Archive for the ‘Play’ Category

This is one of a series of blogs featuring first-person accounts from early educators across Massachusetts.

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Brittany McGovernMy name is Brittany McGovern.

I have been working in the field of early education and care for half my life. During my first couple of years in the field, I was finishing high school. As a senior in high school, I was granted the opportunity to intern in the Head Start preschool classroom that was located in my school. The position turned into a year-long one, and this opportunity convinced me that I was destined to teach.

I recently switched places of employment, leaving a wonderful mom-and-pop childcare center that I love. I had seen this center when it was an unfinished shell of a building, and I’ve watched it grow into a fully constructed center with a waiting list for children who want to enroll.

I currently work in an infant/toddler classroom, where part of our funding comes from Early Head Start. The reason I had to change jobs was purely financial. I needed to earn more money.

What is important about my work is that I am able to provide a loving, safe environment in which children can play and, in turn, learn. This anonymous quote perhaps best expresses my passion for teaching: “One hundred years from now it will not matter what my bank account was, the sort of house I lived in, or the kind of car I drove, but the world may be different because I was important in the life of a child.” (more…)

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Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

A recent study shows that home visiting programs can dramatically improve children’s school readiness.

The study report — “Long-Term Academic Outcomes of Participation in the Parent-Child Home Program in King County, WA,” — explains:

“The Parent-Child Home Program (PCHP) is an intensive two-year home-visiting program aimed at increasing school readiness among young children from families who face multiple obstacles to educational and economic success, such as poverty, low literacy, limited education, and language barriers.”

Families enroll “when children are about two years old and receive two 30-minute visits per week for 23 weeks in each year of the program, for a total of 92 visits.”

The home visitor “shares a language and cultural background with the family” and “uses a non-directive approach and a high-quality toy or book, which is left as a gift for the family, to model behaviors for parents that enhance children’s development.” (more…)

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Mayor Bill de Blasio hosts a press conference and visits science and music programs in the pre-K center at Windsor Terrace’s Bishop Ford campus, where there are now over 20 free, full-day, high-quality pre-K classrooms serving nearly 300 children. Photographer/Mayoral Photography Office

Mayor Bill de Blasio hosts a press conference and visits science and music programs in the pre-K center at Windsor Terrace’s Bishop Ford campus, where there are now over 20 free, full-day, high-quality pre-K classrooms serving nearly 300 children. Photo source: Mayor de Blasio’s Flickr page. Photographer/Mayoral Photography Office


Borscht — the red soup that’s made of beets — is the first word of David Kirp’s New York Times opinion piece, “How New York Made Pre-K a Success.”

Why soup? It’s an example of how New York Mayor Bill de Blasio has grown his city’s preschool program into a widespread, multicultural success – one that other cities and states can learn from.

“Borscht isn’t found on most prekindergarten menus, but it’s what the cooks were dishing up for the 35 children at Ira’s Daycare in Briarwood, Queens, on a recent school day,” Kirp writes. He’s a professor of public policy at the University of California, Berkeley. “Many families in this neighborhood are Russian émigrés for whom borscht is a staple, but children from half a dozen countries, including a contingent from Bangladesh, are also enrolled here.

“These youngsters are among the 68,547 4-year-olds enrolled in one of the nation’s most ambitious experiments in education: New York City’s accelerated attempt to introduce preschool for all.” (more…)

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Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) is weighing in on preschool with an article about the challenges of creating programs that maximize best outcomes for children.

Called “Preschool is for Real,” the article starts by noting that children and teachers are doing a lot of hard work.

“Imagine yourself as a preschooler. Everything’s an adventure, from pretending you’re a superhero to chasing a butterfly to painting a self-portrait. There is so much to explore, discover and learn at preschool, and it all feels like play—hours and hours of play,” the article says.

“But behind all the fun and games, preschool teachers have one very serious goal: To prepare children for kindergarten and future academic success. To achieve that, they have the daunting task of helping young children learn specific social, emotional, physical, linguistic, cognitive, literacy and math skills, which are defined in state learning guidelines or standards. All this sounds very much like school, although preschool teachers make it all feel like play.” (more…)

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“Preschool is founded on play; experts say it’s how children learn best. But not all play is the same.

“How, then, should parents decide what school is right for their child? They can readily compare cost and location, but quality is tougher to discern…”

“Jane Lannak, director of the Early Childhood Learning Lab at Boston University and a clinical associate professor, said children need to develop a love of learning as they play, and to feel respected and part of the classroom community.

“One good way to foster those ideals is to help them follow their interests, she said. Parents should look for a program with structure in which children make some choices about what activities they do.”

From “How to pick the right preschool for your child,” by Jennette Barnes, the Boston Globe, July 30, 2015

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Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Play is making a comeback in kindergarten classes located in the Maryland suburb of Pasadena, according to a recent New York Times article, “Kindergartens Ringing the Bell for Play Inside the Classroom.”

But support for play varies based on class-related ideas about what children need most: more play or more academics.

Describing Pasadena’s new approach to play, the Times writes:

“Mucking around with sand and water. Playing Candy Land or Chutes and Ladders. Cooking pretend meals in a child-size kitchen. Dancing on the rug, building with blocks and painting on easels.

“Call it Kindergarten 2.0.”

“Concerned that kindergarten has become overly academic in recent years, this suburban school district south of Baltimore is introducing a new curriculum in the fall for 5-year-olds. Chief among its features is a most old-fashioned concept: play.”

Some teachers are excited about the new approach.

“But educators in low-income districts say a balance is critical,” the Times notes. “They warn that unlike students from affluent families, poorer children may not learn the basics of reading and math at home and may fall behind if play dominates so much that academics wither.” (more…)

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Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children


The action never seems to stop in preschool classrooms. But appearances can be deceiving. Researchers from the University of Washington report that children are not always getting enough opportunities for active play.

“Parents feel as if their young children are constantly in motion. But new research suggests that children in preschool have few opportunities for active play and are often sedentary,” a blog on the New York Times’ Motherlode website says.

To conduct this study — “Active Play Opportunities at Child Care” — researchers observed 98 children attending 10 preschools in Seattle. Each preschool was observed for four full days.

The study found that children’s activity was 73 percent sedentary, 13 percent light, and 14 percent of what researchers call “moderate-vigorous physical activity.”

The study found “that for 88 percent of child care time, children were not presented opportunities for active play, so the finding that more than 70 percent of children’s time was sedentary is not surprising.”  (more…)

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