Sunday, April 9, 2017

Play is Serious Business!

"When we treat children's play as seriously as it deserves, we are helping them to feel the joy that's to be found in the creative spirit."~Fred Rogers

   I just love this quote and am so lucky to be surrounded by a community who treats play as the serious business that it is!      

 Allowing our children to see us play as adults lets them know that we recognize that play is important work!    



Allowing our children to create and engage fully in a play activity of their choice says, "I trust and respect you" and "what you are doing is important."  You will often hear me say to the children, "you worked hard on that" (because they did)! 

"A four-year-old will be a four-year-old only once.  Concentrate on meeting his present needs.  Don't foist future academics on him.  If he's allowed to truly play now-spontaneous play with room for running, leaping, ka-powing, crying, dancing, paining, spilling, and creative problem-solving-then he will be ready for academics later.  When children gain social and emotional skills and confidence in the preschool years, academic learning naturally follows." 

~Heather Schumaker

By offering the tools for different kinds of play we give children new opportunities for exploring and discovering.  Whether it's a silk, a pencil, a whole lot of tape or MORE water, we take it seriously!   

Encouraging nature play creates an appreciation and love for  of our planet!  These are our future gardeners and scientists!

"We are all artists. The problem is how to remain and artist once you grow up." ~Pablo Picasso  

We are all artists and allowing children to play and create in their own way everyday keeps this message alive!  

Upcoming Dates:

Friday, April 21st: NO NLA (I will be traveling to Florida for Kristen's college orientation/ Family Day).

Tuesday, May 2nd: NO NLA-join us Wednesday for May Day this week!

Wednesday, May 3rd: NLA May Day Celebration! Music, face painting, and May Pole fun too!

Please RSVP on Meetup for this event.

Friday, May 19th: Bridging Day for everyone! ALL NLA days invited and encouraged to attend!  I used to just bridge the children who were "moving on," but it can be confusing for the younger children, so now we bridge anyone who wants to bridge!  This is a sweet ceremony where the children get a little keepsake and we say something special about each child!  Shhhhh....we are also bridging my daughter Kristen too as she heads off to college!  Please join us!

Sign-ups for summer NLA are happening soon, so please let me know which dates (I will have the sign-up sheets at school next week you want to join us).  Payment is required ahead to save your space.

Fall Sign-ups!  Please let me know (if you haven't already done so) what day or days you would like to attend in the Fall!  It will fill up quickly and I want to know ASAP how many available spaces we have. 

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Allowing the Experience

   I just find it so fascinating to watch and listen to children play!  There is so much going on in their play and so much beneath the surface driving their play.  Play offers children a stage for practicing, experimenting and processing! What a gift we are giving our children to allow them this small window of time to be children wild and free just working hard playing.

During all NLA days right now we are noticing even the children who previously skirted around the perimeter of the group play are now experimenting with "trying to get in the mix" of the group play happening.

We know play is developmental from solitary play, to parallel side by side play to social group play.  Realizing this reminds us that how ever a child is "playing" at this moment (as long as it is not hurting someone or damaging property) is "right where they need to be".  No matter how much we as adults want to see our children form "friendships" and "connect" with other children it will only happen when the child is ready.

With a multi-age group of children like we have at NLA there is a huge range of development!  This range of ages offers our children rich, real-life opportunities to practice and experience the many social situations that will continuously arise throughout their lives.   Real life situations like how to get into a group, how to have a strong voice and say "no,"  and even just what being a "friend" means.   Experiencing and experimenting with these different situations is how social learning happens and it's not always pretty!

One of the situations that comes with social group play and will continue to arise throughout our children's lives (even as adults) is "exclusion."  This is truly a hard one to handle whether your child is the one being excluded or is the one doing the excluding!  Most children "try out" both at one time or another and it doesn't mean that your child is a bully or that your child is cruel or mean (even though it may sound that way), but that they are just "learning" and practicing new skills.

 I want to touch on what we can do as adults to help support these real life experiences without shutting down the "practice" that the children need.    First, I think it is important to point out that these "exclusions" could be triggering a childhood memory of feeling left out for yourself.  I know as a very quiet child who disliked competition I was pretty much always the last to be chosen for team sports in school, so these memories of feeling excluded would just flood over me when I saw my child being excluded!  I was lucky to have an amazing mentor who pointed out that while we want to protect our children from the pains that we went through as children, nothing teaches anyone anything better that true "experience."
  The ability to get into a social group and knowing how to be a friend is something we all had to experience....we didn't learn it from being told or shown.  As painful as it was I learned that I could step back and support my children when needed while not taking the experience from them.  And yes, having four children I saw my children on both sides of this issue, the excluder and the one being excluded!

As adults we want our children to all just get along, but true "free" play actually allows for children to  not only choose what they play, but also whom they play with!   There are many reasons a child may decide to "exclude" another child in their play.    Sometimes children seem to need the "power" to make the choice about who they want in their play at the moment, sometimes its just a fear of someone coming in and changing their play or wrecking their space or sometimes we all just need some space to play alone.  We can't always know the reason for the exclusion unless the child is willing to tell us.
We know that most of the time if we step back the children will figure it out.  When we do need to step in there are ways to support without completely squashing the learning that could happen!
Ways to help when needed:  Children may need help with delivering the exclusion message in a more gentle way (again this takes lots of experience and practice).  Here the "Sports caster" approach can work well.  You just repeat what the child said, "right now I hear you saying you want to play by yourself", or "you want to only play with "so in so" right now."   This takes the "personal" from it and just states what is happening, so we can then support them all.

Sometimes we can help them find another space to play (if they are trying to control a space like the mud kitchen or the tower) or we can help the child being excluded by finding someone else to play with for the moment.  We usually see that the exclusion is temporary!

 I love how Heather Shumaker talks about this subject in her book "It's Ok Not to Share."  Heather reminds us that if we take off our adult lenses "exclusionary" play becomes less scary!  Experience with all sides of rejection is part of the social learning that children will need for a lifetime.   I believe it also once again about respect for each individual child and before reacting to a situation, we can step back and realizing the learning that is happening and how amazing it all is!