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Parent Talk: Hot posts from our daily blog

Play is a learning experience

While parents these days want to find enticing and enriching programs for their children to participate in over the summer, they should be careful not to overbook the kids -- leave ample time for plain old play, says Madeline Levine, who has written a new book called "Teach Your Children Well: Parenting for Authentic Success" (Harper Collins, $25.99).

Kids need time to climb trees, chase fireflies, build a fort in the woods, Levine says. "All the things that parents want for their kids that they think are going to ensure academic success for their kids happen in play."

Play is a training ground for the world; playing tag, for instance, involves a follower and a leader, and negotiating who does what. "You can send your kid to a leadership camp for $5,000. But they also get a lot of the exact same benefit from play," the San Francisco-area consultant and educator says.


Explanation beats a smack

Stopped at a red light recently in Brentwood, I noticed a woman walking with two children. The baby was in a stroller, and the toddler, about the same age as my son, Jonathan, was walking beside her. She was not holding the boy's hand and as she crossed over train tracks, I got a sinking feeling he might make a break for the four-lane street. He did.

The woman quickly grabbed the child before he could get too far off the sidewalk, but then spanked him.

Kristene Doyle, a psychologist and therapist with the Albert Ellis Institute in Manhattan who does not endorse corporal punishment, says a child that age would have benefited from a timeout. She says the woman should have explained, very specifically, what was wrong with the child's behavior so he understood.

"Hitting him and saying bad boy doesn't explain anything," the Hofstra graduate who lives in Manhattan says. "You must define the behavior. Don't label the child as bad, running into the street is bad."


Brave boy enjoys 'brave'

Never thought in a million years an 8-year-old boy would want to see the new girl-

centric animated adventure "Brave." But thanks to some great marketing by Disney's Pixar, my son, Harrison, announced he does.

Score one for the girls.

Actually, the marketing isn't only brilliant, but the tie-ins worthwhile. The best of the test products to come home was "Brave: The Video Game," which was a hit the moment it slid into the Wii. Although the format isn't particularly original, Harrison and his video-game-programming father enjoyed the play, thanks in part to the environment, look, characters and music. Harrison felt a sense of accomplishment as he, through the film's main character, Merida, solved puzzles, bought weapons and fought cool-looking monsters. The boys also enjoyed the so-called cut scenes -- those little snippets between game play that advance the story. They were done in a more original comic-book style.


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