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More Than Play!

 

Just Playing
By Anita Wadley

When I'm a building in the block room,
Please don't say, "I'm just playing"
For, you see, I'm learning as I play
About balance and shapes.

When I'm getting all dressed up,
Setting the table, caring for the babies,
Don't get the idea I'm "just playing."
I may be a mother or a father someday.

When you see me up to my elbows in paint,
Or standing at an easel, or molding and shaping clay,
Please don't let me hear you say, "He's just playing"
For you see, I'm learning as I play.
I'm expressing myself and being creative.
I may be an artist or an inventor someday.

When you see me sitting in a chair
"Reading" to an imaginary audience,
Please don't laugh and think I'm, "just playing"
For, you see, I'm learning as I play.
I may be a teacher someday.

When you see me combing the bushes for bugs,
Or packing my pockets with choice things I find,
Don't pass it off as "just playing."
For, you see, I'm learning as I play.
I may be a scientist someday.

When you see me engrossed in a puzzle,
Or "plaything" at my school,
Please don't feel the time is wasted in "play"
For, you see, I'm learning as I play.
I'm learning to solve problems and concentrate.
I may be in business someday.

When you see me cooking or tasting foods,
Please don't think that because I enjoy it, it is just "play"
For, you see, I'm learning as I play.
I'm learning how my body works.
I may be a doctor, nurse, or athlete someday.

When you ask me what I've done at school today,
And I say "I played,"
Please don't misunderstand me.
For, you see, I'm learning as I play.
I'm learning to be successful in work.
I'm preparing for tomorrow.
Today, I'm a child and my work is play

 

What Do The Children Do?               

Teachers set up their own routine, based on the needs of the group and the individuals within the group. Therefore, each class may have a different schedule, but the content is the same. We group children according their social and emotional maturity as well as their chronological age. We feel that this provides consistency and builds strong feelings of trust and security for the children as well as for the families. We maintain small group sizes, one teacher for each group of children. The younger the child, the smaller the group size. As the children grow and mature we gradually add to the group. Group sizes will not exceed 12.

Our curriculum is designed to accommodate the individual needs of each child through the use of centers. The centers are planned ahead of time by the staff, but the children make the decisions about what to use and do. Centers enable children to make choices and learn through active exploration. Centers invite children to learn. In a centered environment, children move about freely, and learn by doing. They learn to work and talk with others. They meet problems and solve them. All the time growing in confidence and self- respect. The child and the process are not separable; the child’s experience is the learning process.

Children are offered balanced, nutritious meals for breakfast, lunch and snack.

All children in the full day program are required to participate in rest time. It is very important that all children have quiet, calm, relaxation time in a long day. Rest is essential to proper growth and development; it is also a way for children to learn to reduce stress. No child will ever be forced to sleep, but all will be required to rest quietly for a time. After about an hour of rest time, quiet table activities or opportunities for outside play will be offered for non-sleepers. Extra care is taken to see that children who do need to sleep are able to. Afternoon activity centers, outdoor free play and enrichment classes will be available to those children who participate in the extended day program. We take special care to provide consistency and a warm loving environment for those long days away from home.

 

 WHAT WE DO AND WHY

  

WHY DO WE?

§ COOK

§ HAVE OUTDOOR PLAY

§ REST

§ SNACK

 
 WHY CENTERS?

§ ART

§ BLOCKS

§ COMPUTERS

§ DRAMATIC PLAY

§ LANGUAGE DEVELOPMENT AND WRITING AREA

§ LIBRARY AREA

§ MANIPULATIVES

§ MUSIC AND MOVEMENT

§ SAND AND WATER PLAY

                                                                                                      COOKING
                                                                                      

When they cook, children have an opportunity to learn about food, to be creative, and to prepare their own nutritional snacks. Lots of discoveries happen during cooking. When the children see dough rise, they learn about science; when measuring flour, they learn about math. Following picture recipe cards, they learn skills that will prepare them for reading. When we make and eat Mexican Tacos, Chinese Vegetables, or African Stew, the children learn to appreciate other people and cultures.
 
Cooking offers a special treat for children- it allows them to do things that adults do. When the children cook in the classroom, we talk a lot about what they are doing. As we talk, children are learning new words and learn to think about what they are doing. They describe what happens when water is added to dry ingredients. The children learn to solve problems, such as how much batter should be placed in a muffin tin to allow the ingredients to rise. They can feel the self-sufficient and also learn to make healthy choices when eating.

                                                                                              OUTDOOR PLAY
                                                                          
                                                                                                     
Outdoor play is fun for children and important to their growth and development. Opportunities to climb, jump, run, skip, hop, throw, catch, and ride provide children with healthy release and a break from the more stationary activities of the classroom. Being outside allows children to stretch their muscles, breathe fresh air, take in sunshine and enjoy the freedom of space.

What goes on outside is much more than physical activity. Children advance in all areas of development when they play outdoors. The special qualities of the outdoor environment set the stage for unique experiences. Science, for example, comes alive when nature is explored and observed firsthand. Children can watch plants grow and follow the changes of the seasons. As they see the colors change, touch the bark of a tree, hear birds, taste fruit from a tree or smell the fresh air after the rain shower, they are using all of their senses to learn about the world. Social and language skills develop as children build castles together in the sandbox or work together to carry a heavy pail full of sand or water.
Children also push each other on swings and negotiate compromises about the use of equipment.

                                                                                                        REST
                                                                               
 

For the children who spend long days at the center, rest time provides rejuvenation for the afternoon program. Children associate sleeping with home, many have a difficult time settling down. We understand this and recognize that it’s expected.

Each child has their own way of relaxing or falling asleep. Some drop off to sleep right away, some need to suck their thumb or pacifier, some may have a soft toy or blanket that helps them feel safe and comfortable. Many need an adult to rub their back to calm them down and others need a calming voice to read them a story or sing them a song. We play soft music during rest time to encourage a relaxed atmosphere and help drown out any background noises that may otherwise wake some children.

We know that many children, especially older preschoolers no longer nap. We provide these children with a short rest period with opportunities to talk to a teacher while lying down, read books, or listen to music. After a period of quiet relaxation, children who do not nap are provided with quiet activities in the classroom or are taken to an alternative location to play so that they will not disturb the children who need time continued to sleep.

Children are allowed to wake up at their pace, without the expectation that they will awaken quickly or cheerfully from a deep sleep. As they awaken, children are assisted with putting on socks and shoes when necessary and are allowed to sit quietly for a few moments reading books or working puzzles until everyone is up and ready to begin afternoon activities.

                                                                                                    SNACK
                                                                      

Snack and lunch time, like other scheduled activities, are exceptionally good learning times. Children can learn to serve themselves, to eat with a group, and try new foods. They will learn to use utensils and napkins as their skills develop. Children learn by watching others and that’s why it is valuable for teachers to sit with them during meals.

By keeping health and safety as a primary concern, children learn to understand and respect each others food allergies, as well as family preferences and beliefs about foods.
Children use gatherings, such as snack and lunch as social times. Pleasant conversations at the table create a comfortable atmosphere for children to feel a part of a group. Children can also feel useful and proud of being able to help with mealtime by setting up the table, cleaning the table after eating, and throwing out their own trash.

                                                                                                          ART

                                                    

Most children naturally delight in art. They love the process of applying paint to paper, gluing things together, and pounding a lump of clay. Working with art materials offers children opportunities to experiment with color, shape, texture, and design. As they engage in art activities, children develop awareness and an appreciation of pleasant sensory experiences- which is the beginning of aesthetic development.
Using art materials such as paint, clay, markers, cornstarch, and collage materials, children express their individual ideas and feelings. As they view their own creations and those of their peers, they learn to value and appreciate differences. For young children, the process of creating is what is most important, not what they actually create.

Through their art, children express how they feel, think, and view the world. Art is an outlet that allows children to convey what they may not be able to say with words. Involvement with a rich variety of art materials instills their confidence and pride.
Art is enjoyable and satisfying for young children. It enables them to learn many skills, express themselves, appreciate beauty and have fun- all at the same time.

                                                                                                  BLOCKS
                                                                          

Blocks are one of the most valuable learning materials in our classrooms. When they build with blocks, children learn about sizes and shapes, spatial relationships, math concepts, and problem solving. When children lift, shove, stack, and move blocks, they learn about weight and size. Generalizations about balance, sequence, and gravity are made during this time. When children play with blocks, they acquire many logical thinking skills, including the ability to make use of classification, serration, and equivalence. Each time they use blocks, they are expanding critical thinking by making decisions about how to build a structure or solve a construction problem.

Blocks are open-ended play materials that allow children to create whatever they desire. There is no right or wrong way to build with blocks. Children can create what they want to make. Sometimes they start with an idea of what they want to make and at other times three dimensional designs grow as children place blocks together randomly or in patterns. Like other art, the creations children produce with blocks are unique. Block play is an essential creative outlet for some children.

                                                                                               COMPUTERS
                                                                          

Computers in the early childhood setting are both innovative and controversial. The two most common concerns are that computers are not developmentally appropriate for young children and that children working alone at a computer can become isolated and fail to develop social skills.

In fact, research shows that computers can provide highly effective learning opportunities for children. The developmental appropriateness of computers is directly tied to how they are used. It is important to consider that the children have the eye-hand coordination and attention span necessary to sit at a computer for 10-20 minutes. We use the computer with the older preschoolers and kindergarten aged children who show an interest. The children are allowed to “play” with the computer. They experiment using programs that help them develop in many exciting ways. They practice math skills and concepts such as counting and numerical relationships learn beginning reading skills, and how to solve problems. The computer can also be an outlet to express creativity. We encourage children to work at the computer two or three at a time. This helps them learn from another and develop social skills such as cooperation and sharing.

                                                                                           DRAMATIC PLAY

                                                                            

Dramatic play, pretend play or make believe is a very important part of our curriculum. In the dramatic play center, children take on a role and recreate real life experiences. They use props and make believe about a wide variety of topics.

The ability to pretend is very important to children’s later academic success. When the children pretend, they have to recall experiences they have had and recreate them. To do this, they have to be able to picture the experience in their minds. For example, to play the role of a doctor, they have to remember what tools a doctor uses, how they examine a patient, and what he/she says. In playing the role of a doctor, children have to be able to cooperate with another and defend their own ideas. As children act out roles, they develop many new skills. They learn about themselves, their families, and society. Engaging in dramatic play, they learn to judge and select relevant information. This is an essential skill for intellectual development. Children also learn from one another as they interact in socio-dramatic play. They learn to answer and ask questions and to work together to solve problems.

                                                             LANGUAGE DEVELOPMENT & WRITING AREA 
                                             
       

In the writing area, children are provided with paper, pencils, crayons, and other tools necessary to explore beginning writing skills. Children are encouraged to scribble and “write” throughout the day. We also work with children one on one and in small groups to nurture beginning letter recognition and the desire to communicate through written language. Sometimes children dictate stories to us, which we record in “books.”

Everyday we read stories and sing songs with the children. We sing with children to help them discover their voices, to practice using new words and to help them recognize rhythm. We read books to introduce new ideas and to develop pre-reading skills, but mostly to develop a love of books and reading. When we read to the children we often ask questions about what is happening or encourage the children to predict what will happen next. We also encourage children to repeat words, rhymes, and phrases that they have memorized to increase their participation in and comprehension of the story.
 

                                                                                            LIBRARY AREA
                                                               
                                                                                                    
The library area or book corner can be an oasis in the classroom- a place to get away and relax in a soft environment to enjoy the wonderful world of literature. When children are read to regularly and encouraged to look through books on their own, to listen to story tapes, and make up their own stories, they begin to understand that pictures have meaning and that words tell a story. Their language skills grow through exposure to books with different words. Exposure to multi-cultural and multi-generational books and stories help children to begin to conceptualize how people are different and that our differences make each of us special.

Books and storytelling help children understand that their feelings, fears, questions, and problems are unique to them. Acquiring a love for books is one of the most powerful incentives for children to become readers.

                                                                            MANIPULATIVES (TABLE TOYS)
                                                                    
 

Table toys include puzzles, various table blocks, and other builder, beads and stringing activities, and collections of objects (including shells, buttons, etc.) Children enjoy their variety and versatility. Rich in texture, color, and shape table toys offer children challenging opportunities to learn new skills and concepts.

Children develop creative problem-solving and practice emerging math skills such as sorting, classification, serration, and matching. Physical development is enhanced as children develop eye-hand coordination and refine small muscle skills. Children learn to work cooperatively in small groups playing simple table games and building together. They begin to demonstrate perseverance and self-discipline, as well as experiencing pride in accomplishment as they work at a task until it’s completed.

                                                                                      MUSIC & MOVEMENT
                                                             

Whether it’s a lively dance tune or a gentle lullaby, even babies feel the force of music- both emotionally and physically. Throughout the early childhood years, children are learning to do new things with their bodies. Young children are also learning that movement can communicate messages and represent actions.

Most young children usually are right at home with movement. They begin to learn about the world by acting on objects and people, and they “think with their bodies” well before they think with words. This is why body movement activities are not only fun for young children, but also a good opportunity for them to solve problems. Some children may have difficulty responding to questions which call for verbal responses. When questions call for movement, children aren’t limited by their verbal abilities.

Through playing instruments children begin to differentiate sound and learn to match rhythm to marching steps or the music of recording. Singing and playing music can set a mood in the classroom. Quiet soothing music helps calm and relax children, while lively music tunes rouse them for an energetic clean up time. Music and movement are also social activities that help children feel a part of the group.

                                                                                     SAND & WATER PLAY 
                                                         

Children explorations with sand and water help build various skills. By sifting sand and pouring water, children improve their physical dexterity/ by joining others in blowing bubbles or making a sand castle, they develop social skills. At the same time, they enhance their cognitive skills as they explore why certain objects sink in water and others float.

Sand and water can be used as two separate activities. Each one on its own provides children with many learning activities. As a liquid, water can be splashed, poured, frozen and evaporated. As a solid, sand can be sifted, raked, shoveled, and dumped. Playing with each substance separately can be used to foster children’s socio-emotional, cognitive, and physical growth. However, when we combine sand and water play the children’s experience is enhanced by the creation of the third medium- wet sand. Wet sand play allows children to encounter principles of math and science firsthand. While mixing they discover that they have changed the properties of both: the dry sand becomes firm and the water is absorbed. The textures of both materials change too. Unlike dry sand or liquid water, wet sand can be molded. Individually and together, sand and water play can be used effectively to challenge and soothe children’s minds and bodies.

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