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"Play" How to convey its importance to mutistakeholders especially parents!

  • 1.  "Play" How to convey its importance to mutistakeholders especially parents!

    Posted 06-30-2017 10:33 AM
    Hey Family,

    Every year I have a few families who don't understand what children learn while working with playdough, playing with blocks, or in dramatic play. "When are they going to learn how to read?" is a question I often receive. I try to explain that early literacy doesn't always look like actual reading. How do you share and even sometimes convince parents that children do learn through play?


    Hector Rivera
    DreamYard Project, Inc.
    Bronx NY

  • 2.  RE: "Play" How to convey its importance to mutistakeholders especially parents!

    Posted 06-30-2017 11:10 AM

    Generally when I talk with parents about learning through play, I do it at the start of their child's enrollment in my infant or toddler room. Since they get the Ages and Stages Questionnaire at their home visit, I get a chance to go over the domains of development and answer questions at that time. 

     If they ask me about precursor literacy at the home visit, I generally share that children learn these concepts as we read to them, engage them in songs and stories and puppet play, and through the give and take of conversation, as well as by observing environmental print and learning to scribble with writing tools.  I share that play-dough play strengthens the muscles that will later be used for writing. I have a piece up in NAEYC's "For Families" website on the topic that I also can share.

    Then, in our first documentation piece (usually in week two), I talk about the contents of every area of the classroom and give examples of the kinds of tools children develop through each of the activities in relation to the domains of development (including language-literacy -- I generally begin my focus on that topic in the Quiet Area).   My goal is to help families know that children need to develop skills across the domains, and to create home to school links about the importance of learning in all areas, from learning the precursor concepts of math in the block and cognitive areas, to developing social and emotional skills in dramatic play, to learning to use tools such as scissors while developing hand-eye coordination in art-sensory.

    I find that documentation is hugely valuable -- pairing an image of the children at focused work with a description of what they are learning in each domain, why it is important, and connections to a place for further learning such as NAEYC for families, or Zero to Three or CSEFEL invites everyone to work together in supporting the child's development.

    Julia Luckenbill
    Davis CA

  • 3.  RE: "Play" How to convey its importance to mutistakeholders especially parents!

    Posted 07-01-2017 07:40 AM
    I thought Julia’s response to encourage parents/families to promote curiosity across the domains for each child is a great one. In addition, the idea of ages and stages is very positive ..for myself I prefer the standpoint of stages rather than pigeon-holing a child to an age group. Each family brings a different cluster of relationships to the childcare centre and this dialogue is crucial to provoking the child’s development in a creative; nurturing; and enduring fashion.
    Specifically “play”—Here is a story: an illustrator ( Eric Carle) and author Bill Martin( Co-authors )shared their experience in a video clip the Blue Horse
    ( unsure of exact reference) where Eric shared the fact that Bill as talented as he was never learned to read “properly” until he ws in his late teens when he had a stroke of luck to connect with a person who engaged him in patterned speech through rhythm— beat. Poetry therefore often a forgotten part of the literacy arts can touch learners who are marginalized.
    So where am I going with this? This arts for most children, if we look at the works of Eisner; Gardner; Gablik; Melamed( self) the child usually gravitates towards at least one of these experiential concrete applications of their own domain strengths. Under careful observation and drawing from Reggio schools the child can be part of the documentation process and one may even include the family to assist all involved parties to form a rich relationship in life long learning.
    Thus Playdough provides a physicality that builds on the senses; which are crucial to child language development.
    dr. miriam melamed

  • 4.  RE: "Play" How to convey its importance to mutistakeholders especially parents!

    Posted 07-01-2017 12:06 PM
    Invite parents to play with their children and you talk about the learning experiences that they are having through play.

    Sent from my iPhone

  • 5.  RE: "Play" How to convey its importance to mutistakeholders especially parents!

    Posted 07-02-2017 08:31 AM
    Maybe part of the strategy is finding familiar (jargon-free, non-education) language that families understand. I wonder what the response would be if we described play as "practice" or "warm ups" for later literacy (and other) skills?

    Faith Rogow


  • 6.  RE: "Play" How to convey its importance to mutistakeholders especially parents!

    Posted 07-03-2017 06:36 AM
    Whenever we post pictures of children actively engaged in play, my teachers comment not only on the activity they are doing but also connect it to the learning that is occurring. I now hear parents comment on skills acquired, rather than "looks like fun."

    Dawnita Nilles
    University Children''s Learning Center
    Grand Forks ND

  • 7.  RE: "Play" How to convey its importance to mutistakeholders especially parents!

    Posted 07-01-2017 05:54 PM
    I think 'play' is commonly misunderstood by parents as wasting valuable time that should be spent learning. I recently wrote a blog that tried to show not only that play is learning, but that researchers in the field of early childhood development have said this for many years.

    Here is the link to the blog if it is helpful.
    Want your child to love learning? Play more, stress less ::

    Alison Gammage
    St Timothys's School
    Raleigh NC

  • 8.  RE: "Play" How to convey its importance to mutistakeholders especially parents!

    Posted 07-04-2017 01:37 PM
    Teachers, parents, administrators, early childhood education students: anyone is helped to value the learning that happens organically in children's play when we practice observing for the learning. It requires waiting...and watching. For educators the watching might include note taking. Watch, listen, wonder, and name what children are learning from one another as they engage in play. Children's play comes in all forms...building with blocks, imaginative/ pretend play, lego construction, play with paints, play with numbers and letters, play while riding on the bus with games like "rocks, paper, scissors." The adult can practice naming while watching: what are the kids learning here? It means an open mind ready to learn from children at play. Try to name: what are two five-year-olds learning when they play rock, paper, scissors? What is the social learning? the math learning? the cognitive learning?  the physical learning? Learning does not need to be superimposed by an adult.

    Gretchen Reynolds
    Ottawa ON

  • 9.  RE: "Play" How to convey its importance to mutistakeholders especially parents!

    Posted 07-04-2017 05:34 AM

    When we are discussing the importance of play as a young child's primary vehicle for learning, I think it is important to bring up the huge body of research that has been done in major universities all over the world about early brain development, how young children learn, and how we can improve the way we support the learning process.  I also find it useful to bring up the fact that there are continual advances in just about all aspects of most other fields, and periodically updating knowledge, skills and procedures is an expectation; in the field of early learning there are many, many teachers who are still teaching the way we did in 1985 (and many, many parents demanding it!)  This begs the question "What's wrong with this picture?" I think part of the problem is that many of the teachers and caregivers currently working in our field, and most of the parents of the children we are caring for, went to preschool themselves in the 1980's and 1990's (or for older teachers, that's when they learned to teach) and they are simply knee-jerking to what they remember from their own childhoods.  Regardless, it can also be helpful to describe in detail exactly what a young child learns when they engage in difference kinds of play, for example:

    "When children play with blocks, they develop meaningful skills in all areas of their development.  Creating block structures develops an understanding of balance, symmetry, leverage, and ratios.  Children learn about length, height, weight, area, size and function.  They learn to predict cause-and-effect.  They develop their creativity and sense of design.  They utilize emergent reading and writing skills when they make props and signs for their block structures. They develop large and small muscle strength and skills, and strengthen their hand-eye coordination and depth perception. These are all precursors to reading, writing, math and science.  Block play also offers a wealth of opportunities to refine social skills as children work together to create houses, zoos, towers, roads, castles, and so much more."

    Finally, I think it is useful to define the difference between "traditional" learning that focuses primarily on memorizing, reciting, and following directions without necessarily understanding what has been learned, and "developmentally appropriate, meaningful, foundational" learning which involves understanding what has been learned and prepares the child for the next level of learning.           

    Linda Crisalli
    Kirkland WA

  • 10.  RE: "Play" How to convey its importance to mutistakeholders especially parents!

    Posted 07-05-2017 07:15 AM
    When discussing learning through play with parents, it helps if you have concrete examples of their child's learning. For example, I documented a young boy constructing a fort out of chairs and a blanket. The documentation followed his steps in discovering spatial relationships as he negotiated making a roof with the blanket. Afterwards, I recorded a conversation with the young boy about choices he had made as well as the process he went through to construct the fort. So when I spoke with his parents, there was evidence of learning.
    When you have evidence of learning and can demonstrate how scaffolding helps the child learn or solidifies the child's ideas, it is easier to explain other approaches which might seem more academic based is memorization and recitation without tangible meaning and learning.

    Phillip Baumgarner
    Hull GA

  • 11.  RE: "Play" How to convey its importance to mutistakeholders especially parents!

    Posted 07-05-2017 04:03 PM
    Thank you Linda for your post!!! Well said!!! I loved how specific you were in your block play example. I am going to be using that with my staff when they return to work in August!!!! Educating teachers and parents is ongoing and so important. You also made a good point about so many other fields changing and progressing, why are some of us doing the same things we did in Early Childhood 20 years ago??? Thanks again!!!

    Karen Knudsen- Director
    North City Preschool
    Poway, CA

  • 12.  RE: "Play" How to convey its importance to mutistakeholders especially parents!

    Posted 07-06-2017 05:07 PM
    Hi Hector:

    I see you have a lot of excellent responses already and I am jumping in late, but I want to add a couple.

    First, I have to call out Julia's response about talking with parents about play during their initial enrollment visits. I could not agree more.When I was a director (loooongg ago)  I always explained our philosophy about play during initial visits and tours and pointed out what the children were doing and learning in the learning centers as we walked through the program. I often asked them to think back to when they were in preschool (if they were) and share their memories with me. I then either drew parallels to our program or highlighted what would be different for their child. They often told me about memories of worksheets, coloring books, and putting their heads down on desk! Many talked about snack time! All of those examples gave me opportunities to talk about what the day would look like for their child and why. I also told them what their children would not experience (i.e., worksheets, timeouts, drills, flash cards, desks, etc.). Sometimes they would say "But you will teach them to read, right?" and that would lead to detailed conversations about literacy, facilitation and play. I sometimes said "This is our philosophy. I hope you share our vision!" If they did not, I provided referrals to other programs that might be a better fit. Because of this initial frank conversation, once parents were enrolled, they were most always happy with our play-oriented DAP program.

    We also gave parents a "Guide to Considering _____ (program name)" with a lot more detail about the philosophy and what the day was like for children. It was a complement to our brochure that was more oriented to the philosophy.

    I also "invited" teachers to create signs with "What we are learning in the ____ (block/sand/book nook area)" with a list of simply worded objectives" that hung from the ceiling in each learning area so all parents would see them all of the time, and on the tour before they enrolled.

    What a great question you asked! And what wonderful answers our colleagues have provided! You go, Hector!

    I think if I were a Director today, I would take advantage of technology and videotape children in various learning centers and outside, and narrate objective observations about what children are doing and learning, and share it at Parent night, and on the programs website.

    Fran Simon [Designation]
    Engagement Strategies, LLC
    Potomac MD