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Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Play Is the Way!

A toddler playing with blocks
A child playing in Bloomer
Every several months, I have a chance to get together with early childhood professionals from around western Wisconsin, and it is often some of the most fruitful time I spend.  Not because I get a lot of taks ticked off my list, but because I hear about what kinds of things others who work with young children are thinking about, what kinds of issues families in the region are facing, ideas about how to include kids who speak English as a second language or kids with disabilities, and opportunities to work together on projects.  I also tend to learn a lot, including about the absolutely critical nature of PLAY in child development.  For young children in particular, it is absolutely crucial for them to have time to play.  I know there is a role for libraries, here, and I have seen some incredible spaces and programs that encourage imaginative play in libraries in IFLS-land and beyond.

Play Is the Way is a new 3 minute video created by Sheila Briggs at the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction.  I highly recommend taking a peek.  And showing it to your stakeholders, especially if they aren't sure if you need the space and resources for play in your library, or if they question a change in the focus of your programming.  The video makes some really great points about skills kids are learning in play:

  • Focus and ability to shift attention
  • Figuring out power dynamics 
  • Communication and articulation
  • Creating, negotiating, and changing rules
All of these things activate the prefrontal cortex of the brain, which is critical for developing executive functioning skills and leads to better self-regulation and academic success.  While playing, children can solve more complex problems and tend to speak in more grammatically complex ways than they would if engaging in a teacher-driven activity.  It takes intention and skill to set up these spaces in such a way that kids are able to explore and learn, and the payoff is definitely worth it!

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