It’s Ok to Play

In a parenting environment of ever-easy access to a plethora of advice, blogs, articles, and pseudo-science, the escalating pressure to provide even very young children with academic experiences can be overwhelming! Are you talking enough? Are you singing enough? How qualified is their teacher? Baby Einstein: yes or no? Is your infant hitting social-emotional milestones?

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As busy parents, it can often feel like the list of “TO DO’s” to nurture your child’s development grows daily.

Good news: It’s OK to just play.

The fads of “building your baby’s brain” are just new ways of saying what child development experts have proven time and again: the majority of children WILL learn and will learn best by playing.

A recent article titled “Reclaiming Play in Schools” by researchers at the University of Oklahoma issued this important caution and reminder:

Free and independent play—both in schools and in the home—is becoming a rarity in the lives of many children around the world. Even early years classrooms are increasingly faced with political and community pressure to focus more on teaching literacy and other academic skills to young children. At home, overuse of electronic devices means many children are not engaging in active play experiences and parents and community members may not fully facilitate such play. However, prevailing research points to the many benefits of play, showing a strong correlation between play and physical, cognitive, and social well-being.*

We’ll say it again: ACADEMIC programs in Early Education are a misfire. They do not effectively provide children with an environment to cultivate lifelong learning. Rote memorization, for a 3 year old, is not an authentic learning experience. Recitation of the ABC’s does not validate your 2.5 year old’s intellect anymore than them having memorized the lyrics to a pop song.

What we advocate across all of our Creative World Schools, and speak to as experts in the field, is the permission to play… freely, without inhibition, facilitated by awesome teachers in an inspiring environment.

Do you agree? Find a Creative World near you. Don’t have one? Join our family and spread the vision!

*http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/00094056.2016.1150742

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Fresh Ideas for Painting With Children

watercolors.jpgPainting is a multi-dimensional art process that is equally accessible to a child who can’t even grasp a brush to a child who is easily maneuvering small tools. It’s a great form of self-expression and even science, as children experiment with textures and color mixing. While conventional paints can be fun, if what you see here is the most recent paint experience you’ve offered your child, it’s time to expand your palette! With summer coming, getting outdoors and having unique art experiences is  MUST. Read on for some ideas we love!

 

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Paintsicles! Freeze craft sticks in watercolors using an ice tray. Once frozen, take outside for some wet and chilly painting fun!

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Purchase powdered tempera paint OR mix food coloring with powdered milk and give your child a sifter, colander, and some brushes for a dry paint experience.

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Funnel painting! Thicken watercolors with corn starch and use cups and funnels for some unique and goopy fun.

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Tape up a large piece of contact paper, sticky side out, and let your little ones sprinkle and toss powdered paint!

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Homemade paint brushes: start looking around and seeing what kind of textiles or found objects would make interesting brushes. Use clothespins to secure the item and as a handle.

“The world is but a canvas to the imagination.” 

Henry David Thoreau

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3 Kinds of Pretend Play That Help Your Child Grow

Every person, whether they had a stick a truck or a doll, has played pretend. Play-acting is a crucial stage of human development, from infants learning to suck by mimicking a parent’s mouth to a preschooler’s first ideas of friendship as they play with puppets, Pretend Play happens all of the time.

According to Dr. Sara Smilansky, a former professor at Tel Aviv University who worked with Jean Piaget, There are 3 Kinds of Pretend Play that your child will enjoy as they grow up that you can capitalize on to nurture their development:

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Quick Facts:

  • Begins around 18 months
  • Demonstrated by exploration: playing with their bodies/clothes, pushing cars, “feeding” a parent.

How to Encourage Exploratory Play:

Show your baby/toddler how you feed a doll or bear and see if they will imitate you. If this is easy for your child, then add a few steps. Wipe the doll’s face and then give her a bath.*

2. Constructive Play

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Quick Facts:

  • Occurs between 2 and 3 years of age.
  • Child uses/manipulates materials to create new objects and patterns.

How to Encourage Constructive Play:

Initially what the child produces may not be a true representation, but it does show the child’s attempts at working with materials to produce an effect.*

Provide your child with building materials and point out patterns in the world around them, prompting them to notice and re-create during Constructive Play time!

3. Dramatic Play

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Quick Facts:

  • Occurs around 3 years of age.
  • Commonly referred to as Symbolic Play.
  • Children intentionally imitate or recreate familiar scenarios by role playing.

How to Encourage Dramatic Play:

Provide and encourage the creative use or props. For example, a building block as a phone or a craft stick as a spoon. Play “house” with your child and cooperate as they grow in their complex understanding of assigning roles (a mom, dad, brother, sister, baby, etc.) and spending more time and thought with character development (assigning names or directing specific actions.)

Remember, play is a child’s work! So, let them work hard and have a blast while they do!

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Preschool Graduation: Why it Matters

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Last year’s Graduating Class of 2015, from CWS Cross Creek in New Tampa, FL!

Seemingly overnight, “Preschool Graduation” (complete with cap and gowns) became a thing. Is it a silly ceremony that assigns irrelevant importance to a perceived milestone? Or can it be a valuable moment in your child’s learning journey… and life?

  • A graduation ceremony signifies this: School IS Special! Occasions for celebration where family is invited, pictures are taken, and people are dressed up has long indicated a moment of importance in our culture.
  • Ceremonies provide a platform for praise. Praise is pivotal for a young child: praise for academic effort in their learning journey can begin a lifelong, positive association with school.
  • Often, these ceremonies involve special recognition or special conversations with a teacher that describe how a child is unique… what traits they display and are commended for. This is a valuable moment of positive self-definition that can be of enormous value in your child’s social-emotional development.

If you value a “Graduation” experience, it may remind your child that your family values school. Because we believe that children are set on a significant learning journey from a young age, it’s never too early to celebrate their progress!

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How to Pick a Summer Program

Summer is just around the corner! Are you going to be READY? Whether you are looking for Summer Camp or an School Program, you know that you don’t want to lose any academic ground during these lazy, hazy days.

So, what really matters and how can you tell if your child will have an academically meaningful summer while still having FUN? Here are some of our expert tips:

brunette girl silly face.jpgThree Year Olds: Getting ready for Preschool in the Fall

Getting your Three year old Preschool-ready means that they will use the summer to sharpen some certain skills and add some new elements to their day. Here are some things to look for:

  • Preschool may mean no nap or a shortened naptime. If your 3yo currently naps, look for a program that will gently begin that transition.
  • Preschool means a new set of routines. It may mean a half or full day of school, in addition to structured circle time, designated play time, and more classroom rules. Ask about how a Summer Program is going to introduce these elements so your Preschooler will have success in the fall!
  • Academically, Preschoolers will be introduced to increasingly complex Math and Language ideas. How will a Summer Program integrate this kind of learning in a fun and engaging way?
  • What kind of qualifications do the Summer Program teachers have? If you are paying for babysitting, that’s okay, but a program that is geared toward Fall Prep needs to have Early Education professionals in charge!

Four Year Olds: Getting ready for PreK in the Fall

Four year olds who are graduating from Preschool and starting PreK are on the cusp of their most intensive learning experiences yet! It is vital that they experience a Summer that helps them grow AND nurtures their love of learning:

PreK may mean increased academic structure as well as longer periods of engaging in a single learning activity. Ask the right questions:

  1. How long do interest centers/learning activities/engaging play last?
  2. Will your Preschooler be allowed to select their activities
  3. What opportunities are available if children are uninterested in a certain activity? (are they made to “sit out” or given other engagements?

Another important question is: are Four Year Olds in this Program grouped with older children? Or is there a specific Teacher/Program JUST FOR THEM? A Program that groups them with many older children may not be able to cater to their specific learning and leave them ill-prepared for Fall transitions.

Of course, our Creative World Schools have programs specifically designed for Preschool, PreK, and Kindergarten readiness. Check out one of our locations to learn more!

 

 

 

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Happiest Mother’s Day… Today and Everyday!

Happy Mother’s Day to all of the wonderful women who love unconditionally, give sacrificially, and seize life with joy and wonder each day!

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Tots and Technology

Toddlers seem magically drawn to the glowing screen of a smart device. Colorful, quick movement and jaunty tunes make tilting your smart screen toward them almost irresistible. Plus, how else can you show them pics of family and friends if you don’t swipe around your Google photos? Navigating when and how to introduce your young child to technology can be a huge challenge.

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At this point, we probably all know that the American Academy of Pediatrics has this recommendation:

“Television and other entertainment media should be avoided for infants and children under age 2. A child’s brain develops rapidly during these first years, and young children learn best by interacting with people, not screens.”*

But what do you do when you have a toddler who is ready to engage carefully with technology? Is there a way to introduce technology that is helpful and meaningful and developmentally appropriate?

Child Trends’ senior scholar–research and media experts Dr. Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, began some well-known and powerful studies in late 2013 and is beginning to have some insight into what this process could look like.*

Technology can provide young children with opportunities. This is especially true as educational apps for pre-readers are becoming better researched and crafted to facilitate some authentic learning moments.

Here are some expert tips for thoughtful technology introduction:

  1. Share the Experience. 

“Engage with your child as he tries out a new app, asking questions about the game and pointing out different aspects of the content. This practice, typically called “co-viewing” when applied to TV-watching, can help increase your child’s comprehension skills.”***

2. Model Moderation.

“Parents need to be models for their children. While we’re all embracing these great aspects of these digital devices, parents have to strike a balance, turn them off and spend real time with their children.”****

3. Time It

“no more than a half an hour per sitting for a four to five year old”***** 

The long and short of it seems to be, don’t use technology as a substitute for real-life learning but allow it to be a tool to inspire curiosity, answer questions, and facilitate shared experiences!

*https://www.aap.org/en-us/advocacy-and-policy/aap-health-initiatives/Pages/Media-and-Children.
**http://www.childtrends.org/?publications=child-trends-5-tots-and-technology
***http://www.pbs.org/parents/childrenandmedia/article-when-introduce-child-smartphone-tablet.html
****Kathleen Clarke-Pearson, a clinical assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine in Chapel Hill, and spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics on communications and media.
*****Jeannie Galindo, supervisor of instructional technology for the Manatee County School District in Florida.

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Let’s Get Down to Earth

As we get Down to Earth in the month of May, we are celebrating and enjoying gardening, plants, the earth, and more! How do we approach learning at all ages? Here’s a sneak peek into how we’re launching this month’s inquiry:

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Toddlers

Toddlers love helping, and when it comes to gardening there are so many ways in which they can do so. In gardening, Toddlers are able to understand the parts of a flower and learn how things grow around them. There are loads of toddler garden tools specifically designed for young children, which they will love using, and will also help them develop the skills needed for moving on to more ‘adult’ gardening tasks within a few years.

Twos

Whether inside or outside, two year olds are at the age where they want to touch and explore everything. Flowers are a great tool for children to learn about how things grow, and what it takes for them to live. Giving them responsibilities, such as watering flowers,
helps them to understand what it takes to care for something. Flowers are just one type of
plant that can grow in a garden. Engage children in learning about the parts of the plant
by examining the pieces to see how they all fit together.

Preschool

Preschoolers are captivated by digging in the dirt, planting seeds, using water, and watching plants grow and change. This month’s inquiry will provide preschoolers with
important knowledge of what plants need to grow and how other living things depend on each other. The wonder of watching a tiny seed sprout and grow into something so complex is amazing at this age!

Want to join our learning adventures? Find a Creative World School near you! Want to be a part of this awesome investment in young learners? Find out how you can open a Creative World School.

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Our INCREDIBLE Infants… Learning About Animals

So many of our infant classes have amazing, developmentally appropriate learning experiences happening everyday. Well, you’ll have to enroll to see just how great it is. In the meantime, we want to share another peek of how we teach infants from our school in Land O’Lakes, FL. Just how do infants learn about Animals? Read on to find out:

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Art experiences, sign language, and teacher made puppets.

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Tummy time as we look at more animals.

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Playing with our enrichments.

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A variety of age appropriate enrichments.

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Puppets everywhere… including teacher-made ones!

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Using props for animal identification.

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Animal talk with puppets: what do they sound like?

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Finding and following animal tracks.

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We make animal prints, too!

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We used tools to have sensory explorations…. do the bristles on a paintbrush feel like a doggy tail?

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The children took a buggy ride outdoors to see the cows. They read “Old Macdonald had a farm” and explored all the animals in the book.

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We took our learning outdoors as we observed the animals right outside!

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Our artwork was on display… again, at the baby’s level!

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More displays of our learning adventures were posted on shelves where infants could see them.

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It is important that displays are accessible for infants… this means, at a baby’s level! Pictures of infants were placed in a dog house. Pictures were posted by cribs..

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2016 Curriculum Contest: Our INCREDIBLE Infants!

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Our annual Curriculum Contest is always an amazing time for teachers to share the awesome learning happening in their classes. We love watching as they put their passion for Early Education into practice by crafting the most engaging explorations for their young students. We want to show off some of their Learning Journeys… so check out how one of our INCREDIBLE Infant Programs at CWS Rivercrest (in Riverview, FL) took their babies on an exploration of Animal Adventures:

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Animals live in all kinds of weather! Our Whales children had the chance to play with frozen critters.

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Developing listening and imitation skillsacting out the following nursery rhyme, while babies are lying on backs and watching each action, “ This little puppy jumps up and down”

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Developmental objective: Matching words with textures, sensation and objects through rhymes, songs.Singing our favorite song “ slippery fish”. In our song we sing about different types of fish, so we put each fish in a ziplock bag with blue paint to represent the fish swimming in water and naming each one as we sing.

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Showing baby how puppy follows her around when she holds the string. “Look, the puppy is walking with you. You can take him for a walk too.”

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Paw print art!

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Singing old Mc Donald had a farm using finger puppets while encouraging baby to reach and play with the puppets.

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Listening to and developing an interest in books.We introduced the animals in my world book by saying “ I have a book about animals for us to read. Look, I see a dog looking at the baby on the cover.”

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We took our animal books outside for story time. By taking babies outside we expanded their world and introduced them to new and sometimes surprising stimuli.

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