Child Initiated Learning

April 29, 2011 07:05 by Kristi

Children learn so much while they are playing in the neighborhood!  They learn how to explore, pretend, create, solve problems, get along with others, lead, follow, make friends, build, play, invent, make decisions, try new things, develop skills and find their passion.  Many families no longer feel comfortable sending their kids out into the neighborhood to play, and many schools have cut recess and free time.  But kids have to learn these skills somewhere!  Because The Neighborhood is an important part of a child’s social and emotional growth, we’ve created a place for them to do those things within the safe walls of O2B Kids under the watchful eye of our Fun Crew.  This child-directed play is a time of rich learning, and we’re proud to provide these essential learning opportunities to children in our communities. 

“Play is our brain's favorite way of learning.” - Diane Ackerman, Contemporary American author

Neighborhood Time is a crucial learning time for all children.  During Neighborhood Time, a designated part of the facility is open, and children get to choose what to do while they are there.  Children choose the activity and the action.  Playing alone or with others, they interact with materials freely, in many different ways. 

During this non-scripted play, children gain essential skills.  They have the opportunity to: 

• Practice problem solving
• Understand consequences
• Develop social skills
• Gain independence & self confidence
• Learn to be responsible
• Gain physical fitness
• Create leadership skills
• Practice self-regulation
• Use their creativity


What Grown-Ups Can Do!

To support child initiated play and to maximize the enrichment, our daily goal is to
• Set the stage
• Supervise safe play
• Expand upon learning opportunities!

We discuss what parts of the building or classroom are available and what activities the kids want to do when they get there.  What will they try to get better at?  Who will they play with?  How will they make it fun and exciting, or calm and relaxing, or energetic and heart-pumping? 

The building changes!  Each day we make sure there is something different to stimulate play -- building blocks, bowling pins, connect four, costumes, cardboard boxes, yarn, walking sticks, bubbles, paper, cloth, tubes, etc.  Each thing stimulates play, and changes the child’s interactions from one day to the next. 
 
Child initiated learning is not a matter of chance.  We think about the child’s development and intentionally prepare an interesting and rich environment that offers choices. 

Did we just finish a unit on physics?  Then we add cloth and a vacuum cleaner and see if kids can make a kite.  Did we just learn about Shakespeare?  Then we add hats and robes and see if they create a play. 

We observe children, ask open-ended questions, and make suggestions that will extend children’s play and support their learning. 

We ensure it is Safe Play!
• Engagement, Engagement, Engagement!  We offer choices, and create opportunities for learning, creativity and growth.
• Be proactive.  We look for mad, sad or confused faces on children and ask questions before a problem occurs:  Are they sick? Scared? Tired? Hungry?  Worried?  Bored?
• Take the time to connect with each child, every day.  We look them in the eye, and listen when they talk.
• Set limits and consequences in advance whenever possible.
• Be consistent, kind and firm with limits, consequences, rules and expectations.
• Keep it simple, have as few rules as possible and discuss them often.

"Do not…keep children to their studies by compulsion but by play." ~ Plato