Show your child you are interested in his perspective. For every answer you
receive, follow up with another question; “Why do you think that?” Genuinely
listen and reflect back your child what you believe you heard him say. If a child tells you he no longer wants to play soccer, rather than tell him why he should, say, “I hear you saying soccer no longer interests you, can you tell me why?”

6. Resist the urge to evaluate everything and overstate expectations.
While most parents want their children to succeed, sometimes they unintentionally burden children by evaluating everything they do. When your child shows you a picture she drew, instead of saying it is good, ask her what she likes best about drawing. Over-evaluation, whether negative or positive, makes children worry about how well they are doing, and this stifles their ability to take risks. Children need to feel like they can experiment with many things and that failing is OK and sometimes part of the journey toward discovering what they love to do most. Unreasonably high expectations often pressure children to perform and conform within strictly prescribed guidelines, and they deter experimentation, exploration, and innovation. Children love to please adults and sometimes they perform in order to gain your approval or meet your expectations rather than because they truly enjoy the task. The more children are free to explore and try new things, the easier it will be to discover strengths. When you let go of the expectations you have for what you want them to do and how you want them to do it they are freer to discover what they really feel energized by.

7. Strengths are more than interests. Help children discover both.
Strengths are the positive feelings that children have when they perform different actions. Interests are the areas where they apply their strengths. For example, a child may be drawn to animals and therefore it can be said they have an interest in animals. However, one child may like to care for animals while another may enjoy training them. The strength for one child is caring and for the other it is teaching. The strength is what someone likes to do, while the interest is where they like to apply it. The strength can be transferred to other interests. For example, the child who likes to train animals may also like to teach children. When you help children discover both their strengths and their interests, they have a good chance to develop a true passion.

8. Let them tell their own stories.
Kids don’t care if you walked ten miles to school. To discover their strengths they want to know you care about what their unique experiences in the world are, not necessarily how you did things. Let them find their own paths; they may not want to play basketball just because you did. Sometimes kids forgo their own passions to please you.

9. Don’t compare them to their older siblings.
There is nothing more hampering of children’s abilities to discover their strengths than when they feel they are constantly being compared to their perfect siblings. Every child will be unique and different. The differences are causes for celebration not comparisons that may make them feel not good enough. You can see the differences in your children early on in their lives. The more you celebrate this, the better.

10. Give them as many choices about what to do as possible.
Do you want children to help around the house? Use it as an opportunity to discover their preferences and let them choose among the jobs you have for them to do. Do you want them to participate in school activities? Encourage them to choose between a variety of things to do, support their choices even if they aren’t what you would pick.

Discovering strengths happens through a process of self-reflection. All of the above tips will help children develop positive and creative thoughts which will help them decide what their true passions are in life.

28 November, 2018

Albert Einstein said, “Everybody is a genius.

But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” This observation is never truer than when raising children. Each child has a different set of strengths and weaknesses. Nurturing his strengths while improving his weaknesses is the key to raising your own well-rounded, happy and fulfilled genius.

Participate in various activities together where you’re able to observe your child’s behavior. Going to a museum, heading to the park or going to the library helps identify your child’s individual strengths and weaknesses. For instance, at the park your child may gravitate toward other children, showing a propensity for social skills. At the library, she may choose picture books, proving her to be a visual learner.

Explore your child’s different learning styles to help understand his performance at school. Experiment with pictures, words and sounds to see which he responds to the best. As you discover which learning style works best for your child, spend time cultivating and practicing his weaker skills. If he excels in written instructions but struggles with verbal, practice issuing verbal instructions to help strengthen that particular weakness.

Play with your child on a daily basis. You’ll learn much from the toys she chooses versus those she tires of quickly. Spread an array of toys, books and art supplies in front of your child and watch to see which she gravitates toward. Her general interests often indicate her strengths because she feels confident in certain tasks or talents.

Listen as your child tells you about his day, various experiences or books that he’s read. Simply hearing what your child is saying gives you greater insight into his strengths and weaknesses. Listen to a narrative about his day at school: He may focus on his performance in physical education, indicating a strength in hands-on and physical activities. He may also downplay his experience in math class, indicating a weakness when dealing with numbers.

Caution your child to avoid comparing herself with other kids and avoid doing the same yourself. You do your child a disservice when you compare her with her peers, inadvertently telling her that her strengths must be the same as others. Instead, focus on your child’s individual strengths and weaknesses, explaining that no one is perfect and everyone excels at something.

What you like to do depends on your interests, strengths and needs. You will notice that the things you like to do are usually those you are good at or have developed the skills to do or simply enjoy. Children are just the same! They are all individuals with their own likes and dislikes.

When planning experiences for the children in your care, you need to take into account the same things. Click on each of the tabs below to find out more.

Below are a number of interests people might have. Soccer, basketball, shopping, bird watching, parachuting, bungee jumping, reading, footy, gardening, and knitting.

Think about the following questions.

  1. Which of these interests do you like?
  2. Now take a moment to reflect on how you would feel if someone made you do the ones you didn’t select. You probably wouldn’t be too happy being involved in an experience that didn’t interest you.

How to identify and play to your child's strengths

Just like you, the interests of a child will determine which experiences they would prefer to participate in. Some children have many interests and are willing to try new things, while other children like to stick to a small range of interests they know and feel comfortable with.

  • for the emotional security of the child, offer familiar experiences first and then slowly introduce the unfamiliar
  • to promote feelings of success, offer simple experiences the child is able to succeed with and then offer more complex experiences to challenge them.

It’s important to consider children’s interests and try to include these in the experiences you organise for them. The more you can provide experiences that interest them, the more likely they are to want to join in and the more they will enjoy the activity.

Imagine you had a child in your care who was interested in ballet dancing. How could you include this interest in a range of planned experiences? Write your thoughts in your notebook.

How to identify and play to your child's strengths

Strengths are areas of development children have mastered or are well on the way to mastering. They may include routine tasks or tasks planned to cover the range of developmental areas:

  • physical
  • social
  • emotional and psychological
  • language
  • cognitive
  • creative.

By observing children’s play, skills and behaviour as they participate in a range of routines and play experiences, you can identify an individual child’s strengths as a basis for planning an environment that is appropriate and enjoyable for your child.

For example, a 2-year-old may enjoy throwing a ball. (As a gross motor skill, this is part of physical development). You will plan and provide opportunities for that child to throw a variety of materials, such as bean bags and balls (large and small), into laundry baskets, boxes and large circles drawn on the ground.

How to identify and play to your child's strengths

Children grow and develop at individual rates and acquire skills at different ages.

Their needs come from areas of skills they are still developing, acquiring, mastering or refining.

For example, you may identify that a child is still working towards mastering a particular fine motor skill, such as cutting with scissors, when others of the same age in the group are able to do this independently.

For this child to achieve success there needs to be provision in the program for cutting materials such paper or thin cardboard held by someone else.

You might also provide a play dough experience that will help build fine motor strength.

How to identify and play to your child's strengths

Children can spend up to 12,500 hours in the first five years of life in group childcare. They might then spend another 1,500 hours in before-school or after-school care, or in vacation care. By spending this time away from home, many children miss the opportunity to experience and master such skills as:

  • washing and drying dishes
  • hanging washing on the clothesline
  • folding washing
  • making their beds
  • sweeping floors
  • washing floors
  • cleaning tables
  • polishing tables and wooden furniture
  • podding peas
  • peeling potatoes
  • digging and planting a flowerbed or vegetable garden
  • raking leaves
  • sweeping sand
  • composting food scraps.

Look at the many ways in which children can be involved in some of these tasks, so that they learn and practise appropriate skills and feel good about contributing to the program. You might even find your workload is reduced and that children show more ownership, respect and care for the equipment and materials if they are responsible for them.

© Commonwealth of Australia | Licensed under AEShareNet – S Licence Credits | Disclaimer

This article was co-authored by Tracey Rogers, MA. Tracey L. Rogers is a Certified Life Coach and Professional Astrologer based in the Washington, DC Metropolitan Area. Tracey has over 10 years of life coaching and astrology experience. Her work has been featured on nationally syndicated radio, as well as online platforms such as Oprah.com. She is certified by the Life Purpose Institute, and she has an MA in International Education from The George Washington University.

There are 10 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page.

This article has been viewed 81,458 times.

Years ago children were labeled using terms that indicated how “dumb” or “smart” they were thought to be. Much of this labeling occurred in schools. School’s main source of evaluation was a student’s ability to perform on paper. As we now know, this type of evaluation had many problems and limitations. But at the time, it resulted in students who had unusually great abilities sometimes being labeled as dumb. This was especially true if a child had differing ways of approaching, comprehending, and engaging problems. Fortunately, today we recognize that there are many different types of intelligence and many different ways that children can express their abilities.

How to identify and play to your child's strengths

How to identify and play to your child's strengths

How to identify and play to your child's strengths

How to identify and play to your child's strengths

How to identify and play to your child's strengths

Tracey Rogers, MA
Certified Life Coach Expert Interview. 6 January 2020. You can do this through formal or informal means. This way, not only will you be able to see how your child performs in different types of situations, but you’ll also be able to see what your child is most interested in.

  • Consider signing your child up for athletic activities, artistic activities, and intellectual activities.
  • Suggest activities to your child, but if they refuse to go, you should reconsider the activity.
  • While having your child sign up for many extracurricular activities is a good thing, make sure that your child is not over-committed and still has time to be a kid.
  • Make sure your child plays with peers and friends of different cultural and socioeconomic levels. You never know when someone from a different background will introduce an activity that your child will excel at. [6] X Research source

How to identify and play to your child's strengths

How to identify and play to your child's strengths

Tracey Rogers, MA
Certified Life Coach Expert Interview. 6 January 2020.

  • Ask your child what academic subjects she thinks she is best at as well as which she enjoys the most. Make sure you differentiate between enjoyment and talent.
  • Ask your child if she thinks she’s good at any sports as well as which sports she enjoys the most.
  • Ask your child if she thinks she is good at art and if she enjoys doing artistic things.
  • Your child may not be able to articulate what she is good at. However, if she enjoys certain activities, this may point to a talent she is unaware of. [10] X Research source

Learning through play is one of the most important ways children learn and develop.

Friedrich Froebel, a German educator who created the concept of the ‘kindergarten’, believed that “play is the highest expression of human development in childhood, for it alone is the free expression of what is in a child’s soul.”

Educators at your child’s early childhood education and care service might have told you that they use a ‘play based’ approach for children’s learning and development.

Play is an activity where children show their remarkable ability for exploration, imagination and decision making. While play is often described as ‘children’s work’, it is intensely enjoyable for them. The type of play children engage in and its purposes change over the course of childhood from infancy to adolescence.

You may have realised that as a parent, you don’t generally have to make children play or provide incentives to play. This is because children seem to have a natural urge to play and playing brings a level of pleasure and interest which means it can be maintained without external rewards.

How does play support your child’s development and learning?

Physical development active play using large and small muscles such as climbing, running, ball games, digging, jumping, and dancing. This supports children’s overall health and sense of wellbeing, physical growth, appreciation for the benefits of active lifestyles and skills for independence in self-help such as dressing or feeding.

Social and emotional development dramatic and imaginative play which includes dressing up and role play can develop positive social and emotional skills and values. This provides opportunities for children to:

  • practise how to work with other children, negotiate ideas, and make choices and decisions
  • develop self-confidence by experiencing success and challenges
  • learn to control their emotions, reduce impulsive behaviour, or reduce stress as they act out feelings and events that might be worrying them
  • develop empathy and fairness as they learn to play alongside and with other children.

Cognitive development when your child plays individually and with others their cognitive skills, such as thinking, remembering, learning and paying attention are all being developed. Children develop the following cognitive skills through play:

  • problem solving
  • the power of imagination and creativity
  • concepts such as shapes, colours, measurement, counting and letter recognition
  • strengths such as concentration, persistence and resilience.

Literacy and numeracy development play requires thinking, language, interactions, curiosity and exploration. Through play children develop skills and understandings including:

  • an increased understanding of words and their use
  • listening and speaking skills
  • writing skills through scribbling, painting and drawing
  • learning how stories work (plot, characters, structure, purpose and format of words on a page)
  • learning that objects can stand for something else (a block can be a symbol for a telephone) which is foundation learning for formal reading, spelling and numeracy because letters, words or numerals are part of symbol systems
  • learning that letters, words, symbols, numerals and signs have a purpose and are meaningful to others.

What does a play based approach to learning look like?

Educators at early childhood education and care services use a wide range of play based experiences for children’s learning and development rather than using structured ‘lessons’ or formal teaching experiences. They set up games indoors and outdoors that are age appropriate, which can be played safely and enjoyably by every child.

Educators encourage children’s learning through play by:

  • providing resources that reflect children’s ages, interests, knowledge, strengths, abilities and culture to stimulate and support play. Resources which allow open ended use of items like blocks or cardboards boxes foster creativity and the ability to manipulate concepts mentally as children. For example, turn a box into a car.
  • planning play experiences based on the assessment of children’s individual differences, interests, developmental needs and ability. For example, as a child learns to hold a pencil to draw and write, educators will give children different sized objects to grasp, and to build strength in the child’s fingers.
  • observing children as they play so that they can understand how they play with other children, what skills and understanding they demonstrate in play and what activities can strengthen their skills in play.
  • joining in children’s play to extend the child’s learning and to model skills such as reasoning, appropriate language, and positive behaviours.
  • providing large blocks of unhurried and uninterrupted time for play for children’s ideas and games to develop.

How can you contribute to your child’s learning through play?

Children’s success as learners depends on strong foundations developed from infancy. Play based learning fosters critical skills, understanding and dispositions which are essential for your child’s lifelong learning and wellbeing. You can encourage your child’s learning through by:

  • sharing information about your child’s interests and abilities with their educators so that they can plan play experiences for your child based on their interests and abilities
  • playing with your child
  • discussing your child’s program with the educators at your child’s service, and the activities your child enjoys playing and taking part in
  • advocating for safe and interesting play spaces in your local community.

Play helps children understand the world and discover how their bodies work. Explore the benefits of play and find out how to encourage rich playtime experiences.

For thousands of years, play has been a childhood tradition. Unregulated and unstructured, it has passed from generation to generation. Even during periods of immense challenge, such as the Great Depression and World War II Nazi Germany, children found ways to be playful, writes psychologist and researcher Joe L. Frost in “A History of Children’s Play and Play Environments.” But he warns that in the face of too many structured activities, loss of outdoor areas, excessive screen time, and increased academic pressure, this age-old tradition is fading.

“Now, for the first time in history,” he writes, “the children of entire industrialized nations, especially American children, are losing their natural outdoor grounds for play and forgetting how to engage in free, spontaneous … play. The consequences are profound.”

The Benefits of Play

“Play is something done for its own sake,” says psychiatrist Stuart Brown, author of “Play,” He writes: “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.”

With this definition in mind, it’s easy to recognize play’s potential benefits. Play nurtures relationships with oneself and others. It relieves stress and increases happiness. It builds feelings of empathy, creativity, and collaboration. It supports the growth of sturdiness and grit. When children are deprived of opportunities for play, their development can be significantly impaired.

Play is so important that NAEYC has called it a central component in developmentally appropriate practice, and the United Nations High Commission on Human Rights declared it a fundamental right of every child. Play is not frivolous. It is not something to do after the “real work” is done. Play is the real work of childhood. Through it, children have their best chance for becoming whole, happy adults.

What Children Learn Through Play

We believe that play is the primary vehicle for optimal growth in childhood. Below are just some of the ways children learn through play:

  • When children play, they are developing skills in all areas of development: cognitive, physical, communication, and social/emotional. They practice and reinforce these skills in a way that can’t be achieved through worksheets or screen time.
  • Play promotes healthy habits by actively engaging children in the world around them. This counteracts issues many children face today, such as childhood obesity.
  • Play is a natural stress reliever, and an outlet that allows children to work through their anxiety and fears.
  • Play allows children to test out new ideas and make connections between their previous experiences and their active investigations.
  • Children make their own decisions during play; they begin to make connections between their choices and the natural consequences of those choices.
  • Play supports the development of self-control which is critical for success later in life. Children play because they have a deep desire to understand the world. Play allows opportunities for them to regulate their feelings, delay gratification, and negotiate with others, all important aspects of developing self-control, a 21st century skill.
  • The spontaneity of play promotes risk-taking as children interact with materials and their environment. The sense of the unknown helps children develop mental flexibility and executive function.
  • Play helps children develop mindfulness as well as feel safe and secure to try new ideas and experiment. As children become engrossed in play, they suspend awareness of time and space, becoming fully present in the task at hand.

Parenting Tips for Encouraging Rich Play

Children need open-ended, unscheduled times to explore and discover.

Learning happens most effectively with open-ended materials that can be used in multiple ways to nurture creativity in children. Try hands-on materials like blocks, sand, water, dirt, child-sized wheelbarrows, small shovels, ramps, balls, and so on. Sometimes the purpose of the object for children’s play is clear (like a doll is for holding and pretending to be a parent). Sometimes the purpose of the object for play time only becomes clear in the child’s creative hands—a stick could become a magic wand, the pole for a flag, something to stir with, or a pointer to show which way to go.

Child’s play time can be enhanced by the presence of a caring adult.

Set aside an hour as often as you can each week to spend some quality play time with your child and do exactly what he or she wants to do. Your child leads the play time and you follow. That means if your child wants you to sit in the sandbox with her, you do it. Or if he wants you to play the baby and he plays the mommy, you do it. Your presence enables another level of meaningful play to happen. Your child may use your attention to figure out a tough situation with a friend, re-enact a doctor’s visit, or try something new and challenging, like walking on a balance beam.

You may also want to help guide your child’s play while on a play date or at the playground. Of course we all want our children to move in the direction of associative and cooperative play, but that takes time. You can coach your child, “I see you looking at Aiden. Shall we go over and ask if he’d like to climb with us?”

Children’s play is a rich opportunity for your child’s development, like learning new concepts and how to interact with others. Adults can follow a child’s lead or offer gentle guidance, but play is at its richest when children are in charge.

Teach. Play. Love. Episode 4: Say Yes to Play

On this episode, Rachel Robertson, Bright Horizons education and development vice president, and new mom Amanda, discuss the importance of play. Find out why play is the key to healthy child development—and get new ideas you can use to engage your child in playful ways throughout the day.

More on the Benefits of Play for a Child’s Development

  • Learn about and listen to more episodes of the “Teach. Play. Love.” podcast.
  • Play dates can help build self-esteem, confidence and social skills in children. Learn how.
  • Get tips, strategies and ideas for hosting a play date for children with special needs.
  • Different types of play time benefits children—find out the importance of pretend play in child development.
  • Discover some creative toddler play room ideas to create an organized and fun play space for your child.
  • Parents can take extra steps to make sure that children play & interact well with other kids. Remember to help kids develop skills to respond to and prevent bullying during play time.

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Knowing your child’s own learning style can assure academic success. Here’s what to look for.

Don’t panic if your son has trouble spelling or your daughter can’t sit still during history class. It may be that he or she simply has a different learning style.

Every child learns in a slightly different way, experts say, and figuring out your child’s own learning style can help assure academic success. In some cases, it may even help do away with labels, like “attention deficit disorder (ADD)” and “learning disabled (LD).”

Here’s a step-by-step guide to identifying, understanding, and making the most of your child’s learning style.

Learning Styles: Identifying Your Child’s Strengths

Parents need to keep their eyes and ears open to figure out what works best for their children when it comes to learning, says Mel Levine, MD, co-founder of All Kinds of Minds, a nonprofit institute for the study of learning differences.

“Some children are hands-on, while others work best through language and do well with reading,” says Levine, a pediatrics professor at the University of North Carolina Medical School. “Some children understand things better than they remember them.

“There are many different patterns of learning, and the best thing that a parent can do is step back and observe what seems to be happening and what seems to be working with their child.”

Levine suggests that parents begin evaluating their child’s learning style at age 6 or 7. Learning styles really start to crystallize during the middle school years.

Understanding your child’s disposition can also help you determine his or her learning style, says Mariaemma Pelullo-Willis, MS, a learning coach based in Ventura, Calif., and author of Discover Your Child’s Learning Style.

For example, is your child adventurous? Inventing? Or thinking/creating like a poet or a philosopher?

“An adventurous personality really has to move to learn, so sitting at desk all day doesn’t do it for them,” she says. By contrast, “a child with an inventing disposition asks a million questions, such as ‘How does this work?’ ‘What about this?'”

Another factor to observe is your child’s “learning modality”, she says. This refers to which senses your child best learns through. Are they auditory (listening and verbal), visual (picture or print), or tactile-kinesthetics (hands-on, whole-body, sketching or writing)?

Continued

“Some people are more visual and need pictures to learn, while print learners need print,” she explains.

Another aspect of learning style involves the environment, she says. For example, noise, temperature or lighting may affect some children’s ability to learn.

“For one child, temperature might not make a difference, but some children can’t concentrate if it’s too hot, and/or lighting can be a crucial factor for some people if fluorescent lighting causes eyestrain,” she says.

Learning Styles: Playing to Your Child’s Strengths

Once you have identified your child’s learning style, you can begin to build on his or her strengths to compensate for learning weaknesses — without labels.

“If a little girl has a lot of spatial problems (difficulty picturing things), but is terrific in English, she can learn math by putting everything into her own words,” Levine explains. “If you show her an equilateral triangle and ask her to talk about it, boy, will she understand it.

“She can only understand things in words, which is why she is such a terrific English student.”

Another way to enhance learning is to focus on your child’s affinities and areas of interest.

“A lot of strength could ride on the coattails of their passions, and you can build academic skills in that area,” Levine says. “Have him became an expert in the area that he feels passionate about.”

Pelullo-Willis agrees. “Parents really should encourage children’s interests, talents and what they love to do,” she says. “Parents tend to say ‘If you are not doing well in school, you can’t take horseback riding lessons,’ but those are things that can build self-esteem.

Further, she says, “acknowledging and honoring their interests and talents tells you a lot about their learning style. If your child is really interested in plants and gardening, you can see if they are more hands-on and they need to go out there and garden. Or do they learn better from pictures about gardening, or reading about gardening?”

Learning Styles: Increasing Awareness in Schools

As it stands, schools mainly teach to print, auditory and language learners, according to Pelullo-Willis.

Continued

“They teach by saying ‘Read, answer the questions and listen to me talk’ and that only covers a small percentage of children,” she says.

If your child is a hands-on learner, “You can say: ‘Of course school is so hard for you; you need to move a lot and they don’t do that in school,'” she says. “Then learn everything you can about how to use their learning style to make school easier.”

Adds Levine: “We are learning more and more that there are differences in learning, and to treat everyone the same is to treat them unequally.”

The good news is that growing numbers of teachers are focusing on learning styles and reaching out to all types of learners.

For example, Levine helped launch the Schools Attuned program. This professional development program helps teachers acquire the knowledge and skills they need to accommodate learning differences. To date, the program has offered training to 30,000 teachers.

But if your child’s teacher has not been trained in learning styles, don’t despair, Pelullo-Willis says. Instead, talk to him or her about what you have observed about your child’s learning style.

“Say, ‘Wow, I have just discovered this and I tried it, and he got it. Do you think we could work together using this kind of information?’ And the teacher may even get interested in reading a book or article on learning style,” she says.

Play helps children understand the world and discover how their bodies work. Explore the benefits of play and find out how to encourage rich playtime experiences.

For thousands of years, play has been a childhood tradition. Unregulated and unstructured, it has passed from generation to generation. Even during periods of immense challenge, such as the Great Depression and World War II Nazi Germany, children found ways to be playful, writes psychologist and researcher Joe L. Frost in “A History of Children’s Play and Play Environments.” But he warns that in the face of too many structured activities, loss of outdoor areas, excessive screen time, and increased academic pressure, this age-old tradition is fading.

“Now, for the first time in history,” he writes, “the children of entire industrialized nations, especially American children, are losing their natural outdoor grounds for play and forgetting how to engage in free, spontaneous … play. The consequences are profound.”

The Benefits of Play

“Play is something done for its own sake,” says psychiatrist Stuart Brown, author of “Play,” He writes: “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.”

With this definition in mind, it’s easy to recognize play’s potential benefits. Play nurtures relationships with oneself and others. It relieves stress and increases happiness. It builds feelings of empathy, creativity, and collaboration. It supports the growth of sturdiness and grit. When children are deprived of opportunities for play, their development can be significantly impaired.

Play is so important that NAEYC has called it a central component in developmentally appropriate practice, and the United Nations High Commission on Human Rights declared it a fundamental right of every child. Play is not frivolous. It is not something to do after the “real work” is done. Play is the real work of childhood. Through it, children have their best chance for becoming whole, happy adults.

What Children Learn Through Play

We believe that play is the primary vehicle for optimal growth in childhood. Below are just some of the ways children learn through play:

  • When children play, they are developing skills in all areas of development: cognitive, physical, communication, and social/emotional. They practice and reinforce these skills in a way that can’t be achieved through worksheets or screen time.
  • Play promotes healthy habits by actively engaging children in the world around them. This counteracts issues many children face today, such as childhood obesity.
  • Play is a natural stress reliever, and an outlet that allows children to work through their anxiety and fears.
  • Play allows children to test out new ideas and make connections between their previous experiences and their active investigations.
  • Children make their own decisions during play; they begin to make connections between their choices and the natural consequences of those choices.
  • Play supports the development of self-control which is critical for success later in life. Children play because they have a deep desire to understand the world. Play allows opportunities for them to regulate their feelings, delay gratification, and negotiate with others, all important aspects of developing self-control, a 21st century skill.
  • The spontaneity of play promotes risk-taking as children interact with materials and their environment. The sense of the unknown helps children develop mental flexibility and executive function.
  • Play helps children develop mindfulness as well as feel safe and secure to try new ideas and experiment. As children become engrossed in play, they suspend awareness of time and space, becoming fully present in the task at hand.

Parenting Tips for Encouraging Rich Play

Children need open-ended, unscheduled times to explore and discover.

Learning happens most effectively with open-ended materials that can be used in multiple ways to nurture creativity in children. Try hands-on materials like blocks, sand, water, dirt, child-sized wheelbarrows, small shovels, ramps, balls, and so on. Sometimes the purpose of the object for children’s play is clear (like a doll is for holding and pretending to be a parent). Sometimes the purpose of the object for play time only becomes clear in the child’s creative hands—a stick could become a magic wand, the pole for a flag, something to stir with, or a pointer to show which way to go.

Child’s play time can be enhanced by the presence of a caring adult.

Set aside an hour as often as you can each week to spend some quality play time with your child and do exactly what he or she wants to do. Your child leads the play time and you follow. That means if your child wants you to sit in the sandbox with her, you do it. Or if he wants you to play the baby and he plays the mommy, you do it. Your presence enables another level of meaningful play to happen. Your child may use your attention to figure out a tough situation with a friend, re-enact a doctor’s visit, or try something new and challenging, like walking on a balance beam.

You may also want to help guide your child’s play while on a play date or at the playground. Of course we all want our children to move in the direction of associative and cooperative play, but that takes time. You can coach your child, “I see you looking at Aiden. Shall we go over and ask if he’d like to climb with us?”

Children’s play is a rich opportunity for your child’s development, like learning new concepts and how to interact with others. Adults can follow a child’s lead or offer gentle guidance, but play is at its richest when children are in charge.

Teach. Play. Love. Episode 4: Say Yes to Play

On this episode, Rachel Robertson, Bright Horizons education and development vice president, and new mom Amanda, discuss the importance of play. Find out why play is the key to healthy child development—and get new ideas you can use to engage your child in playful ways throughout the day.

More on the Benefits of Play for a Child’s Development

  • Learn about and listen to more episodes of the “Teach. Play. Love.” podcast.
  • Play dates can help build self-esteem, confidence and social skills in children. Learn how.
  • Get tips, strategies and ideas for hosting a play date for children with special needs.
  • Different types of play time benefits children—find out the importance of pretend play in child development.
  • Discover some creative toddler play room ideas to create an organized and fun play space for your child.
  • Parents can take extra steps to make sure that children play & interact well with other kids. Remember to help kids develop skills to respond to and prevent bullying during play time.

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How to identify and play to your child's strengths

We have all witnessed it. Students with special needs often receive negative comments or misconstrued negative comments. Day after day, students or parents are frequently told to fix this, increase this or improve that. How about finding the positive and looking for student strengths in the classroom? When we encourage students that they can do it because they are capable it is so important. They know we are on their “team” and that we believe in them. Don’t forget to download the FREE positive affirmation pack at the bottom of this post too!

We all know every student has strengths. It is our job as teachers, therapists and parents, to help students utilize their strengths and talents to the best of their abilities. Temple Grandin says it best – “There needs to be a lot more emphasis on what a child CAN do, instead of what he cannot do. ”

How to identify and play to your child's strengths

Need Help to Determine Student Strengths in the Classroom?

When we help students find their strengths it can help with motivational level and internal drive to improve. For example, if a student has a wonderful imagination utilize that when teaching new skills.

If you need some help to determine positive attributes and talents in students finish some of these statements (with the student and parents help):

1. This student is best at…
2. This student has an amazing ability to…
3. This student is frequently recognized for…
4. This student smiles when…
5. This student is happiest when…
6. This student participates the most when…
7. This student does this better than any other student…
8. This student is highly interested in…
9. This student is highly motivated by…
10. This student always takes pride in his/her work when…

Try Being More Specific About Student Strengths

If you need more suggestions to pinpoint student strengths in the classroom, then consider some of these character traits to help guide you.

  • energetic
  • loving
  • kind
  • creative
  • outgoing
  • determined
  • adventurous
  • cooperative
  • trustworthy
  • leader
  • playful
  • courageous
  • funny
  • smart
  • helpful
  • bossy
  • confident
  • persistent

Use Positive Affirmations to Support Students

Positive affirmations for children (and mantras) are terrific tools to teach to support students. They help them develop a healthy sense of self as well as a positive mental-social-emotional mindset.

Affirmations are short; positive “I am” statements that call you into an intentional way of being. They should be accompanied by a visual image and inspire visceral sensations. When you use an affirmation, you should experience yourself as you are declaring.

Download FREE Positive Affirmation Below

How to identify and play to your child's strengths

Sign up to receive the weekly email newsletter and other announcements from Your Therapy Source and you will be redirected to this AWESOME FREE 5 page printable.

Positive Affirmation Resources

How to identify and play to your child's strengths

Support student strengths in the classroom by combining positive affirmations for kids and proprioceptive input with The Positive Path. Children can jump along the path or do wall push-ups while they read words of encouragement. Students can benefit from proprioceptive input to help get their bodies ready to learn.

Using the power of positive thinking with daily affirmations and physical activity can help students get their brain and bodies ready to tackle the school day. FIND OUT MORE.

How to identify and play to your child's strengths

Positive Affirmation Posters and Cards for Children: This is an electronic book of 25 positive affirmation posters (8.5″ x 11″) and smaller cards of the posters (4.25″ x 2.75″). Empower children to realize all of their talents. All too often, children with special needs are told what they are unable to do, how about teach them what they can do! Positive affirmations help children to believe in themselves. The posters include simple text, animal pictures that complement the text and colorful backgrounds. Hang them up around the house, class or therapy room and provide the child with the small cards to carry around to reinforce the concept. FIND OUT MORE.