Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Why are you playing games?

I just got back from spring break and an emotional visit to my parents' house, where my 81 year old mother exhibits obvious signs of dementia - repeating questions, forgetting information, anxiety and confusion about where she is and with whom, and inability to hold a conversation. Coincidentally, my father's Wall Street Journal contained a thought-provoking article on "How to Outsmart Alzheimer's" (by Amy Dockser Marcus). Much of the information comes too late for my Mom, but I was intrigued by its spotlight on a new community center concept led by Dr. Kenneth S. Kosik which "tailors a regimen based on a combination of physical exercise, diet, cognitive challenges, music therapy, and social interaction to try to stave off the disease." Sounded a bit like a preschool classroom! For me, it sparked renewed interest in intergenerational centers - the wonderful possibilities of an environment of children and seniors. (Check out Grace Living Center, in Jenks, Oklahoma, and its incredible combination of a preschool within a nursing home. Yes, I need to blog about this place one day soon!)

Back to the WSJ article, Kosik and his colleagues noted:

". . . high levels of linquistic ability - which involve processes the brain uses to retrieve information - developed early in life might prevent dementia later on."

The center uses a variety of games, including Connect 4 and Mastermind, "which require skills such as planning moves ahead in order to win," as a way to help seniors have the social and cognitive challenges they need.

Where am I headed with this? Parents, I want to sound the horn for "family game night." We often have "Friday Night, Game Night" here at the Ingram household, and preschoolers are not too young to join in the intergenerational fun! Teachers, there is tremendous social and cognitive value in playing games at school. I have a whole variety of circle time games that involve the whole class in "thinking together" fun. Plus, at center time or free play, it is great to play board games with one or a few children at a time. Here are some ideas for games that preschoolers enjoy:

Our current favorite board games are: Snail’s Pace Race, all types of Bingo, and Matching (Lotto) games. Group games that we do at circle (and would be fun at home, too) include:

Near and Far – basically, what I remember as the game “Hot and Cold.” We have a “detective” child (or two) step out of the room -with an adult - as the rest of us hide some medium-size object. (This varies depending on my theme. Most recently, with a “restaurant” set up in the classroom, we hid a toy cash register.) When the object is hidden, we call the detective(s) back into the room with a boisterous “We’re ready!” and then the detective(s) search for the item with the only clue being our voice saying “You are NEAR!” or “You are FAR!”

I Spy With My Little Eye – I describe something in the room, they try to guess; whoever guesses tries to create an “I Spy” riddle for us to figure out.

Bug in the Rug – a “detective” child steps out of the room -with an adult – as I direct one child to hide under a blanket in the center of the circle. The rest of the class remains sitting in a circle. We call the detective back into the room with a boisterous “We’re ready!” and then the detective tries to figure out which child is missing. (This can be incredibly hard to figure out!) There’s a little chant with this – “Bug in the rug, bug in the rug, who might be the bug in the rug?”

Pass the Animal Voice – sitting in a circle, first child imitates an animal; then the child sitting next to him/her repeats the sound and adds a new one of his/her own. This gets very tricky for little ones after about three sounds, but they can do it! Lots of laughs.

Transportation or Animal “Families” – I create picture cards, 2-3 each of a particular theme object; the children choose a card hidden in a hat and immediately begin making the sound of that object, walking around the room until they find everyone else who is making the same sound as them. Also, lots of laughs – and very noisy.

Who Has It? - a “detective” child steps out of the room -with an adult – as I direct one child to hide a very small object somewhere on their person or perhaps under their circle time pillow seat. Everyone remains sitting in a circle. Everyone acts like they are hiding the object. We call the detective back into the room (once again with a boisterous “We’re ready!”) and then the detective tries to figure out which child is hiding the item.

There are many, many more games...I could blog for awhile on get my drift! I credit Responsive Classroom with many of these ideas - and they have many more suggestions. There are many resources, really, and I keep adding to my repertoire, to keep circle time engaging and active.

I know games are great for helping children to socialize with each other. I know they are a fun way to learn such skills as sequencing, routines, rhymes, linguistics, numbers, planning, and logic. If the Wall Street Journal article is right, I might also be preventing dementia!

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting WSJ article, Maureen, thanks for the link! I wonder how social networking will play into the "social interaction" regimen? Seems like the more the brain is 'exercised' the better off we'll be! Keep studying, and blogging. :)