Increasing Opportunities for Free Play

Did you know that the United Nations has created a list of rights for every child around the world?  And did you know that the right to play is included on that list?

This list of rights is a guiding document that nations use to ensure that all children have the chance to grow and develop in the most optimal environment possible.  Included along with the right to access water and food and the protection from violence and exploitation, is the right to play.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) tells us that play is vital to the development of the whole child.  Research shows, time and time again, that play promotes all areas of development and helps build relationships between adults and children.  According to the AAP:

Play allows children to use their creativity while developing their imagination, dexterity, and physical, cognitive, and emotional strength. Play is important to healthy brain development. It is through play that children at a very early age engage and interact in the world around them. Play allows children to create and explore a world they can master, conquering their fears while practicing adult roles, sometimes in conjunction with other children or adult caregivers.

Despite the research, children’s access to open-ended, free play continues to decrease.  Factors such as increased academic standards have dramatically reduced how much time children spend on the playground or in “specials” such as art, music, and physical education classes. These trends are pushing down to early learning environments as well. Environmental factors, access to technology, and the rise of structured activities for children have all contributed to the decrease of free play in early childhood.

There are early learning programs that have adopted a completely child-led approach to curriculum planning and play. These teachers carefully observe children at play. They engage with children in ways that do not disrupt their play to promote problem-solving, risk assessment, and collaboration. While this philosophy works for some, not every program is prepared to provide this level of independence. So, the question is, are there ways to enhance opportunities for play in more traditional programs?

In this month’s newsletter, we will share ideas for incorporating opportunities for play throughout the program. We will share resources, such as the links above, designed to reinforce your efforts to promote more engaging play experiences for the children in your care. In the free-trial course for September, CHD104: The Importance of Play in Early Childhood, students will learn about different types of play, how play skills develop over time, and ways to enhance play experiences.

All of this is in an effort to empower early childhood educators to take a stand for children’s right to play, as laid out by the United Nations. You can learn more about the rights of children in this easy-to-read summary.

For the article Play throughout the Day, CLICK HERE

For the article Adaptations to Promote Free Play, CLICK HERE

For the article Incorporating Loose Parts, CLICK HERE

For the article Director’s Corner – Increasing Opportunities for Employees to Play, CLICK HERE

I started in the early childhood field at a church as the secretary when the Mother’s Day Out Director position came open.  I proposed working as the Director on a 3-month trial to see if I could manage both positions.  Four years later, I am still doing both jobs and loving it!  It is such a rewarding experience to help children learn and watch how proud they are when they accomplish a new skill.  I love interacting with preschoolers — talking and listening, playing games, reading stories, or singing songs.  They are such a joy to be around!

I currently live in Lafayette, Louisiana.  I love to spend time with my family.  We enjoy playing board and card games.  I like to read and watch movies.  I am not far from retirement age, but plan to continue working as Director for as long as I am able.

I had been working as the Director of our center with no prior experience or education. I was encouraged by my advisory board to take a course that would be beneficial to me in my role as a leader and also teach me about some aspects of running a program where I had some struggles. I looked online at several Director courses offered and found that the ChildCare Education Institute Director’s Certificate program had exactly what I was looking for, particularly information about staffing, curriculum and assessment, budgeting and marketing.

The course material was easy to understand, the interspersed questions kept me on track, and the videos were interesting and informative. Not long after I finished the unit about staffing, three positions opened up in our center. I was able to apply what I learned from the course and went through the advertising, interviewing, and selection process in a completely different way than I had done before. What a difference that made!  Instead of quickly hiring someone because we needed a teacher, we slowed the process down and advertised the position and filtered through many applicants and chose the top three.  I went through the recommended steps of a phone interview first, then an in-person interview, then a 2nd interview. We also instituted a 60-day probationary period where before we had no probationary period at all. I have so much confidence that we hired the right people for our center, where before it was more like “hope and pray” they worked out.

Family involvement is another area that I was able to apply what I learned right away. We had Open House recently and I gave parents the opportunity to sign up to volunteer with specials events or read to the children or help in the office. The response was wonderful!  I plan to make our newsletter and website more interesting and informative. I also plan to include more information on our website about what our program offers that our competitors do not and ask a few parents to write a brief testimonial about our program that I can include. I am so excited to see the results we achieve from this!

The Director’s Certificate course was phenomenal! In my role as Director, I am better equipped to handle and resolve issues and to recognize areas that need improvement. Now I feel very confident in my role as a leader, and in knowing that I have the knowledge it takes to run a successful center. I am very thankful for what I have achieved through CCEI! I have thoroughly enjoyed my experience. I would definitely recommend CCEI to anyone looking to grow in the area of early childhood education!

Shifting How we Manage Challenging Behaviors: Try Creating Consistency between Home & School

Any intervention that is put in place to support children through challenging situations is going to be even more effective if it is implemented consistently across all environments. This is just one of the reasons that family engagement and strong relationships are encouraged in early learning environments.

Be sure to share some of the strategies that you have found to be effective with families.  This can be done in a general newsletter announcement, daily reports, or in a one-on-one conversation with families. Be sure to use positive and growth mindset language when communicating about the supports you are putting in place.  For example, you could say:

  • Did you know that children often express themselves through their behaviors? We are dedicated to helping children learn different ways to communicate their needs to reduce the number of behavior incidents each day.
  • Children of this age are working hard to establish autonomy. It is an important developmental stage that is sometimes characterized by undesirable behaviors. Here’s what you can do to promote autonomy at home…
  • To help Sammy move through transitions, we are approaching him a few times before each transition to let him know that it is time to wrap up his play because it’s time to move on to the next activity.
  • Abigail is still working on being able to share toys with others. We are adding lots of chances for her to practice sharing into our upcoming unit on community helpers.

Family education nights are a great opportunity to share strategies with families, as are family-teacher conferences. Online parenting resources, such as ParentEducate.com, are another tool that can be shared with families.  ParentEducate.com offers a free 1-week trial for families to explore early childhood topics written by education experts.

Introduce families to different ways of viewing behaviors. Talk with families about being proactive in order to prevent some of the more predictable behaviors from occurring. Prompt families to think about the transitions that children move through at home and remind them about children’s limited mental flexibility skills.

Encourage families to try some of the strategies that seem to work in the learning environment. Also, ask families how they handle certain situations at home. Brainstorm possible shifts that could be made, and together, assemble a full bag of tricks that you can use to support children across all environments.

For the main article Shifting How we Manage Challenging Behaviors, CLICK HERE

For the article Try Viewing Behavior in a New Light, CLICK HERE

For the article Try Taking a Proactive Approach, CLICK HERE

For the article Try Rethinking Transitions, CLICK HERE

Shifting How we Manage Challenging Behaviors: Try Rethinking Transitions

Transitions can be challenging in early learning environments. As mentioned in the section on looking at behavior in a new light, children are still developing mental flexibility. Shifting gears, especially at a fast pace, can be more challenging for some children than for others. With this in mind, take time to reflect on the following periods of the daily routine from previous years and determine whether any adjustments could be beneficial.

Arrival:  Consider the overall mood of the morning arrival:

  • Does arrival time set a calm and welcoming tone for the day?
  • Do children have the chance to slowly join the group at their own pace?
  • Do the activities offered align with children’s morning dispositions?
  • How does the transition from arrival to the next activity feel?  Is it rushed?  Do most children seem to move on with the day?
  • What adjustments could be made to this part of the routine?

Lunch/rest transition: Reflect on this busy time of day:

  • Do children have enough time to eat without being rushed? Are staff members rushing through transitions due to break schedules?
  • What signals are used to help children shift from active time to quiet time? Could soft music be played during the meal? Is there a way to dim the lights or turn off overhead lights if there is enough natural light in the room? Do adults lower the volume of their voices and initiate calming conversations during lunch?
  • How many steps of the transition exist between finishing the meal and laying down? Is there a way to decrease this number? Or is there a way to stretch the time between finishing the meal and laying down, so that children have time to move through the busy transition?
  • Does the tone of the transition set children up for success, meaning they are calm and ready for rest?
  • Would adding 5-10 minutes to either end of this transition make a difference? Work with colleagues to adjust the schedule accordingly, including when meals are served.

Continue to reflect on your experience with routines and transitions. Ask questions like the ones shared above, talk to coworkers, and discuss options with members of leadership. Consider how the children react during transitions.

Unfortunately, children are not going to magically move through transitions smoothly overnight, and rushing them rarely helps. Remember – they are still working on the skills that help them shift their focus and attention from one activity to another. They need support to strengthen these skills and sometimes they just need extra time to be successful.

For the main article Shifting How we Manage Challenging Behaviors, CLICK HERE

For the article Try Viewing Behavior in a New Light, CLICK HERE

For the article Try Taking a Proactive Approach, CLICK HERE

For the article Try Creating Consistency between Home & School, CLICK HERE

Shifting How we Manage Challenging Behaviors: Try Taking a Proactive Approach

Being proactive is an excellent way to decrease behaviors in the learning environment. Using a proactive approach means that you are essentially preventing behaviors from occurring by eliminating the triggers of those behaviors.  Of course, you will not be able to proactively prevent all behaviors, but every little bit helps, right?

Begin by considering the physical environment.

  • Are there spaces or learning centers that become overcrowded? If so, enlarge the space by adjusting the shelves.
  • Are there popular materials that draw children’s interest? If so, make sure you have enough of those materials to go around.
  • Are materials that children need to access easy to get to? If not, rearrange some of the furniture to make the space more accessible.

Next, think about the daily routine.

  • Are there times of day when you have noticed an uptick in challenging behaviors? If so, attempt to determine whether the children would benefit from an adjustment to the daily schedule; perhaps they need more time to eat their snack or get their coats on for outdoor play.
  • Consider how you are feeling at certain points of the day. Are there times when you feel rushed? Are there times you wish you could be more present for the children? Create a plan to address these concerns. If you have a second person working with you, brainstorm how to better divvy up responsibilities so everyone feels fully present.

Consider the children in the group.

  • Are you familiar with their skills and abilities? If not, how will do you plan to get to know the children? Can you speak with a teacher who worked with the children previously? Can you set up brief interviews with the families, or gather that information through a survey?
  • Are you aware of any children who may need extra support or attention during the transition to the learning environment? Work with colleagues and the child’s family to create a plan of action to help the child succeed.
  • Are you aware of the children’s interests? Identify activities and conversations you can pursue during the first weeks of the new school year that will help you get to know children on a more personal level.

Reflect on the curriculum and the way that you plan activities for children.

  • Do you follow a scripted curriculum plan or co-create the curriculum with the children? Think about ways that you can use what you know about the children’s interests to create more engaging curriculum experiences. If you are able to tailor the curriculum to the children’s strengths, needs, and interests, you can prevent behaviors that sometimes stem from boredom and frustration.
  • How can you integrate important self-regulation skills into the curriculum activities that you present to children? Be sure to recognize each child as a unique learner. Not every child comes to the environment with the same skills. Blanket expectations for every child in the group may cause more harm than good. Modify and adapt expectations and activities as necessary.

Reflecting on these areas of your program can help you identify areas where shifts can be made to prevent behaviors and engage children more deeply.

For the main article Shifting How we Manage Challenging Behaviors, CLICK HERE

For the article Try Viewing Behavior in a New Light, CLICK HERE

For the article Try Rethinking Transitions, CLICK HERE

For the article Try Creating Consistency between Home & School, CLICK HERE

Shifting How we Manage Challenging Behaviors: Try Viewing Behavior in a New Light

Behavior is simply a child’s (or adult’s) reaction to their environment or stimuli within that environment. The skills a child (or adult) has built will determine how well or how poorly they react. The skills we are referring to include the ability to manage strong emotions, communicate needs, delay gratification, compromise, and control impulses, just to name a few.

When you look at challenging behavior as an indication of the skills children still need to build, you can move from constantly reacting to behaviors to identifying missing skills and intentionally working with children to strengthen these skills.

Here are a few additional ways that educators can look at challenging behaviors that might shed new light on what is being observed:

  1. Behavior is a form of communication. Even children who are not yet using words are telling us so much with their behaviors. Sometimes, children tell us they are tired by crying uncontrollably. Sometimes, children tell us they are frustrated by throwing blocks. Sometimes, children tell us they need connection by seeking attention from us in less than desirable means.
  2. Some behaviors are developmental. A familiar example would be biting, where children explore the materials (and peers) in the environment with their mouths. Toddlers are also in the developmental stage where they are seeking autonomy. Preschoolers may have trouble transitioning because they are still working on their mental flexibility.
  3. Sometimes, behaviors are a form of play. Wrestling, tumbling, and big body play can appear to be aggressive interactions. Sometimes, children throwing dramatic play food items at one another are just playing a game that requires safer objects to toss.

Looking at behaviors differently can help educators to pause and look for the underlying cause or message behind the behavior.  This pause should provide enough time for teachers to regulate their own emotions, use the skills they have developed, and respond to the behavior effectively.  Remember, you can’t teach self-regulation to children when you are not managing your own emotional responses to what is happening in the environment.

For the main article Shifting How we Manage Challenging Behaviors, CLICK HERE

For the article Try Taking a Proactive Approach, CLICK HERE

For the article Try Rethinking Transitions, CLICK HERE

For the article Try Creating Consistency between Home & School, CLICK HERE

Shifting How we Manage Challenging Behaviors

Welcome to the August 2021 CCEI Newsletter!  It is the time of year when most programs wrap up summer events and transition into a new school year.  Each year at this time, we try to provide our readers with some meaningful content that they will be able to use over the first few weeks of the school year. If you are interested, you can find past issues of this newsletter here.

This year is no different! In this issue of the newsletter, we are going to explore ways that teachers can shift their perceptions of children’s challenging behaviors; starting with the words we use to label the common actions children take to communicate their needs.

Courses on challenging behavior are some of the most frequently requested topics on CCEI post-course survey responses (yep, we read them). So much so, that we recently revamped our positive guidance series, the first of which is available as the August trial course for people who are new to CCEI.  For those of you who are already subscribed, check out the series by enrolling in the following courses today!

Our intention is to provide different perspectives for you to consider and encourage you to step out of the comfort zone of how things have always been done.  Be sure to share this newsletter with colleagues to create consistency across your program.

For the article Try Viewing Behavior in a New Light, CLICK HERE

For the article Try Taking a Proactive Approach, CLICK HERE

For the article Try Rethinking Transitions, CLICK HERE

For the article Try Creating Consistency between Home & School, CLICK HERE

My name is Deepmala Garg and I was born and raised in India. I have a Bachelor’s in Education and Masters in Accounting from India.  I currently live in Alpharetta, Georgia with family. 

 

I have been teaching in early childhood since 2019.  I choose this career because I enjoy working with small children and watching them grow.  It is the most rewarding aspect of my life. 

 

My favorite time of day to spend with the children is snack time because of their stories and conversations.  It is such a  joy to listen to their thoughts, ideas and opinions.  It gives me a little window into their life and soul.  I absolutely enjoy circle time with them too. This is a time when we sing together, read books together and discuss what we are going to do throughout the day. 

 

On my free time, I love spending time with my family and friends outdoors in nature. I enjoy going on trails for a long walk.  I love gardening and spend lot of time outside.

 

This month, I successfully completed my CDA coursework training from ChildCare Education Institute. I have had a great learning experience with CCEI because of the program’s convenience and flexibility.  I plan to continue further education courses or certifications through CCEI in future. And a special thanks to my Education Coach for encouraging me to stay on track to complete the training.  I sincerely appreciate her dedication and time she invested in me.  I highly recommend CCEI to my colleagues and friends.  I ook forward to obtaining my CDA Credential from the Council for Professional Recognition soon.

Early childhood is a time of much growth and development. Families and educators tend to focus on boosting physical and academic skills to prepare children for their journey into the world. There is rarely a block on the lesson plan for leadership skills practice. The good news is, leadership skills can be embedded into all sorts of activities. Be sure to keep in mind children’s unique developmental needs as you adopt some of these ideas into your work with children.

  • Encourage children to make choices. Point out the choices children make and the outcomes (both positive and negative) of those decisions. Talk about how you make decisions. Use words like decide and decision
  • Teach children how to make plans. Hold simple conversations with small groups of children about their plans for outdoor play later in the day. Ask if there are any materials the children think they might need to enact their plans. Review how plans came together with the children. It’s okay if the plans don’t come to fruition, or if they change. That happens in life all the time! Talk about it.
  • Create roles for children to step into that require leadership skills. There could be a clean-up inspector, who makes sure toys and dining tables are cleaned up properly. You could ask a child who has been with the program for a while to act as a peer mentor for a new child. Let children take part in orienting new children to the learning environment.
  • Allow children to solve problems. You may need to assist children with this task but resist the urge to solve the problem for them. Help children see options for addressing conflicts and problems that arise.
  • Read books that contain characters who display leadership skills. Be sure to have meaningful conversations about how the character acted and reacted in different situations. If you see a child displaying a leadership quality similar to ones in the literature, recognize the child and the action and add, “…just like the character in the book we read the other day.” You might also say, “What do you think X from our book this week would do in this situation?”
  • Encourage children to talk to one another. Give them sample language to use to express their wants and needs to others.
  • Recognize effort and initiative. Things won’t turn out perfectly, they are kids. But let children know you notice the efforts they took. This will send a powerful message about hard work, taking risks, and doing your very best.
  • Play cooperative games that require children to work together to accomplish tasks. Small group work can have the same impact and will allow you to work with individual children better than trying to manage the whole group.

How do you instill leadership skills in the children in your care?  Tell us on Facebook.

For the main article Exploring LeadershipCLICK HERE

For the article Important Leadership SkillsCLICK HERE

For the article Leadership StylesCLICK HERE

For the article Director’s Corner – Building Leadership among Team MembersCLICK HERE

My career in early childhood education began when my son started going to Montessori school.  I loved the environment and the methods used and decided to do a Montessori certification.  My love for children and their learning and growth also helped me make the decision to pursue early childhood education as a career.

My favorite time of the day is circle time where all the children are sitting together and participating in different activities. They get involved and ask questions and it’s a lot of fun.  I love it!  Sometimes, they would ask me to read their favorite books for them.  The children love to play outside and explore the environment especially during the spring season when we do gardening projects, they love to water their plants and watch them grow.  Helping children learn and grow is the most rewarding for me. Their endless energy and curiosity amaze me and motivates me.  I love children and interacting with them, answering their questions.  I enjoy seeing them learn and grow.

I currently live in Denver, Colorado.  In my free time, I love to go shopping, having coffee with friends, reading books, and gardening.  I would like to own and run my own school in the future and continue to pursue an education that is relevant for my career growth.

I completed the Director’s Certificate with ChildCare Education Institute and I have already recommended the program to a friend from the education field.  It was a great experience working at my own pace and the curriculum was very helpful to my current and future career goals.  I would love to take additional courses with CCEI that I know will help with my career advancement in the near future.