By Dr. Martha Cheney
Early childhood educators are poised at an exciting threshold of professionalism. The current focus on care and education for young children, along with the increased emphasis on accountability for PreK–12 educators, is shining a bright spotlight on the qualifications of those of us who work in this vitally important field. By taking the necessary steps to advance their knowledge and skills, early childhood educators can advance professional development, enhance the profile of the entire profession, and improve public perceptions of those who work in the field. As a program director of early childhood programs at Walden University, I work daily with students who want to make a real difference in the lives of young children and families and who are able to advance their own learning and marketability through achievement of a long-dreamed-of degree.
For those who work directly with young children in early childhood classroom settings, taking the next step on the learning ladder can build confidence and reinvigorate practice. Gaining new skills in such important areas as collaboration, leadership, brain research, and language and literacy development can boost teacher effectiveness and lead to improved outcomes for young children and families. Of perhaps equal importance, the pursuit of the next degree level provides excellent modeling of a commitment to lifelong learning for colleagues, parents of children in your setting, and to the children themselves.
Taking the next step
The increased knowledge and specialized skills that are acquired through continued learning and education can lead to opportunities beyond the classroom. When I began my career back in the 1970’s, work in the early childhood field was generally limited to teaching and caregiving. Since that time, the very notion of what it means to be a professional in the early childhood field has changed dramatically. The field continues to expand with new roles evolving across the multiple interconnected systems that serve young children and families. In addition to their critical roles as caregivers and teachers, early childhood professionals work in hospital and mental health services, in government and nonprofit agencies, and as parent educators in a variety of settings.
However, many early childhood educators may be reluctant to take that next step because of real or perceived barriers. In addition to typically long working hours, there are likely other personal responsibilities and commitments that make great demands on their time. It can seem daunting to add a program of study to an already exhaustive “to do” list. However, emerging models for degree programs provide a variety of options to meet the preferences and needs of adult learners. Public and private institutions offer traditional course-based programs, but these are not fully accessible to students who have limited transportation options, live in rural areas, have varying work schedules, or are caring for young children or elders in their own families.
A new way to learn
To help address these challenges, online programs offered by a variety of institutions provide greater access and flexibility for adult learners. In addition, new competency-based education (CBE) programs provide an exciting alternative to the course-based model. These programs allow early childhood educators to apply prior knowledge and skills gained through classroom practice as they progress through certificate and degree programs. Because they have traditionally been able to practice without formal degrees or certifications, many early childhood educators and caregivers have amassed years of valuable experience, but with little or no college credit. For these educators, competency-based programs may provide a more rapid and affordable pathway to degree completion. Walden University currently offers a CBE program for early childhood educators—the MS in Early Childhood Studies with a specialization in Administration, Management, and Leadership. Students in CBE programs demonstrate competency through authentic assessments instead of taking courses. This model enables them to leverage their prior knowledge and experience so that they can move through a program in less time. Students in CBE programs can focus on what they don’t know rather than what they do and progress through the program on their own schedule without deadlines. For students looking to find a CBE program, I’d recommend they look for accredited institutions that are approved to offer CBE and have previous experience in delivering high quality education programs as well as a history in delivering new and innovative learning models Equipped with the new knowledge, skills, and confidence that come with the pursuit of higher education and earning an advanced degree, early childhood educators can rightfully claim their role as professionals and promote a brighter future for children, families, and their beloved field.
Dr. Martha Cheney is the program director for the BS in Child Development, MAT in Early Childhood Education, MS in Early Childhood Studies, and Reading Endorsement K-12 programs in The Richard W. Riley College of Education and Leadership at Walden University. She’s previously taught at the university level both at Walden and at the University of Montana, Missoula’s school of education. Formerly a teacher, she began her career as a writer in educational publishing. She serves as a program reviewer for NAEYC and as a CAEP site visitor as part of the CAEP accreditation process.
To learn more about Tempo Learning and the competency-based M.S. in Early Childhood Studies program, visit www.waldenu.edu/programs/tempo-learning.
by Leshia Hoot
NAEYC’s Week of the Young Child is a wonderful time to celebrate the importance of early childhood education. Today’s early learners are the creative problem-solvers of tomorrow building the world of the future. How can we help them work together to practice creativity, collaboration, and critical thinking?
Today’s early learners will enter the workforce around the year 2030. In this fast-paced global economy, it is difficult to know which exact careers will be in highest demand. However, it seems safe to bet that flexible, creative thinkers who can work and collaborate together in a team environment will be ready for success in any vocation. According to IBM’s Global CEO study, navigating a complex, global, and interconnected environment is the biggest challenge enterprises will face in the future. The creativity and flexibility needed to learn and grow over time is therefore essential. According to research conducted by the LEGO Learning Institute, a foundation of critical thinking is developed through early childhood experiences that foster curiosity, initiative, independence, and effective choice. The research found that a combination of “skill, will and thrill” creates lifelong learners; students must learn content knowledge while also developing the will to continue learning along with an understanding of the how of learning. How does what I’m learning today apply to the world around me? Play often brings a needed element of thrill to create a fully engaging learning experience.
Teachers in classrooms around the world share that when they integrate hands-on learning materials like DUPLO bricks into their curriculum they see great learning benefits. Pre-K teacher Sharon Dudley of Laurel, Maryland says she has seen a huge boost in students’ verbal expression. According to Sharon, “While children are playing and building, their receptive and expressive language improves dramatically.” She has found that children who would normally answer questions with only a “yes” or “no” have begun speaking in full sentences such as, “Look! I made this bridge. The troll lives under here. The billy goats are gonna come across!”
In the kindergarten classes at A.J. Whittenberg Elementary in Greenville, South Carolina, Tom Roe, the school’s curriculum director, shares that students learn problem solving in a team-based environment, creating excitement and helping children feel successful at the end of a challenge.
So, what can we do today? We can create classrooms and playful learning experiences where children can work together, play together, and learn together. We can encourage risk-taking and support children in experiencing that making mistakes is a necessary element of learning. By incorporating play throughout lessons, we can make learning together fun. Together, we can inspire young minds to explore and discover the world.
What are some practical ways that you can create playful, collaborative learning activities? There are countless ways using a variety of resources and tools, and the Lego Foundation loves to share ways to use LEGO and DUPLO bricks for working and learning together. Check out our 20 days, 20 ways Pinterest page for inspiration.
Leshia Hoot is Sr. Segment Manager, Preschool and Elementary for LEGO Education. LEGO Education seeks to enable every student to succeed through playful learning experiences.
By Michelle Figlar
This week we’re celebrating the Week of the Young Child, the National Association for the Education of Young Children’s (NAEYC) annual campaign to garner nationwide support for the under-8 set.
The event highlights the critical nature of the early years, calling for greater investment in high quality early learning opportunities and support for the caring adults who help provide them. This year’s schedule is overflowing with professional development, community events, conferences, media screenings, and parties. But the annual extravaganza is also a great reminder of the critical programs that support our youngest kids all year long.
In the decades following the inaugural Week of the Young Child in 1971, we’ve learned a fair amount about childhood development and neurobiology. Crucially, we’ve learned how creative play and exploration positively affect brain development.
By navigating game play and creating imaginary situations, kids develop vital skills: They problem-solve, build rules and structure, communicate and share. In these social interactions and negotiations, the young brain develops new circuits in the prefrontal cortex, Sergio Pellis, a professor in the Department of Neuroscience at the University of Lethbridge,
“The science behind play, what exists, should be sufficient to argue at least for its inclusion, if not a focus, in early education,” Kyle Snow, NAEYC director of applied research, has said.
Yet while we were making leaps in our understanding of the importance of play, young kids are spending less time in unstructured play. According to one study, contemporary kids ages 6-8 experience 25 percent less play than their counterparts in the 1980s. Kids age 6-8 in 2002 spent only 11 hours a week in unstructured play, and outdoor play on their own is significantly less. Therefore, the Week of the Young Child is a welcome opportunity to highlight the programs and organizations that—in an increasingly structured society—are providing kids with the chance to make believe, run around, and get creative.
In some places, cross-sector collaboration has fostered play-friendly scenes. Pittsburgh—whose NAEYC chapter is fond of stretching the Week of the Young Child into a month of festivities—is a prime example of a city where disparate organizations have banded together with the shared mission of boosting play. With one another’s support, the members of Playful Pittsburgh Collaborative educate lawmakers, host community activities and discussions, and create places for play.
“We’re all able to support our individual goals without any mission drift at all—that’s very unusual,” Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy director Marijke Hecht told Remake Learning. “Play is the kind of topic that crosses many sectors.”
That’s because teachers and technologists alike know that hands-on exploration leads to learning. The encouragement of discovery and active engagement is central to the Teachers’ Innovation Project. The partnership, a spin-off of the Children’s Innovation Project, began as a small experiment but now counts Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh Public Schools, Clarion University, the Fred Rogers Center, and the Sprout Fund among its members. The project introduces technology—simple circuit blocks and other raw materials—to kids as young as kindergarteners, emphasizing exploration as a path to producing and creating rather than just being a consumer.
We’re thrilled to celebrate the many initiatives that provide kids with vital opportunities for play. But they’ll be most successful if new programs that want to follow in their footsteps have all the community and political support they need to do so. So this month—we’re calling for national attention on the critical issue of play.
How are you celebrating WOYC and what does it mean to you as an Early Childhood Education professional?
Michelle Figlar is the executive director of the Pittsburgh Association for the Education of Young Children
by Rhian Evans Allvin
Our time has come! It’s up to all of us in the early childhood education field to show the courage and leadership needed to attract and retain the most effective educators and to support best practices in children’s learning and development.
A seminal report, “Transforming the Workforce for Children Birth Through Age 8: A Unifying Foundation” from the Institute of Medicine and National Research Center, recognizes the diverse skills and nuances that define the early childhood education profession and the multiple pathways that exist for those entering into and advancing within the field.
The report’s recommendations rest on a solid foundation of research, policy, and practice and are closely aligned with with key elements of NAEYC’s new Strategic Direction, released in November 2014. They recognize the science of how young children learn, the sophistication that is required to ensure educational excellence, and the systems approach necessary to support young children and early childhood educators on multiple fronts. (See NAEYC’s press release on the report.)
NAEYC's members represent the full spectrum of the profession. NAEYC, as the association for all early childhood educators is committed more than ever to providing content and resources rooted in the most up to date science and research. We are working on behalf of our members and the field on a number of projects and initiatives that focus on bolstering the profession and aligning content and resources around the science behind best practices that support how children develop and learn.
We are strengthening state early childhood professional development systems with our PD System Indicators project as we develop a strategic planning tool to benchmark the quality and effectiveness of state early childhood professional development systems, supporting the work ahead in states and communities. The PD System Indicators project builds on NAEYC's Workforce Designs: A Policy Blueprint for State Early Childhood Professional Development Systems, as its framework.
We are enhancing both the public perception of careers in early childhood education and the capacity of higher education programs to grow the field with the Strengthening the Professional Pipeline project: With support from the W. K. Kellogg Foundation, (1) The Quality Improvement and Capacity Building in Higher Education Project focuses on strengthening the quality and capacity of higher education programs and their faculty to meet the demand for professionals with specialized degrees and credentials in early childhood education. (2) The Career Awareness, Investment, and Retention Campaign focuses on enhancing the image of the early childhood profession so it is viewed as a viable career option. This initiative will also serve as a vehicle to promote investments, public and private, for professional development systems, institutions, and individuals.
We are reviewing our content, aligning it with current research, and making it more accessible: NAEYC has a longstanding history as creator and publisher of high quality research based content that promotes best practices in early learning. As NAEYC thinks toward the future we are transforming our content stream. The end goal will be to offer users the robust array of NAEYC content in ways that are easy to use and that make connections between NAEYC’s position statements and program standards, emerging trends, research, and needs.
We are exploring the theme, The Early Childhood Profession We All Want: What Will It Take to get Us There? at NAEYC’s National Institute for Early Childhood Professional Development taking place June 7–10, in New Orleans. Always a place for new knowledge, this is the year to be there to join in this conversation!
We are co-publishing the upcoming book, Professionalizing Early Childhood Education As a Field of Practice: A Guide to the Next Era, by Stacie Goffin. with Redleaf Press, (for release in June as a comprehensive member benefit). The book will offer our field a roadmap for initiating a conversation from the inside out. Stacie’s premise is that we have to own this agenda rather than having a definition created for us.
We invite you to explore our resources and initiatives, become a member if you’re not one already, mentor your students and a colleagues with resources from NAEYC and join us us as we work together to bolster and support our field.
Want more on quality early learning? Sign up to get the latest from NAEYC.
Rhian Evans Allvin is the Executive Director at NAEYC.
By Pamela Ehrenberg
Remember that incident with the class guinea pig? Or the act of kindness at the sand table? In our early childhood classrooms, stories unfold around us every minute. If you’ve ever dreamed of capturing one of these stories by writing a children’s book, here are five things to know:
1. The world needs your stories
As children and families in the U.S. become increasingly diverse, the Cooperative Children’s Book Center at the University of Wisconsin found that fewer than 10% of children's books in the past 21 years contain multicultural content. As multitudes of librarians and others advocate that #WeNeedDiverseBooks, you might consider: especially if you teach children of color, English language learners, children with disabilities, children in “nontraditional” families, and/or children in poverty, who better than you to write these stories?
2. You don’t have to draw the pictures
For most books, the publisher takes care of identifying an illustrator whose artwork will add a new dimension to your story.
3. Books that are published today are different
Picture books are shorter than they used to be, and most of them avoid didactic lessons and talking animals. Look beyond old favorites at books being published today, and make it easy for a publisher to see how your work fits with their goals.
4. Getting published takes a (long) while
Be ready to revise, rewrite, edit, and revise some more. Then show your work to some critical friends and prepare for more revisions. After having two young adult novels published, I was still surprised when my 100-word board book about parsley went through months of revision and two consultations with a botanist. What a great lesson for the children you work with in pursuing a goal without giving up.
5) Help is available!
The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (www.SCBWI.org) offers regional and national/international publications and conferences, and assistance in finding critique groups. Meanwhile, participants in Picture Book Idea Month each fall generate 30 picture book concepts in 30 days (http://taralazar.com/piboidmo/). And my board book was created during a 12x12 picture book challenge; registration for this year’s challenge is open through February 28 (http://12x12challenge.com/).
But the most important resources are your relationships with young children and your dedication to capturing their stories. Do you have a break during your workday when you can write—even for 20 minutes? Can you wake up early to write, before the demands of work and family consume your day? And how can you ensure you’ll keep writing through the inevitable roadblocks?
There are no guarantees that even the most brilliantly told story will find its way to publication. But the more early childhood teachers who commit themselves to this work, the more young children who will see themselves, and their stories, in the books they read and listen to. On behalf of both the book community and the early childhood community—thank you for telling those stories.
Pamela Ehrenberg is Program Review Manager in NAEYC’s Higher Education Accreditation and Program Support division, and the author of Ethan, Suspended and Tillmon County Fire, both from Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, and the forthcoming Planting Parsley from PJ Library.
By Susan Friedman
The March 2015 issue of Young Children focuses on blocks as a great learning tool from birth through age 8 and I'll admit it. I'm block crazy. I first learned about the power of blocks as a learning tool straight from the source when I worked at City & Country School, the birthplace of the unit block. Caroline Pratt, the founder of the school developed the unit block to serve as a core basic material children could use to experiment with as they learned about the world.
The materials on the block shelves in my classroom at City & Country were similar to what had been on the block shelves of the school’s preschool classroom for years. This was not a classroom set-up I had designed. As a new teacher, I inherited the basic layout from longtime City & Country School teacher, Shirley Lanser who also taught me about the school’s philosophy with its focus on open-ended learning materials - paint, clay, water, and of course blocks.
So what was on my block shelf?
- lots of wooden unit blocks
- boxes of small colorful wooden cubes
- squares of cloth
- simple baby dolls
- painted wooden trucks
- painted wooden figures that could be imagined to be a person (when vertical) or a train, bed, etc (when horizontal)
- small pots and pans
Overtime I added a few other items:
- block sized animals
- a basket of natural materials like pinecones
But the basic materials and what was on the shelves remained the same. The classroom had no toy stove, toy sink, or toy beds. Much of the dramatic play that might happen in other classrooms, in places like a housekeeping corner, took place among the blocks.
I remember being surprised when teachers visiting from other schools asked how we got so many girls to spend time in the block area. When I visited other classrooms I thought I knew the answer. Take away the toy stove, sink, and beds, I thought at the time, and put in more space for blocks. The kids will build the stoves, tables, and beds from blocks!
City & Country school is a unique school with a unique history. Not every program can devote so much of the classroom space to block building.
What’s on your block shelf? And what’s not in your classroom that the kids recreate with blocks? More more ideas on blocks make sure to read the March 2015 issue of Young Children which focuses on the power of blocks!
Susan Friedman is Executive Editor of Digital Content at NAEYC.
By: Colleen MacDonald
Forward by Stephanie Olmore
NAEYC promotes quality child care and developmentally appropriate practice not just in the US but worldwide as well. This month we feature a post from Colleen MacDonald from Ontario, Canada. If you’d like to contribute to our blog, please submit your blog post ideas to us. We look forward to your comments as we continue to work together to promote quality early childhood education globally.
Full Day Early Learning in Kindergarten Comes to Ontario!
Wonder, Curiosity and Awe! Inquiry in Action
What’s this? Three, four and five year olds in school for a full day of learning? In 2010, the Ontario Ministry of Education announced its plan to implement Full Day Learning in every school across the province. The sceptics started to listen when they saw the vision unfold. Dr. Charles Pascal, Professor of Department of Applied Psychology and Human Development at OISE/University of Toronto, was asked to recommend the best way to implement early learning for four and five year olds. The result was a program capturing the vision, purpose and goals, blending curriculum expectations (standards) with developmental stages.
Among the many recommendations, several piqued the interest of the Educational and Childcare sectors.
1 – Program is inquiry-driven in a play-based environment
2 – Environment acts as the Third Educator
3 – Pedagogical Documentation captures the learning and “Makes Thinking Visible”
4 – Self-Regulation as the overriding goal of the program
5 – Before and After School Care on-site, in schools
6 – Program delivered by a Certified Teacher, partnered with a Registered Early Childhood Educator
Of all the recommendations, #1 and #6 became hot topics of discussion and debate. Teachers were used to working alone in the classroom, delivering a theme-based program in a prescribed manner. The idea of letting the curriculum emerge from the children’s interests was a new concept. Now, invite a partner into the classroom with a different background who will share the responsibilities of creating a high quality, intentional, play-based learning environment. The result was what the teams affectionately refer to as, “the arranged marriage, with children!” Teachers and principals were unsure of just what a Registered Early Childhood Educator was qualified to do. Do they assess? Do they plan? What do they learn in their course of study? Registered Early Childhood Educators wondered, will my opinion be valued; will I be treated as an equal or considered a helper? Ultimately the biggest question was: will the children still learn what they are supposed to?
In the first year of the rollout of the program, there were many questions in classrooms across Ontario as two educators began working together to form collaborative full day kindergarten teams. Both educators started to learn about each other and develop respect for one other’s backgrounds, strengths and gifts. As the “marriage” unfolded, it became clear that as the teams worked together, with the children as their priority, they flourished! A newfound respect for each profession emerged. They learned from one another and from the children. The educational and childcare worlds collided, in a positive way.
Making Five In Many Ways
Sarah, the teacher and Meghan, the Registered ECE Educator met the June before school started and they shared their stories and hopes for the program. When Meghan visited the school for the first time, Sarah was eager to share her storage room full of theme boxes that she had created over the years. Meghan didn’t place judgement but instead said,“Just wait, you may find that you won’t be needing those boxes anymore. The children will tell you want they want to learn about.” The big day arrived and as the twenty-sixth child entered the room, Meghan could feel her heart pounding. She had never worked with such a large group before! Sarah took the lead and gathered the children for whole group community time. When the children moved to the play areas, Sarah watched Meghan engage with the children, listen intently, record information and move on. At the end of the day, Sarah and Meghan sat down to reflect on how the day unfolded. As they compared notes, they saw that they were both observing the children but seeing different things. Over the next few weeks, conversations about the children revealed insights into developmentally appropriate learning opportunities. Listening to the children provided insight into their world and what they were curious about. and then the curriculum emerged.The marriage partners were now dancing, sharing the lead, and working in sync towards a common goal.
This accomplishment didn’t occur overnight. Each team participated in networked learning sessions to explore topics such as play, inquiry, and self-regulation.. At every session, time was spent on looking at the role of the team members and how to deal with difficult situations. Participants shared strategies to communicate disagreements and negotiate respectfully. It was universally agreed that decisions must be grounded in the program/curriculum and have the child at the centre.
Is it perfect yet? Are we finished? Not by a long shot, but when we embark on a new journey and learn together, there are bound to be bumps along the way. What matters most is that children are at the center of our discussions and are flourishing and learning in the way that they do best – through play, guided by two caring, professional educators.
Free Exploration - What Can We See in a Sunflower?
Colleen MacDonald is the Coordinator of Early Years at the Ottawa Catholic School Board. She can be reached at: email@example.com.
Energy Balance is the balance of calories consumed from foods and beverages (Energy In) with calories burned from physical activity (Energy Out). When we maintain Energy Balance over time, it can contribute to our health in positive ways. While adults are very familiar with these concepts, preschool-¬¬aged children are not expected to understand calories or how energy is balanced. They can, however, begin to learn important concepts related to what they eat and how they move.
Educators play a critical role in bringing this message to children, but are often not highlighted for the great work they do to ensure a healthy lifestyle for the children they teach. That’s why the Together Counts program has created the Smart from the Start Awards, recognizing the practical, long-term improvements in nutrition and physical activity that educators have made at their preschools.
Last year’s Smart from the Start Award winners received a total of more than $45,000 in grants and prizes towards strengthening health and wellness programming throughout their schools. Here are a few examples of what these Energy Balance stars have done:
At Eaton Park Elementary, a Title I school in Abbeville, La., educators crafted a plan to build a youth fitness trail with exercise stations. They also conducted parent “lunch and learns” to reach not just their students, but families and the larger community, as well.
The Here We Grow Learning Center in Dunedin, Fla. created a Health and Wellness Club to equip families with tools and strategies to make smart nutritional choices and encourage them to be active participants. Here We Grow Learning Center reported that 95 percent of their families are enrolled in the Florida Department of Health’s Florida Childcare Food Program, Florida Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and/or Women, Infants and Children (WIC).
In Springdale, AK, the Early Childhood Center involves all stakeholders in tackling the issue of childhood obesity with a multi-pronged approach, as more than 36 percent of the 3-5 year olds in their school overweight or obese. The school hosts seminars for the community, has added exercise equipment to their playground, and is constructing a new greenhouse.
The LSSI Head Start Program in Chicago, Ill. purchased age-appropriate play equipment and created a children’s library filled with health-related books.
This year's Smart from the Start Awards are now open for entry. Share your vision for energy balance and you could win a $20,000 grand prize grant or one of ten $2,000 second prize grants. Submit your entry by February 27! Together Counts is a partnership led by the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation and Discovery Education, providing standards-aligned, free resources to help students, educators, and families lead active and healthy lifestyles.
This blog post was submitted by Discovery Education. Together Counts is a partnership led by the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation and Discovery Education, providing standards-aligned, free resources to help students, educators, and families lead active and healthy lifestyles.
The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) and KaBOOM! are working together to help kids get the balanced and active play they need to thrive. Rhian Evans Allvin, executive director of NAEYC, and Darell Hammond, founder and CEO of KaBOOM!, discuss the importance of play in education and the positive impact it has on communities.
Why is play important to education?
Rhian Evans Allvin: Neuroscience has confirmed that learning begins at birth and the period from birth to age five includes rapid brain development—setting the foundation for cognitive, social/emotional, language and fine and gross motor skills. In order to achieve the academic excellence and equity that is essential—we must invest in our young children during this window of explosive development.
Young children engage in various kinds of play, such as physical play, object play, pretend or dramatic play, constructive play, and games with rules. Play gives them opportunities to develop physical competence and enjoyment of the outdoors, understand and make sense of their world, interact with others, express and control emotions, develop their symbolic and problem-solving abilities, and practice emerging skills. Research shows the links between play and foundational capacities such as memory, self-regulation, oral language abilities, social skills, and success in school.
Children of all ages love to play. From infancy, children act on the world around them for the pleasure of seeing what hap¬pens; for example, repeatedly dropping a spoon on the floor or pulling the cat’s tail. Around age two, children begin to demonstrate symbolic use of objects—for instance, picking up a shell and pre¬tending to drink as from a cup—at least when they have had opportunities to observe others engaging in such make-believe behavior.
From such beginnings, children begin to engage in more mature forms of dramatic play, in which by the age of 3–5 they may act out specific roles, interact with one another in their roles, and plan how the play will go. Such play is influential in developing self-regulation, as children are highly motivated to stick to the roles and rules of the play, and thus grow in the ability to inhibit their impulses, act in coordination with others, and make plans. High-level dramatic play produces documented cognitive, social, and emotional ben¬efits.
Darell Hammond: As global competition increases, it is imperative that children develop a skill-set relevant to today's workforce and are able to approach challenges with creative solutions to successfully navigate our complex, ever-changing world. Critical thinking and collaboration are integral to the jobs of the future, and balanced and active play helps kids develop these 21st century skills.
Unfortunately, however, play is disappearing in our schools. A study published in the journal Pediatrics found that 30 percent of children surveyed had little to no recess in their school day. That's nearly one in three kids. At KaBOOM!, we believe play should be part of a well-rounded school day. That is, kids need to read, write, do math, as well as practice problem-solving, teamwork, and creativity. We know play also helps children adjust to the school setting, enhances their learning readiness, and indirectly contributes to children learning more hard skills in school by mitigating behavioral problems and increasing academic engagement.
We are thrilled to partner with NAEYC, to raise awareness about the importance of play in early childhood education. As part of this commitment, we are granting Imagination Playgrounds to 10 NAEYC member sites. This unique and innovative play product will help transform regular classrooms into playspaces that encourage learning, social development, critical thinking, movement, and fun!
How does play benefit kids?
Rhian: We see a wonderful interplay of domains as children play—they demonstrate their approaches to learning, they can engage with others in a social relationship, they attempt things that are challenging, yet achievable—which enhances their self-esteem. Children express emotions as they play. There’s also an integration of math, literacy, science, and other academic areas as children play—constructing, classifying, sorting, seriating, quantifying, and practicing other skills. Physical play supports the development of gross and fine motor skills. Who knew that a classic game of Simon Says is actually building the same inhibitory control that is needed to follow academic instructions later in school? Research now demonstrates the development of self-regulation or executive function in sociodramatic (imaginative, pretend) play leads to higher achievement—a very important benefit!
Darell: At KaBOOM!, we believe that the well-being of society begins with the well-being of children. This is why we’re such big advocates of balanced and active play, which is essential—and elemental—to enable children to thrive.
Just as a healthy diet balances proteins, fats, carbohydrates, and other nutrients, a balanced “play diet” should include a mix of all kinds of play, because different types have different benefits. For example, play-dough creations, blocks, and make-believe spark the imagination and teach problem-solving skills. Running, jumping, and climbing get legs moving and hearts pumping. And exploring playgrounds with families or playing hide-and-seek with friends helps kids learn to work together, collaborate, and share. A balance of play means active minds, active bodies, and active together to realize all of play’s benefits.
What impact can play have on cities?
Darell: Across the United States, cities and communities are engaged in a fierce contest for the future. They are competing for businesses, economic development, and jobs. They are competing for residents—for families who will breathe energy and enterprise into their neighborhoods. The fact is, for communities to thrive, they need to ensure that all of their residents are happy, healthy, and contributing to their community’s overall vitality. One essential ingredient in the recipe is a renewed commitment to fostering family-friendly, kid-friendly environments that allow young people to get their bodies moving and their minds engaged no matter where they are.
All families deserve to live in a safe community with ample job opportunities, great schools and abundant opportunities to play, but we currently have inequitable distribution of services, resources, and opportunities for low-income families. This inequity serves to perpetuate the cycle of poverty that threatens our nation's economic future. Creating kid-friendly, family-friendly cities filled with play is a competitive advantage for cities to attract and retain residents, and it directly impacts the kids that need it most.
Rhian: The provision of family-friendly, kid-friendly environments is a hallmark of sustainable communities. All families want to live in areas where there are many opportunities for children to play outdoors in areas that are safe and conducive to big body play, using their imaginations and equipment that is tailored to their needs. That’s the kind of community I want to live in—and fortunately I do!
Want more on quality early learning? Sign up to get the latest from NAEYC.
Rhian Evans Allvin is the Executive Director at NAEYC.
Darell Hammond is the founder and CEO of KaBOOM!
by Rhain Evans Allvin
"It’s not a nice-to-have—it’s a must-have. It’s time we stop treating child care as a side issue." - President Barack Obama
On Tuesday, I listened with rapt attention as President Barack Obama delivered his State of the Union address. While we are less than a month into 2015, it is already proving to be a groundbreaking year for young children and their families.
As Obama addressed the nation, he drove home the importance of a continued commitment to early childhood development by presenting a major tax reform proposal that will benefit 5.1 million families by helping them to cover child care costs.
NAEYC is thrilled that the President shares the same vision as our new strategic direction: all young children thrive and learn in a society dedicated to ensuring they reach their full potential.
Digging deeper into the proposal, President Obama noted that his plan will streamline child care tax benefits, but also increases the maximum child care benefit for middle class families with young children, up to $3,000 per child. That’s triple the current amount!
The State of the Union also highlighted the importance of early learning, stressing that in order for parents to work and feel secure in today's economy, affordable high-quality child care is "a must-have." We congratulate the President for taking this firm stance on the importance of child care and referring to it as a "national economic priority." NAEYC looks forward to working with the Administration and Congress to improve the quality of child care settings and to ensure that all families have access to the child care that best meets their needs.
High-quality early childhood education needs to be affordable and accessible to all families in our Nation Research in all areas – whether in education, neuroscience, or economics – points to the same conclusion: early learning matters. We have all the facts and now it is time we act on them; a public commitment will give parents peace of mind that their children are safe while they are at work and that they are engaged in learning environments that help prepare them for success in school and in life.
Combined with the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESA) and the federal Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG), we are steps closer to delivering on the promise of early learning: a promise that ensures all young children have access to high quality early learning experiences and that early childhood educators serve in a valued and revered profession.
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Rhian Evans Allvin is the Executive Director at NAEYC.