Keep the Play Alive

Diverse children enjoying playing with toys

Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood.” Fred Rogers

I remember when I first came across this quote from the patron saint of positive child development messages, Mr. Rogers, at a workshop. The show defined everything I believe about the value of play, and how fundamental it is for children to experience this method of learning. It reminded us to value the important ways that play builds skills development. If simply having fun was the only outcome of children’s play, that would be more than enough, but there is so much more to it.

As parents and caregivers, our primary role is to support play. We are understandably anxious about the pressures for children to have kindergarten readiness skills in place well before they start elementary school. The reality of standardized kindergarten curricula that is aligned to state standards and Common Core standards leads many parents to focus on academic skills, such as learning the ABCs and counting to 20. The pressure to teach our young children these skills can lead us to overlook play. We might even feel that introducing worksheets, drills, flash cards, or the many learning apps that mimic these modes are the key to bringing our kids up to the standards of kindergarten.

Research has shown that young children learn differently from school-aged kids. Play helps early learners build the skills necessary for critical thinking, autonomy, self-awareness, focus and leadership. Children build confidence through problem-solving. Academic skills like number sense, letter recognition, and phonological awareness (letter sounds) are developed through active play and the use of language. For example, when children experiment by sorting objects and building structures, they are learning observation, spatial reasoning, and logic skills by comparing sizes, shapes, and amounts. This forms the fundamental building blocks for understanding math and science.

Through playing together or with a caregiver, children learn how to cooperate with others, share materials, listen and build self-control and self-awareness. These are the necessary social skills that serve as foundations for academic success. Ask a kindergarten teacher what their students need and they will likely talk about self-control, focus, and sharing over every student entering their classroom knowing their upper and lower case letters. Nurturing a love of learning through open or guided play with others builds the social-emotional skills that make our children ready to learn.

Parents and caregivers help children learn by supporting creative play. We can support them by providing a variety of creative materials like blocks, crayons, dolls, toy cars, and animals or household items like pots and pans, thread, laundry caps, scarves, and utensils. We know that children get the most out of play when they interact with caregivers but it is important to let kids lead.

Ask questions about their play without giving too much of your own interpretation. When they are roaring like a lion, instead of just saying, “Oh no! It’s a scary lion”, try asking questions that lead to more dramatic play. “I hear you roaring, who are you going to eat today?” “Where do you live, Madame lion?” When they are drawing, instead of saying what it looks like to you: “Is that a ladybug? That’s so pretty”, try a more open-ended approach. “I see that you used a lot of strong red and black colors. The pattern of dots is striking and really stands out! What is it? What goes next to it?” Let the child tell you whether or not it’s a ladybug.

When we support play without taking control of the learning process, children learn to express their own ideas and develop critical thinking and independence. Ask guiding questions or step back and allow the child to speak freely. Knowing how to support rather than guide play recognizes and values the skills our children are developing.

At BANANAS, we believe in the power of play for learning! We host Play and Learn playgroups throughout Oakland and Berkeley and will be opening up playgroups in the Havenscourt Community of East Oakland four days/week starting in September 12 at the Cubhouse – A Family Play Zone. Come join us and get some serious learning in! Click here to RSVP.

FUN DIY LABOR DAY WEEKEND IDEAS

Labor Day Family Fun

Labor Day marks the end of summer, but it doesn’t have to mean the end of fun! While many children are already back in school, this three-day weekend gives us one last chance to celebrate before school really kicks into gear. We have some fun family ideas that you can do with your child that will make this long weekend a memorable one.

Thank a worker– Labor Day celebrates the economic and social legacy of hard-working people, so why not take this opportunity to thank a few people who make your life a little easier? Bust out the glitter glue and make thank you cards for the mailman, a firefighter, or a librarian. Try out some cute and easy thank you card ideas. Foster a child’s creativity and fine motor skills with an activity that you will enjoy together.

Scoop it up– Spend quality time with your child by learning how to make your favorite ice cream at home. Check out these mouthwatering recipes! Did you know that you can help little learners practice some basic math concepts when you cook together? Help your child hone basic math skills, such as counting, sorting, and measuring. While pouring milk or cream into a measuring cup, point out fractions and say, “Let’s fill half of the cup with cream and half of the cup with milk.” Ask your child to cut the ice cream into halves and count bites with them.

Play pretend– Let children, and their friends, dress up as a nurse, a bus driver, or as someone they want to be when they grow up. Similarly, put on a backyard show and get children in the Labor Day spirit. It is no secret that pretend play is an essential part of a child’s development. Encouraging children to role play supports their social-emotional development and enhances creativity. Let their imaginations run wild with this fun activity.

Talk and read– Talk to them about all the different jobs that people do. Help them understand how everyone in the community has an important job. Check out the list of community helper books for your preschooler. Ask your child questions like, “What do you think a construction worker does” or “What is the job of a lifeguard?” By reading to children and talking about what you’ve read, you’re introducing new words that increase vocabulary and promote literacy. Furthermore, you are helping children get academically ready for school by talking and reading to them every day.

Play, learn, and grow together– As a parent, and a caregiver, you are the biggest supporter of your child’s learning. Make time for play to promote their physical, social-emotional, language, and thinking skills. Explore lots of fun arts and crafts ideas on our Pinterest board, such as handprint strawberry craft, condensed milk painting, bathtub crayons, and more that support the philosophy that children learn best through play.

These family fun activities allow you to talk, read, and play with children. And, it is never too early to start providing experiences that will help your child enter school ready to succeed. We hope you have an amazing weekend. Don’t forget to make a little time to kick back and relax. You deserve it!

 

 

 

Jobs for Nannies & Babysitters Are Now Online!

Holding Hands

Big things are happening at BANANAS! Today we are excited to announce the launch of our brand new Online Jobs Listings Board, a feature that directly connects parents with in-home caregivers. For over three decades, parents have come to our office to hang up their job postings on the board in our lobby. It’s where nannies and babysitters visit daily to peruse the opportunities, and now parents have the ability to post directly on our website.

With nearly 13 percent of preschoolers being cared for in the home by non-relative caregivers, the challenge of finding the right nanny or babysitting can be overwhelming. This is especially true when choosing someone to care for an infant. We are proud to have been the dependable place parents have come when looking for child care in Northern Alameda County for 40 years and are overjoyed to be sharing this new technology with our clients.

Says Development & Communications Director Tara Bartholomew, “We receive calls daily from parents looking for nannies and babysitters, and they know BANANAS is the trusted place to go. Over the past year we have worked diligently to foster a strong online presence and this is yet another step for us to better serve families.”

To post a job announcement, parents simply fill out the details of the position and click submit. Once it’s approved, it will be published on our website and remain there for 30 days (or until it is marked as filled). Job seekers can easily view all of the listings and get in touch with parents directly.  It’s easy, convenient, and free. Be sure to check out this user-friendly innovation and get connected with our child care community!