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Archive for the ‘Play’ Category

Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Last week, NIEER — the National Institute for Early Education Research — wrapped up a two-week blog forum on the importance of play in early childhood education.

In these blog posts, experts consider the tension that can arise between academics and play. NIEER’s inaugural post explains, “Concerns about whether preschool and kindergarten have become too stressful and regimented are met head on with concerns that they are academically weak and fail to cognitively challenge children.”

The posts are meant to be “valuable resources as parents, teachers, and policymakers strive to ensure play has its place in pre-K.”

In addition to the blogs, NIEER has posted a recommended reading list “to keep the conversation going.”

What the Blogs Say

In a blog post titled “Play, Mathematics, and False Dichotomies,” University of Denver professors Douglas H. Clements and Julie Sarama write, “Let’s stop the cycle of ‘abuse’—or at least confusion—that stems from false dichotomies in early education. ‘Play vs. academics’ is arguably the main one. Of course children should play. But this does not mean they should not learn, and even play, with mathematics.” (more…)

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Jeri Robinson (Photo: Lok Wah Li, Boston Children’s Museum)

This blog about the Boston Children’s Museum was originally published on March 19, 2012. Next week is school vacation week, a great time to visit the museum. Go on Tuesday to meet NAO the robot — and learn about robotics. 

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The Boston Children’s Museum on Fort Point Channel is teeming with children and parents during school vacation week. So it’s a good time for Jeri Robinson, vice president for education and family learning, to lead me on a guided tour of some of the museum’s early learning spaces. On the way, we pass children scrambling up and down the multi-story climbing maze. We pass children and parents sitting on colorful “musical” chairs that each emit a different sound and together can create a symphony. We pass children checking out the blocks and Bobcat in the Construction Zone, all in what is essentially a giant indoor playground for children of all ages. Prompts on the walls and parent tip sheets provide ideas for adults to engage children.

“Our critical message is there’s a lot of learning in play,” Robinson says. “In everything we do, we have a hidden or overt learning activity. Play has gotten a bad rap that it’s a waste of time. It’s not.”

In fact, research tells us that play is how young children learn. Science tells us that the kind of language-rich, playful adult-child interactions that the museum encourages enhance the actual wiring of the young brain. (more…)

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This blog was originally published on May 7, 2012

Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

We often say that young children learn through play. We say that play is children’s work. What does research tell us young children gain through play? A recent article in Psychology Today and results of a 15-year longitudinal study, published in Family Science, provide some answers.

As the Psychology Today article notes, there is more to play than swings, jungle gyms and games of tag on the recess playground. Imaginative play – make-believe and pretend – is important for young children’s healthy development.

“Over the last 75 years a number of theorists and researchers have identified the values of such imaginative play as a vital component to the normal development of a child,” Psychology Today reports. “Systematic research has increasingly demonstrated a series of clear benefits of children’s engagement in pretend games from the ages of about 2½ through ages 6 or 7.Actual studies have demonstrated cognitive benefits such as increases in language usage including subjunctives, future tenses, and adjectives. The important concept of ‘theory of mind,’ an awareness that one’s thoughts may differ from those of other persons and that there are a variety of perspectives of which each of us is capable, is closely related to imaginative play…. Pretend play allows the expression of both positive and negative feelings, and the modulation of affect, the ability to integrate emotion with cognition.”

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Photo: United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley

Photo: United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley

More than 200 people came to the Boston Children’s Museum last Thursday night to attend “Conversation with the Boston Mayoral Candidates – Early Childhood and Education: Closing the Achievement and Opportunity Gaps.”  Strategies for Children, Boston Children’s Museum, Thrive in 5 and United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley cosponsored the event along with 31 other organizations.

Both candidates – City Councilor John Connolly and State Representative Marty Walsh — participated, each on stage separately. Candidates answered questions posed by the night’s moderator, WBZ political reporter Jon Keller, and from the audience, which included early educators, providers, pediatricians, college students, professors of higher education, teachers, advocates, and citizens.

As Carolyn Lyons, the president and CEO of Strategies for Children, explained to the audience in her introduction, the forum builds on the momentum that has been fueled by early education proposals from Governor Deval Patrick and other governors,  the Massachusetts legislature and President Obama’s bold proposal to expand preschool programs nationally.

The candidates were asked to come prepared to articulate their vision for Boston’s children and families and discuss what they would do for children and families should they become mayor. They responded by (more…)

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Mayor Logo

This Thursday, October 24, from 6:00 – 9:00 p.m., the Boston Children’s Museum hosts a Conversation with the Boston Mayoral Candidates. Jon Keller, WBZ-TV News’ Political Analyst will moderate the conversation.

To retain Boston’s status as an economic leader and hub of innovation in the years ahead, the next Mayor must improve educational outcomes for the city’s children. The achievement gap is evident long before children enter school, and we will not succeed in closing it unless we target resources to improve early learning and healthy child development.

Join us for a conversation with the two candidates running for Mayor and hear more about their vision for children and families in Boston.

This event is sponsored by: Boston Children’s Museum, Strategies for Children, Thrive in 5, and United Way of MA Bay and Merrimack Valley.

Co-sponsors to date include:  ABCD ● Associated Early Care and Education ● BOSTnet  ● Boston After School and Beyond ● Boston Association for the Education of Young Children ● Boston Children’s Hospital  ● Boston Opportunity Agenda ● Boys and Girls Club of Dorchester ● Catholic Charities of Boston  ● Cradles to Crayons ● The Children’s Trust ● Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative ● Ellis Memorial & Eldredge House, Inc ● Families First Parenting Programs ● Family Nurturing Center of Massachusetts   ● Family Service of Greater Boston ● Friends of the Children – Boston ● Generations Incorporated ● Horizons for Homeless Children ● Jumpstart ● MA Afterschool Partnership ● MA Association for Early Education and Care ● Massachusetts Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics ● MA Kids Count ● MA Head Start Association ● Raising A Reader MA ● Reach Out and Read ● Room to Grow ● United South End Settlements ● Wheelock College

For more information, please contact tdosremedios@strategiesforchildren.org

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Photo: Caroline Silber for Strategies for Children

Photo: Caroline Silber for Strategies for Children

“Four year olds are citizens, not potential citizens, not citizens in training, but citizens, with rights and obligations like all citizens,” Ben Mardell and his co-authors write in a 2010 paper called, – “The Rights of Children: Policies to Best Serve Three, Four and Five Year Olds in Public Schools.”

“Children must be recognized not just as growing unfinished beings,” the report says, “but also as true thinkers and doers, as active participants in their education”.

“We have to see children as more than cute,” Mardell, a professor of early childhood education at Lesley University, explained in a recent interview. They are cute, he quickly adds, but more importantly, they are citizens of their classrooms, their schools, and of the larger community.

As citizens, children have rights – not only to health care, food and protection from abuse, but also the right to participate in decisions that affect them. They can’t vote or serve or juries, Mardell notes, but ask children about parks or classroom rules, and they have interesting things to say.

“Kids are researchers with hypotheses,” Mardell says. They have powerful thoughts and ideas that they are constantly testing. “I see them as part of the research team.” (more…)

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Photo: Strategies for Children

Photo: Strategies for Children

Here are some recent tweets from the early education Twittersphere. Follow us @EarlyEd4All.

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The National Women’s Law Center’s take on how President Obama’s preschool plan could work.

NWLC ‏@nwlc
Our new report: the President’s plan would provide #earlyed for millions of children & reduce smoking. http://ow.ly/pcpQq #smarthealthy

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Bad federal budget news for preschool programs.

NAEYC ‏@NAEYC
“MT @TheAtlantic : Preschoolers, sequestered: How budget cuts affect #earlyed funding http://theatln.tc/19xwjt4 ” #ece

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What are the best books to read to children? Here’s a list of 50 choices.

PragmaticMom ‏@pragmaticmom
50 Books Every Parent Should Read to Their Child http://www.sulia.com/c/kid-lit/f/1a2077fb-afbe-44a1-999f-581ab2c118fa/?source=twitter

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Addressing diversity in preschool programs.

Early Edge CA ‏@EarlyEdgeCA
White House Summit Addresses Lack of Hispanics in Preschool via @EarlyYearsEW http://bit.ly/19oMjMI #earlyed

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A collection of early childhood education stories from parents, teachers and community leaders around the country.

NAEYC ‏@NAEYC
You sent in your #ece stories and here they are! Thanks to all that participated. http://bit.ly/1evImgu #earlyed

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How often do you get to see members of Congress play a giant game of Chutes and Ladders? #importanceofplay

NCFL ‏@NCFLiteracy
Over life-sized game of chutes & ladders, parents talked to Congress members on need for #earlychildhood #education http://ow.ly/p27gH

Early Edge CA ‏@EarlyEdgeCA
Check out @MomsRising’s photo album from today’s #EarlyEd Chutes & Ladders game with Congressmembers and families! http://fb.me/2kKBjuGnU

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Photo: Strategies for Children

Photo: Strategies for Children

Here are some recent tweets from the early education Twittersphere. Follow us @EarlyEd4All 

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California organizations urge Congress to meet the needs of dual language learners.

Early Edge CA ‏@EarlyEdgeCA 27 orgs & researchers sent Congress this letter on Dual Language Learner standards as part of an #earlyed plan http://bit.ly/1aZcnEs  @NCLR

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Classroom assessment advice for infant and toddler teachers from Head Start.

 Office of Head Start ‏@HeadStartgov Use these 3 methods for recording infant & toddler observations to inform your assessments: http://1.usa.gov/14d2PQa

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summit

Photo: Gus Freedman

“I’m glad there’s passion in the room. We’re gonna need it,” Governor Patrick said to warm applause last week at the Early Childhood Summit 2013: Innovation and Opportunity at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.

Strategies for Children partnered with the Boston Children’s Museum, the Massachusetts Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University to sponsor the summit. Support also comes from the Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care, the United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley, the Boston Foundation and the TruePoint Center for Higher Ambition Leadership.

This is the second early childhood summit convened in recent years.  It builds on the success of the first summit held in November, 2011, and it is also part of the Boston Children’s Museum’s 100th birthday.

Patrick spoke in the Federal Reserve’s auditorium to a full house of nearly 400 pediatricians, educators, neuroscientists, museum professionals, business leaders, economists, parents and policymakers – all pursuing the same goal: devising and acting on bright, new ideas for the future of early childhood. (more…)

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Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

Think Simon Says is a simple children’s game? Think again, suggests a recent item in The New York Times that offers more evidence of the important role of play in developing critical executive function skills in young children.  As I noted in an earlier blog post (With Young Children, Play is the Curriculum), play helps children learn the executive function skills that research finds are important for school success.

“A growing body of research suggests that playing certain kinds of childhood games may be the best way to increase a child’s ability to do well in school,” the Times reports. “Variations on games like Freeze Tag and Simon Says require relatively high levels of executive function, testing a child’s ability to pay attention, remember rules and exhibit self-control — qualities that also predict academic success.”

With Simon Says, for instance. asking children to do the opposite of what Simon says “helps a child develop mental flexibility and self-control,” the Times reports. Researchers at Oregon State University use a game they call Head-to-Toes to assess young children’s development. The game starts with preschoolers copying the teacher’s movement – touching either her head or her toes. Asking children to do the opposite requires more complex cognitive skills, such as attention, focus, memory, self-control and mental flexibility.

Oregon State researchers followed 430 children from preschool to age 25 and found that children’s ability at age 4 to pay attention and finish a task were the greatest predictors of their chances of graduating from college by 25. Another study cited by the Times found that young children who are better at games like Simon Says perform better in reading and math. Still another found that children who began the school year with low levels of self-control improved after playing games like Red Light Green Light, the Times reports.

“Focusing on the how of learning, on executive functions, gives you the skills to learn new information, which is why they tend to be so predictive of long-term success,” Ellen Galinsky, a child-development researcher and author of “Mind in the Making: The Seven Essential Life Skills Every Child Needs,” tells the Times.

 

 

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