I believe in the power of PLAY, base my teaching on PLAY, and know PLAY is the natural and organic way a young child learns. One benefit of welcoming parents to stay for class at preschool was it allowed them to witness the natural state of the learning child. That natural state includes:
manipulation & experimentation
extrapolation & inference
all of the above results in the child AND their surrounding getting and being
Why was that a benefit?
What It Means to Be a Kid…
First, it reassured parents their child wasn’t abnormal! But most importantly, it gave them realistic expectations when it came to how children learn. Children are ‘all-in’ when it comes to learning. They use their bodies, their senses, their interactions with others and materials to learn about and make sense of the world around them.
Parents could observe different ways to set up PLAY experiences and take that information home. And, maybe most encouragingly, they observed how the preschool kidlets participated and contributed in cleaning up afterwards.
I bring this up because of an incident that happened at the Family Fest event I worked. It was a family-friendly event with a variety of vendors.
I’d set up a couple hands-on art experiences for the kidlets. I loved watching how they approached the activities with no one way of having it end up—in other words, a completely, process-oriented experience!
A toddler, on the cusp of being a preschooler, came rushing up to my tent, heading straight for the art table. He seemed so excited to DO some creating! His Dad followed closely behind his son and appeared okay with the idea. But things took a turn for the worse when Mom showed up.
She took one look, said “Ewww, NO! That’s messy!”
Grabbed her son’s hand and dragged him away…the little guy looked back once with such a sad look on his face it broke my heart! I couldn’t even get out that I had hand wipes for the kidlets to clean up with after they were done—she was gone that fast! Mom’s reaction was either completely inappropriate and unreasonable or she’s ignorant of how children learn. I could say she was ignorant, but I’ll be generous and stick with she didn’t have realistic expectations.
We all have different tolerance levels to disorder, messiness—seemingly chaotic activity.
What kind of parent are you? Do you finding yourself saying “No!” “Don’t touch!” “Not now!” “Sit still!” a lot? If so, this isn’t good for you or your kiddo.
First understand your child is not trying to annoy, irritate or upset you. Let me give you some info so you can understand, prepare and accept!
Learn about the many, many benefits of PLAY! Read an Overview of Play for a review of the different development areas PLAY benefits.
PREPARE because children are….
●At home, remove or put out of reach any items you do not want them to have access to—do you have a fragile vase that can easily tip over with the slightest bump of the table? Probably would be better to just put it away.
●Set aside a specific area for play or even types of play…if you absolutely cannot deal with painting in the house, set up something on your porch or deck.
●I, personally, do not use smocks when children are painting, but if that’s the compromise needed so your child can creatively explore and express themselves then do it! Dress them appropriately for the activity and for your comfort level!
●Encourage sensory play outside. It’s a 2-for-1! Children interact with their surroundings via their senses and being outside in Mother Nature is important for a child’s overall health and wellness. In fact, you might set up a permanent area for sensory play after reading why Sensory Play makes sense for young children.
●Choose materials wisely! It’s no exaggeration when I say glitter is something you will NOT be able to clean up fully on the first or even second attempt. If that’s something that will annoy your, choose a glitter substitute: sequins! They’re still shiny and colorful, but they’re big enough to see and pick up!
●Make use of resources like the Go PLAY Activity Cards™ to create engaging, play-based, learning environments.
Children want to please!
●Create a clean-up routine…make sure to give your kidlet enough of a heads-up that play time will be coming to an end. I sang a song:
——— ——–5 More Minutes, 5 more minutes to play
———- ——5 more minutes then we’ll put the toys away!
I’d update counting down 4, 3, 2, 1—although my minute increments usually were closer to 2 minutes…until finally:
————————-It’s time to put the toys away, toys away, toys away
————————-It’s time to put the toys away and save them for another day.
Young children can assist in putting toys in a bin; dough in bags; things on hooks; books back on the shelf…will it be absolutely spotlessly perfect? No, but that’s beside the point. This is another learning opportunity—their skills will improve over time and you’ll be able to expect more as time goes by.
●If you’re out and about playing at a park or friend’s house, consider keeping some clean-up and stain-prevention tools with you! Keep a pack of Handzies in your bag. Handzies are natural soap and water hand wipes—these are perfect for cleaning up.
Note: There’s been no evidence to show wipes with triclosan and triclocarban or antibacterial cleaners are more effective than plain soap and water. Another must-have is the Tide Mini Instant Liquid Stain Remover pen. It eliminates stain on the spot—saving special-just-bought-outfits from grandma!
Parenting is work—sometimes it is very difficult. Having realistic expectations will impact your reactions. Know your efforts to facilitate their PLAY may not be acknowledged in the moment, but your children will appreciate and benefit from it in the long run!
Parenting is demanding and exhausting! IF you feel you could benefit from a short meditation to help find equilibrium and balance in the typical parent’s hectic life, email me at TeacherKaren@PlayAndGrow.com and I’ll send you instructions for the practice.
Yours in Play!