University of Colorado Boulder study: Children need flexible play time

29 Jun

Creativity is important in finding solutions to problems. In What is a creativity index and why are states incorporating the index into education? moi wrote: The Martin Prosperity Institute of the University of Toronto began studying the “creativity index” several years ago. Here is a portion of the summary for their report, Creativity and Prosperity: The Global Creativity Index:

The economic crisis has challenged popular conceptions of economic growth, both in terms of what it is and how to measure it. While engendering growth and bolstering competitiveness remain high on the agenda, immediate attention has shifted to creating jobs, lifting wages, addressing inequality, and fostering long-term, sustainable prosperity. This new edition of the Global Creativity Index (GCI), which we first introduced in 2004, provides a powerful lens through which to assess these issues….

http://martinprosperity.org/research-and-publications/publication/global-creativity-index
Download Creativity and Prosperity: The Global Creativity Index. (2.68 MB) http://martinprosperity.org/media/GCI-Report-reduced-Oct%202011.pdf
Read “Towards a Broader Conception of Economic Competitiveness“, our MPInsight discussing the Global Creativity Index. http://martinprosperity.org/2011/10/04/towards-a-broader-conception-of-economic-competitiveness/
The question is whether creativity can or should be taught? One way of fostering creativity is allowing children to have flexible time.

Moi wrote In the rush to produce geniuses, are we forgetting the value of play: Children are not “mini mes” or short adults. They are children and they should have time to play, to dream, and to use their imagination. Dan Childs of ABC News reports in the story, Recess ‘Crucial’ for Kids, Pediatricians’ Group Says:

The statement by the American Academy of Pediatrics is the latest salvo in the long-running debate over how much of a young child’s time at school should be devoted to academics — and how much should go to free, unstructured playtime.
The authors of the policy statement write that the AAP “believes that recess is a crucial and necessary component of a child’s development and, as such, it should not be withheld for punitive or academic reasons.”
“The AAP has, in recent years, tried to focus the attention of parents, school officials and policymakers on the fact that kids are losing their free play,” said the AAP’s Dr. Robert Murray, one of the lead authors of the statement. “We are overstructuring their day. … They lose that creative free play, which we think is so important.”
The statement, which cites two decades worth of scientific evidence, points to the various benefits of recess. While physical activity is among these, so too are some less obvious boons such as cognitive benefits, better attention during class, and enhanced social and emotional development. http://abcnews.go.com/Health/recess-crucial-kids-aap-policy-statement/story?id=18083935#.UOZ606zIlIq

The goal of this society should be to raise healthy and happy children who will grow into concerned and involved adults who care about their fellow citizens and environment. https://drwilda.com/2014/03/10/in-the-rush-to-produce-geniuses-are-we-forgetting-the-value-of-play/

Hannah Goldberg wrote in the Time article, Study: Less-Structured Time Correlates to Kids’ Success:

Research found that young children who spend more time engaging in more open-ended, free-flowing activities display higher levels of executive functioning, and vice versa
Parents, drop your planners—a new psychological study released Tuesday found that children with less-structured time are likely to show more “self-directed executive functioning,” otherwise known as the “cognitive processes that regulate thought and action in support of goal-oriented behavior.”
Doctoral and undergraduate researchers at University of Colorado, Boulder, followed 70 children ranging from six to seven years old, measuring their activities. A pre-determined classification system categorized activities as physical or non-physical, structured and unstructured….
http://time.com/2901044/study-kids-structured-time-success/

Citation:

Original Research ARTICLE
Front. Psychol., 17 June 2014 | doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2014.00593
Less-structured time in children’s daily lives predicts self-directed executive functioning
Jane E. Barker1*, Andrei D. Semenov1, Laura Michaelson1, Lindsay S. Provan1, Hannah R. Snyder2 and Yuko Munakata1
• 1Department of Psychology and Neuroscience, University of Colorado Boulder, Boulder, CO, USA
• 2Department of Psychology, University of Denver, Denver, CO, USA
Executive functions (EFs) in childhood predict important life outcomes. Thus, there is great interest in attempts to improve EFs early in life. Many interventions are led by trained adults, including structured training activities in the lab, and less-structured activities implemented in schools. Such programs have yielded gains in children’s externally-driven executive functioning, where they are instructed on what goal-directed actions to carry out and when. However, it is less clear how children’s experiences relate to their development of self-directed executive functioning, where they must determine on their own what goal-directed actions to carry out and when. We hypothesized that time spent in less-structured activities would give children opportunities to practice self-directed executive functioning, and lead to benefits. To investigate this possibility, we collected information from parents about their 6–7 year-old children’s daily, annual, and typical schedules. We categorized children’s activities as “structured” or “less-structured” based on categorization schemes from prior studies on child leisure time use. We assessed children’s self-directed executive functioning using a well-established verbal fluency task, in which children generate members of a category and can decide on their own when to switch from one subcategory to another. The more time that children spent in less-structured activities, the better their self-directed executive functioning. The opposite was true of structured activities, which predicted poorer self-directed executive functioning. These relationships were robust (holding across increasingly strict classifications of structured and less-structured time) and specific (time use did not predict externally-driven executive functioning). We discuss implications, caveats, and ways in which potential interpretations can be distinguished in future work, to advance an understanding of this fundamental aspect of growing up.
Read Full Text
Keywords: cognitive development, self-directed executive function, leisure time, unstructured activities, verbal fluency
Citation: Barker JE, Semenov AD, Michaelson L, Provan LS, Snyder HR and Munakata Y (2014) Less-structured time in children’s daily lives predicts self-directed executive functioning. Front. Psychol. 5:593. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2014.00593
Received: 04 February 2014; Accepted: 27 May 2014;
Published online: 17 June 2014.
Less-structured time in children’s daily lives predicts self-directed executive functioning

Here is the press release from University of Colorado Boulder:

Kids whose time is less structured are better able to meet their own goals
June 19, 2014 •
Social Sciences
Children who spend more time in less structured activities—from playing outside to reading books to visiting the zoo—are better able to set their own goals and take actions to meet those goals without prodding from adults, according to a new study by the University of Colorado Boulder.
The study, published online in the journal Frontiers in Psychology, also found that children who participate in more structured activities—including soccer practice, piano lessons and homework—had poorer “self-directed executive function,” a measure of the ability to set and reach goals independently.
“Executive function is extremely important for children,” said CU-Boulder psychology and neuroscience Professor Yuko Munakata, senior author of the new study. “It helps them in all kinds of ways throughout their daily lives, from flexibly switching between different activities rather than getting stuck on one thing, to stopping themselves from yelling when angry, to delaying gratification. Executive function during childhood also predicts important outcomes, like academic performance, health, wealth and criminality, years and even decades later.”
The study is one of the first to try to scientifically grapple with the question of how an increase in scheduled, formal activities may affect the way children’s brains develop.
Munakata said a debate about parenting philosophy—with extremely rigid “tiger moms” on one side and more elastic “free-range” parents on the other—has played out in the media and on parenting blogs in recent years. But there is little scientific evidence to support claims on either side of the discussion.
Jane Barker, a CU-Boulder doctoral student working with Munakata and lead author of the study, said, “These are societally important questions that come up quite often in social commentary and casual conversations among parents. So it’s important to conduct research in this area, even if the questions are messy and not easy to investigate.”
For the study, parents of 70 6-year-olds recorded their children’s daily activities for a week. The scientists then categorized those activities as either more structured or less structured, relying on existing time-use classifications already used in scientific literature by economists.
“These were the best and the most rigorous classifications we could find,” Barker said. “They still fail to capture the degree of structure within specific activities, but we thought that was the best starting point because we wanted to connect this with prior work.”
In that classification system, structured activities include chores, physical lessons, non-physical lessons and religious activities. Less-structured activities include free play alone and with others, social outings, sightseeing, reading and media time. Activities that did not count in either category include sleeping, eating meals, going to school and commuting.
The children also were evaluated for self-directed executive function with a commonly used verbal fluency test.
The results showed that the more time children spent in less structured activities, the better their self-directed executive function. Conversely, the more time children spent in more structured activities the poorer their self-directed executive function.
Because some of the existing time-use categories might not reflect the real amount of structure involved in an activity, the researchers also did several rounds of recalculation after removing categories that were questionable. In each case the findings still held. For example, the time-use categories classify media screen time as unstructured, but the degree of structure depends on whether a child is watching a movie or playing a video game. However, when media time was removed from the data, the results were the same.
“This isn’t perfect, but it’s a first step,” said Munakata. “Our results are really suggestive and intriguing. Now we’ll see if it holds up as we push forward and try to get more information.”
The researchers emphasize that their results show a correlation between time use and self-directed executive function, but they don’t prove that the change in self-directed executive function was caused by the amount of structured or unstructured time. The team is already considering a longitudinal study, which would follow participants over time, to begin to answer the question of cause.
Other study co-authors are undergraduate alumnus Andrei Semenov, doctoral student Laura Michaelson and professional research assistant Lindsay Provan, all from CU-Boulder, and Hannah Snyder, a former CU-Boulder doctoral student and current postdoctoral researcher at the University of Denver. The study was funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.
Read the study at http://journal.frontiersin.org/Journal/10.3389/fpsyg.2014.00593/abstract.
– See more at: Kids whose time is less structured are better able to meet their own goals | University of Colorado Boulder

We must not so over-schedule children that they have no time to play and to dream. Our goal as a society should be:

A healthy child in a healthy family who attends a healthy school in a healthy neighborhood ©

Related:

The ‘whole child’ approach to education https://drwilda.wordpress.com/2012/02/10/the-whole-child-approach-to-education/

Childhood obesity: Recess is being cut in low-income schools https://drwilda.com/2011/12/15/childhood-obesity-recess-is-being-cut-in-low-income-schools/

Louisiana study: Fit children score higher on standardized tests https://drwilda.com/2012/05/08/louisiana-study-fit-children-score-higher-on-standardized-tests/

Seattle Research Institute study about outside play https://drwilda.wordpress.com/tag/childrens-physical-activity/

Where information leads to Hope. © Dr. Wilda.com

Dr. Wilda says this about that ©

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COMMENTS FROM AN OLD FART© http://drwildaoldfart.wordpress.com/

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