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Monday, October 17, 2016

Stay To Play....A New Program at BELA!

At BELA, we are inviting you to, Stay to Play, and learn together! “Children the world over, from those living with the most sophisticated families in big cities to those living in remote villages in developing countries, spend much time 'just playing.' Of course, only grown-ups would put the word 'just' in the previous sentence, implying that somehow play is an indulgence only the very young are entitled to and that nothing much is happening when children play.

Nothing could be further from reality, however,for a great deal happens when children are 'just playing.' They are developing skills and habits and attitudes that will stay with them throughout their lives. As they play they learn to cope with frustration, to continue to try to improve, to share with others, to give vocal expression to their thoughts and fantasies. They literally 'play for keeps.'” (Dr. Bettye M. Caldwell, Importance of Play In Early Childhood, 2016)

Research indicates that children learn best in an environment which allows them to explore, discover, and play…It is also closely tied to the development of cognitive, socio-emotional, and physical behaviors. (Jill Englebright Fox, Early Childhood News, 2016)

“If we are to save play, we must first understand its nature. Creative play is like a spring that bubbles up from deep within a child. It is refreshing and enlivening. It is a natural part of the make-up of every healthy child. The child’s love of learning is intimately linked with a zest for play. Whether children are working on new physical skills, social relations, or cognitive content, they approach life with a playful spirit…. But is it work or play? In childhood there is no distinction.

Adults are convinced that we need to “teach” young children. It is certainly true that we need to set an example in all kinds of activities. We also need to create appropriate spaces where children can play and learn, and we need to lend a helping hand- and at times even intervene when things are going wrong. But mostly we need to honor the innate capacity for learning that moves the limbs and fills the souls of every healthy young child”. The Nature of Play (Joan Almon, The Vital Role of Play in Early Childhood)

With this understanding, that play is vital to the healthy development and learning of children, we recognize, “Parents are the most important people in their children’s early lives. Children learn about the world and their place in it through their conversations, play activities, and routines with parents and families. Parents can also support children’s learning in out-of-home settings, such as childminding settings, crèches, playgroups, pre-schools, and primary schools. By working together parents and practitioners can enhance children’s learning and development.

Parenting involves giving children the care, education and attention they need to learn and develop. Parents provide children with their first learning experiences and they help ensure that children reach important developmental milestones such as sitting, walking, becoming toilet-trained, talking, cutting, doing up buttons, cycling, reading, and so on. As children go on to spend time in out-of-home settings parents continue to support their learning and development. This is more effective when parents complement children’s experiences in a particular setting. Likewise, learning is more meaningful when practitioners use information from parents about children’s interests, skills, abilities, and dispositions as a starting point for new experiences." (Building Partnerships Between Parents & Practitioners)

At BELA, we recognize and honour the important role that parents play in the early learning of their children. Kenneth Leithwood, well known Canadian educational researcher, and author, tells us we need to shift our focus from ‘how to get more parents into our schools, to how we can support them at home’. As we sought information regarding the importance of co-learning, capacity building, and efficacy for families, it became apparent that parents feel that learning through play is important for their children.

The Child Care Information Exchange (Oliver & Klugman) tell us “91% of parents believe play is an important contributor to their child’s development and well-being. Almost a quarter of them (21%) believe that their children enjoy less time to enjoy play than they did as a child.” However, “Nearly three fourths (72%) of parents believe early academic learning is important and over half strongly believe that academic success is essential for life success. These numbers suggest that parents will make choices- sometimes misguided- that they feel will promote school success.” Information such as this, indicates schools have an important role to play in supporting capacity building and the efficacy of parents to support their child’s learning, through an educational partnership between home and school.

At BELA, we are excited to offer our new program, “Stay to Play”, a partnership, designed to share collective knowledge and expertise; highlight individual family’s strengths and talents; and support families through the use of community strengths and assets; in order to support continuous learning by both families and school staff, that will in turn support continued high quality learning for children in our community.

We invite families in our community to bring children ages 2-5 and join us each week to Stay to Play!, where BELA staff and participants will share ideas, and model learning through play experiences, with the children and their family participants. We will be offering 2 sessions of this 10 week program. Stay To Play is Tuesday afternoons from 1:30-3:30 , is open to children ages 2-5 and is offered free of charge via BELA and our community partners BCIS & the Medicine Hat & District Child Care Association. All the information including eligibility and registration for the program is on our website. Just follow the link to learn more and get registered: Stay To Play
~Jody Rutherford
Director of Education & Programming

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