The Gift of Play: Everybody Needs It

Everybody needs a little love in their lives but you know what else everybody needs? Play.

You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation. —Plato

While in Vang Vieng, Laos, we happened to catch children playing from a far distance. No grown ups present. They climbed through tree roots, explored water, caught fish and laughed a lot. They waded water in the stream made their way out and found a large paint roller and rolled it all around in the dirt. I smiled and reminisced as my nostalgic childhood materialized.

“That’s what play looks and feels like. That’s honoring childhood.” My partner and I started sharing about our childhoods. How we were fortunate that ours looked like the childhood the children were playing in right before our very eyes. Childhood is finite and infinite at the same time. It lives on.

No fences, no dittos, no rules. Freedom. To feel and play. True play gives us a push into being in our body and mind. Everything is connected: spatial awareness to making connections. 

Play gives children practice to what they are learning and observing. It works for grown ups too in life, family and business. Want to learn more about your colleagues in less time? Keep it simple. Kick the typical “meeting” and get out there and play. 

Play Opens Doors

No matter where children and grown ups live or what they’re overcoming, play is essential.

It opens doors and shows us what we’re capable of and what we’re passionate about. It shows us who we are and are meant to be. We all are competent, capable and creative human beings. From birth until we die, we have to play in our purpose.

Play Promotes Collaboration

Listening and talking. Everyone plays a part in it. From role play / interacting with others to make believe / symbolic thinking. Even without someone else…being able to collaborate with yourself in your own world is the art of meditation. Play is meditation.

Play Gives Grace to Fail and Try, Try Again

Riding a bike to kicking a ball. You ride, you crash. You kick, you miss. You try again.

What did you love to play as a child? As an adult? Did it change? Why? 

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Goodbye Summer, Hello Fall

How do you notice and celebrate the fall? There are so many ways to acknowledge it with children in natural ways. Bring in and celebrate the changing seasons with some of these creative ideas. Please feel free to share some of your family’s ideas in the comment section below: sharing is caring! These sensory and awesome activities are simple to set up and perfect for inviting your child to explore and notice the wonders of Autumn.

1. Take a Walk to Notice the Changing Leaves

Change the lyrics of the classic Bear Hunt song to “We’re going on a leaf hunt” and take a walk together as you notice the leaves falling as they crunch beneath your shoes and spy the changing colors. Walk while collecting colorful various sized leaves as you go. Invite your children to tell you what color, texture and size of each leaf in fun ways. For example…notice the size by pondering outloud: “I wonder if it’s bigger/smaller than your hand?” “How does it feel?” “Where did the green disappear to?” “How did the color change?” “Which is your favorite shade?” Once you’re home, invite your child to sort the leaves by size, shape and color. 

2. Sensory Play with Fall

Sensory play is vital for babies and children and there are lots of amazing ways to represent the colors of Fall. Invite your child to change the leaves with food coloring or Tempera paints. Wonder out loud: “If you could change the colors of the leaves, what color would you change them to?” “How does a leaf change its color?” Offer Blue/Red, Yellow/Red, Yellow/Blue primary paint combinations to discover what they turn into.  

4. Sing Autumn Songs click below for some ideas

5. Read Books about Trees: list of ideas below: **add your titles in the comments below** *Bonus Make Your Own Book Using Colorful Leaves

The Lorax, The Giving Tree, Stuck, Because of an Acorn, The Kids’ Family Tree Book, Can You Hear the Trees Talking?, The Tree Book for Kids and their Grown-ups

6. Observe, Draw and Pick out Some Favorite Trees 

Take a sketchpad outside and draw what you see. Plan to revisit and plant one of you and your child’s favorite trees in the spring!

5. Paint / Collage with Leaves

Use leaves to paint and collage with. Make a large Fall mural inspired by the Fall. **Bonus Make a fall wreath together for your door or a neighbor’s door. 

6. Rake the Leaves 

Don’t forget to JUMP in them! Make up a story using the leaves together. 

7. Make Leaf Rubbings / Pressings

Grab a paper, crayons (and/or pastels), playdough/clay. Place the leaf/leaves on the paper. Place a paper on top and then use the crayon (writing utensil) to rub. (Another variation is to do pressings by pressing the leaf into playdough/clay to make impressions/imprints. See it by clicking below: 

https://www.firstpalette.com/craft/leaf-rubbings.html

8. Visit a National Park and Chat with a Park Ranger

Visiting parks and nature is a wonderful way to get up and personal with nature, especially trees. Talking with a park ranger who is an expert could turn into a life changing memorable experience as you make meaning out of the trees and their importance. If you’re local to Fiolina the Arboretum is an iconic place to visit many types of trees from the smallest Bonsais’ to  the tallest of Sycamores. A perfect place for that sketchpad we mentioned earlier.

Have Fall inspired ideas you want to share? Let us know by commenting below!

Photo by Tatiana Syrikova on Pexels.com 

Play is Our Life’s Work

What is play? We all have a schema in our minds about it. What ideas come to yours? Oxford defines it as engaging in an activity for enjoyment rather than a serious or practical endeavor. In other words, engaging in an activity one cares about just because. “Play is the highest form of research” as quoted by Albert Einstein. If that is true then why are we not doing more of it? There are conversations about play and even changing the word play to something entirely different.

That’s kind of funny right changing the word play to another word? What would another word for the word play even be?

What would another word for the word play even be?

I remember going to the World Forum on Early Childhood Education which is an amazing forum and foundation gathering minds emphasizing on sharing ideas and yes, renaming p-l-a-y is a real conversation going on. We all chatted about what we would change the word play to and talked about how people don’t take the word seriously or even misunderstand what the value of play has for children and grown ups. Play is so misunderstood. I remember being an educator and some views went something like this, “Oh wow, that’s cool, so you get to play all day?!” Yes and no. Imagine being a fly on a wall and you get to observe play. “Play is the highest form of research” for the person playing as well as for the observer.

Why are some grown ups including myself for a time being turning play into a serious or practical endeavor? Someone who is not taking play so seriously is Pat, the Play Lady who I had the opportunity of connecting with in this lifetime. She is one fun and joyful person. I stumbled upon her when I worked in Takoma Park during one of my walks. I saw this sign and took it as a sign:

Don’t know who she is? Here is her Ted Talk: hope it inspires you.

Play encompasses all. Who doesn’t love to play? For example, take a play object / material like sand or even Kinetic sand?! So many connections and synapses are being made in the brain as you are molding kinetic sand for instance. What do you think happens outside and inside a person? One it gives you an unforgettable experience, two it’s fun and three molding kinetic sand helps build schema and synapses in our brains especially for children and those rewiring/rebuilding their brains like Jill Bolte Taylor or even just because it’s fun meanwhile it is helping strengthen and literally mold our brains.

Here are more ways kinetic sand play helps children. https://www.jimbeamracing.com.au/kinetic-sand-offers-unique-benefits-to-your-childs-development/

Need more play ideas? Here is another source and another: https://www.letsplayamerica.org/handbooks and https://www.naeyc.org/resources/topics/play

Keep playing as though your life depends on it. Because it does. Happy playing and being as Fred Rogers would say “just the way you are”.

The Story Continues…in Real Life.

I have been working every Sunday but it does not feel like work.
It feels like play.
I feel really good to feel good about that. I would literally do what I do on Sundays for free, really. Last Sunday, I spent my time working with one child and playing. My high of the day was making up stories using the instruments to make sound effects for the stories we made up. I also retold my classics: aka my favorites: Luki and the Rocket Power Shoes and Luki and the Rocket Power Paintbrush. It was his first time listening to it. He asked for them again and again. I thought to myself…why am I in this rush to produce creative works of art when I should enjoy what I already have out there in the universe?
I am literally backed up on creative projects but I reflected on and about my own process. Am I enjoying the process? Am I enjoying myself? Why am I pushing and grinding to produce more and more? I have the stories. I enjoyed the process of creating them. Now let me create an outlet to massively share them using my voice and technology. I remember when a student asked me if I would be on her story podcast that evening she listened to it. Then, I recalled another student asking for one last story before she moved on and went to her new school.
I want to enjoy the stories that I have out. Recently, someone (whom I never met in real life) pushed me and inspired me to push myself even further in my creative process. The message on IG really has me thinking and mulling over a few things. 1. I need to make a youtube channel and 2. I really need to get a podcast together asap and 3. I need to be in the moment and enjoy the process and the re-telling of my stories rather than working on the next new project right away.
By the time of the next blog post, I hope to have one of my visions in the process of becoming. Intuitively, I feel as though I am on the way.
Peace, love and light.
Happy reading and before you know it, I hope to be saying Happy Listening. Real Life. 🙂

We’re Bringing Play Back..Yep.

Hello there,

We are preschool educators. After a discussion of how children learn and recognizing our many kinds of learners, we narrowed in on, noticed and talked a lot about recess and recognized the importance coupled by the lack of it. We call recess by another name. For us, recess goes by the name of play.

Often we inform our families to advocate for their child and the kind of learner they are as they grow, move on and become kindergartners. We do this in order for their new school community to be ready. We now realize how we need to take our own advice. So here goes.

Are you ready for our students? Our children will ask you questions: lots of them. Get ready. See, please understand we allowed and followed their lead. We facilitated and encouraged our students to solve many problems socially, cognitively, emotionally, physically, mathematically, creatively, linguistically through play. Not just any kind of play but intentional and meaningful play. We weren’t focused on getting them “ready” because we know you are ready for them. We hope and hold on to that.

As mentioned, we all learn differently and we believe it is a process and are looking to connect and build a relationship with you as we have a lot to learn from one another. We want to connect in order to facilitate and help bring recess and play back to our community. Back to your school. We know it won’t be easy.

However, it will be worth it for all. Our children are showing and sharing with us what they need, it’s time we listen.

Let’s talk and bring back recess.

Preschool Educators

a.k.a TPA: The Play Alliance

I AM a TEACHER. A Letter From Your Early Childhood Educators

198E4AED-2A49-44E1-B4C3-B541220137C8We need your help. Imagine, we’re playing basketball. We’re on the same team and my head is up and I’m looking to pass the ball as I dribble up the court. I need to pass the ball to you. Likewise, pass it back. Back and forth with a series of exchanges which is what we want to have, a good conversation. A conversation that will create an opportunity to score and most of all, solve something bigger together.

So here goes, most of you know we are not daycare workers. We are teachers. We even further distinguish ourselves as an integral part of the life-long learning process as we specialize in early childhood. We’re not elementary, middle school or secondary teachers. We are Early childhood teachers. NAEYC also pushes this with a major initiative called Power to the Profession found here: www.naeyc.org

We are Reggio Inspired teachers and we need help in closing the misunderstanding of who we are in education. We are teachers. We are early childhood educators.

Children learn best through their everyday experiences with the people they love and trust, and when the learning is fun. We, the teachers at TCS, specialize in this. We know how to meet children where they are and help them to where they are going.

A child’s brain undergoes an amazing period of development from birth to five, producing more than a million neural connections each second.

Moreover, the development of the brain is influenced by many factors, including a child’s relationships, experiences and environment. More info here: https://www.zerotothree.org/espanol

We, you and our communities are connected on the same page and goal of educating our children. We want them to be caring citizens of or world. We want them to be better than us. We want all children to be better than previous generations, no matter where they are from. Zip codes shouldn’t matter when it comes to access to high quality care and learning as all children matter.

There is a major wealth, educational and opportunity gap in our country and do we expect you to fix it? Can we fix it right now? No, but we need to talk about it. We need to start there. Reggio Emilia was founded in social justice. History echoes and now is our time to change and change happens from within a society and systems. We are society. We can lead and start doing the right thing especially since we have the resources.

Reggio Emilia came about during the post-World War II era in Italy, the “…desire to bring change and create anew” accompanied with great economic and social development, including in education.

We are calling for action on three things understanding that we are teachers, closing the wealth and educational achievement gap and most of all, what we teach children: taking care of each other.

With love,

The Play Alliance

#Preschoolisforever #tpa #pta #theplayalliance #thetpa #thepta #teachers #educators #children #families #firstweekofschool

Regulating the Fun Out of Learning through Play

Unlike Warren G and Nate Dog, it is time to stop regulating. Especially in early education and K-12. Regulate literally means to control or supervise (something, especially a company or business activity) by means of rules and regulations.  Licensing Micro managers are running around out of touch and out of sync with the classrooms around the country. As a result, we are all running around like protective services protecting children to the point where boo boos do not happen.

From rubberized playgrounds to no longer allowing cups in the sensory water tables, it is ludicrous. Meanwhile, we want children to be adventurous, curious and creative but we MUST make sure their cots are 3 feet apart. Directors, assistant directors, educators and families are not here to helicopter children. That goes against best practice. We and children cannot be summed up in checklists and procedures. Children, educators and families are living breathing beings.

To access these regulations click here:

https://osse.dc.gov/publication/child-care-licensing-regulations

So where does that leave us? I advocate for high quality and DAP learning for all children. Often I wonder: How do children learn? Each and every child is different. I want my students to leave with 1. an understanding and pride in self as well as 2. their families to understand how their child learns so they can best advocate for their child when they go to Kindergarten and beyond. There are many types of learners. Advocating their learning style from auditory, kinesthetic, visual to so much more better makes teachers and the new school prepared for your children not the other way around. As an educator and advocate, I want to be a part of encouraging and supporting movers and shakers of our world. I do not want to be a part of suppressing them.

We need to re-frame our way of thinking. We shouldn’t be thinking will Johnny be ready for Kindergarten. Instead we should be asking will his new school be ready for him? The best way is through building relationships with his soon to be new teacher and advocating for Johnny’s learning style and fighting for teachers that best suit Johnny’s needs.

When I traveled to New Zealand and I observed their classrooms I was amazed. Freedom. Children were able to be children without fear of top down policies and regulations affecting and influencing administrators, teachers and families of how we work with our children.

As adults we forget just how small we used to be.  As a result, we forget just how small and curious our children are.

Jill Telford is an American artist, author, storyteller, educator and creator of children’s books. More of her work can be found:

http://amazon.com/author/jilltelford

@artbookstories @jill.telford

Play Like Your Life Depends On It

Imagine an individualized learning plan that meets the needs of each and every child? This idea is not out of reach. Every child is different. So, why are we treating them all the same? There is not one mold for learning and doing.

So many ideas and thoughts materialize in my mind as I prepared for a panel on keeping play alive for children at the World Forum. We are surrounded by giants in our field of early education. Some of those giants materialize in my mind such as Diane T. Dodge, Sue Bredekamp, Barbara Willer, Dan Gartrell, Becky Bailey, Mimi Brodsky to name a handful. We too are giants and owe it to the giants before us to do the right thing for children even when it’s hard to keep fighting. We are also surrounded by children who are the bigger giants. In Sue’s words “we must stop using kids for research and use the research to help our children”.

When I stepped foot inside of an early education classroom I knew it was where I was meant to be and I knew why. It was safe, welcoming, kind and an environment where children took care of one another. A space where children could create, collaborate and connect.  Most of all, children played! I believe that this model should be pushed to higher grades.

At times I hear adults say “Children don’t play anymore, they are always inside.” If this happens during a conversation (now it tends not to because my circle knows) I immediately ask what is the solution? What can we do? We can blame it on technology or the changing of the times.

However, I want to also blame it on ourselves: the grown-ups. We live in such a fast paced instant gratified kind of world that taking a moment to listen to the birds or really see the images hiding in the clouds does not happen as often as it should. There are easy solutions to challenging or in Gartell’s words mistaken behavior found in play. If a child is a rough and tumble kind of player, a game of tag would be one of many play solutions.

We find out so much about children from observing and guiding children in play. More than we do during a standardized test. We are so busy getting children “ready” that we need to remind ourselves each year that they don’t need to be ready for us. We need to be ready for them.