Saturday, February 19, 2011

Tip 17 - Smart Games for Right Brains-- Acting Out! -- builds social skills

Try these group games suggested by Rebecca Floyd  for rainy days  or during play dates to help your children develop the ability to think about how others think or feel . Thinking about others is a right hemisphere skill that is essential for development of  leadership and social skills
Animal Acts –toddlers Pretending is a great way to get young children to start to think about how others think and feel.  A way to get pretending started with toddlers is to play animal pretend games.  The games can be a guessing game – mom pretends she is an animal and her child has to guess the animal, then your tot can take his turn or a follow the leader game where your child or you can start marching around the room like an animal (monkey or elephant) and take turns being the leader.
Playing House - 3 to 4 years  -Pretending to be a “grown-up” is a way preschoolers can model adult behavior and begin to understand why  parents act the way they do. Preschools often have mock kitchens and play houses, but at home there is no need for expensive toy ovens or cars. A few of your old clothes get children started with “dress-up” games and if you add a couple of large empty cardboard boxes they can become play stoves, or play houses, even garages for a pretend car.
Blindfold ’ Hide and Seek ‘ Game (this builds left brain language skills also) – 5 – 10  years: In a room where you can push most furniture to the side , ask one child in group to be “the seeker”.   Blindfold that child using a sleep mask like the type you wear on an airplane or just by tying a soft cloth over her eyes.  Ask another to volunteer to be the “hider” and help him hide a bell in a place that would be in plain sight if the seeker could see. The “hider” then has to direct the child with the mask to find the bell without peeking. To do this,  the “hider” will have to take the perspective of the child with the blindfold and give very specific directions.  After the bell is found the hider and seeker can switch. If you use a timer you can see which child is best at helping the seeker find the bell the fastest.  The “hider” is not only practicing the right brain skill of “thinking about what the other child needs to know” but also building language processing skills like  selecting the best directional word and correcting direction mistakes. The “seeker” is practicing following commands as well.  

If the children are young, Rebecca suggests you can show the children how to do it first by acting as the “seeker” while the group tries to help you find the bell.  She says she encourages asking clarifying questions, such as "should I take large steps or small steps?", etc.  She also suggests you can help the “seeker”   to visualize the room and use out-stretched hand to feel for clues.

WHY?  The most popular children in school and on the playground are those with good social skills. Brain Researchers, like Rebecca Saxe and her colleagues at MIT, have learned that a key to developing social skills is taking the perspective of others. Taking perspective of others (often called Theory of Mind or Mentalizing) develops an area of the right hemisphere called the right temporal-parietal junction.   Ágnes Melinda Kovács recently published a research article in the journal Science showing that even young babies seem interested in other’s beliefs. By encouraging your children to play games where they practice putting themselves into other people’s shoes, you help them build this uniquely human social skill. My friend Rebecca Floyd also sent me social-skill acting games for teens which I will share in a future post.

ACTING OUT and pretending are great ways to build right hemisphere social skills

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