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ATA Martial Arts of Maryland

Playing With Purpose

Posted: April 28, 2022

Have you ever taken a moment to truly admire the art and incredible beauty of watching a child at play? Their fully engaged spirit, drive, imagination and passion are all completely vested in the mission of the moment. Whether tinkering with their next greatest creations or saving the day as their favorite superhero, children demonstrate freely and without any reservations the power of playing with purpose! Maria Montessori once said, “Play is the work of a child.” How very true! As parents, teachers and coaches, we each have an incredible opportunity to step with intention each and every day into the world of a child, meeting them exactly where they are at in their own unique phase and stage of development. But what are “phases and stages of development” you may ask? Great question!

For years, child development experts in the specialized fields of science and psychological study have been uncovering the physical, intellectual, emotional and social characteristics of adolescence at different ages and stages of their ever-evolving development. From this great body of research, founder of SKILLZ Worldwide, Melody Johnson, alongside her passionate team of Child Development Specialists, have all been bringing firsthand experience, science, psychology and best proven practices together to support the unique and critical aspects of a child’s holistic development. By utilizing nurturing, age-specific curriculum purposefully designed to help a child grow, excel and exceed their developmental expectations, we are equipping children for bold, bright futures in their own distinct endeavors! Taking a deeper dive for just a moment into the purpose of age-specific play, let’s consider two ends of a beautiful spectrum. Imagine for a moment a three-year-old and a fourteen-year-old. How a three-year-old vs. a fourteen-year-old play are very different and understandably so! Developmentally each are in different seasons of life. The three-year-old for example is far more rooted in parallel play, mimicking and mirroring behaviors witnessed than engaging naturally in back-and-forth play. Further down the developmental line however, the fourteen-year-old is far more inclined to be exploring the ever-changing dynamics of their own social universe. With eyes wide open, they step with greater intention and interest into seeking and valuing the thoughts and feelings of their peers more than their parents. As the mind, body and spirit of a child continue to grow and develop, so too does their level of meaningful interaction with peers, individuals outside of their core family influence. But what happens when play doesn’t come naturally to a child? How can we as Proud Ninja Parents support our youth in experiencing the power of purposeful play? By taking action and engaging in:

1. Creating time and space for purposeful play. Setting intentional time aside to practice back-and-forth play with your child will go a long way in helping them know the boundaries and expectations within appropriate play with peers. Modeling expected and unexpected behaviors that may arise when playing tag

for example with your six-year-old is a great way to help your child know what to expect when spontaneous play occurs. While tag may not be the go-to game with your teen anymore, there are ways to connect with them in play as well. Consider asking them what adventure they would like to go on with you today! Connection and attunement to the needs and desires of your teen are just as vital and important as they were when they were young.

2. Set up a play date. For Proud Ninja Parents with little one’s just beginning to explore the power of play, confide in a trusted fellow parent whose child may be a great motivator and influencer for your child to develop deeper connections with outside of home. Prior to your time all together, decide upon the activities you’ll play involving hands-on, purposeful play.

a. Maybe you’ll start off the play date at the park with some parallel swing time to break the ice, allowing your child and their new friend to settle in. From there, perhaps a friendly game of “Alligator,” a recognizable game from SKILLZ Ninja Class that would involve both parents and children in the special playtime. As your time together progresses and friends become more familiar with each other, allow for space and personal exploration amongst them, keeping a watchful eye from a distance to prompt and redirect as needed.

Remember, play dates certainly do not need to be elaborate, expensive excursions. Some of the best play you can have with your child and their friends are the simplest, organic and engaged kind!

3. Need one-on-one advice and guidance? Consider connecting with a Certified Pediatric Ninja Specialist who is trained in assessing and supporting your child’s age-specific physical, intellectual, emotional and social stage of development. Post assessment, ideas and actionable steps of support to nurture your child’s play can be developed as a team, specific to your child and their individual needs.

It takes a village to raise a child and we are honored to be a part of your amazing story! Never hesitate to connect with us because we are here to support you every step of the way in your journey, parenting with purpose.

Here I play with purpose.

Here I learn and grow.

Here I’m supported and nurtured.

Here I’m surrounded by a tribe of people who love me more than I know!


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