Vol. 275 April 15, 2022 Child’s Play = Good Teacher, Clowns = Healing, and SHE

April 15, 2022


“Play is not just wasted free time. If it’s used properly,
it can be a deeply powerful tool
to increase children’s learning in math and science,”

– Kathryn Hirsh-Pasek, Professor of psychology, Temple University.

Guided play teaches well

Children from 3-8 yo.can learn faster and more from guided play  than they can from direct instructions from a teacher. Guided play is not free play. Children are “gently steered” by an adult in play that has “learning goals”. For instance, measurements can be placed on a climbing tower and the kids will notice them and talk about how many units they have climbed. 

Guided play can show improvement in language development, executive function, numeracy (knowledge of shapes), and some behavioral skills (like switching tasks). It is an active process. The hands-on nature of guided play can especially help kids learn abstract subjects like math. (Duh, remember Montessori rods?) My son-in-law conducts guided play with his sons every Spring. They’re called “nature walks” where they learn about salamanders under rocks and the reason peepers sound off so loudly.

A LEGO Foundation review of 26 studies in 18 countries suggested that both free and guided play improved social-emotional skills in 3-6 yo. They recommended play as a means to reduce perceptions of inequality among kids.

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LEGO has distributed MRI lego kits to 600 hospitals for kids to build in an effort to reduce their anxiety over getting an MRI exam [but it makes no noise].

Learning to read on Zoom
 A study detailing a two-week reading program, which teachers provided remotely to 83 5-year-olds beginning in fall 2020, found that the participants demonstrated learning of specific reading skills, such as phonological awareness and letter-sound knowledge, when compared to a control group of children who did not receive the instruction [So, virtual is better than nothing]. “Frankly, I had my doubts about whether 5-year-olds could learn to read online without a live tutor. But when I saw these 5-year-olds on Zoom laughing and encouraging each other to listen and hold up the right color egg, I was amazed. Their social connections to each other were obvious, and their learning was incredible. They called each other by name and seemed very eager to see each other on the screen”, said one of the study’s authors.

Clown Care helps healing
Clown Care, also known as hospital clowning, is a program in health care facilities involving visits from specially trained clowns. They are colloquially called “clown doctors” which is a trademarked name in several countries. These visits to hospitals have been shown to help in lifting patients’ moods with the positive power of hope and  humor. There is also an associated positive benefit to the staff and families of patients.”

Patch Adams, considered the first hospital clown, started being a hospital clown in the 1970s. He was portrayed in the 1998 film Patch Adams by Robin Williams, bringing attention to hospital clowning.

54% of current medical students are female.

A recent major advance in childhood nutrition:

On to Adolescents
“Quality sexual health education (SHE) – [WHOA, whoa! . . . gender bias? wrong pronoun? ]– provides students with the knowledge and skills to help them [now THAT’S a correct pronoun] be healthy and avoid human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), sexually transmitted diseases (STD), and unintended pregnancy. A SHE [used to be just plai
n HE, health education] curriculum includes medically accurate, developmentally appropriate, and culturally relevant content and skills that target key behavioral outcomes and promote healthy sexual development.”  (more government speak from the CDC)

“Promoting and implementing well-designed SHE programs positively impacts student health in a variety of ways. Students who participate in these programs are more likely to:  (no actual data given on this CDC website)

  1. Delay initiation of sexual intercourse
  2. Have fewer sex partners
  3. Have fewer experiences of unprotected sex.
  4. Increase their use of   protection, specifically condoms
  5. Improve their academic performance.



But several research reviews do document that SHE delays first sex and does NOT increase early sex or experimentation.




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