This month’s CCEI newsletter focuses on the importance of play and ways to enhance play experiences for young children. Early learning environments are designed to be places for play and exploration. Toys and materials encourage problem-solving, creativity, and cooperation. Trained teachers guide children to express themselves, take risks, and build critical thinking skills.
But what happens when children leave the learning environment and return home? What are these play experiences like for children? What skills do children practice and how much adult guidance are they receiving as they play?
The answer is: It varies from one family to the next.
So, what can educators do to even the playing field (pun intended)?
Share information about the value of play –
- Use various forms of communication to share the value of play with families.
- Describe what play looks like at various stages and what parents should expect to see as their children play.
- Refer to different types of play (pretend, construction, creative, etc.) and share lists of materials that are included in different types of play.
- Tell families about how play promotes specific skills, especially skills that families are eager for their children to learn, such as handwriting or reading.
- Share the importance of repetition and brain development.
- Talk about the importance of developing healthy physical health habits and how play can contribute to the formation of life-long habits.
Encourage families to engage with their children during play –
- Introduce the concept of serve and return (share this video).
- Provide a list of questions or prompts that families can use as they play with their children.
- Model how to engage in play as you interact with children.
- Share videos of children at play and adults playing along.
Share play ideas with families –
- Provide ideas for toys that families can make with their children, such as sensory bottles or homemade instruments.
- Send home books or stories with associated play ideas attached.
- Create a game of the month, including a description of how the game is played. Encourage families to play the game with their children several times during the month and notice how their child’s skills change over time.
- Teach families songs and fingerplays that they can sing in the car.
- Share ideas for games to play at the grocery store or in other community spaces.
Share community resources –
- Pass along information about community playhouses and parks.
- Inform families about local children’s museums.
- Let families know about events at local libraries and other community events.
- Attempt to partner with community venues to provide discounted rates to families enrolled in your program.
Help families recognize play as a valuable teaching strategy and give them the tools they need to feel confident engaging in play and building stronger relationships with their children.