Monday, April 7, 2014

Play Is Where Learning Begins: WOYC

Hi! I'm Ayn and I am a Ga. Pre-K teacher, serving 4 and 5 year olds in an inclusive setting. I share my classroom adventures on my blog, little illuminations.

April 6-12 is NAEYC's official "Week of the Young Child". The theme this year is "Early Years Are Learning Years". 

shared from the NAEYC website:

The purpose is "to focus public attention on the needs of young children and their families and to recognize the early childhood programs and services that meet those needs". (NAEYC 2014) There are also several sub-themes, but today I'd like to focus on "Play: Where Learning Begins". 

Teachers and parents often ask what they can do to help celebrate WOYC. The answer is fairly simple! Provide lots of open ended opportunities for play, exploration and investigation! Children learn through play. Trial and error is an essential part of development. 

Provide opportunities for sensory exploration. 

Children will draw, write letters or their name, just about anywhere! 

Children learn about balance through play. They discover how their bodies move in space and how objects in their world around them react to their actions. 

This little boy filled dishes with sand and placed each one, precariously balancing on the last. 

When the tower would begin to wobble, he'd take each dish down, trying to get the balance just right. 

Finally, the tower stood tall!

These boys poured sand down the slide over and over again. They tried a variety of different ways and even used damp sand and very dry sand, sometimes trying to catch the sand at the bottom. At one point, they even attempted to slide with the sand!

In addition to open ended play, we often provide a game or two during our outside play. This helps children learn rules, social interactions and turn taking, in addition to the gross motor skills that these games often develop.

Pretend play is one of the ways children relate to the world around them. Provide lots of opportunities for children to explore family and occupational roles.

Allowing for free play with toys and materials as "loose parts" enhances creative and critical thinking skills. I remember in my first years teaching hearing other teachers tell children, "That's not how you play with those materials. Play with them the right way or you'll have to put them away." This was not just one situation or just one teacher. It was common practice. I cringe now when I think about those words and the creativity it stifled!

One of the greatest things about this type of play is the dialogue that goes along with it. I hear wonderful stories with intricate details about the loose parts play.

"This is a skyscraper. It has 17 floors!"

"We're making shapes!"

"This is my church!"

A movie theater

Another movie theater, by a different child, on a different day.

A pet village

The party at the top of the tree from "Go, Dog! Go!"

An elaborate marble run.

Here's a sign that even the children understand that play is important. This little tableau was made by a group on the playground early in the day, right in the middle of the playground. I took this picture late in the day, after several groups had come and gone. Every group left it be ---- without children or adults asking them to. 

Music, movement and dance are  great ways for child to learn and express themselves!

NAEYC is hosting a "Week of the Young Child Music Fest" Google Hangout April 9. You can find more information here. Also on that page is a list of resources about how children play with music. The article, "Young Children and Movement: The Power of Creative Dance" is by our very own Connie Dow! It is a GREAT resource!

I'm proud to say that I am a part of a weekly blog hop called "Just Playing?", hosted by Amy of Child Central Station. For great pictures and provocations of children at play, stop by Child Central Station or little illuminations on Thursdays to see how children are learning through play. Don't forget to check out the links at the bottom to see posts from other bloggers participating in the blog hop! We also have a Pinterest board of all the "Just Playing?" posts!

1-2-3-4  PLAY MATTERS!!!!!!!

Stop by and visit me anytime at or visit the little illuminations fanpage on facebook! And be sure to check out PreK+K Sharing EEE!



  1. I love your "play matters" message, so important for early childhood educators and parents to remember!

    1. Thanks so much! It is an important message. If we say it enough times, maybe the message will get through to those who make the important decisions about early education. Thanks for reading! :)

  2. I love this message.... it is important and it does matter. Its too bad that still many people fail to see it's significance in a child's development. (As an early childhood educator, I have been trying to keep that in mind at home as my 5 year old shows eagerness to learn how to read and asks for "work".... I always try to make it fun and play based for her!)
    Just started following your pinterest board too.... and i look forward to reading more in the weekly blog hops... I may join in too every now and then!



    Teaching Munchkins

  3. Hi Ayn,

    I love this post, as we all need reminders of the importance of play, a child's work. And thank you for mentioning my article!


    Connie B. Dow


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