The goal of education is to encourage young minds to develop creativity, seek solutions and become forward thinkers who learn more than what we currently know. Many teachers in our caboces region are experimenting with play as an instructional tool so that children can make connections between disciplines and understand how the pieces of the world fit together. It is through play that children comprehend learning as a lifelong process of discovery and joy.
Early childhood experiences are critical to brain development. Studies show that positive early learning experiences through play allow children to develop social-emotional skills, deepen relationships, gain executive function skills, and manage stress. Over time, children who experience learning through play-based instruction have better overall health and longer life expectancy.
A play-based approach to learning requires child-initiated experiences and teacher supported learning. This learning requires careful cultivation and teachers are coming together to rethink how they are supporting our youngest learners. On October 22, 2021, teachers who attended the Foundations for Change: Rethinking Early Childhood Education workshop “played” with play-based learning kits from caboces learning resources. As they played, ideas for lessons, discussions, and questions flowed through the room. One walking by may have heard questions like:
Teachers engaged in discussion around the thinking of play as a tool for children to develop social and cognitive skills. They mature emotionally and gain the self-confidence required to ask questions. The conversations and interactions that happen through play are valuable opportunities to support children as they develop their identities early in life. Positive early experiences at school give children another opportunity to grow in a nurturing, language-rich environment.
Play-based learning also honors a child’s home experiences by building on the foundational skills learned at home. Parents are a child’s first teacher. Honoring each child’s home values inspires children to develop their identity and feel included in the learning environment. These ideas were reinforced by Robin Fuller, Early Childhood Development and Education Coordinator of Ardent Solutions in Wellsville, NY. Robin works tirelessly to make sure families with young children in Allegany County have access to resources. Robin presented teachers with materials to distribute to families. She also shared fun family activities that supplement free books donated through the Dolly Parton Imagination Library. Through the Imagination Library, children (birth – age 5) in Allegany County are eligible to receive free monthly books in the mail. Check out the website for more information: http://www.ardentnetwork.org/dolly-partons-imagination-library.html
If you would like to learn more about play as an instructional tool for learning contact Michelle Rickicki or Jessica Schirrmacher-Smith.
By: Michelle Rickicki, CA BOCES Professional Development
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