Monday, March 01, 2010

Nurture Shock and the Freeze Dance

I just finished reading Nurture Shock by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman. To say it was enlightening would be an understatement. This book uses real data to tackle issues that many parents rely on instinct to handle. Tough issues from lying- yes, data shows that your first grader DOES lie- to teen rebellion -even honor students sneak out of the house at night. The best part of this book though is that it offers up proven solutions rather than just leaving you hanging with a, "Well, now what" situation.

Of course, the chapters that peaked my interest the most were the ones regarding preschoolers and learning. You know, since I'm living it. Did you know that there is actually a pre-K/Kindergarten program that is proven to give your child an advantage academically, and that this program actually relies on play to guide the learning? Yes, play... that long lost activity that's been removed from so many children's schedules to make room for soccer, dance, hockey, doily making, and flashcards. Plus, it's not just play for the sake of play. It's play with a purpose. Play that increases executive function, self-control, and cognitive control.

It's called Tools of the Mind and it's everything I ever dreamed in a preschool for Linus. It's Vygotskian, and I LOVE it.

Sadly, I have yet to find a preschool in the area that uses the program and the program is only available to schools and school districts. (Part of me really hoped I could wave my teacher license around and get the training.) However, there is a book which is currently sitting in my Amazon cart, there are more articles by Bronson and Merryman, and there are the few activities discussed in Nurture Shock to guide us.

We even played a Tools of the Mind activity this morning. It was just a simple game of Freeze Dance but tweaked slightly enough to encourage planning and cognitive control.

Here's how. As you probably know, in Freeze Dance, when the music is playing, you are moving and dancing. When the music stops, everybody "freezes" or stops. Now here's the tweak. Instead of stopping in whatever position you are in, the Tools of the Mind teachers have a little doll who they are holding in the stopping position. The children are responsible for looking at the doll, noting the position, and remembering the stopping position until the music stops.

Since I don't have a doll, I was Linus's only playmate, and he's not yet of pre-K age, we had to tweak it a bit more. Before the song began, Linus and I created a stopping position together. Yes, it took out the responsibility to check the doll's position, but it also brought in some planning on his part. Since this was our first time playing the game, Linus and I used the same stopping position for the entire length of one song waiting until between songs to create a new one.

Now I don't have any data to show whether or not Linus gained intellectual ability, but I do know that we had a blast. He got better and better at remembering to stop in the stop position and Mommy got a decent work-out as well. (Stop positions that are really static crunches will do that.)

It's fun activity and a really great book. I highly recommend it (and I wasn't paid to say that). Matter of fact, I'm going to make my husband read it too.


Green Girl in Wisconsin said...

That sounds like a beneficial book for any parent.
I too believe firmly in play. It shows when kids lead very scheduled and adult-organized lives.

Duffmano said...

This book saved my sanity after crossing nearly every bridge with my badly behaved five year old and his two siblings.

Amy said...

Thanks for the recommendation... I'm always looking for helpful/useful parenting books to read.