Please, please, please, Let them Play

My passion in life has never changed. It always has and probably always will be, working with children. Ever since I could remember I would be completely distracted if a young child was in the room. It was always my goal to get in a cuddle or to make that child smile. I started babysitting when I was 11 and I because I was home schooled, I even nannied for a family when I was 12. Throughout my teen years I earned all my extra cash by babysitting and you would never catch my lap empty while sitting in church. My arms were always full and so was my heart.

I thought it would be an easy decision for me when I graduated High school as to which career I would pursue. I quickly realized that there are actually a lot of different career options when it comes to working with children and maybe becoming an Elementary Teacher wasn’t the obvious answer for me. I had to take moment and break down what it was about working with children that I loved. What was my own philosophy and in what capacity did I want to pursue that in a career.

After taking into account what I loved best about working with children it became quite apparent to me that the best fit would be to get my Early Childhood Education. I researched schools and found the one with what I thought was the best program. I graduated with high grades and glowing recommendations. Then I got married and moved to Ontario from our home province of British Columbia.

Ontario does everything so different. But I still found a job with a childcare group who shared the same passions and philosophy that I had come to admire and agree with. I worked for a few years while my husband finished Law school and as soon as he graduated we moved back to BC. Now the chance to once again find like minded people to work along side of. I successfully found two part time jobs which I loved. Then a 2 years later my husband and I started our own family and my job description changed once again.

I have found that the last 4 years as a mom to two beautiful children has still not changed my philosophy on how a child should be treated or taught. The only thing that has changed is my sleeping habits:)

So what is this philosophy that I so greatly believe in. What do I believe is the best way for a child to learn? Well, it has really been coming up a lot lately in my conversations with my family and friends and with my fellow Preschool moms as we send our children off to Junior Kindergarten.

Play. Play is so important. Play is how children problem solve, work together, and explore. Play is how children create an imagination, learn to story tell, and share ideas.

I know there has been plenty of blogs and reports and research done on this topic and it has really been talked about in so many different ways. Yet, I really feel as if some people just do not get it. There is an idea out there that a Teacher is Lazy or unmotivated to teach if they let their class play. Play is learning. Yes learning the ABC’s, colours, shapes, and numbers is important but you do not have to sit in circle time or at a desk to learn those. Early Childhood Educators in Daycares, Preschools, and Junior kindergarten classrooms have been trained in how to expose your children to learning experiences all while playing. It is a sneaky way of teaching. My children have been my greatest example of how learning is done while playing.

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My son learned all about Big, Medium, and small by playing with different sized trucks. My daughter learned to count by lining up trains. They both learned their colours while colouring and painting. They learned about up and down by going on the slide. They learned to share and take turns by both wanting these same toy or swing. They learned about fast and slow by playing with boats in the bath tub. They learned their shapes when building with blocks. There are so many ways to learn. All without interrupting their play.

My husband and I have one room in our house that is called the “Playroom”. It is as big as our living room and it is dedicated to our children’s toys and games and books. Because of my passion for letting children play I have organized the room so that it also acts as a second teacher. Your organization and room setup can be your greatest assistant in helping your children learn.

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The Room

Here are just a few things that I have done based on what I learned in school and on the job.

Which toys you have next to each other is very important.

For example: You want to put the noisy toys next to the noisy toys and the quiet toys next to the quiet toys with a large area in between both sections.

I have all the trucks, cars, trains, blocks and dinosaurs in one corner and then in the other corner is the kitchen toys and doll house. Then I have the puzzles and books in another corner.

I keep all the art in the kitchen so that cleanup is easier and I am more likely to say “Yes” instead of “No”.

Having labeled bins is a huge help. Have the word written and then either a simple drawing or a cartoon picture of the item that is kept in the bin.

DO NOT have too many different toys. If you have 10 different bins of toys just put 5 out and hide the other 5 in a closet and in a few weeks switch them. You only need one type of block or a few puzzles. Having too many toys makes for a big mess and unfocused play. A child’s imagination will have to work a little harder and their stories will develop a little longer as they stay playing with the same toy. It also promotes sharing and cooperating. This does not mean only have 2 dinosaurs and 10 blocks. That will get very annoying and will just leave you with having to break up fights all morning long. What I mean is to not have a bin of dinosaurs, a bin of animals, and a bin of little people all out at the same time. Good luck cleaning that up!

You

You can play a key role in how they learn as they play.

Some mornings while they are eating breakfast I will sneak into the playroom and start “playing”. What I mean by this is that  I will set up little stations around the room with two different types of toys put together. An example is I will take out the dinosaur bin and the block bin and I will build a small tower and put the dinosaur on it. Then I will walk over to the kitchen and take out the food and set the table. I will add some stuffies with the kitchen and make it look like a picnic. Then I just sit back and watch as my children walk into their playroom and immediately enter into play. It is like the playroom has invited them to play with it.

I give them time. Allotting time for them to really enter into play is important. Think about how when you start a project but are only given 10 minute time frames to work on it how hard it is to complete it. Same goes for play. Children need time to enter into their story and really let their imaginations flourish.

Here is an example of our mornings at home

  • 7am breakfast
  •  get changed and say good bye to daddy
  • PLAY
  • 930 – snack
  • OUTSIDE PLAY/ART
  • 11:45 – Lunch
  • 12 -2 Quiet time/Nap time
  • PLAY
  • 3pm Snack
  • OUTSIDE PLAY/ART
  • 4PM PLAY INSIDE
  • 5:30 Dinner
  • PLAY
  • 7:00 BED

There are so many opportunities for my children to play. And they are long. Those times are also areas where I have the option of intervening and redirecting their play into an educational experience. If i have the energy or inspiration  I will throw some different concepts or ideas their way to inspire new play. Sometimes we make play dough. Sometimes we go for walks/ bike rides. Sometimes we paint. All opportunities to play and learn at the same time

Your Attitude

This one is the most important. Having a love for learning and exploring and trying new things rubs off on your children. Asking questions, Answer questions and coming up in new ideas are all ways that children learn. They learn best from watching you. How do you take life on? What do you do if something is broken? What do you do if you cant figure something out? What are they watching you do all day? Anything can be play, it just depends on how you approach it. Your attitude towards life, other people, and daily boring chores can have a huge impact on those tiny eyes that are watching you.

What I am trying to do by writing this post today, is to inspire you to let your children play. Having them signed up for activities and preschool and playdates is super fun and have an important place in their childhood and education but playing should not suffer because of this. All humans need to play. It should always be apart of our day. Adult play looks different than child’s play but the most important part is that you are both getting it.

During Quiet time while my daughter is sleeping, my son is still awake. He always wants to play with me. On time days I give into his pleas and we sit down and play a board game or do a messy art experience that he can only do while his sister is sleeping. But on the majority of the days I claim that time as my own. It is my time to play. I pick my own quiet activity of working on one of my art projects or watching my favorite show on netflix. Or I read with a cup of tea. I make sure my son sees that I need to have fun too. I need to learn and grow and create. Just like he does.

I hope this post is somewhat helpful and settles a few parents hearts about letting their children play and not having them involved in every activity under the sun.

– lioness

p.s I would love to share more ideas or help you with playroom set up in anyway possible. so please feel free to comment or private message us and I will do my best to respond.

Coming Home: My Son's First Day of Preschool

I held his hand from the truck as we walked to the playground. I gave him a hug and shook his hand free as I encouraged him to go play with the two little familiar faces from his short little childhood. I quickly made my way over, acting as if I belonged, to the two familiar “Mom” faces in the crowd. We made small talk and caught up on what we had been up to, all while my heart was beating like crazy at the thought of leaving my son. I talked to my friends about summer vacation and inside I was worrying about if he would make friends, if he would listen to his teachers, would he be shy? Would he be that annoying kid who is always jumping off the walls? Will he share? Will the teachers or other moms secretly be talking about what kind of parent I am, all while they enjoy their lunches or coffee dates. Have I really prepared him? Am I prepared?

The time quickly came for him to go to his class and meet his teacher. He begged me to pick him up, as I heard the nervousness in his voice. We compromised on a shoulder ride and I made my way to his classroom. I brought him down off my shoulders and encouraged him to run around with the other children as we waited for the classroom door to open. I introduced myself to other moms and tried to remember their names and somehow not forget it again in 2 seconds.

The door opened.

Such a friendly smiling face. His teacher. I felt so relieved. I am someone who loves people watching and I think that I have a great ability to be very discerning of people and to know who is trustworthy or not. So, when my eyes met hers and she introduced herself and crouched down to meet my son, my heart relaxed. He is going to be safe and loved here. More quickly than I would have wanted, he let go of my hand and raced to the first toy that caught his eye. I walked over to him playing with the sand table and quietly guided him back to the cubbies to show him what his morning school routine will look like. We found his hook and basket labeled with his name/class colour/ and an animal. He is a Frog:) We brought nothing with us this morning as it is only an hour so I gave in to his pleas to rejoin his “new friends” with all the toys. I stood there and watched. What a beautiful room this was. So much exploring and learning to be done and sooo much fun to be had. I really felt blessed to have the opportunity to send him to this school.

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The History of this school and I, is filled with so many answered prayers and at one point in my life was my true safe haven when my life was crumbling around me. I only spent 5 short years attending this school but they were very important years in my life. I first walked through those hall ways when I was 12 years old and I was going on my tour of the school to prepare to attend the following september. I was meeted by many friendly and some familiar faces. My first official day was on the first day of Grade 8. Little did I know, but my future husband was also attending his first day of school and was currently goofing off with his best buddy (future best man) in the exact same class as me.

Through the years as I kept moving up in the high school the halls became more of a home to me and less of an institution. The classmates became family and attending school was my life. I played on the sports teams and made connections with 5 of my classmates that would last forever and a day. My husband and my 4 best friends who have and will always be there for me. When the time came for us to graduate and move on, I was probably feeling more lost than most.

That school had helped raise me and had truly provided me with something stable in my life. Now I get to send my children there. What a blessing. What an answer to prayer. I know this decision is going to stretch us more financially than we have ever been stretched and I know that it will be hard at times and we will wonder why we have made this decision. But isn’t that like everything in life? I want my children to be educated in an environment that is loving, stable, and affirming in who they are as children of God. I want to be able to have a say as a parent who is raising my children. Not all people will agree with me and the educational decision we made is not for every family. All I know, is the moment I walked through those halls and dropped my son off in his class, I was home.

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Me and my love 2003. When we first left “Home”

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The day we came back. 2015