Many adults wonder how they can create an enriching play environment for children. Do we just sit back and watch children play? Do we instruct them on how to play?
An adult’s role is one of importance, and that role is to engage actively in play with children, but allow the children to direct the play. Get down on the floor to the child’s level , run around the backyard, or follow the lead of the children. If adults take control of the play, children lose the feeling of playing freely. Give children the freedom to create and direct their own play. Adults can support and guide children. Knowing children’s developmental levels for their ages, and what kinds of toys are age-appropriate is an excellent way to support their play.
If adults pay attention to and engage in children’s play, children get the message that play is valuable.
Essentially, an adult is a child’s playmate.
It is a common misconception that play is a frivolous extra in a child’s life. Many people don’t know there are several benefits to allowing children ample time to play freely. During free play, children have the opportunity to develop their whole selves. A child can achieve important growth in their physical, social, emotional, creative and intellectual being.
How do children develop essential learning skills through play? Children engaging in active play develop their gross motor skills through running, hopping, skipping, playing catch, etc…. By using small building blocks or connecting toys (ie: brush blocks, Lego) fine motor skills are developed. Socially, children learn how to share, co-operate with others, and problem solve. Emotionally, they learn how to deal with their emotions, even if they cannot label them. For example, in dramatic play, a child can act out how he/she is feeling in a safe environment (ie: playing house). Free play is great way for children to relieve stress, which in our busy society, they feel but don’t know how to deal appropriately with. There is also the importance of creativity. By giving children opportunities to explore open-ended art materials and focusing on the process of creativity and not the product, children are given the chance to develop their own personal creativity. Cognitive, or intellectual development in the early years of life is critical. The Canadian Council on Learning on agrees: “Research indicates that the experiences during the first five years of a child’s life have a major bearing on his or her future success in school, in the workplace, and many other aspects of a healthy, fulfilling life”.
Play allows children to enhance their sense of curiousity, and exploration. Through play, children can develop early learning skills that will assist them further into their schooling. For example, when a child stacks blocks to create a structure, sorts objects by category, or plays in a water or sand table, he/she is developing early logical-mathematical thinking, scientific reasoning and cognitive problem-solving. Play can lead to a life-long love for learning.
This week we had parent observation visits. We tried to have 5 parents in the morning for an hour from 9:30 to 10:30 and 5 in the afternoon from 1:30 to 2:30. It took 3 days but now they are all done and we are getting ready for the parent interviews. We both thought the observations went very well. The parents really enjoyed watching their children play and enjoyed playing with them.
Shan and I spent a lot of time explaining what the children were learning at the various activities so that they could have a deeper understanding of our program. The class seemed very full and busy during these parent observations but it all ran smoothly. Shan and I felt so confident about our classroom and how every child was engaged in something very constructive through open-ended materials. The way we set the room up together was amazing and we feel we have set up an amazing space for learning. To see it working so well every day makes us feel so good. The children are loving it and the parents are understanding it.
The team of two teachers, Melanie and Vanessa who participated in the Kindergarten Makeover Webcast have agreed to write a regular blog this year to show other teachers how the set up of room is evolving over time. They are joined this year by Sil in the morning so the large space is now filled with 60 little ones in the morning and 40 in the afternoon. Lucky they had a large space! With that many children it is crucial that routines are in place that are easy for the children to follow and that allow some flexibility to meet the needs of a diverse group of children. We will get to know some of the challenges as well as the many joys of teaching Kindergarten. We hope that you will check the blog regularly and follow Melanie, Vanessa, and Sill as they engage in some reflective practice with you throughout the school year.