Playtime Teaches Kids 'Executive Function'

Emphasis on developing 'executive function' helps control behavior
By Nick McMaster,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 8, 2009 12:33 PM CDT
Jeremiah Rodgers, 4, identifies letters as part of the Between The Lions Preschool Literacy Project at Vision Academy in Brandon, Mississippi.   (PRNewsFoto/Mississippi Public Broadcasting)
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(Newser) – Preschool teachers are adopting new techniques to control students’ behavior that focus on impulse control, the Wall Street Journal reports. Seeking to counter a growing trend in rowdiness among young students, progressive curricula involve structured daily playtime during which kids take an imaginary trip to a pretend destination. Each plays a role—barber, librarian, or baby, for example—and must stick to the chosen role for the whole 45-minute playtime.

By forcing kids to stick to the rules of even such a casual game, teachers instill groundwork for “executive function”—the ability to exert self-control and focus on a task. It's a throwback to role-playing games of generations past, one educator acknowledges: "What parent do you know who opens the door in the summer and lets children rove around the neighborhood?"