August 2022 | Back to School

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Let's talk about play! Playtime is not just about having fun; it can be about learning as well. Did you know that play can improve children's abilities to plan, organize, get along with others and regulate emotions? In addition, play can help grow language skills, math and social skills, and even help children cope with stress. When children are allowed to make choices and try out different methods, it makes all the difference in their learning. That doesn’t mean adults shouldn’t get involved, it means that we need to think in terms of guiding, rather than instructing: It’s the difference between challenging children to build a tall tower that won’t fall over (guiding) and simply telling them to widen the base (instructing). At HRDC Head Start they use The Creative Curriculum®. It is a play-based learning curriculum that focuses on interest areas and fosters creativity in both children and teachers. At HRDC Head Start, play is valued, encouraged and intentionally provided. Teachers at HRDC Head Start know that play is essential for healthy brain development and teaching younger children through guided play supports key aspects of their learning and development. Guided play broadly refers to playful educational activities which, although gently steered by an adult using open-ended questions and prompts, gives children the freedom to explore a learning goal in their own way. A new study, done by the University of Cambridge, gathered data about the impact of this approach on 3,800 children ages 3 to 8. It found that guided play can be just as effective as more traditional methods of classroom instruction in the development of key literacy, numeracy and social skills—as well as the acquisition of executive 24

august 2022

functions (a cluster of essential thinking skills). The findings also suggest that children may master some skills—notably in math—more effectively through guided play versus other methods. As parents, you are the biggest supporters of your children’s learning. You can make sure they have as much time to play as possible during the day with many open-ended materials. You can try out guided play by simply adding a notebook and pencil to the pretend kitchen in your house to suggest the idea of playing “restaurant.” Your children can write and draw menus, set prices, take orders and make out checks all while learning writing, math, language and social skills. Is your child always playing with cars? Next time, invite them to make a parking lot with you. Use intentional language or questions while you play such as, “Two green cars and two red cars are parked. How many cars are in the parking lot?” As you play with your children, know that you are building the foundation for a lifetime of learning and skills that are crucial for success in the 21st century. HRDC offers high-quality preschool to children ages 3-5 years old with schools in Livingston, Bozeman and Belgrade. Eligibility for this no-cost preschool is based on income and family circumstances. To learn more or apply for the 2022-2023 school year, visit www. Source: