We shuttered our doors on 3/20/20 because of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and joined our city in sheltering in place for over 45 days. Working with guidance from our local health officials, child care licensing bodies, other community partners, and in accordance with the the guidance from the CDC, we made plans for a slow and careful re-opening. On May 4th we welcomed 23 children and 23 staff back to the center. The center definitely looks different than it did pre-covid, but one thing remains — the children’s engagement with caring educators, friends, and opportunities to explore and play.
Following Christmas, we encouraged families to bring their disgarded “real” Christmas trees to our outdoor classroom. A lovely early childhood program in Roseville, CA, Roseville Community School, began this tradition years ago with lovely play outcomes. We wondered what might happen when trees were added to the our downtown playscape.
Over a dozen trees, of all sorts, sizes, and species, soon dotted our rooftop garden area. Joyfully, the children began to explore these GIANT LOOSE PARTS by interacting with them. Children pulled, dragged, and propped the trees up — moving them across the space was a grand way to encourage cooperation as children negociated with one another to get the job done. There was also an interest in being ON the trees.
Children in the Researchers Class have recently invented an interesting dramatic play game they call, the “Jail Game”. Scholastic Parents writes, “Good guy versus bad guy play is a natural part of your child’s social and moral growth. Indeed, it’s common for dramatic play to center around themes of good and bad, friends and enemies, power and vulnerability, particularly as young children work to learn the difference between right and wrong, to understand rules, and to control their impulses. Power play helps them make sense of these confusing issues and gain a better understanding of themselves and their place in the world.“
In addition to playing the game and assuming roles, the children were eager to explain the game and sketch their ideas. Upon pick up, the documentation of their ideas offered the opportunity to share their emerging ideas and understandings with big brothers and parents.
Many thanks to Liz Davis, educator in the Researchers Class, for recognizing the value of child-led play. Liz captured these children involved in important work as they grapple with moral learning.
A new report ranks Tennessee number one in the nation for child care licensing regulations that support healthy weight practices.
The Tennessee Department of Human Services has received recognition for new requirements designed to promote good health in state licensed child care agencies. The National Resource Center (NRC) for Health and Safety in Child Care and Early Education ranked Tennessee’s regulations as the most supportive of obesity prevention in the country. This is the first time Tennessee has topped the NRC’s annual report and it marks a substantial improvement from the state’s previous 39th ranking.
At McKendree, we are intentional in promoting healthy practices as well. We provide nutricious snacks each day, serving fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats and families send lunches that meet USDA guidelines. Additionally, we plan for and engage in moderate to vigorous active play for both toddlers and preschoolers daily and don’t use “screens” with children.
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.