Learning Through Play

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By: Angy Talbot (ECFE Blog Writer)

“Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood.” ~Fred Rogers

Play is how children begin to comprehend and grasp all the many concepts of their surroundings. Play is the groundwork for knowledge for young children. Children need opportunities to play in an atmosphere that promotes learning in all the areas of child development (Social Emotional, Fine Motor, Gross Motor, Cognitive, Language, Literacy, and Math). Today children do not have as many play opportunities with the increased demands of academic success, structured activities and technology devices from computers, phones and television. Many toys sold are battery operated and don’t allow for the building of imagination or make believe play. Early childhood classrooms give children a unique educational play setting that fosters imagination and dramatic play. The early childhood classroom allows for social development for children to learn to play with other children of the same age with trained and responsive teachers that guide and coach children to play successfully with one another.
Our ECFE and Discovery Learning Preschool programs are prepared and enriched learning environments that allow for children to have opportunities to explore many different learning areas from blocks, dramatic play, art, sand, water, music, writing, literacy, math, sensory, science, puzzles, games, and outdoor play. Play is an effective and enjoyable way for children to develop many learning skills. “Play is an important vehicle for developing self regulation as well as for promoting language, cognition, and social competence. Children of all ages love to play, and it gives them opportunities to develop physical competence and enjoyment of the outdoors, understand and make sense of their world, interact with others, express and control emotions, develop their symbolic and problem solving abilities, and practice emerging skills. Research shows the links between play and foundational capacities such as memory, self regulation, oral language abilities, social skills, and success in school” (NAEYC position statement on play). Play is the basis of initial learning, which helps children to develop understanding of fundamental concepts and inquiry skills.
In addition to being linked to self-regulation skills, studies have found that purposeful and productive play is positively related to:
• Memory development (Levy, Wolfgang & Koorland, 1992)

• Symbolic thinking (Davidson, 1998; Kim, 1999)

• Positive approaches to learning (Levy, Wolfgang & Koorland, 1992)

• Positive social skills (Corsaro, 1988; Levy, Wolfgang & Koorland, 1992)

• Language and literacy skills (Berk, 2009; Kim, 1999; Levy, Wolfgang & Koorland, 1992)

• Math skills (Berk, 2009; Kim, 1999; Levy, Wolfgang & Koorland, 1992)
(Research Foundation – Creative Curriculum)
Concepts are developed through activities that occur naturally during play, such as counting, sorting, sequencing, predicting, hypothesizing, and evaluating. They are engaged in things they’re interested in—so they have a natural motivation to learn (Shonkoff & Phillips, 2000). As a preschool teacher, I have seen first hand the differences in children who have opportunities to play. Children through play are learning academic concepts from the alphabet to math skills in a manner that is fun, enjoyable, and retainable. Many children come to school for the first time not having the ability to engage and cooperate with their peers. Play has given them the opportunities to learn to interact, share, take turns, and bond with their peers and to form relationships with adults other than their parents. Not only is play fun in preschool, it gives children the prospect to relate with others and learn many different concepts with hands-on materials by using their imagination and making abstract concepts become concrete.
“ Play is the highest form of research.” ~Albert Einstein

For more information on the benefits of play check out these informational articles:

It’s The Way Young Children Learn
http://www.childaction.org/families/publications/docs/guidance/PlayItstheWayYoungChildrenLearn_Eng.pdf

10 Things Every Parent Should Know About Play
https://families.naeyc.org/learning-and-development/child-development/10-things-every-parent-should-know-about-play

Expression Through Art

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By: Angy Talbot, ECFE Blog Writer

Art is more than something exquisite or interesting; art can be an expression of someone’s soul.  Art can tell a story, make you feel, and keep you guessing.  There are many ways an artist can express themselves through painting, sculpture, drawing, collage, and art can be produced from any media imaginable.  There are many types of art and numerous ways that one could present an art piece.  When you paint a picture, you need to decide the type of paint you will use, the type of material you will be painting on, and the images you would like to paint.  There are many different elements that one can express through their art.  Many people, who do not consider themselves artists, would even be surprised at what they are capable of producing.  It is about the experimentation and enjoyment of the process while making something with your own hands.

Children enjoy participating in art activities.  Children can express what they may not be able to say in words sometimes through the use of a painting or drawing.  Art gives children the ability and the chance for them to produce their own creations.  Art is different than crafts.  “Art is open-ended with no specific end-product in mind; children are allowed to use materials in any way they choose” (NAEYC).  In the Discovery Classrooms, children are given the opportunity to use art materials how they wish from watercolors, paints, crayons, glue, scissors, play-dough, stamps, collage, clay, constructing, just to name a few items used.  The child doesn’t copy what the adult has made, but creates what they desire.  The process that a child goes through in creating art is more important than the end artifact.  By giving children many different ways to express themselves, this will help unlock their hidden talents or help the little artist to explore.  Children need to be given the opportunity to discover through various art materials.  Art is not about all children making one particular project.  Art is about self-expression, creativity, imagination, critical thinking, and problem solving.  Art is a beautiful way to express ideas, thoughts, and feelings.

As stated from, The Creative Curriculum for Preschool in the chapter titled, ArtLetter To Families:

Art is an important part of our curriculum.  Every day, children find a variety of art materials available on our shelves.  Drawing, painting, pasting, molding, and constructing are not only enjoyable but also provide important opportunities for learning.  Children express their ideas and feelings, improve their coordination, learn to recognize colors and textures, and develop creativity and pride in their accomplishments by exploring and using art materials.

When children are engaged in art activities, we talk with them about what they are doing and ask questions that encourage them to think about their ideas and express feelings.

We are just as interested in the creative process as we are in what children make.

What are some ways you incorporate art with your child?

Here are some other resources on art:

The Creative Arts Curriculum

http://www.naeyc.org/yc/pastissues/2004/july

Art vs. Crafts

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/u/MaryAnn-Kohl-Arts-Crafts/379002813/

Preschool Process And Product Art Defined

http://suite101.com/article/process-and-product-art-for-preschoolers-a122456

Fine Motor Development

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By: Angy Talbot (ECFE Blog Writer)

It is important that children develop their fine (small) motor skills. Fine motor skills are defined as the coordination of small muscle movements—usually involving the synchronization of hands and fingers. Fine motor skills involve writing, handling silverware, buttoning and grasping small objects. It is essential that children do activities that improve the muscles in the fingers and hands to strengthen handgrip and develop wrist movement. Children in today’s day of age are spending less time using fine motor manipulatives and toys while spending more time with technology. Underdeveloped fine motor muscles could make it difficult for children to write or cut in school. There are many different activities you can do to help strengthen and build your child’s fine motor skills.

• Cutting/Scissors Activities: Children can cut out coupons, magazines or greeting cards. Children can also cut out small pieces of paper and glue/paste into a collage. Making lines on paper with a ruler and having the child cut on the line. You can then change the line by adding a swirl or zigzag pattern.
• Jewelry Making: Using beads, macaroni or even fruit loops, children can make jewelry with a string or piece of yarn.
• Small Building Blocks: Toys like Lego’s or Tinker Toys to build with are great fine motor activities.
• Coloring and Drawing: Using crayons and coloring books or colored pencils with drawing paper.
• Tearing Paper: Tearing colored paper into small pieces to make a mosaic.
• Qtip Art: Painting pictures using paint and Q-tips instead of a paintbrush.
• Pick Up Small Objects: Use pennies and put them into a piggy bank or beans and placing into a small opening on a box or bag.
• Transfer with Tongs: Use tongs or spoons and have the child pick up beans or rice from one container or bowl to another.
• Play dough: Using different types of tools such as plastic knives and rolling pins or just their hands.
• Eyedroppers: Can be used in a sink, tub of water or bathtub.
• Getting Dressed: Zippers, buttons and snaps.
• Using Utensils: Holding spoons, forks and knives to eat.
• Pouring Water: Pouring their own water into a cup to drink.
• Puzzles: Puzzles of all sizes and difficulties.
• Containers: Opening and closing of container lids.
• Puppets: Playing with hand or finger puppets.
• Art Projects: Crafts and art of all kinds.

This is just a short list to help get you started. When children can practice fine motor skills they can learn to do more things independently. Fine motor skills are critical in every area of a child’s life from getting dressed, eating and picking up small objects. If your child appears to be having difficulties developing fine motor skills, please contact your child’s pediatrician or an occupational therapist.

The love of Valentine’s Day through childrens’ eyes

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heartsBy Ms. Angy, ECFE Blog Writer

I remember as a child looking forward to Valentine’s Day.  I would prepare each valentine for my classmates with care and wake up every Valentine’s Day morning with a card and a yummy box of chocolates on my breakfast plate.  For months after, I would organize and sort through all those lovely cards.  Valentine’s Day has always had a special place in my heart . . . no pun intended!  On my daughter’s first Valentine’s Day in preschool we had so much fun making all her friends a special valentine.  She took such immense attention to detail in decorating each and every one.  I was relieved that we started weeks before the holiday or I don’t think we would have been done on time.  Each year since her first Valentine’s Day, we still make her Valentine’s.  This has become a tradition, one I enjoyed as a child that I can now share with my daughter.  In our preschool Discovery classrooms, the children decorate bags or boxes to prepare for their Valentine cards and treats.  It is so fun to see the Valentine’s they pick or make to pass out to their friends.  I especially enjoy the excitement they have opening their bags after being filled with cards and candies.  Looking and inspecting each valentine!

Valentine’s Day can be a wonderful occasion to express to others how much we care, love, and appreciate them!  It does not have to be a holiday where you need to buy cards or gifts, but instead an opportunity to make Valentines for others or spend quality time together as a family.  “It’s never too early to help children express love and friendship in ways that transcend materialism. Because young children are concrete thinkers, it’s hard for them to understand a concept that can’t be represented by objects.  However, by watching you give gifts of kindness, time, compassion, respect, and thoughtfulness to the people you love – not just on holidays but throughout the year – they will learn that “I love you” means so much more than three words inscribed on a candy heart” (Alvin Poussaint, M.D.).  Have fun this Valentine’s Day expressing your love to those that mean so much to you.  You don’t need to spend a cent, because love is free and is the best gift of all!

For some fun Valentine’s Day ideas for kids go to:

PBS KIDSValentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day: Valentine’s Day Crafts for Kids – Martha Stewart

Valentine’s Day Ideas for Kids | Holiday Games and Activities

Kindergarten Experiences

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By: Angy Talbot – School Readiness Teacher/ECFE Blog Writerimages-2

I remember my very first day of Kindergarten.  On this day, my Mom walked me to the front door of a big building, the school that I could look down the road and see from my home.  As I said good-bye outside the front doors, my mother recalls that I did not cry, but smiled, waved, and took my bag and headed inside.  I remember making that long journey to the Kindergarten room.  Today, I can still recall the sights, sounds, and scents of my elementary school.  The lights so bright, the voices of children coming from every direction, and the smell of tempera paint, that I would have an opportunity to use on the easel (which became my favorite activity despite my lack of talent).   On that first day, my parents made sure I was prepared.  I could recite my ABC’s, count to 10, and buckle my shoes without assistance.   I remember feeling confident and excited on that day.  I also remember the feeling in my stomach that I could not explain, a knot that wouldn’t go away.  Looking back at pictures I can still recall sitting in a circle with my legs crossed and my hands in my lap, listening to a story.  There were lots of art activities from various paints, big thick crayons, and clay modeling.  But what I remember most was playing.  Playing in the kitchen pretending to make dinner and putting my dolls to bed.  Making friendships that lasted beyond grade school and trusting and caring about another adult, other than my parents.  I will never forget Kindergarten and my first teacher, Mrs. E.  She taught me that learning was fun and how to be a good friend.

I remember the experience of bringing my child to Kindergarten for the first time.  On this day, that very same feeling in my stomach reappeared, that knot that wouldn’t go away.  In fact, I was more nervous than she was.  I feel she was prepared for this day.  She went to preschool and was in Ms. Tiffany’s Discovery Learning School Readiness classroom.  In preschool, she learned how to interact with others, follow routines and rules, how to write her name, hang from the monkey bars, put on her snow pants and mittens by herself, how to count to 10 and recognize each numeral, and all the letters of the alphabet.    In her preschool experience, she grew so much in every area of development from social emotional to cognitive.  At home, we read to her each night before bed.  We began to sound out letters and she began to phonetically read.  We took time to practice skills like rhyming in natural settings, such as driving in the car or waiting our turn at the dentist office.   We would practice counting in the grocery store where she would count out 5 apples to put in the bag.    I felt secure that she had a great foundation and was ready to experience life in the outside world.  That day, my daughter, my baby, didn’t cry.  She gave hugs, smiled, walked to her new teacher, and waved good-bye.  When I left the building, I cried.  She did it!  She was able to face this new experience with confidence and elation.    That is what I want for every child that enters my school readiness classroom.  I want to give them every opportunity to grow, learn, and become independent.    My Kindergarten experiences help me to better understand the joys, concerns, and fears, of each child and family.  I am asked often, “What does my child need to know before kindergarten?”  Here is a kindergarten checklist from Family Education written by Peggy Gisler, Ed.S. and Marge Eberts, Ed.S.

·  Listen to stories without interrupting

·  Recognize rhyming sounds

·  Pay attention for short periods of time to adult-directed tasks

·  Understand actions have both causes and effects

·  Show understanding of general times of day

·  Cut with scissors

·  Trace basic shapes

·  Begin to share with others

·  Start to follow rules

·  Be able to recognize authority

·  Manage bathroom needs

·  Button shirts, pants, coats, and zip up zippers

·  Begin to control oneself

·  Separate from parents without being upset

·  Speak understandably

·  Talk in complete sentences of five to six words

·  Look at pictures and then tell stories

·  Identify rhyming words

·  Identify the beginning sound of some words

·  Identify some alphabet letters

·  Recognize some common sight words like “stop”

·  Sort similar objects by color, size, and shape

·  Recognize groups of one, two, three, four, and five objects

·  Count to ten

·  Bounce a ball

Read more on FamilyEducation: http://school.familyeducation.com/kindergarten/school-readiness/38491.html#ixzz1F4migrDn

Also, you can go to Elk River Area School District ready for kindergarten checklist at:  http://www.elkriver.k12.mn.us/schools.cfm?subpage=31533

Getting Ready For Back To School

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By: Angy Talbot

Now that we’re coming to an end of the Dog Days of Summer, it is time to slowly switch our thoughts back to school. Summer days tend to be carefree, stress less, and relaxing. In just a few weeks, the busy bustle will begin again in full force. It can be quite a transition for children to switch from summer mode to school days. Now is a great opportunity to begin preparing your children for back to school!

Here are a few tips to help you gradually get back into the school groove.

  • Go back to school shopping for school supplies with your children. Let them help go through the list of what’s needed while letting them pick out the colors they like of certain items and their own backpack. Children will get more excited if they’re involved with the preparations and they will have ownership of their new items.
  • School shopping for new clothes is always fun for kids. It is helpful to go through children’s clothes and shoes to make sure everything fits before the big shopping day. You can have special drawer or place in the closet that they can keep their new school clothes to wear for those first days. It helps to plan out which outfits they will wear that first week to help keep things stress free.
  • Plan lunches. Make a list with your child of the types of foods they like to eat for lunch. I love all the ideas I have gotten on Pinterest for new ways to pack lunches. This is a great time to try some new foods, like hummus or cottage cheese. If your child likes them, you’ll have more options for lunchtime. It’s also helpful to copy off the first month’s lunch calendar so your children can pick out which days they will have hot or cold lunch in advance.
  • Get the calendar ready. Have a calendar posted that the whole family can see with September events and schedules from music classes, football games, and don’t forget the first day of school. I use a big dry erase calendar that I switch each month. It’s easy to add and change events.
  • Get organized! Make sure you have everything in order and ready to go from documentations needed or child well checks and immunizations. Check with the school’s website to make sure you have everything needed before the first day of school. It’s also helpful to get your house in order, cleaned and organized before school starts.
  • Read books or watch movies about going back to school. Some fun movies for school-age children are: Matilda, Dairy of a Wimpy Kid, Harriet the Spy, Akeelah and the Bee, Freaky Friday, Nancy Drew, and High School Musical.
  • Try to slowly get back into your regular routine. Begin by:
    • Eating all meals similar to the times they will eat during the school year.
    • Reestablishing regular bedtime routines from bathing, teeth brushing, story time and tucking in.
    • Make sure your child is getting enough sleep each night from 9 to 10 hours.
    • Start to put your child down for bedtime a little earlier each week until the week before school so that they are going to bed at the time they will when school begins. Do the same for wake up times too.

Here are some helpful tips for those children who are going to school for the first time:

  • Start reading books about going to school for the first time.

What to Expect at Preschool (What to Expect Kids) by Heidi Murkoff

Preschool Day Hooray! by Linda Leopold Strauss

Maisy Goes to Preschool: A Maisy First Experience by Lucy Cousins

Llama Llama Misses Mama by Anna Dewdney

I Love You All Day Long by Francesca Rusackas

  • Drive by the school and point out, “There’s your new school.” If possible walk around, check out the playground and show your child the entrance to the building.
  • Watch movies about going to school. Some great movies for preschoolers are: Curious George Back to School, Franklin Goes to School, Sesame Street Ready for School, Caillou Goes to School, and Barney Let’s Play School.
  • Learn the teachers’ names and something about them to tell your child.
  • Meet the teachers and have a tour of the classroom before school starts (often schools will have an Open House).
  • Have conversations about the kinds of things they will do at school (playing on the playground, playing with new friends, doing art projects, playing with blocks, etc.) and ask your child if they have any questions about school.
  • Take pictures of the school, classroom, teachers, and make a little book just for your child.
  • Share memories with your child of some fun school recollections you had for our first day at school.
  • Tell your child often and how much fun school is!!

And don’t forget there is still time to enjoy what’s left of summer!

 

The Importance of Play

By Ms. Angy, ECFE Blog Writer

peek a boo Play is one significant way that children learn and play is important for children’s healthy development.  Through play, children explore and use their imagination by trying out new skills and bonding with others.  Play is an essential and critical part of all children’s development.  “Play starts in the child’s infancy, and ideally, continues throughout his or her life.  Play is how children learn to socialize, to think, to solve problems, to mature, and most importantly, to have fun.  Play connects children with their imagination, their environment, their parents and family, and the world (Play, Montana State).”  As parents, we can support our children’s play by initiating play activities and simply playing with our children.  As early as infancy, parents are their child’s first playmate.  When you engage with your baby by making silly faces or playing peek-a-boo, this is the beginning stage of play.   When a caregiver plays with an infant, there is a connection and bond that helps him or her feel secure, safe, and loved.  It’s important to try to spend as much time connecting and playing with your infant or toddler.

As children grow older, play becomes their “work.”  They begin to use materials and toys in their play to assist with their imagination.  As a preschool teacher, at least 40 minutes of our class time is “Free-Choice” where children have an opportunity to play in all areas of the room from dramatic play, blocks, art, books, writing, water, sand, discovery, math, science, computer, and games.  During play, not only are children learning with the various materials, they are learning to communicate with other children and adults.  Play helps preschoolers learn how to share, play together, problem solve, and use critical thinking skills.  There are many cognitive activities that take place in a Discovery Preschool Classroom from learning letter names to numbers.  Even though academics are important, children’s social well-being and the development of social skills through play should never be overlooked or undervalued.  Play is not only enjoyable; it is the building blocks toward children’s knowledge and their experiences for the future!

I would like to share a quote by Anita Wadley, “When you asked me what I did in school today and I say, ‘I just played.’  Please don’t misunderstand me.  For you see, I am learning as I play.  I am learning to enjoy and be successful in my work.  Today I am a child and my work is play.”

The following websites promote creative play with ideas for activities you can do at home!

  • Public Broadcasting Service’s educational website for kids:

www.pbs.org/wholechild/parents/play.html

  • Art, science, architecture, history, ethnic studies, puzzles, games, activities

and much more, just for kids:   www.niehs.nih.gov/kids/home.htm

What are some ways you play with your child?