Monday, May 19, 2014

Good Habits Training through Child’s Play

“A child’s greatest achievements are possible in play, achievements that tomorrow will become her basic level of real action.”  - Vygotsky –

Have you ever heard of discipline and child’s play in the same sentence? 

I'm not suggesting something new all together as you will read below, but I am proposing that parents think about PLAY in helping their children form GOOD HABITS and BEHAVIOR.

When I first thought about homeschooling, I had so many fears about the prospect of being responsible for the education of my son. How could I stay at home with my young child for hours on end? How could I teach him good habits without losing my mind? How could our everydays together be enriching for both of us (and not miserable)?

I learned that through PLAY children themselves are armed with mental tools that allow them to function (attend, remember, and think) deliberately and independently at a higher level. These tools help them master their own behavior. What is important in this approach is "how the child can become what he not yet is.” More significantly for the parent/teacher, he/she “no longer has to take total responsibility for every aspect of the learning process,” for once the child catches on to the GAME, the process is one that is self-directed.
“What the child is able to do in collaboration today he will be able to do independently tomorrow.” - Vygotsky –
Make Believe Play is one Vygotsky tactic which helps children develop symbolic function, helps them begin to act on an internal mental plane, generate imagination, integrate emotions and thinking, and develop self-regulation. "Vygotsky believed that play (dramatic or make-believe) promotes cognitive, emotional and social development...  Real play... has 3 components: children create an imaginary situation, take on and act out roles and follow a set of rules determined by specific roles."

"... it involves a kind of "scaffolding" process that enables a child or novice to solve a problem, carry out a task or achieve a goal which would be beyond his unassisted efforts. This scaffolding consists essentially of the adult "controlling" those elements of the task that are initially beyond the learner's capacity, thus permitting him to concentrate upon and complete only those elements that are within his range of competence." Wood, D., Bruner, J. S., & Ross, G. -
In these next clips, we watch as a Father in the movie La Vita e' Bella defines the rules of the game for his son in a highly stressful and complex situation. (Click here if you cannot view it.)

These rules consequently help his child behave accordingly, which keep him safe and alive. (Click here if you cannot view it.)

While these clips may seem like "only-in-the-movies" scenarios, Make Believe Play can be used in everyday real life

"Reduce or simplify the number of steps required to solve the problem so the child can manage them, maintain the child's interest in pursuing the goal, point out the critical features that show the difference betweeen the child's performance and the ideal performance, control frustration, and demonstrate the idealized version of what the child is doing." - Wood, D., Bruner, J. S., & Ross, G. -

How do I use it to help my son form good habits? Let’s say I want to go outside for a long walk. 

Instead of saying: “I think we need to go for a LONG WALK!”

I say; “Let’s go get our light sabers and pretend we are on a Jedi mission. We have to reach Endor (let’s pretend Endor is the hill down the road) before Darth Vader gets us! Come on!”

I act the part. He acts the part. And together we are playing and taking a long walk there and back. No complaints, tantrums, or disciplining needed. Instead, a LOT of FUN! 

It may seem easier to command a child to "DO IT!" But, commanding a child and expecting them to follow is no fun for them. By being more creative and thinking like a child, a parent can instead create scenarios for the child to simply PLAY. At the same time, these PLAY times will create wonderful memories together that are more meaningful for everyone in the long run. The long walk there isn't just a long walk, but it becomes a profound experience shared together that will make him want to take that long walk with me next time, and the time after that, and before long, even without the make believe play. 

This Make Believe Play tactic can be used in various different scenarios from eating (we used to make believe we were dinosaurs eating trees), 

taking baths (son was an alligator in a swamp trying to catch fish),  doing chores (he was a conductor of a train while helping to spread seeds),

and even school (doing school as Zorro). 

My son finishing up his Zorro Maths mission.

Lastly, the Vygotskian approach suggests playing GAMES with your kids: Simon Says, Freeze, Follow the Leader, Red Rover, Duck, Duck, Goose, soccer, baseball, and other such games with rules help children develop self-regulation.

So, go on! Play with your kids! It's all they want to do with you anyway!

For more Special Tips, Toys, Tricks, and Tools for Parenting and Educating Gifted/2E, head over to the Gifted Homeschoolers Forum Blog Hop!


  1. Great post, Carissa! I love your use of imaginative play in your learning and thank you for the Vygotsky links too.

    1. Thank you! I'm glad you found a way to comment on a Blogger site. I'm still having issues on my own! ;$