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Make time for play: speech-language therapist

A speech-language pathologist with the Lloydminster Public School Division says play is important to develop problem-solving and other life skills.

Kristin Coulter says in the past decade they have noticed the decline in the ability of kids to play and how this affects their development.

“Children in 6th, 7th or 8th grade, who are struggling with problem-solving skills, struggling to connect with peers, struggling to maintain academic marks – if you look back, they also struggle to play,” says Coulter.

Speaking at Wednesday’s parent info night she noted that by increasing physical play, they hope to make kids more resilient in developing these skills.

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Coulter referenced Canadian physician, Dr. Gabor Maté, who has worked with mental health and addictions, and who has transitioned his work to dealing with children. Maté says, “If you don’t get the first three years right, you will be practising remedial parenting for decades.”

She concludes that most therapy sessions are geared toward making an authentic connection with children and that “the benefits of play can offset a negative trajectory.”

“Without an authentic connection with children, we cannot meet our goals and needs. So, if I was working with a child to increase their expressive language, if I have nothing that is fun, then the kid will walk away.”

She says to look for easy additions to the daily routine and not to see it as something else that parents have to add.

Coulter cites the increase in technology usage as one of the reasons that play is decreasing and notes that Gabor Maté recommends that you should not give a device to a child under the age of three.

“Society has used video games and iPads and television as a break or distraction, whereas, if we taught kids the play skills that they need to earn, then play can be the break parents need,” says Coulter.

One example she gives is when kids are fighting over toys, find ways to teach them how to play and work it out, by changing the script of how the toys can be used to help kids work together.

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