When our granddaughter Daniela has dinner with us, Bill might make a mischievous character with
his food. Daniela laughs hysterically when Bill develops a hilarious narrative for the character. These are very special moments for the two of them.
Daniela was building her play history with the experiences she had with her grandfather- the enjoyment, the creativity and humor.
The imaginative food play was fun and taught her about good nutrition, but it was much more.
According to Dr. Stuart Brown- “National Institute for Play” play in childhood makes us happy and
Play is essential in the development of children’s brains. It helps promote cognitive, social, emotional and physical growth.
Play fires up the brain and sends impulses to the frontal lobes and builds important skills. Daniela
learned self-regulation and self-control at 5 years old when she laughed at a funny food creation at the
dinner table. Self-regulation helps kids and the adults cope with stress.
Daniela, now 9 year old, still enjoys Bill’s images and she also likes to make her own healthy food.
When she was younger and played with her food, and learned to change in mid-stream if things didn’t turn out as she planned. She was learning cognitive flexibility to use the food in innovative ways to create
Research suggests that divergent play material, like blocks, and funny food, contribute to children’s ability think creatively, to solve divergent problems, make discoveries.
Our two older grandsons, Ethan (22) and Simon (20) cherish the memories of food play with Bill.
And, both are exemplars of creative problem solvers who can come up with multiple solutions to a problem. Perhaps playing with funny Food helped them develop those important life skills.
Bill and his grandchildren still have fun sharing and making creative images. Sometimes they don’t say anything, but they are “in the flow” of creativity. A reassuring nod, and Bill’s smiling eyes tells them,”
This is fun”.
Unfortunately, play may be vanishing from classrooms, but we can nurture it at home.
The circuits in our brains are not fixed structures. Every experience—making Funny Food, riding a bicycle, book, sharing a joke--excites certain neural circuits and leaves others inactive. Those that are consistently turned on over time will be strengthened, while those that are rarely excited may be dropped away.
Or, as neuroscientists sometimes say, "Cells that fire together, wire together."
Play allows children to use their creativity while developing their imagination, dexterity, and physical, cognitive, and emotional strength. Play is important to healthy brain development.
Ideally, play also involves adults, but not controlled by the adult. We don’t want them to lose the opportunity to develop their own creativity.
When parents observe their children in play or join with them in child-driven play, they are given a unique opportunity to see the world from their child’s vantage point as the child navigates a world perfectly created just to fit his or her needs. The interactions that occur through play tell children that parents are fully paying attention to them and help to build enduring relationships.
Making Funny food together is also a great strategy for coping with stress.
Play helps children develop critical cognitive skills. Through play children develop skills called, executive function. The main aspect of this higher- level brain skill is the ability to self-regulate. When this area of the brain is well developed, children are able to control their emotions and behavior, and are better able to resist impulses, and have a greater amount of self-control.
Through play, children learn many life skills including: turn taking, negotiating conflicts, solving problems, and acquiring flexibility.
When kids play with healthy ingredients to make a whimsical image they are discovering the properties of materials and taking pleasure in the exploration.
The child is creating, questioning, imitating, dreaming, and sharing his creation.
Playfulness is more than fun. It is serious.