Archive for May, 2014

Play is a Child’s Work

by Dr. Stacy Loyd, HCA Academic Dean

“Play is not a luxury we should ration, but rather a crucial dynamic of physical, intellectual, social, and emotional development for children of all ages,” says author Dr. David Elkind. Play, particularly with others, has been shown to have numerous developmental benefits (Frost, 2010). These benefits include positively influencing the development of fine and gross motor skills, language, socialization, personal awareness, emotional well-being, creativity, problem solving, and learning ability.

Play theorist and researcher, Suransky (1982) explained that play for children has no distinction from work: “for the playing child is the working child—engaged in meaningful purposive activity” (p. 172). It is through “work-play” that children interact with the world and build better understandings. As your child grows and develops, her play develops.

Certain types of play are associated with, but not restricted to, specific age groups. Types of play include the following:

  • Unoccupied Play: Children seem to be making random movements with no clear purpose.
  • Solitary Play: Children are exploring their world by watching, grabbing, and rattling objects.
  • Onlooker Play: Children watch other children play.
  • Parallel Play: Children play alongside other children without any interaction.
  • Associative Play: Children participate in loosely organized play. Groups of children have similar goals, but do not set rules. They all want to be playing with the same type of toys.
  • Social Play: Children socially interact with other children in play settings.
  • Motor-Physical Play: Children run, jump, and play games such as hide-and-seek and tag.
  • Constructive Play: Children create things.
  • Expressive Play: Some types of play help children learn to express feelings. Expressive play can be facilitated with dress-up tools, art and musical mediums.
  • Fantasy Play: Children learn to try new roles and situations as they think and create beyond their world.
  • Cooperative Play: Children organize play by group goals that include “rules”. There is at least one leader, and children are definitely in or out of the group.

Parental involvement in a child’s world of play is not only beneficial for the child but is extremely beneficial to the parent. Playing with children establishes and strengthens bonds. Parent-child play opens doors for the sharing of values, increases communication, allows for teachable moments and assists in problem solving. It allows the parent to view the world through the eyes of a child (Anderson-McNamee and Balley, 2010).

Children find the material and inspiration for their play from books and everyday life experiences. If your child shows interest in a particular topic, encourage play around the topic. A trip to the aquarium might lead your child to play undersea adventures. Conversations and reading books about fish, diving, or the ocean will provide more information for your child to include in his “script.”

The most important gift you can gift your child is the gift of time. Be mindful of involving your child in so many activities that there is no time for play. Because creativity and imagination need time to blossom, blocking off time in your schedule for open-ended play is an important gift for your child. Have fun!

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Getting Ready for College: Sophomore & Junior Edition

by Tim Hoffman, HCA College Counselor

For high school seniors, spring is often the time to start making your final decision about what college you will attend. So, what should freshman, sophomores, and juniors do in the spring regarding college? Here are a few steps to start working on:

  • Of course, keeping your grades up is important. Most colleges will evaluate a student’s chance of being admitted mainly using the 9th, 10th, and 11th grade years. Your GPA will be important for being accepted as well as for consideration for scholarships.
  • It won’t be long until you start deciding what classes to take next year. Challenging yourself with advanced classes can help you in your college preparation. If you feel that you are up for the challenge, consider taking AP or college credit classes.
  • What do you want to major in at college and what do you want to do professionally after you graduate from college? Why not start exploring that now? Consider volunteering at businesses or organizations that may be of interest professionally. Do some job shadowing and community service. This will not only be a benefit to you as you begin the process of picking a college major, but it may even help in getting accepted to college, getting scholarships, and helping the community.
  • For both students and parents, the thought of paying for college can be scary. How can you afford it? College is an investment and now is a great time to look for that summer job and start saving for college. Parents can consider talking with a financial advisor and looking into college saving plans like the College Invest 529 plan or an Education Savings Account (ESA).
  • Visiting college campuses is a great way to narrow down where you may want to attend. If you have some vacation time available, the summer is a good time to visit schools. Contact the admissions office and inquire about visits. Many schools even have Spring Preview days that will give you a chance to stay on campus overnight in April or early May.
  • If it is too hard to visit a campus now, consider attending a Spring College Fair. The University of Denver (DU) will host one Sunday, April 6th from 1-3:30pm and there will be around 150 colleges attending. It is a good time to talk with representatives and hear more about different schools and programs. Here is a link for more information:

As you can see, there are a number of steps to take now that can help you prepare for college and hopefully make the final steps easier. Keep in mind it is a process and it can be overwhelming, but I also hope it is a fun process. You can contact me if you have questions or need some help with this exciting time at:

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Choosing New Books Wisely: “Letters to Anyone and Everyone”

Postmodern Japanese author, Haruki Murakami, pushes against Japanese literary conventions. He encourages a wide reading of texts and says, “If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking.”

Often times, strong cultural influences impact aesthetic taste, acculturation, and thinking. Therefore, when selecting books it is important to include books written by international authors. Letters to Anyone and Everyone was written by “one of Holland’s most renowned and loved authors . . . [whose books] are loved all through Europe” (Perry, 2010).

The beautiful whimsy of Tellegen and Ahlberg’s Letters to Anyone and Everyone (2010) demonstrates why this author and illustrator are beloved.  The book consists of twenty-three small stories, written as short letters by a group of animals and delivered by the wind from door to door.

Take a look at the first letter:

“Dear Snail,

May I invite you to dance with me on top of your house? Just a few steps? That’s what I want most of all.

I promise I’ll dance very delicately, so we won’t fall through your roof.

But of course, you can never be really sure.

The Elephant”

This quirky epistolary collection engages the imagination as it celebrates cake, friendship, letter writing, and life. Ahlberg’s small and precise drawings add to the poetic experience, bringing rich characters to life and inviting a close viewing of these imaginary communications.

I believe this is one of those books that will inspire thoughts not everyone else is thinking.

Recommended for Independent HCA Readers Grades 2+ and shared reading of HCA Readers Grades Kindergarten+.


Also recommended The Squirrel’s Birthday, and Other Parties (2009), Far Away across the Sea (2012), and A Great and Complicated Adventure (2013)

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The Importance of Family Devotions

by Brian Christensen, HCA Parent

It is clear from scripture that as parents we are charged with being good stewards of the children we have been blessed with. Devotions offer a format to fulfill Deuteronomy 6:6-7, “These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”

In the midst of the information age Christian’s have gotten quite complex and may I say even formulaic in the way they go about having devotions. I would like to propose that there is no cookie cutter way in which we should go about this important commitment.

I love to fool around in our yard and garden and evidently I am not alone. For century’s long gardening has made top ten lists for most popular leisure activity. Every garden is unique and requires special attention and active participation in order to bear fruit. Sixteen years of laboring in my yard have brought great joy, periodic challenge and lots of sweet fruit. However, the beauty and fruit have only come about through a commitment to know and understand my yard, to weather storms and challenges and to nurture it with consistent rhythms of fertilizing, watering, pruning and protecting it against pests (animals, insects & weeds). The act of nurturing our families is very similar.

Ephesians 5 & 6 makes it clear that one of God’s great designs for family is to be a delivery mechanism for the gospel. The gospel must be the main ingredient of the water and fertilizer that we nurture our families with. Be wary of falling into the trap of nurturing your family garden out of obligation alone. In doing so, our attempts to care for our family are at risk to becoming about rules rather than relationship. I have friends who look back on their family devotion time with disdain, saying it felt more like punishment than a time of encouragement. Therefore, our attitudes must embody the love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and gentleness that living by God’s Spirit promises in Galatians 5. If these qualities aren’t at the heart of our devotions, our attempts to cultivate will actually do what Ephesians 6:4 warns us not to do and provoke our kids to anger.

I won’t presume to know how God has made your child unique or what your family rhythms and schedule will allow as far as a regular devotion life with your family. I would encourage you to not just wing it! Think through a strategy for cultivating your child that takes into account your family lifestyle AND how your child has been made. Be a student of your child studying their tendencies, preferences, strengths & weaknesses. Ask yourself these two questions, “what fruit do I want to see produced?” and “how am I going to go about cultivating it?”

For our families schedule and the personality of our daughter we have decided to have “devotional eyes” that are always watching for opportunities to water, fertilize and nurture. Whether it is a song, book, movie, news article or real life issue, we want to be ready to ask stirring questions that elicit thinking, wondering and ultimately understanding about the Truth, God, his character and work in our lives. As we ride in the car, eat meals together, take walks or simply sit we want to be ready to give clear, honest and helpful answers. God bless you as you water, fertilize, and nurture the family God has blessed you with! And may God produce great fruit and multiply his greatness through you and your family!

Brian Christensen is a fellow Heritage parent who is husband to Keri & daddy to Molly. He has served on staff at Christ Fellowship Church in Fort Collins for the past 19 years and currently oversees communications, building & maintenance, leads the worship music teams and the Grapple ministry for 3rd-5th graders. He is especially passionate about missions, pastoral care and anything related to marriage & parenting. At the present time he is consumed with preparing his family for an adventure to China in August 2014 where they will serve ELIC for two years.

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