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How Do We Decide What’s Best for Our Child?

children playing with bubbles

We all strive to do what’s best for our children. Question is, what does ‘best” mean? Does one size fit all?  Should we consider each child and choose options that best fit what we know about that individual and how she learns? Or go with the flow?

Once we decide what’s best, how do we evaluate the “rightness” of our decision over time? After all, nurturing children isn’t a “set it and forget it “ proposition. It’s one that requires vigilance and willingness to re-evaluate. What we thought the best choice could turn out not to be or to be for less time than we thought.

Beyond that is a plethora of information and opinions. Consider currently prevailing pressure for more academic learning at ever earlier ages.  What’s to be gained? What’s being lost? What are the consequences, both short-term and long? These are issues we need to confront as we weigh what’s best for our children.

Someone who has, both as parent and professional, is Angela Hansom. As a pediatric occupational therapist she focuses on activities of daily living. For a child that includes play. But what happens when children as early as preschool find themselves trading play for a more structured, academic approach to learning?

As a guest blogger for Valerie Strauss’ The Answer Sheet in The Washington Post, Hansom shares her experiences. “The decline of play in preschoolers-and the rise in sensory issues” outlines what she sees as the consequences of society’s push towards structured enrichment activities and academic achievement as early as preschool over early childhood as a time for child directed, open-ended play.

PlayopolisToys – for the diverse needs of the citizens of play

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Time to Clean Up

What do preschoolers learn from participating in clean-up? Quite a bit actually. Recently I visited El Arroyo Yard at Pacific Oaks Children’s School at what turned out to be outside clean-up time. The drill is this: everyone pitches in to clean up before going inside, washing hands, and settling in for afternoon snack and indoor play.

When I visited, only half a dozen 2 1/2 to 3 years old remained. When master teacher Laure McNulty began rallying the troops, everyone pitched in separating and putting away Duplo railplay pieces. Blocks went into a container; tracks were handed to her to stack on a shelf in a cabinet.

When a child on one side of the table pointed out she could not reach the container, someone else moved it closer to her. When the boy across the table could no longer reach, he crawled onto the table and continued to gather bricks and deposit them into the bucket. Others crawled under the table retrieving pieces that had fallen on the ground.

As clean-up moved to the sand area and toys needed to be put away, one boy delighted in driving the trucks up a ramp to a deck, but forgot “on the shelf please.” Another, carrying an empty five gallon water bottle, lost his way to “by the wheelbarrows please.” With gentle reminders and help from the teacher, the trucks made their way to the shelves and the bottle to its place.

Other children retrieved plastic animals from the sand and put those away, each in its own place. Yes, the teacher had to encourage attention to what went where, asking where do farm animals go, when finding one among the wild ones, but the little ones successfully put everything where it belonged.

So, what are these youngsters learning by this daily ritual? They are developing listening skills and learning to follow instructions, to communicate and cooperate, to accept individual responsibility and to work as a team. They are enhancing their developing motor, language, cognitive, and social skills while engaged in taking care of their environment. With an adult who understands the importance of good humor, patience, and persistence while working alongside her charges, these “little ones” are indeed contentedly learning valuable lessons as they clean up their outdoor classroom.

PlayopolisToys – for the diverse needs of the citizens of play