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“Having Fun is the Best Way to Learn” (Albert Einstein) – Thoughts on Children’s Week - By Heidi Zec

Updated: Feb 3, 2020

Happy National Children’s Week!

It is Children’s Week here in Australia, and this year’s theme is celebrating the right for all children to be healthy, safe and happy. Therefore, now is the perfect week to celebrate the importance of “having fun” which I touched on in my last blog, the Many Hats of CVI Parents (and Carers).

“Having fun is the best way to learn” (Albert Einstein)

One of my favourite quotes, above, shows that having fun serves a useful purpose in helping children learn.

Helping Luka to learn is high on my priority list as his Mum, and Luka has a naturally strong determination and work ethic. So during his first year, we worked hard (and still do) on all the milestones and activities that I had taken for granted with my first child. It felt as though most of our waking hours were spent in therapy, or practicing therapy, and Luka would often get very angry with me.

We were so scheduled that I can still remember on one particular day, we practiced placing a ball into a bowl for 38 minutes straight! We definitely weren’t having fun for all of those 38 minutes, and we weren’t particularly productive. Perhaps in trying so hard to help Luka reach his milestones, we had forgotten to have fun.

Luka’s milestones were often achieved during play. He surprised both himself and me when he stood unaided for the first time because he was so excited to grab an instrument in music class. Some of his first words were proudly said during play (“uuuup” and “doooowwwwn”) when he stood up to throw his toys off the shelves.

Fun with Therapy

I have learnt that play time and therapy time are not mutually exclusive. Luka and I are lucky enough to work with Occupational Therapists, Physiotherapists, an Orientation and Mobility Specialist and a Speech Therapist who all use the power of play in helping Luka’s development. Some of our most fun therapy sessions have included chasing balloons down a corridor, singing new songs, and playing at the playground.

In fact, fun is so important in the context of therapy, that it has its own name – “Play Therapy”. The benefits have been widely studied since the 20th Century and include physical, cognitive and psychosocial development (Short, 2015)

There is even a famous physician’s assistant with a specialty in paediatric neurosurgery from California who spends time dancing with each of his patients! Tony Adkins says “it's important to create an outlet for kids to have fun because laughter and silliness is one of the best doses of medicine I can provide to patients”.

Finding time for fun

Luka and his sister learning and bonding through play.

Of course, there are certain things in life that need to be prioritised over “having fun”, and this is especially true for parents of children with CVI and/or other additional needs. Safety, daily care, medications and appointments– not to mention competing priorities of work, other children and family, projects and commitments can be all consuming, without scheduling in additional time for fun.

However, Luka and I have found that having fun definitely is the best way to learn. We have learned about each other, developed our own little jokes and games, learnt to trust each other and created a strong bond and ability to communicate.

Once I prioritised having fun with Luka, his confidence and abilities have increased and so too has my ability to recognise his strengths and achievements. He loves to play and show me new dance moves, and he has a great sense of humour – such as blowing kisses and laughing when he sees my husband kiss me on his way to work. We both feel less stressed every day. Now rather than having a meltdown, Luka will come to me for a cuddle – his way of telling me he needs a break and a quiet moment.

So this week, I’ll be having fun dancing with my little red-headed children (to my favourite red-headed singer, Ed Sheeran of course) – because it’s Children’s Week, and as if I needed a further excuse – Einstein told me to do it!

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