A playful kind of teaching tool

A playful kind of teaching tool

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SALT LAKE CITY -- When kids act up, many parents will give them anything to calm them down.

The Children's Center Executive Director Douglas Goldsmith says, "We give them a couple toys and say, ‘Here, play with these toys, and don't bother me.'"

Every parent knows there are times when a child just can't seem to stay put, even for a short time. But play? They can focus on play.

"The parent has said, ‘stand still,' and the kid can do it for a minute, but if we say, ‘stand still like you're guarding the queen's palace,' we get 10 minutes," Goldsmith says.

It is this concept which has child development experts talking. The Denver-based "Tools of the Mind" has a technique to teach kids how to focus on a task, or, as it's known in the psychological field, executive function. It involves engaging kids in imaginative play. For example, Douglas Goldsmith says kids can learn to control themselves by pretending to avoid a "bad guy."

"We can teach them, ‘we've got to go on tip-toe and we've got to be very, very quiet, and we've got to hold our bodies very still because might hear us,'" he says.

Goldsmith says he's looking into this technique to see if something similar can be adapted in The Children's Center, which offers mental health services for infants, toddlers and preschoolers.

E-mail: pnelson@ksl.com

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