"LearningWorks For Kids" Breaks Down Play For Parents
I am one of those old-fashioned kinda moms who believes that play should involve a stick, a ball, and an open field. That isn’t to say that I shun technology by any stretch of the imagination. I love technology and definitely see the merit of integrating it into our children’s lives in healthy ways. The problem I wrestle with daily when it comes to my kids, however, is “how much is too much...or too little, for that matter.”
That question is a see-saw many parents find themselves on, especially when in the throes of parenting at the earlier stages of children’s lives (ages 0-9). Figuring out the best “play-diets” for our kids can feel quite overwhelming and the plethora of scientific studies and recommendations thrown at parents can make knowing what to do even more challenging. Then, once you do decide “what” to do, “how” to accomplish this task becomes the next question in the game.
In my desire to jump off the struggle-bus (so to speak), I reached out to a brilliant gentleman whose work I was introduced to by one of my daughters - a college student, who is also Dyslexic, and came upon him while doing some research of her own. His name is Randy Kulman, Ph.D.
Dr. Kulman is both a licensed clinical child psychologist as well as the Founder and President of LearningWorks for Kids, a company and website that all parents need to know about, especially those stuggling with the same "kid-technology based" questions I do. What I learned from Dr. Kulman in my indepth conversation with him was music-to-my-ears.
Dr. Kulman has been working directly with kids and families for the past 30 years and has become a leading expert on the use of digital technologies for improving thinking skills in children. At LearningWorks for Kids, Dr. Kulman coordinates his team of psychologists, educators, and digital designers in a quest to make video games "good" for kids. Like me, Dr. Kulman isn’t “anti” technology or digital play for children at any age. His approach is a practical one as is his solution to the entire question of formulating a healthy play-diet that works to cut down on all of the confusion and build the skills that will help our children become even better at being themselves.
Quoted directly from the LearningWorks for Kids site:
“LearningWorks for Kids was founded on the principle that popular video games and other digital media, when used mindfully and responsibly, can be powerful tools for sharpening and improving children’s academic performance and cognitive Thinking Skills. This is especially true for the children we call Alternative Learners: kids who struggle with everything from mild learning difficulties to diagnosed disorders such as Asperger’s, Dyslexia, and ADHD.
Drawing on original research and decades of experience in education and psychology, the LWK team has created an online platform for informing and instructing parents on how to enrich and enhance their kids’ digital play time. Increase parents participation in digital lives of kids. Make “digital” work for them as oppose to the reverse.”
As it is a documented truth that our children’s brains are currently undergoing significant physiological changes due to kids’ increased time spent in front of the “screen,” using video games and digital media to improve core thinking skills as well as elevate academic performance is much better than not. That does not mean tossing Jamie’s “Legos” from the shelf and replacing it with a “Nabi Tablet.” It means realizing that "neither option can go it alone" when adequately preparing our kids for their futures in today’s world.
Heightening kids Focus, Flexibility, Organization, Planning, Self-Awareness, Self-Control, Time Management, and Working Memory skills requires a mixture of “old” and “new.” Simply put, an optimum play-diet that combines an hour of exercise with an hour of social time, an hour of creativity, and an hour of unstructured shenanigans (which includes your kid trying to convince you to keep the toad he found out in the garden since he has now named it “Tom”) is the way to go. Equally so is the realization of the importance of “PLAY” in our children’s lives.
Play is how children learn. In fact, play can be an even more effective teacher, at times, than a paid educator as play involves the child making a choice as opposed to that which the child experiences when entering school, where “choice” is, nearly, eliminated for kids. For children with “modest” or “severe” learning issues, play is absolutely critical, including “digital” play (which has proven to be extremely beneficial to children who fall into these difficult categories that leave parents and children feeling overwhelmed and frustrated).
As defining the best Apps and games for your child’s play-diet can’t be stressed enough, Dr. Kulman has integrated a Premium Feature into the LearningWorks for Kids website that, I believe, all parents should, at least, consider taking advantage of. The feature begins with a formal assessment of your child’s academic and executive functioning skills which later leads to an individualized profile of your child’s strengths, weaknesses, and general “learning” skills. Apps and games are then chosen for your child based upon that individual profile. The cost for the feature is minimal and the benefits, enormous. I can’t imagine a better or more effective way of figuring out what your kid needs than through this feature.
Suffice-it-to-say, determining what “play” actually means these days needn’t be so confusing given we all inject a bit of good ol’ fashioned common sense into the mix and lean on the guidance of professionals like Randy Kulman, Ph.D., who also happens to be a father of five kids, himself. As Dr. Kulman puts it, “Sending your kids outside to dig for an hour is equally as important as allowing them to come back indoors and mine with their friends for another hour.’
Hey, any parent that can raise five kids, run a successful practice, and spearhead a growing company all at the same time must know a little something! I actually think Dr. Kulman knows a lot. It is time we turn our attention back to play and maximize all forms of it to the benefit of our children. After all, when you really think about it, it is through play that many of our own most profound childhood memories exist.
How much more convincing do you need on the matter?
Our many thanks to Dr. Randy Kulman and Jake Sullivan of "LearningWorks for Kids" for making this interview possible.