Jan 26, 2024 • 40 Mins min read
Join us as we explore the intricacies of how little ones develop their gross and fine motor skills, coordination, and spatial awareness.
Jan 15, 2024 • 55 mins min read
With several 'low key' but significant and impactful amendments to the EYFS coming into play as of last week (the 4th Jan 2023) it's crucial everyone within the industry is up to date and has a plan of action to swiftly tick the boxes necessary to comply with the changes.
Play has the very real power to transform children's lives. It has a unique and profound impact on the neurological, emotional and physical development and wellbeing of children - from therapeutic play and overcoming anxiety, to positive behaviour, mental health and even life expectancy. This course brings together two hot topics - play and neuroscience - breaking them down in an accessible way and offering a new perspective and voice on the topic of play. Weaving theory and practical examples together, and based on over 30 years' experience of working with children, Ben presents a compelling argument that play is not merely an optional extra to childhood but a vital developmental process and one of the most important things a child ever does.
1. Lesson 1 - Why Do Children Skip?11:54
To kick things of in this 'Very Unusual Course All About Play' Ben asks a very important question; "Why do children skip?" when you think about it, walking is the most effective and efficient means of movement for humans...skipping is far less efficient than running or walking. It takes up more energy per step than walking and cannot approach the speed of running. Yet, nearly all children across the globe, without ever being taught how to, will impulsively skip at some stage in their early years. Why is this? Well I'm glad you asked as this is what Lesson 1 is all about as Ben begins his journey of play and the science behind it all! Lesson 1 provides you with all you need to know about the basics of brain architecture and the different structures within that make us who we are, as well as, finding out all about Ben's drug dealer cat!
2. Lesson 2 - Learning About Brains With The Rat Tickler08:49
Armed with an understanding of the brains different systems and it's overall architecture we move onto a deeper look at play and what makes children, and all other mammals, want to play. As an evolutionary processes play should have died out long ago as it makes mammals in the wild less attentive to their surroundings and consequently more vulnerable. So why after 100's of years is play still so important to both humans and animals?
3. Lesson 3 - Biochemicals Of Play, Curiosity And Nurturing16:40
In Lesson 3 we dive into the world of biochemicals inside children's brains! From a biochemical perspective, when children activate the pro-social motions they produce a cocktail of biochemicals including benzodiazepines, producing substances so powerful that they are prescribed by doctors as an anti-anxiety medication. How can we help children to release these happy drugs inside their brains?
4. Lesson 4 - The Role Of Curiosity & Exploration06:47
What do young children do when they walk past a fence or a wall? They instinctively reach out and stroke the fence. What does a 1-year-old do with a crayon? They instinctively put it in their mouth for a good old taste. What does a child do when they walk through an echoey space? "Ooooooweeee!" Whilst these behaviours are intrinsically linked to play, they fall under another of Jaak Panksepp's emotional systems, CURIOSITY. In this lesson we explore the important role curiosity and exploration play when it comes to brain growth and development in the early years!
5. Lesson 5 - The Nurturing System & The Importance Of Positive Relationships08:01
In order to protect our particularly vulnerable young, we have an extremely potent nurturing system. When an adult makes a child feel safe, emotionally secure and happy, they are nurturing that child and producing a positive biochemical response (including benzodiazepines), making that child feel amazing. The tragedy is that there has been a fundamental shift in parenting trends over the last few years. There has been a marked decrease in face-to-face nurturing in some families, along with a corresponding increase in screen time for children! Let's explore the power of nurturing and the incredible role positive relationships and attachments play in brain development and children's behaviours!
6. Lesson 6 - The Power Of Play05:10
Play is a neurological development process that builds the fundamental structure of the brain and underpins all forms of higher learning. Reading, writing and maths are not hardwired into the brain. The fundamental structures for these higher academic tasks are not present at birth but need to be built through experiential brain growth. The process that builds brains is not sitting still, listening to grown-ups speak, but the bits in between - in short, play!
7. Lesson 7 - One Final Message From Ben01:03
That's it from Ben! We hope you've taken lots away from this course about all things brain development and the importance of play, curiosity and nurture! If you'd like to see Ben back on The Early Years Network make sure to let us know and keep your eyes peeled for his next book all about the power of joy dropping January 2024.
I never set out to work with children. I was kicked off my first degree course for not being very good at handing in work (or attending lectures, etc). I had moved out of my childhood home and was trying to pay the rent with a series of jobs that I kept getting sacked from. I now believe that my ADHD was a barrier to me finding and keeping work because, like many children in school, I find un-stimulating tasks agonisingly hard. At this point my mum, who never lost faith in me, suggested I try again at getting a degree via the mature student route. To cut a long story short, I had to pay my way through university, so I turned up for a job interview at an inner-city project working with children. This project worked with children from 2 to 16 years old in an area with a high level of deprivation. I still remember thinking, "How hard can it be?" It turns out it was the hardest work I had ever done in my life but also the most stimulating and rewarding. I was supposed to work there for 6 weeks but ended up working on the project for 13 years. In hindsight, I now know this job working with children saved me. I may be almost universally rubbish at everything else but working with children showed me I could do a job well for the first time in my life. I shudder to think what would have happened to me if I had not had that job. The funny thing was that even then I did not think of it as my career. I kept thinking that when I got my degree, I would get a proper job. I went on to do an MA and countless other qualifications but somewhere along the way realised, this is my proper job. This is the job I will do for the rest of my life. So, I am not just talking in this book about the fact that play is amazing for children but that it can profoundly impact adults too. For me, it saved my life and opened up possibilities beyond my wildest dreams. I don't just work with children now. I manage an entire company of people working with children and I teach a whole range of courses to other people who work with children. I travel the UK and beyond, delivering keynote speeches and training courses on just how amazing play is. I still work with children though and I still see, week in week out, the enormous impact of simple play.
After losing my love of Early Years and taking a 10 year break from the sector, I have found The Early Years network!!. It has totally opened my eyes to how much the industry has evolved and has sparked my passion to retrain. Their videos have reminded me why I loved early years so much, and I can't wait to be back in practice again.
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