In a recent study, researchers at Oregon State
University found that preschool-aged children who could sit still
and focus were more likely to graduate from college. In an article on Wall Street Journal's website,
Megan McClelland, early childhood research core director at OSU's
Hallie E. Ford Center for Healthy Children and Families and a lead
author on the study, talked about the findings:
"We know that early academic skills predict later academic
stills," McClelland said. "But the ability to pay attention and
focus are foundational skills that help kids persist through
difficult tasks when they need to."
What grabbed my attention in the article the most was the
suggestion that parents and teachers could help their kids grow
stronger in the areas of persistence and self-discipline by playing
simple games to challenge concentration and focus. McClelland
suggested changing the old playground game of "Red Light, Green
Light" to make red mean "go" and green mean "stop."
Any time we can mix play with learning, especially when it can
help our kids' persistence and self-discipline, I'm for it! After
reading about McClelland's new twist on "Red Light, Green Light," I
decided to try making some game changers myself. Here are a few I
came up with:
1. Freeze Tag: Instead of one against everyone else, call out
rules that change who can tag who. For instance, start the game off
with taggers being people who wear glasses. As the game
progresses, change the rules so taggers become runners, and vice
versa. Kids will have to be ready to listen to instructions while
trying to figure out who is friend and who is foe.
2. Memory: Over the years, there have been a lot of memory games
that kids play. Games where you find matches or remember a pattern
or a long list of items that keep growing are all classic games.
What I like to do is ask kids to look at their surroundings. I give
them a minute or two to focus on what's around them, and then I ask
them to close their eyes. I ask them questions about who is wearing
what or how many chairs are in the room. Then I remove or move an
item in the room and ask kids what has changed. It's a simple
game that doesn't require much but gets all the kids thinking and
challenges their focus.
3. Don't Say No: One of my kids' favorite games to play during
spare time is the "No" game. I ask kids questions and they must
answer. The catch is they can't say any form of the word "no." Then
I challenge them by adding words to the taboo list. Try answering
"How old are you?" when you can't say any numbers. This game gets
kids using their vocabulary skills and makes them stop and think
before they answer.
After reading about how simple changes can help change the way
kids think, I will never look at play time the same way. See if you
can make some game changers of your own! Let us know what you come
up with in the comment section below!