Happy March! I just finished reading via video call with a first grade class in Lorena, Texas who were celebrating Dr. Seuss and reading. This past week, they read 205 books! Wow! They read books under tables, with hats on, to a pet, and more. When we talked about the snow in Michigan, they challenged me to read in the snow, and I took them up on that challenge. The proof:
I’ve always lived in a snowy climate, but reading in the snow was a first-time experience. Brrr. I don’t recommend it! But I do recommend reading almost anywhere else.
Friendship is important. There are health benefits to friendship such as living longer, coping better with the tough things, and keeping our minds sharp. Friends help us experience the world differently, and usually friendship is fun. But it can be hard to find friends. Luckily, picture books about friendship abound. Here are a few of my favourites. Click on the covers to read more.
Imaginative play is incredibly important, yet it always surprises me when I come across its many benefits. Children naturally engage in imaginative play. Who hasn’t played ice cream shop with imaginary cones and outrageous flavours? Who hasn’t laid on the couch and let a young child doctor them up?
When I go to preschools for my other job (the one that isn’t writing), one of the observation criteria I look for are materials that encourage imaginative play: dress-up clothes, a child-sized kitchen, blocks and materials that are open-ended and don’t require a predetermined way of playing. These types of toys encourage children to use their imaginations while playing.
While cleaning up my home office, I came across some notes from Anne K. Soderman’s Scaffolding Emergent Literacy listing the benefits of imaginative play:
· uses abstract thought
· strengthens memory
· develops sophisticated language
· develops social skills
These are not the only benefits of imaginative play. Imaginative play decreases frustration and increases flexible thinking. It’s an important component in developing executive function, which is a host of important skills including impulse control and focusing attention. There’s more, but why not go off and exercise that imagination instead?
One of the themes that keeps showing up in my writing is nature. Maybe it’s because I grew up on a fruit farm, or maybe it’s because going outside always refreshes me. Lately, I’ve been enamoured with forests, particularly old growth forests. We have a few in Michigan, and my family and I recently visited one in Indiana: Bendix Nature Preserve. A few photos I took are posted below.
This is one of the many huge trees there. And the one below had an interesting trunk.
I’ve also been reading Yoshifumi Miyazaki’s beautiful book Shinrin Yoku: The Japanese Art of Forest Bathing in which he presents compelling research on the benefits of being among trees and nature. For example, “Children who spend regular time in nature on average experience an increase in self-confidence, problem-solving skills, motor skills and the capacity to learn.” Wow!
Miyazaki is a professor and forest therapy researcher in Japan, but this book is very easy to read, and is filled with beautiful photos. Also, he makes me want to go outside more.
Because I write books for children, that means I also read many, many books for children. Many people ask me for recommendations, and so, about eight years ago, I started a blog featuring my favourite books--young adult/teen, middle grade and picture books. Lately, I've been reviewing more picture books than anything else, but I'm still reading everything. I love to discover great books, and I only post about books that I highly recommend.
Also, I'm always sure to point out via tags if an author or illustrator is Canadian (because I'm Canadian!) or if they are from Michigan (I live in Michigan!). So, please, stop by An Education in Books Blog--Must-read books for kids, and leave a comment. See you there!
Because my background is in education and special education, and I do some contract work for an educational foundation, I'm always interested in the latest research. Lately, at work, we've been talking about something called executive function, which is extremely important in early childhood. It's an umbrella term that refers to the brain's ability to plan, organize, strategize, pay attention and remember details. And, it turns out that imaginative play, especially in early childhood, may help develop executive function!
Whatever you want to call it--pretend play, make-believe, fantasy play, imaginative play--it's important for the kids in your life. So pull out the dress-up clothes, put on that stethoscope, or grab those pots and pans and mix up a huge batch of imaginative play.