by Dana Moore, OTR/L
If you have ever read my blog, then you know that I am a STRONG advocate for bringing back the good ol’ childhood days. The days when kids would play, you know – with actual toys, not electronics. And not these fancy toys they have now, but more simple toys that would challenge attention, pretend play, and manipulation skills. The days when kids had to figure out how to entertain themselves and even play outside.
As an OT I have seen the change in kids in the last decade. And I’m quite sure that this change started way before then. Anyone who has worked with kids for more than a few years has most likely seen the trend of change in abilities to pay attention, play independently, hold their pencils, manipulate their environment, get along with their peers….the list goes on and on.
I can say all day that kids need to get back to the essentials of play. I have heard teachers, therapists, pediatricians, psychologists, and other professionals say the exact same thing. The hard part is actually doing it. In today’s society, we have so many high-tech toys and pieces of equipment that were developed to make our lives easier. And I’m going to be completely honest here, they DO make our lives easier. It IS easier to occupy your baby by putting him in front of the television so you can cook dinner. It IS easier to put your baby in a bouncer while you do the laundry. It IS easier to give your child toys that light up and provide endless stimulation. All those things will let you get more done around the house…in that moment. But in the long run, these DO affect our children’s development, which can make them less independent and successful. They may have a harder time learning to write due to a lack of core strength, visual motor skills, or fine motor manipulation. They may have harder times sustaining attention at school. And they will most definitely have a harder time entertaining themselves as they get older, needing more and more stimulation to keep them occupied. But with all the latest gear, how do we get back to the basics?
Anne Zachary, PhD, OTR/L, a phenomenal occupational therapist, researcher, and writer, has created a resource to help us figure out just that. Her new book Retro Baby focuses on ages birth to 2 years. In this book, Anne talks about how the baby product industry has affected our children’s development. She also discusses how important actual sensory experiences are for our kids – the moving, touching, feeling, and exploring – and discusses ways to help prevent the most common developmental delays our children are now facing (lack of core strength, poor head control, poor motor skills, etc). She talks about today’s most popular baby gear in terms of how it affects our kids, whether or not we should be using it, and for how may minutes per day we should be using it – which makes this book an invaluable resource for new and even seasoned parents. The best part though and the part that makes this book so practical and useful (and awesome) is the plethora of activities she includes. Anne breaks ages birth to two years into groups, discussing the skills children develop at each of those ages. Then she provides actual activities to get your kids playing in ways that will promote the development of these skills!!!!
Even with my education in child development and my years working with children in many of these same ways, I have enjoyed using Anne’s activities with my own son, who is now 7 months. In my opinion, books like this are so important for getting our society back on track – reminding us what true play is and how important it is for our children’s future. So, on that note, please be sure to check it out for yourself!
About the Author – Dana Moore: Dana is an occupational therapist who has worked in the pediatric field for seven years. She graduated from UNC Chapel Hill with her Master’s in Occupational Therapy and now resides in Charlotte, NC with her husband and two children. Dana specializes in gross and fine motor development and sensory integration. Her passion comes through on her blog, Embrace Your Chaos , where she shares everyday ways parents can foster their children’s skills and help them to thrive, and where she embraces dealing with the chaos of parenthood, and making the most of everyday life!