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Closings can give Oklahoma parents, children quality playtime

BY CARRIE COPPERNOLL Published: January 29, 2010
With many schools and day cares closed today, parents have a chance to spend quality time with their children, an Oklahoma City child advocate said.

"You’re their hero,” said Stacy Dykstra, executive director of Smart Start Central Oklahoma.

"Any time they get with you and they get your full attention, it almost doesn’t matter what it is (you do together). You’re building that bond.”

Parents of young children should take the time to read, sing, play, talk and hold every day, said Dykstra, whose organization is an early-childhood advocacy group based in Oklahoma City. But with the ice and snow keeping many children home, parents should take advantage of that extra time together by interacting as a family, she said.

Playing pretend gives children a chance to develop all kinds of skills such as counting, empathy and creativity. Parents can let children lead the way with scenarios and games, Dykstra said.

Even very young children can play catch with something soft indoors, Dykstra said, and that develops motor skills. Games like Simon Says develop physical and mental abilities.

Dykstra said she discourages families from sitting in front of the television for long periods of time. When families do watch TV, she said, parents should talk with their children as the show progresses. They can help their children identify with the characters’ emotions and reactions.

Know it: Parenting

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Family time

Smart Start Central Oklahoma suggests that parents take time each day for these activities with their children:

→Read. Reading stimulates language development, vocabulary and curiosity. Infants enjoy their parents’ voices.

→Sing. Singing is soothing to babies. It gives older children creativity, focus, interpersonal skills and self-esteem.

→Play. Playing builds imagination, problem-solving, physical activity and social skills.

→Talk. Talking improves cognitive development.

→Hold. Touch improves bonding and overall development.

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