Does Play Matter?

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What if your children are malnourished and small for their age? What if you live in a developing country where most children are living in extreme poverty? You would feel defeated; it would be hard for you to see a way out for your children. You would worry that they would duplicate your fate instead of exceeding your meager circumstances. What if we told you that the answer to helping your kids thrive was to play with them? What if we told you that if you just played with them and talked to them about everyday household objects -- nothing fancy, no spinning and blinking electronic toys -- your child would succeed despite the odds? A paper published in Science magazine by a group of economists and psychologists, and then discussed on NPR provide the story of this amazing project.

Set in Jamaica, health care workers went to children's homes and showed moms how to play with their kids. "See this cup? It can do so many things! You can drink your porridge from it. You can turn it upside down and put something on it. And you can pretend that it is a telephone. Hello grandma!" Sound familiar? This is the kind of thing many families do all the time. Up until the digital era (but that is for another blog!), parents would be having such conversations with their kids often. But when we are surrounded by such conversations, they seem like "no big deal," and we don't think much about them.

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