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A Taste of Meaningful Play

Play as a Powerful Enabler for Learning

Children have the right to play and they learn a great deal through play especially in their early years. I know that learning through play may sound vague and even a bit unrealistic to some parents. Be rest assured that the feeling is totally normal and as early childhood educators, we have the responsibility to show and help parents understand the skills children develop while they are engaged in meaningful play.

What does meaningful play look like? In a high quality preschool program, children are provided with the opportunities to play freely with purposefully selected learning materials that are designed to help them develop skills in all early childhood domains. The role of the teachers is to facilitate and guide these activities so as to ensure that each child is on track with their development. While children are exploring and finding creative ways to work with these learning materials such as pattern blocks, Magna-Tiles, watercolor, etc., their teachers make targeted observations and take detailed notes so they can individualize learning goals and experience for each child. Let’s take a look at the cartoon “A Play Creation” by Sandra J. Stone and see how learning through play is visualized.

Now I am going to share with you some examples of how our Ya Ya Learners engage in topic studies through meaningful play.

In the Green Class, real photos of butterflies, caterpillars, and bees were put up on the art wall and children had the freedom to draw their own insect of choice using a paint brush during work time. It seems to be a simple drawing activity but children are developing their gross and fine motor skills, using drawing to represent their ideas, practicing observation skills, and more.

In the Yellow Class, a small group of children were working with the unit blocks and they came up with the idea of building a hospital for Bao Bao. Then, one of the children suggested that they add doctor related vocabulary cards from our previous Jobs topic to their hospital. While building with unit blocks, children learn math concepts such as shapes, quantity, even fraction. They have the opportunities to share materials, take turns, and collaborate. In this particular case, they are also applying previous knowledge to new situations by adding the relevant vocabulary cards.

Outside in the library, children from the Blue Class were adding insects and flower pedals to the spring wall. They were using the Mandarin vocabulary about insects in a meaningful context, making patterns by putting different shaped petals on the flowers, and discussing science concepts such as the life cycles of insects and what plants need to grow.

CLICK the right arrow to enjoy the slideshow that includes more examples of meaningful play at Ya Ya during the past few weeks!

Activity Highlight

During the early childhood period in which children grow remarkably, it is crucial that science is integrated in the curriculum so children can shape up their observational skills, be encouraged to make predictions, and form a scientific mindset. While learning about bugs, our teachers planned a static electricity experiment where children charged a balloon and magically made their butterflies flap their wings up and down. How does static electricity work and what did the children learn during this activity?

Static Electricity (靜電實驗)

Skills Children Learned:

  • Science: Use scientific inquiry skills such as observing, questioning, and predicting

  • Cognitive: Show curiosity about the activity and motivation to participate. Sustain interest in the activity

  • Language: Comprehend the steps of the experiment. Describe what may happen and what actually happens

  • Physical: Manipulate balloons with coordinated arm movements

The Process:

  1. Each child were provided with a balloon and a butterfly made with tissue paper

  2. Children rubbed their balloon in their hair to give it an electric charge and made predictions about what would happen when they move the balloon closer to the butterfly

  3. Children held the balloon and moved it closer to their butterfly, and watched the wings raise and lower as they moved the balloon closer and farther away

The Result:

Teacher Spotlight

Meet Cindy Laoshi, our head teacher in the Yellow Class. Cindy's super power is her ability to ignite children's passion and curiosity for learning through challenging yet age-appropriate projects. She is a New York State certified early childhood teacher with a master's degree from Columbia University. A Taiwan native, Cindy dedicates herself to the early childhood field because she believes that the early childhood period has a profound impact on children’s future success, and she finds it extremely rewarding to be part of the impact.

Cindy Laoshi in Action - Singing a Finger Play Song with Children


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