Keep Me Home
Excuse This House
Learned in Daycare
Child Comes Home Messy
What Is In Your Bag Today?
Nothing in my bag?
Ten Commandments for Parents
Quality Family Childcare
Childcare is Priceless
I Love My Job
Along with a need for safe and
supervised care, many parents enroll their child in a daycare or preschool
program with the expectation that they will be learning academic skills that
will prepare them for future school success. Because many of the parent's early
school or care experiences were rigid school environments comprised of
worksheets and teacher-directed activities, they are often dismayed to find
their children playing for most of the day.
After all, isn't play just an idle
waste of time? Surprisingly, child psychologists and educational specialists
will answer this with a resounding "No". Many early childhood teachers and
daycare providers are now recognizing what they have found in numerous research
studies: Play is the most effective and powerful way for young children to
learn. Often it is said that play is the work of childhood, the primary method
for them to learn about themselves, others and their world.
Some scientists have found
play can sculpt the brain
and build denser webs of neural connections. When we play we literally exercise
our brain cells. The nerve cells in the brain actually thicken and grow as we
"Imagination is more important
than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world."
-- Albert Einstein
What is play?
We do not have to be taught to
play. It is a universal activity, although it takes many forms. Indeed, children
of every culture engage in play. It is true free play that is the most
influential in learning and development. This form of play has specific
child-directed and chosen
"Knowledge arises neither from
objects nor the child, but from interactions between the child and those
-- Jean Piaget
What does play
Play is the best way for young
children to learn the
concepts, skills, and tasks
needed to set a solid foundation for later school and life success. Most daycare
and childcare programs focus on developing the whole child: socially,
emotionally, physically and intellectually. Many common play activities meet
||WHAT IS LEARNED
||language development, fine-motor skills, counting, coordination, and
||large motor skills, creativity, cooperation, and spatial concepts
||social skills (cooperation, turn-taking and sharing) language and
imagination, emotional expression
||problem solving, abstract reasoning, shapes, and spatial concepts
||a foundation for more advanced
science comprehension including gravity,
stability, weight, and balance
||measuring, problem solving, and fine motor skills
||math skills (counting and measuring,) nutrition and science concepts
cause and effect)
||creativity, emotional expression, symbolic representation, fine-motor
THE IMPORTANCE OF PLAY
by Linda Shekerdemian
With ever increasing pressures on children today, such as information
overload from the internet, over-stimulating video games and too many
scheduled extra curricular activities, it is important to take the time to
examine how we can best support children through the joys and challenges of
growing up. How as a community can we become more aware of the needs of
children and what can we do to enhance and support children's emotional well
being and future mental health? I believe one simple answer to this question,
that we may have lost sight of, is to provide children with more opportunities
for expressive free play and to recognize the important healing aspects of
Play is the language of children. It is their most natural activity.
Through play children express themselves, explore their world and learn. Even
though play looks as if it is only amusing, fun and joyful, it is an extremely
important activity for children, and even for adults. We find ways of playing
throughout our lives whether it is through art, sewing, cooking, building
projects, kayaking or rollerblading. Play is an activity that benefits us in
so many ways and contributes to our overall sense of well being.
Through pretend or fantasy play children are able to set up and resolve
emotional conflicts, e.g. how they will share their mom with a new baby. They
also learn about the world in a safe, predictable environment that they have
control over. They do this by acting out important scenarios, these might
include, visiting the doctor or hospital, being the mommy or daddy, or being
the police officer. Play gives children the opportunity to try out many
different roles and develop their social skills.
For parents, observing a child’s pretend play provides a window into their
world. Feelings and thoughts that might be too difficult or painful for them
to communicate become accessible. This is especially useful when children are
in the early stages of speech and language development.
Play can also be an important therapeutic intervention for children
experiencing adjustment problems. Play therapy offers children a safe, natural
and non-intrusive method of recovering from distressing life events, such as a
divorce in the family, and healing from major trauma. It can be a useful
intervention for children exhibiting a range of problematic behaviors such as
regression, anxiety, extreme anger, aggression and fears. Play therapy can
also help children who are experiencing difficulties at school due to learning
disabilities. In play therapy children can have dolls, animals or other
figures relive their problematic experiences and gain a sense of mastery over
the world that, in real life, is difficult for them to do. In the playroom
children can create a world that they can understand, overcome frightening
feelings and symbolically triumph over upsets and traumas, e.g. having
superhero figures defeat the "bad guys". An expressive emotional outlet and
stable therapeutic relationship, such as play therapy provides, greatly
enhances a child’s emotional health, self esteem as well as increasing their
ability to experience success at school and form positive relationships.
I would like to share a personal experience that illustrates the power of
play and how anyone can help a child by providing them with an expressive
outlet through play. Last December I had the opportunity to witness the
powerful impact of play with a very young child. I was not acting in the
capacity of play therapist but just as a friend sharing some important toys.
Friends of mine from up north in B.C. had been medevaced from Smithers to
Children’s Hospital in Vancouver. Their little boy, Bobby (not his real name),
was in the midst of a hemolytic crisis, with his hemoglobin levels dropping
dangerously low. Bewildered and overwhelmed they set up camp in their little
hospital room. Over the course of their 4-day stay at Children’s and prior to
being transported to Vancouver, Bobby was subjected to many painful tests and
procedures. His parents were concerned that he was being repeatedly
traumatized and was becoming fearful of all strangers, believing that anyone
he didn’t know was going to hurt him. Only nursing and being in constant
physical contact with his mom or dad provided him any comfort.
During my visit on his second day in the hospital I brought along my play
medical kit. After assuring Bobby that I had come to visit and play with him
and was not going to hurt him I took the medical kit out and spread its
contents out on the bed where Bobby and his mom were sitting. I started out
talking to Bobby’s teddy bear and explaining that he (the bear) was going to
have a few medical procedures. I first started by taking his blood pressure,
assuring him that this would not hurt him. Bobby watched very attentively and
then repeated what I had done, taking teddy’s blood pressure himself. We then
listened to teddy’s heart. Bobby’s mom joined in the play as we took her blood
pressure and listened to her heart. Then Bobby began to attempt to listen to
his own heart and take his own blood pressure, we helped him through each of
these activities. Once Bobby seemed relaxed and engaged in this play I took
out the play syringe and talked to teddy and Bobby about having a blood test
and that this would hurt for a short time. Bobby was immediately drawn to the
syringe and used it to take teddy’s blood and then began poking his own arm
with it. He then took the syringe and began pushing it near where he had an
I.V. needle bandaged around his hand. He looked at me and pointed to his I.V.
again then started to cry as he crumpled forward on the bed. He then sat up
and continued his play. I repeated in words what Bobby had shown us through
his play and thanked him for telling us that having the I.V. needle put in had
This was a profound and deeply touching experience for both Bobby’s mother and
myself. Bobby at 17months old, with no verbal language, was able through play
to express and communicate to us his feelings of hurt, fear and sadness. The
toys had acted as his words.
Did having this outlet lessen the impact of the trauma this young child
experienced? We can't know for sure what the long-term impact of such an
experience will be for this particular child but providing him with a means to
express his distress through play seemed to empower him and make his world a
little less confusing. I hope this story of little Bobby illustrates how we
can all use play to help children through difficult times, to enrich their
every day lives and enhance their sense of well being.
FAMILIES TODAY By T. Berry Brazelton
Play, not reading, should be focus of early childhood. In the pressured world
of families today, many parents of preschool-aged children wonder when to
begin teaching them to read and write. My response: Don’t, until they demand
it. It’s all too easy to overdo teaching letters and numbers. To me, the
timing is not as important as the child’s own desire to learn. It’s so easy to
push early learning on a child who is compliant at this age. But it does more
harm than good. We’ve known this for some time. In the 1960s there was a
movement toward early teaching, led by a professor at Yale, Dr. O.K. Moore. He
felt that if children could be taught early to read and write, they’d be more
competitive when they entered school. This was true – up to a point. In order
to please adults around them, 3-year-olds could learn to read and write
successfully. They didn’t seem to know what they were reading, but they could
do it. When they reached first grade, they were ahead of other children, and
they received the adult approval they needed. But many of these “precocious”
children hadn’t learned the skills they needed to get along with peers. They
were adult oriented. In the second and third grades, these children began to
slip. The rote learning processes they’d used to learn earlier didn’t
generalize to the more complex learning they needed in later grades. They
seemed stuck with more primitive learning methods. These unfortunate children
then hit bottom. They were not the stars any longer, other children had
deserted them and adults were disappointed. This left them feeling sad and
deserted. Despite this and later evidence that such precocious early training
is costly, many parents are still eager to give children a “head start.” Books
and programs promising ways to “teach your baby to read” continue to
proliferate. I strongly urge parents to stay away from them. A child learns
best who learns for herself, not others. Play is her way of learning. When she
learns by play, she tries different techniques to find out what works for her.
When she can’t achieve something she is interested in doing,she gets
frustrated. Frustration drives her to find out how to do it.
When she finally does it, she gets a wonderful feeling: “I did it myself!”,
that is the most rewarding fuel for future learning there is. Ambitious
parents must learn to watch the child, to stay in the background and let her
learn for herself. It’s difficult but necessary. A parent’s job is to admire,
approve and even encourage, but not to push. Choosing a preschool can be done
with the same philosophy in mind. Play is the powerful way
children learn their most important tasks at this
age – how to play with other children, how to
handle other adults and how to learn about
themselves as social people. The tasks of this
age group are enormous:
learning about aggression
learning how to identify with everyone around them
Learning about oneself and about one’s peers is
the best learning that parents can provide in
these preschool years. The one thing I’d like for all the children to feel
about themselves at this age is, “I’m important! Everyone likes me!”
Reprinted with permission
STAR BULLETIN – Tuesday, November 10, 1998
Take It Outside!
Think back to your own childhood. Chances
are, some of your fondest memories are of outdoor activities and places.
Perhaps you had a favorite climbing tree of secret hiding place. Maybe you
remember jumping rope or learning to turn cartwheels with your best friend
or playing fetch with the family dog. Do you recall the smell of lilacs,
the feel of the sun on the first day warm enough to take off your jacket, or
the taste of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich eaten on a blanket in the
park? Did you enjoy lying on your back and finding creatures in the clouds?
Now ask yourself: Don’t I want my child to
have similar memories? Wonderful, happy memories?
Unfortunately, a great many of today’s
children will grow up without such fond memories because today’s children
spend far less time outdoors than did previous generations. According to
William Doherty of the University of Minnesota, over the last twenty years
there has been a 25 percent decline in the time children spend playing and a
50 percent decline in time spent in unstructured outdoor activities.
It is unfortunate because when children spend
most of their time indoors, they’ll not just be missing out on memories but
also on everything else the outdoors has to offer them.
To begin with, the outdoors is the best place
for young children to practice and master emerging physical skills and to
experience the pure joy of movement. It’s also the place where they’re
likely to burn the most calories, which is absolutely necessary in the fight
Also, the outside light stimulates the pineal
gland, which is the part of the brain that helps regulate the biological
clock, is vital to the immune system, and simply makes us feel happier.
Outside light triggers the synthesis of vitamin D. And a number of studies
have demonstrated that it increases academic learning and productivity!
Young children learn much through their
senses, and the outdoors is a virtual wonderland for the senses. There are
different and incredible things for the children to see (insects, clouds,
and shadows), to hear (traffic sounds, birdsongs, leaves rustling in the
wind), to smell (flowers and the rain-soaked ground), to touch (a fuzzy
caterpillar or the bark of a tree), and even to taste (newly fallen snow, a
raindrop, or a freshly picked blueberry). Children who spend much of their
time acquiring experiences through television, computers, and even books are
using only two senses (hearing and sight), and this can seriously affect
their perceptual abilities. Additionally, much of this learning, which
falls under the content area of science, can’t be acquired indoors. Nor can
children who spend most of their time indoors be expected to learn to care
for the environment.
Outside, children are more likely to invent
games. As they do, they’re able to express themselves and learn about the
world in their own way. They feel safe and in control, which promotes
autonomy, decision making, and organizational skills. Inventing rules for
games promotes an understanding of why rules are necessary. And although
children are just playing to have fun, they learn:
communication skills and vocabulary, as
they invent, modify, and enforce rules;
number relationships, as they keep score
and count; and
social skills, as they learn to play
Then, too, there’s the aesthetic value of the
outdoors. Because the natural world is filled with amazing sights, sounds,
and textures, it’s the perfect resource for the development of aesthetics in
young children. Since aesthetic awareness means a heightened sensitivity to
the beauty around us, it’s something that can serve children well at those
times when, as adolescents and adults, the world seems less than beautiful.
Further, Mary Rivkin, author of The Great
Outdoors: Restoring Children’s Right to Play Outside, tells us there is
on very basic reason that children need to experience being outside: human
evolved in the outdoors. They thus have a link with nature that can’t be
replaced – in fact, will be atrophied – by technology. She asks if, lacking
intimate association with nature, we can still be human!
learn their values from the important adults in their lives. When they’re
not encouraged to go outdoors, they learn sedentary habits not easily
changed and, more unfortunately, that the outdoor environment is of little
Rae is a children's physical
activity specialist and the author of several books, including
Your Active Child: How to Boost Physical, Emotional, and Cognitive
Development through Age-Appropriate Activity (McGraw-Hill, 2003).
You can e-mail her at
Educational Purpose of Play
Have you ever been curious about what educational learning is going
On when your child plays with blocks, cooks up a batch of play-dough,
Dress up and play Mommy and Daddy, paint a picture with just lots of
Beautiful colors but maybe no identifiable objects, pour water from
Here to there for an hour, place puzzle pieces carefully or colored pegs In
random order, or just any kind of play?
Knowledge is not something that is given to children as though they
Were empty vessels to be filled? Children acquire knowledge about
The physical and social worlds in which they live through playful
Interaction with objects and people. Children do not need to be forced
To learn; they are motivated by their own desire to make sense of their
World (taking from Developmentally Appropriate Practice in Early Childhood
Programs Serving Children From Birth Through Age Eight, NAEYC, 1990).
Following is a summary of some of the serious learning that is Happening when it
might appear to us adults that our children are "Just playing".
Blocks and other building materials encourage the expression of The child's
creative resources as an art medium. These materials Help the child reproduce
places and experiences in his/her own world. They also help develop eye-hand
coordination and motor control, as
Well as special relationships. They assist in discovering and working Out
mathematical and scientific findings for the child.
Cooking activities build autonomy and understanding of the adult world. These
activities aid in the development of small motor coordination and Introduce
pre-math and reading readiness.
Props, costumes and puppets encourage dramatic play. Through Dramatic play the
child has the opportunity to try various roles he/she
Sees in our ever-changing world. It allows for social interaction among Peers
and provides opportunities for verbal communication.
Opportunities to play with plants, animals and other things in the natural
environment aid the child in his/her growing understanding of the world of
Field trips aid in building and clarifying concepts in the world of work, people
Art/Craft experiences include painting, cutting, pasting, and molding, drawing
and much more. These activities provide a way for the child to express feelings
and ideas. They help develop fine motor control and skills in handling tools.
They also provide endless opportunities to choose and create. The process of the
art activity is far more important than the product!
Table games, puzzles and other manipulative materials encourage eye-hand
coordination and the seeing of similarities and differences in color, Size and
shape. They also help develop visual memory, practice in Classification and
individual activity and self-reliance.
Story time is a time for quiet and relaxation. It is a time used to broaden The
child's knowledge of his/her world and to aid in the understanding of his/her
feelings and the feelings of others. Story time helps promote recall,
classification and differentiation, the enjoyment of books, awareness of left to
right progression and the proper use and care of books.
Water and sand play provides the opportunity to develop small muscle
coordination and eye-hand coordination. It also provides for cooperation and
stimulates verbal communication. It is an activity, which allows for the
relaxation of tension.
When I'm building in the block room,
Please dont' say I'm "just playing."
For, you see, I'm learning as I play.
About balances and shapes.
When I'm getting all dressed up,
Setting the table, caring for the babies,
Don't get the idea I'm "just playing."
For, you see, I'm learning as I play.
I may be a mother or a father someday.
When you see me up to my elbows in paint,
Or standing at an easel, or molding and shaping clay,
Please don't let me hear you say "he's just playing."
For, you see, I'm learning as I play.
I'm expressing myself and being creative.
I may be an artist or an inventor someday.
When you see me sitting in a chair
"Reading" to an imaginary audience,
Please don't laugh and think I'm "just playing."
For, you see, I'm learning as I play.
I may be a teacher someday.
When you see me combing the bushes for bugs,
Or packing my pockets with choice things I find,
Don't pass it off as "just playing."
For, you see, I'm learning as I play.
I may be a scientist someday.
When you see me engrossed in a puzzle,
Or some "plaything" at my school, (daycare)
Please don't feel the time is wasted in "play"
For you see, I'm learning as I play.
I'm learning to solve problems and concentrate.
I may in business someday.
When you see me cooking or tasting foods,
Please don't think that because I enjoy it, it is just "play."
I'm learning to follow directions and see differences.
I may be a chef someday.
When you see me learning to skip, hop, run and move my body,
Please don't say I'm "just playing."
For you see, I'm learning as I play.
I'm learning how my body works.
I may be a doctor, nurse or athlete someday.
When you ask me what I've done at school (daycare) today,
And I say, "I played."
Please don't misunderstand me.
For, you see, I'm learning as I play.
I'm learning to enjoy and be successful in work.
I'm preparing for tomorrow.
Today, I'm a child and my work is play.
~by Anita Wadley from Chicken Soup for the Unsinkable Soul
Here's some soothing medicine for stressed-out parents and overscheduled kids:
The American Academy of Pediatrics says what children really need for healthy
development is more good, old- fashioned playtime.
Many parents load their children's schedules with get-smart videos, enrichment
activities and lots of classes in a drive to help them excel. The efforts
often begin as early as infancy.
Spontaneous, free play _ whether it's chasing butterflies, playing with "true
toys" like blocks and dolls, or just romping on the floor with mom and dad _
often is sacrificed in the shuffle, a new academy report says.
Jennifer Gervasio has a 5-year-old son and 3-year-old daughter involved in
preschool three mornings weekly, plus T-ball and ballet for each one day a
week. That's a light schedule compared to her kids' friends, and Gervasio said
her son in particular has trouble finding buddies who are free to come over
and just play.
"There's just such a huge variety of things you can do for your kids if you
have the resources, you almost feel why not," said Gervasio, of Wilmette, Ill.
"There is a part of me that would worry if I don't sign my son up for some of
these things, will he not be on par with the other kids."
For now, she says, she resists the pressure, instead allowing her kids plenty
of time for looking for bugs, romping at the beach and other play activities
they love to do.
"I truly believe that they're better off when they can just do their own
thing," Gervasio said.
Numerous studies have shown that unstructured play has many benefits. It can
help children become creative, discover their own passions, develop
problem-solving skills, relate to others and adjust to school settings, the
academy report says.
"Perhaps above all, play is a simple joy that is a cherished part of
childhood," says the report, prepared by two academy committees for release
Monday at the group's annual meeting in Atlanta.
A lack of spontaneous playtime can create stress for children and parents
alike. If it occurs because young children are plopped in front of get-smart
videos or older children lose school recess time, it can increase risks for
obesity. It may even contribute to depression for many children, the report
Social pressures and marketing pitches about creating "super children"
contribute to a lack of playtime for many families. But so does living in
low-income, violence-prone neighborhoods where safe places to play are scarce,
the report says.
It says enrichment tools and organized activities can be beneficial but should
not be viewed as a requirement for creating successful children. Above all,
they must be balanced with plenty of free play time, the report says.
"In the current environment where so many parents feel pressure to be super
parents, I believe this message is an important one," said Dr. Kenneth
Ginsburg, the report's lead author and a pediatrician at The Children's
Hospital of Philadelphia.
Noted pediatrician and author Dr. T. Berry Brazelton praised the academy's
"I hope it will have some effect," Brazelton said. Children overscheduled with
structured activities "are missing the chance they have to dream, to
fantasize, to make their own world work the way they want it. That to me is a
very important part of childhood," Brazelton said.