Tips and Tricks : Imaginative Play

Tips and Tricks : Imaginative Play
A really important part of early childhood development is imaginative play. There are TONS of studies and articles that you can read about if you want to (PBS article, Bright Horizons, Wall Street Journal, and you can find many more just by doing a cursory google search!)

Ok, now bear with me here, I am going to explain what imaginative play is. It is kids. Playing. And using their imaginations while they do it. That’s it. Something each and every one of you did growing up! (A very early memory: One Christmas my sister and I got a toy kitchen set, one of my first actions was to “cook” dinner. What did I do? Dial “1-800-DOMINOS.” and say “hi, I’d like to order a pizza please.” I was playing “adult.”)

Why is this so important? Well, it helps develop creativity. Communication. Compromise. Cooperation. You know, important parts of being a functioning human in society.

For example, in the library I work in we have fairly large toy dinosaurs, two different types of blocks (big soft foam blocks and smaller, wooden blocks), a toy barn (much like a dollhouse) that came with animals, and a felt board with different felt pieces to move around (right now it is super heroes and the dog from Dog’s Colorful Day). These things are ALWAYS in use. Kids like to build forts around the barn with the blocks, give the dinosaurs their Jurassic Park moments by stomping into the barn and sending the animals flying, building race car tracks with the blocks, pretending the dinosaurs are superheroes, or the felt superheroes are saving the dinosaurs…it doesn’t end.

These kids often create these things on their own and then share what they’ve done with new arrivals. They are communicating what the scenario is and cooperating enough to let someone else play. The first child often finds that their game shifts direction with the new person, and they decide to compromise to play a new game. Because if they don’t…well playing something is better than not playing at all!

How can you foster imaginative play? Provide the time and provide the space. I bet most of you do this already! Let your little play with dolls or stuffed animals, with blocks, give them an empty box and see what they come up with. Get down on the ground and play with them. Go back in time and be a kid again with your little, they will love it! Read a book with them (picture walk perhaps?) and let the imagination run wild!

OR. If you want something different…check out your library! We always encourage play 🙂

Tips and Tricks 3: Mindfulness

Mindfulness – this is something that I have been reading a lot about for myself and my own self improvement, but it is also something that I thoughtfully tried to incorporate into my classroom last year.

Yes, I brought mindfulness into my classroom of wiggly, giggly four year olds and guess what. They LOVED it!  At the time I was working at a Quaker school.  Once a week, the rest of the school K-8 went to the meeting house (what Quakers call their church) for 30 minutes.  At the meeting house, everyone K-8 sat in silence and thought about the different Quaker testimonies (Simplicity, Peace, Integrity, Community, Equality, Stewardship) for that whole time! I went to a retreat for educators about Quakerism and came back completely absorbed with the idea that my little guys needed to start experiencing a bit of the mindfulness that the rest of the school was experiencing. I could only think of positives that could come from bringing this into the classroom.

So once a day, at either our morning meeting or end of the day meeting (when we could find time), I would ask my littles to sit comfortably take a few deep breaths in together and close their eyes. We always turned off the lights and I gave them a focus for those two minutes

*listen to the noises around them

*think of a person who may not being feeling well ( a friend who is out sick) and send them positive healing thoughts

*in the fall I gave them a leaf to study

*they could count their breaths

Then at the end of the 2 minutes they could share their observations, or who they thought of if they wanted to!

And let me tell you thinking and sending positive healthy thoughts about a friend was one of their favorite things during their mindfulness time.

I have been reading article after article about the benefits of meditation and mindfulness. According to many studies and articles (here, it seems to help littles focus, become kinder, more self aware of their emotions and helps calm them down. And just think, if it does all of that for your little – it will definitely help you relax from that hectic work day, have just that much more patience with your little, and relieve stress and anxiety! I know I always feel better after I meditate (well I usually fall asleep because I meditate before bed!).

Now I propose Continue reading

Tips and Tricks #2: Asking Questions

Tips and Tricks 2: Asking Questions!

[BH] Questions, Questions, Questions. Ask questions when reading a book to your little, but don’t ask too many questions. Make sure you are asking the right kind of questions. AHHHHH. Starting out in my education degree I always felt a little lost about how many questions I should ask my class when I was reading a book.  What kind of questions are the right kind of questions to ask . HOW DO YOU KNOW! I felt like this was one of the trickiest things to figure out!

Questions are great. They can help engage your little in the story.  They can help your little learn new concepts and they can help your little answer their own questions. But too many questions can make your little uninterested in the story.  Ask questions as long as your little seems interested, and of course that is something that could change day to day( dependent on the way the moon is in the sky, just kidding! ).

[G] I’ve learned through experience that questions are a lifesaver.  When I present storytime at the library, I can have anywhere between 5 kids and 30 kids in front of me.  Sometimes (especially if the group is on the larger side), kids get fidgety or lose interest in the book.  That’s when I really like to bust out the questions.  Of course, at my storytimes, the audience is usually closer to two, BUT IT STILL WORKS.  It gets the littles involved in the story beyond just listening.  They are interacting!

The benefits: Growing vocabulary! Becoming active readers!


But what type of questions are good questions???

Continue reading

Tips and Tricks: A Picture Walk!

Today’s post is about a technique we love using.  If you’re already doing this, great! If not, we hope you like it as much as we do!

Picture Walk

Ok, here’s a quick and easy way to help your little take just that much more from a book. Before you read the words on the cover, tell your little you are first going to take a look at the book and just look at the pictures. Open up the book and turn the pages as your normally would, but just talk about the pictures. What do you see? How do the characters look? Do you notice anything funny/unusual/scary?  Help your child make observations, especially the first couple of times you do this.  Don’t make up a story to go with the pictures, just simply be an observer.  Flip through the whole book and once your picture walk is complete, start at the beginning and read the story.  Don’t feel like you have to read the story afterwards though, sometimes a picture walk is enough for that day, and that’s ok.  Move on to the next book and eventually you will come back to it.

Why are picture walks so great? All those observations you and your little just made about the characters and the story will come together with the words of the story. Did you notice that something in the story was actually different than how you observed during your picture walk? Talk about why that may have been.

When you are going through and reading the story your little will start to connect the fact that those scribbles on the page are actually what tells the story. The language that you used during your observations encourages and enhances your littles vocabulary! Making observations about feelings and characters during the picture walk will help your child identify those things in life.

This is also an easy way to read any book that your little can do themselves. So talk about taking a picture walk, guide them through picture walks and the next time you are trying to juggle 15 things and make dinner and your little needs something to do hand them a book and remind them about taking a picture walk. Have them tell you everything that they see in the book while you cook dinner/make lunch/clean the floors/fold laundry and keep the wee little from crying again!