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For both kids and parents, playtime isn't over

Update: July, 05/2015 - 07:46
Kidding around: Children need more place and time to play. Through games, they can discover the world. — VNS Photo VIet Thanh

Two moms who love playing with their kids start teaching other parents why games are essential for their young ones' intellectual and social development. Minh Thu reports.

Vu Thi Thu Hang treasures the time she spends playing with her 4-year-old son, having fun together and educating him through games.

"What children learn in childhood will be there forever," she said. "When they grow up, their memories of childhood will be happy ones with many smiles."

Hang, 31, works as an English teacher at an international school in HCM City. Working in the education sector, she's aware of the importance of play for infants.

"I believe games are food for their brains and they can learn everything about life through play," she said.

Hang and her friend Duong Mai Trang, the mother of a 3-year-old girl, recently released a book entitled Gio Choi Den Roi (It's Time to Play), in which they explain various games parents can play with their children.

When Hang and Trang visited a bookshop, they realised it was easy to find hundreds of books that guide parents on how to feed children and educate them.

Meanwhile, there are very few books on playing with children. Most of them have been translated from foreign sources. These books are illustrated with images of foreign toddlers and bear foreign cultural elements that seem strange to local readers.

Game plan: With simple materials, parents can design many games and help their children play. According to the educators, playing helps children develop their brain and personality. — VNS Photos Trang Hang

Hang and Trang began thinking of a book, created by Vietnamese parents, with games that were suitable and close to Vietnamese children.

"At first, we thought that, to have a book, just writing down a diary of playing time would take a month," Hang said.

"However, when we started thinking about it seriously, we realised there were many things to do. Then we needed a year to complete the book. We carefully researched and consulted many documents, and divided games into age categories.

"We also analysed the advantages of the games, which can help children develop motor skills and multiple intelligences in linguistics, music and social behaviour, according to American psychologist Howard Gardner's theory."

The authors said they highly appreciated the role of illustrations. They have taken photos of their own children playing to inspire other parents.

"We're not professional photographers," Hang said.

"We just tried to capture the happy moments and smiles of our children.

"Trang can create colourful toys and paintings from materials that are easy to find. I'm sure all mothers can imitate and just follow the instructions and illustrations."

Do-it-yourself: Toys made from recycled materials are cheap, easy to make and so much fun.

The book comprises information such as suitable times for children to play, how to tell stories in an attractive way and outdoor games.

The authors also introduced games they created and divided into groups for children less than a year old, one to three years and above three years.

"Games help children develop cognitively, linguistically, socially and emotionally, as well as physically and creatively," Hang said. "Games also preserve beautiful memories of childhood."

"Children learn best and retain the maximum amount of information when they engage their senses," she said.

"Sensory play includes any activity that stimulates a young child's sense of touch, smell, taste and sight, besides hearing. Sensory activities facilitate exploration, and encourage children to use scientific processes while they play, create, investigate and explore."

Trang said her daughter, So, was her greatest inspiration for creating games. Trang pays attention to anything So is interested in - such as colourful buttons on her mother's clothes or her shadow on the wall in the candlelight.

Trang tries to create more and more games for her daughter to develop skills and have fun. So does Hang. They upload photos of their children playing, and share information about the games on Facebook.

Many people follow them and share their statuses. They have gradually set up a community called "It's Time to Play" to exchange experiences and share games for children.

Level playing field: Duong Mai Trang, co-author of the book It's Time to Play, often spends time playing with her daughter at home.

The Facebook page has quickly drawn the attention of parents around the country. Thousands of people have "liked" and "followed" the page. They also share their own experiences playing with and teaching their children.

Truong Le Kim Ngan said she came to know about the book It's Time to Play through Facebook. She said it was the most beautiful book she ever bought.

"The book introduces many creative and exciting games parents can play with children. It's easy to understand and imitate," Ngan said. "The images of Vietnamese children in the book make me feel the book was written for my kids."

Like other mothers, Ngan often visits the page to look for others' experiences playing with children, consult the authors when she tries to make a toy and share with them how cheerful she and her children feel after the games.

When Ngan's 6-year-old son learns to write, she doesn't ask him to write again and again like she did before. Instead, Ngan instructs him to use scissors to cut colourful paper into the shape of flowers and animals, and then glue the pieces together to make a collage.

By using scissors, thus, the boy uses his fingers skillfully, and gradually he will have a fine handwriting.

For Hang and Trang, the community they set up on Facebook is not aimed only at creating games for children. It also helps parents discover themselves. They can realise how creative and skillful they are. Through games, they also have fun and enjoy being parents.

"We don't stop playing because we grow old," Trang said. "We grow old because we stop playing."

Playing for smarts

The authors wanted to prove Professor Howard Gardner's theory, so they divided the games into eight groups based on the professor's seven kinds of intelligence: linguistic, logical-mathematical, musical, bodily-kinaesthetic, spatial, interpersonal and introspective.

They said parents should take note of how their children take part in the games - which games they perform well in and which ones interest them.

For example, if they feel enthusiastic about creating sound by beating on ceramic bowls, they may have musical intelligence.

Gardner said it made him happy to hear that authors in Viet Nam like Hang and Trang were interested in his "multiple intelligences" theory.

Fun learning: A child uses two tubes to transfer objects. The game helps practising motor skills.

However, he gave a different opinion on the issue.

"The idea that the authors describe concerning games is interesting, but I don't accept the premise entirely," he said.

"The games may indicate what the child likes, but not necessarily in what areas he/she performs well. Also, especially when one is young, one's intelligence quite changeable. As a father, I want to improve my childrens' performance with various intelligences, and not simply assume that an initial poor performance means anything."

Also, the experiment cannot assume a certain game requires a certain intelligence, Gardner said. For example, a game might be designed for spatial intelligence, but the child might approach it using linguistic or logical intelligence; or the child might use spatial intelligence in a game meant to be musical.

Ngo Kieu Nhi from the HCM City National University said more parents should learn to educate their children effectively.

Nhi was granted the title Excellent Teacher and the national Kovalevskaya Award for female scientists.

She said children always want to discover the world. Parents should help them scientifically - through playing, singing and reading.

"Children from birth to 4 years old are in a golden period for developing brain and personality," Nhi said. "It's necessary to have more and more manuals like It's Time to Play to equip parents with the knowledge they need to play with children and help them develop their intelligence effectively." — VNS

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