2 EvEryday Early lEarning
Observe, observe, observe. Knowing how indi-
vidual children play and learn will not only
help you explain what they are learning when
the need arises, but will also help you better
meet the needs of the individual learners in
your care. You will notice ways to challenge
them and build on their prior knowledge.
Never miss an opportunity to increase your own
knowledge about how children learn. The more
you know, the more comfortable you will be dis-
cussing early learning and the better you will be
at helping it happen.
Document learning through portfolios of work,
photography, video, or by other unobtrusive
means. Taking the time to develop an appro-
priate and systematic method will help you
explain your practices. You have to know what
you are doing, know what the kids are learning,
and know how to explain yourself to those who
question your process and practices.
Steps to Nurturing Play,
Exploration, and Learning
Loving and caring teachers create safe havens for
their children. In such sacred communities, children
are welcomed, appreciated, and respected.
—Mimi Brodsky Chenfeld,
Creative Experiences for Young Children
Creating an emotional environment conducive to
play and filling it with materials that pass the Empty
Box Test sets the stage for everyday early learning.
When children feel emotionally and physically safe
and are surrounded by interesting materials, learn-
ing simply happens. Children in this type of learning
environment thrive cognitively, physically, socially,
and emotionally. Such an environment for young
children takes full advantage of what we know about
brain development in the first five years of life: it lays
a solid foundation of learning success in preparation
for school and life.
The best thing we can do to promote learning
with young children is provide them with a physical
and emotional environment that is warm, engaging,
inviting, fun, healthy, and safe. When we do this, we
hear the joyful sounds of learning. Children play,
explore, and discover. They ask questions and seek
out their own answers.
Be Ready to Explain Yourself
No matter who you are, you’re going to have some
explaining to do when you play with these projects.
If you have been working with children in a child
care setting for more than a week, you have at least
some understanding of the constant need for docu-
menting learning and defending curriculum with
parents, administrators, regulators, and funders. If
you’ve been in the field for a long time, you’re prob-
ably accustomed to explaining yourself to the people
who pass through your classroom.
Even if you’re using these projects with your own
children in the privacy of your own home, you are
probably going to have to explain yourself to some-
one at some time. Grandma is going to have ques-
tions when she sees three-year-old Sally making the
lid repeatedly explode off a film canister using a bit
of water and an antacid tablet.
It’s important that you can explain to anyone
who asks what the children are learning as they
play. I’ll describe the learning taking place in each
activity later in the book. In the meantime, here is
what you need to do:
Feel comfortable and confident explain-
ing yourself to anyone who asks questions.
Whether you are talking to Grandma, a par-
ent, your program’s director, or a senator, you
should feel at ease answering questions about
what is going on in your learning environ-
ment. Developing this sense of comfort and
confidence takes time and practice. Start by
being on the lookout for the learning going on
around you all the time. When you get used
to identifying it for yourself, you will be more
comfortable pointing it out for others.
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