Play is the Way

Child development is supported by play. Authentic play is the vehicle that drives development in young children. A recent article in the Wall Street Journal declares, “To really learn, children need the power of play.”

Here is what play looks like in our program:

Children need time, space, and support to play! At McKendree, we have spaces for even the youngest children to freely move and engage in “freeplay”. Infant and toddlers need open-ended materials and the opportunity to take safe risks with supportive educators nearby.

Mud Play

June 29th is International Mud Play Day!  In celebration, we have dedicated an entire week to the ooey, gooey wonder of mud.  We mixed vats of dirt and water on the roof and even brought some into the classrooms for exploration. 

THE SCIENCE OF MUD PLAY

Source:  Nature Play, Queensland

There is a growing body of research into why kids have an inbuilt need to play in mud. There is evidence suggesting that mud play is a basic biological need, and this type of play has many physical, psychological and emotional benefits for children.

MUD MAKES YOU HAPPY  

MUD INCREASES BRAIN ACTIVITY 

MUD INCREASES PHYSICAL ACTIVITY

MUD REDUCES YOUR SUSCEPTABILITY TO DEPRESSION 

MUD REDUCES ALLERGIES & ASTHMA SYMPTOMS 

MUD PLAY BUILDS CREATIVITY 

KEY DEVELOPMENTAL MILESTONES ACHIEVED THROUGH MUD PLAY 

FOUNDATIONAL LEARNING HAPPENS THROUGH MUD PLAY 

MUD PLAY CAN REDUCE CHILDHOOD ANXIETY AND STRESS 

MUD PLAY CREATES CHILDHOOD MEMORIES 

BUILDING AN ADVENTUREOUS SPIRIT THROUGH MUD PLAY 

MUD BUILDS A CONNECTION WITH NATURE 

MUD IS FUN! 

Beautiful Materials for Beautiful Minds

Open-ended materials, both man-made and natural, are readily available in our classrooms and in the Atelier. These “loose parts” often spark joy as children find creative ways to use them.

This Mandala provocation invites children to create, design, count, balance, and repeat patterns. Anything goes and every creation is a beautifully unique masterpiece!

Most children typically prefer play that stimulates their curiosity and gives them free reign to create and do. We believe that one of the best ways to enhance their natural curiosity is to introduce a wide variety of the materials we call “loose parts” into their play settings.

Loose parts can be sorted, combined, lined up, stacked, taken apart, redesigned, and put together in almost endless ways. There are no set rules, and no specific directions for their use. These lovely and unique objects invite conversations and interactions, help children to extend their ideas, and encourage collaboration and cooperation. In addition to supporting creativity, diverse thinking, and innovation, loose parts promote social competence.

Early Educators are Brain Architects

As Early Educators, our role is huge in supporting healthy brain development of the children in our care.

During the first few years of life, more than 1 million new neural connections form every second (source: The Center on the Developing Child, Harvard University).  During these early years, the foundation is laid, either weak or strong, for future brain development. brain architecture

Interactions between children and their parents or caregivers are a major factor in the formation of brain circuits.  “Serve and Return”, the back and forth responsive communication between a baby or child and the consistent adults in his/her life, shape brain architecture.  When a baby or young child cries, smiles, or elicits a response from a caregiver, and the adult eagerly responds with a smile, eye contact, a touch, or words, neural connections are built and bolstered.  Like a spirited game of tennis, this back and forth communication is key to healthy brain development.  Conversely, the lack of these responsive relationships are a serious threat to a child’s dvelopment and well being.

Below are five simple steps for building rich serve and return experiences with a child: (source: Center on the Developing Child, Harvard University

  1. Notice the serve and share the child’s focus of attention. By noticing serves, you’ll learn a lot about a child’s abilities, interests, and needs.  You’ll encourage her to explore and you’ll strength the bond between you. 
  1. Return the serve by supporting and encouraging. Supporting and encouraging rewards a child’s interests and curiosity. Never getting a return can actually be stressful for a child. When you return the serve, the child knows that his thoughts and feelings are heard and understood.
  2. Give it a name! When you name what a child is focused on, you help her understand the world around her and help her know what to expect. Naming also gives her words to use herself and lets her know you care.
  3. Take turns…and wait. Keep the interaction going back and forth. Taking turns helps children learn self-control and how to get along with others. By waiting, you give the child time to develop his ideas and build his confidence and independence. Waiting also helps you understand his needs.
  4. Practice endings and beginnings. When you can find moments for a child to take the lead, you support her in exploring her world—and make more serve and return interactions possible.

Emotional well-being and social competence provide a strong base for emerging cognitive abilities, and together these form the foundation of healthy brain architecture.  Parents and consistent caregivers and early educators are the “architects” who support this development. Healthy brain growth is nurtured by speaking to, playing with, and consistently caring for children. Understanding children’s needs and responding sensitively to them, helps to protect children’s brains from stress. High quality early care programs, staffed with well trained professionals who understand their role in building healthy brains, offer a healthy start to brain architecture.

Beautiful Art for our Auction

Each year the children from all eight classrooms create an amazing group art piece (or two) to be included in the Silent Auction that is a part of our Fall Festival.  The creations range from melted crayon masterpieces to feather painted collages.  Regardless of the medium or the finished product, the real value is in the process of creating.  Enjoy the video link below to see the children making art masterfully.

Art Auction Process