Monday, April 25, 2016

Week 8, Chapter 8

It's hard to believe that this is the final week of our book study.  We have greatly appreciated the insight you have all shared throughout,  not only by reading the book but by implementing the activities with your children, families and colleagues, and sharing your journey.  This week, you will be tying it all together:  reflecting on the work you've done, and becoming a more intentional teacher.  Children love and need to play, but they don't always know how.  During the past 8 weeks, you have developed strategies for supporting children's learning through play.  Keep up the incredible work that you are doing!

 Lisa Murphy (A.K.A. Ooey Gooey Lady), has presented at WECA during the past 2 years.  She has a great website that is full of useful articles, resources and blogs.  One of my favorite visuals is her "House of Higher Learning".  She notes that "The house of higher learning is supported by a foundation of play!". 

Enjoy building that foundation.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

I discovered this website while doing some research on writing with young children and now get her emails. This one on Sand and Water play sure spells out the benefits! Marianne Gibb's feels that motor skills learned through play and without a pencil in hand are most important for children 3 and 4 - leading into later success with a pencil. Check out her website. And as an aside her webinar on pre-writing skills is packed with ideas: 


Spring into Development with Sand and Water Play!  
Create exciting learning experiences naturally with sand and water play.  Whether you use an elevated sand/water table or simply a large plastic container on the floor, your young children will automatically engage in play that supports development of multiple domains.  Keep it fresh--change your manipulatives often just like you do in all other playful learning centers in your classroom or at home.  The skills children develop during sand/water play support the whole child in all domains of learning for a lifetime!  

Cognitive:  Children play with a purpose and build cognitive skills like sorting, problem solving, investigating, exploring, explaining, critical/creative thinking, classifying, comparing volume and measurement properties at the sand/water table.  Watch the brainwork begin when children dig for and examine buried treasure!                                                 

Physical-Motor:  Standing at the sand/water table facilitates the use of fingers, hands, arms, and trunk while maintaining overall balance and coordination of the body.  Playing and digging with shovels, funnels, and scoops in sand or water provides resistive activity, which improves body awareness.  Skills of eye-hand coordination and grasping are needed for future writing are practiced at the sand/water table through play. 

Social:  Interactive and pretend play is how children learn and develop the social skills of verbal communication, sharing, helping, compromising, requesting, offering, and friendship building.  Consider the sand/water table a smaller version of the beach!

Speech and Language:  The gathering of children around an emotionally engaging activity promotes the use of spontaneous speech and language--a must for all young children developing skills for reading and writing!

Sensory:  Playing in sand, birdseed, or water allows children to feel different textures through their hands.  This in turn gives the brain the opportunity to process a variety of tactile experiences in order to understand different sensations (i.e. grainy, smooth, dry, wet, etc...).  Stereognosis, the ability to comprehend an item by touching only, develops when children feel and identify items that they cannot see (e.g. toys hidden in sand). Encourage exploration of manipulatives using tools like tongs if a child resists touching media directly.

Tip:  If the idea of "messiness" is preventing you from providing the excellent learning opportunity of sand/water play, spread shower curtains out under your sand/water activity center to minimize clean-up.  Remember - it's about the children!

Spring Into Development Right Now....Write Out of the Box!

Dr. Marianne Gibbs, EdD, OTR

Monday, April 18, 2016

Week 7: Chapter 7 – Planning Your Role

This is a short chapter but deserves a lot of thought. I assume that often we  wonder about what our role is as children are playing – debating if we should enter children’s  play or not (and I imagine contemplating  IF we enter what should we be doing.)  I suspect as you read this chapter you will appreciate the delineation of the roles you can take! Taking this a step further is being able to describe to parents and co-workers what their role might be with a particular child. Enjoy this chapter! 

And here is another article on play. So nice to see people are getting it!
In a recent story, Erikson pres./CEO Geoffrey Nagle says play is a critical part of early learning

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Just got a link to this wonderful document that covers much of what we have learned about play. It also addresses how to facilitate play and that will be what we learn more about next week in Chapter 7 Planning Your Role.

Monday, April 11, 2016

     Welcome to Week 6!!  We appreciate all of the time and thought each of you has spent completing the play checklist over the past two weeks.  This book study has given us the opportunity to slow down and really observe a child in our care, as well as to reflect on our own understanding about play and our reactions to children when they don’t know how to play. 
     Have you noticed that family tips are included in each area of the play checklist?  Are any of you currently using some of these tips, or planning to use them, with families?  Another great resource for families is    This site contains tips, resources, blogs and articles about learning and development, as well as many other great topics.  One article that describes what meaningful play is for families can be found at

     This week, we will be focusing on Chapter 6:  Planning Your Focus and Strategies.  Now that you have completed the play list, the chapter will guide you to set goals and plan activities for your focus child.  A goal setting form is available on p. 68 to guide you through the goal-setting process.  There are many suggested strategies to support children during play in any given play checklist section, or you may decide to use another strategy.  Sometimes talking with a colleague or a team about your observations and thoughts can be helpful.  
     Enjoy, and have a great week.


Monday, April 4, 2016

Week 5 is upon us! This week we will be finishing up Chapter 5, reading pages 48-65. It will guide you through the rest of the Play Checklist. We have really appreciated all the comments and insights as you started to consider using the Checklist. When I did this book study once before, participants actually were considering using data from the Checklist to do an SLO (Student Learning Objective) for  Educator Effectiveness. Imagine the message having an SLO around PLAY sends!! Keep in mind that this checklist is part of a continuous cycle of improvement. As pointed out in PLAY The Pathway from Theory to Practice a companion book to When Play Isn't Easy by the same authors there are several steps to this cycle:
1. Observe and assess
2. Evaluate play skills
3. Write a goal
4. Plan and implement activities
5. Repeat the process.
As we move on in the book it will help us with steps beyond evaluating. The authors also caution that this checklist "is not intended to diagnose developmental delays. Instead, it should be used to assess, evaluate, plan, and assist in monitoring growth. "

More about assessing play can be found in an article from NAEYC "Assessing and Scaffolding Make-Believe Play" which I have given the link below. The article describes five stages in play: Plan, Roles, Props, Extended Time Frame, Language and Scenario.

Friday, April 1, 2016

The School Superintendents Association (AASA) has a featured article in their journal referring to play in kindergarten! A MUST read!!! A MUST to share! 

It appears that there may be a resurgence which is advocating for purposeful, intentional and facilitated play which if we jump on that bandwagon perhaps there will be some change in current practices which do not support the importance of play.

I also want to share another piece from Jen Kalis the Early Childhood PST from CESA 4.

This is just too good not to share! Karen Nemeth (DLL & EC author, consultant, and advocate) recently wrote an article called,  "The D.A.P. Gap: Is Cute the Enemy of Quality?" In this amazingly thoughtful and timely article Karen states, "True D.A.P. based on the research tells us that skills and letters and phonemes should be learned in the context of useful, authentic content...especially for dual language learners!" (and, of course, we know this is true for children with disabilities, too!).  This certainly supports the case for project approach and play-based learning. Karen challenges teachers and care providers to dig deeper using the questions-"What for? and What more?"  This article really hits home for me and many of the concerns that I've been having about schools, especially kindergarten, moving away from true D.A.P for more developmentally inappropriate  methods such as worksheets and isolated tasks. I don't think we can move toward inclusive practices or Tier III level specialized instruction strategies in our work if true D.A.P. is not happening as the foundation of  the EC programs and schools we support. I  plan to use this article as a talking point with teachers and administrators alike. 

Monday, March 28, 2016

WEEK 4: Start Chapter 5, pages 34-48
Last week in Chapter 4, we reflected on children who had difficulty playing well with other children, as well as factors that contribute to play difficulties.  Some of those factors include culture, gender, temperament, lack of experience, exposure to trauma and special needs. 
It is critical that teachers and caregivers realize the importance of helping children be successful during play and developing social skills, including joining a group to play, pretending, taking turns, and interacting with other children appropriately. 
We would like to share a summary from the 2010 WI ACES (Adverse Childhood Experiences Study) about the importance of positive early childhood experiences:
 In recent years, we have learned a great deal about the importance of childhood
experiences to lifelong well-being. Early experiences have a broader and more
profound impact than most of us would ever guess. Everyday interactions
and experiences in infancy and childhood greatly influence the architecture
of our developing brains and our subsequent emotional, cognitive, social and
neurobiological functioning. In short, these early experiences affect the way we view
ourselves and our world, the way we learn, how we cope with life’s stressors, and
how we form relationships throughout our lives. Positive experiences in childhood
often lead to healthy and productive adulthood. Unfortunately, negative experiences
can lead to poorer mental and physical health, poorer school and work success and
lower socioeconomic status in adulthood. 
This week, you will be using the Play Checklist to help identify where a child may be having difficulty in play as well as a road map for providing strategies to support young children’s play development.   You can find a copy of the checklist on the last page of your book.  You can also download a copy by clicking on the “Play Checklist” tab on the blog.
Enjoy your observations!  We are looking forward to hearing from you about how your children play.

“Imagination is more important than knowledge”.  –Albert Einstein

Monday, March 21, 2016

WEEK 3:   Chapter 4 - Understanding Play Difficulties
(sorry about the double post last week - Cindy and I had a little mis-communication)
This week we will be reading Chapter 4. As you read you will be reflecting on a child. Think about what you learned about the child or perhaps learned about yourself and your perception of why a child might be challenged in play. Does anything surprise you?
The chapter talks about some specific influences that may be affecting a child’s play. There is another book I wanted to point out which deals more on addressing challenges in children engaging in play. We are considering doing another book group next spring on When Play Isn’t Fun so you may want to watch for that.

Play is essential for children’s development and as they learn life skills. But some children face challenges when playing with others, and conflicts can erupt over sharing toys, taking turns, and feeling left out. Despite those moments, children want to play together. With your support and guidance, children can learn how to engage in productive play, resolve struggles, and enjoy group play.

This workbook outlines strategies to create an engaging play environment, provides information to help you understand skill development, and suggests ways you can encourage children’s growth through rich play. It also explains common challenges children might have during group play—like being unengaged in dramatic play, having conflicts with each other, or playing aggressively—and approaches you can use to address them. Use this interactive workbook to thoughtfully respond to play challenges in a way that can open up opportunities for children.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Welcome to Week 2 of  When Play Isn’t Easy book group!  It looks as if everyone made it through the first week with only a few glitches.  Some of you mentioned that technology is not second nature to you—we are especially proud of you for making it through the week.  Know that it will get easier each time you comment. 

“Play helps us provide motivating and engaging activities that give children a developmental boost in all areas.  Play gives children opportunities to meet these standards”.  (Heidemann, S. & Hewitt, D., 2014). 

Thank you all for your thoughtful posts and responses.  It was obvious that you took the opportunity to reflect on your own views of play as well as how play is connected with the Wisconsin Early Learning Standards. 

WEEK 2:  This week we will be reading Chapter 2, which focuses on being able to share the value of play with families, funders, colleagues and directors/principals.  Please use this week as an opportunity to consider how you, as an advocate for how young children learn, would respond to questions about the value of play.  If you are taking this for graduate credit, developing a brief speech/discussion/powerpoint, etc. about the value of play is one of the options available to you for your final project.

There are several articles that you may find useful in addition to your reading and reflections this week.  These articles can be found in the Play livebinder:
 Alliance for Childhood (2009.) Crisis in the kindergarten:  Why children need to play in school.   Retrieved from
 Bartlett, T. (2011).  The case for play:  How a handful of researchers are trying to save childhood.  Retrieved from  

Enjoy the reading, reflections and conversations this week!
Cindy and Beth

“You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation”.  --Plato
WEEK TWO:  SHARING THE VALUE OF PLAY.  This week we will be reading CHAPTER 2, which focuses on being able to share the value of play with families, funders, colleagues, and directors/principals.  Please use this week as an opportunity to consider how you, as an advocate for how young children learn, would respond to questions about the value of play.  If you are taking this course for graduate credit, developing a brief speech/discussion/powerpoint about the value of play is one of the options available to you for your final project.

There are several articles that you may find useful in addition to your reading and reflections this week.  These articles can be found in the Play Livebinder:

Alliance for Childhood (2009).  Crisis in the kindergarten:  Why children need to play in school.

Bartlett, T.  (2011).  The case for play:  How a handful of researchers are trying to save childhood.

There are a few other resources that might be of interest, particularly when explaining the importance of play to others:
Policies and practice:  Sharing the power of play with parents.

The value of play:  A fact sheet for families.

The power of play in the early learning environment.

NAEYC articles on play:

Enjoy this week's discussions.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Expectations for getting a certificate: (these are a repeat of what was sent in the email today - I just wanted it on the blog as well for ease of referring back to it.) 
Welcome to the  When Play Isn’t Easy book group. A few things to point out about this blog. Across the top of the blog you will see tabs. We will be adding resources we find or are suggested by participants in the Resources tab. You can find who is involved in this book group in the Class Roster tab. Cindy has a Play board on Pinterest  which you can find in its tab and finally IF you are taking this for credit a copy of Cindy’s email going over the expectations is in the Graduate Credit Information tab where you can also find a link to the forms you need to fill out. (IF you did not show an interest initially but are still interested in credit please take a look at that tab on the blog to know what to do.)  We will be adding an evaluation tab towards the end of the book group. Along the right side of this blog you will see the tips for using the blog including how to comment, a link to a Live Binder on Play which has umpteen quality resources and Cindy and my contact information. Finally on the bottom of the blog is where IF you would like to get weekly emails of the posts Cindy and I make you can sign up.
Since you committed yourself to this book group and we need to be accountable for providing this as professional learning there are a few expectations (for those of you not taking it for credit.) This book has many guiding questions within each chapter which you can comment on. Cindy and I might make suggestions each week of additional possible reflections in weekly posts. Feel free to deviate from the reflective questions (this is your book feel free to write in it)  to share your “ah has,” “I wonders…” and/ or questions. These are the expectations in order to receive a certificate at the end of the 8 weeks (remember these are the expectations for those who are not taking it for credit):
  • Comment at least two times over the course of the 8 weeks (if you want to contribute more please do)This can be a comment to a reflective question in the book or comment on another participants thoughts.
  • Provide one resource that you use or found over these 8 weeks. The Live Binder is full of resources if you would just like to research one of them and comment on its usefulness. It could be a resource to use with parents to promote play, a children’s book that reinforces something from the book….
  • Be prepared at the end of the eight weeks to describe how the information/conversations have impacted a change in your professional practice AND what you see happening differently with students (including some specific examples.)
You will receive a certificate at the end of the 8 weeks once the above information is received. (15 hours of learning will be noted on the certificate)
WEEK ONE: This week we are reading the Introduction andChapter 1. Please do take the Self Assessment in the Introduction and reflect on it in your book – it may help with your final analysis of how this book group impacted your professional practice. In Chapter 1 you will be connecting play to standards. If you do not have and or use the Wisconsin Model Early Learning Standards here is a link to look them over:  If any of you have center signs which describe for adults the importance of play in each center and are willing to share those it would be a great resource for others in this book group (as described on the top of page 13.)
We are excited about the learning that will happen when this book is read and reflected upon. Because of the nature of this professional learning (via a blog) you are responsible for your own learning,  you will get out of it what you put into it. We hope that the flexibility of this type of professional development gives you an opportunity to stretch yourself with independent learning.  We look forward to go on this journey with you!