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COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL Setting the Stage for Activities As an early childhood professional, you know that high-quality settings are essential to children’s growth and development. To create such environments, your program must factor in safety, materials, design, and the importance of adapting activities to the needs of every child. Most important, it must emphasize the centrality of play. This book offers activities you can select or adapt to encourage learning through play. Play is the business of childhood. It’s through play that children engage their minds and bodies. Play teaches them new skills, including role playing and con- ceptualizing. Young children are naturally curious, and they enjoy experimenting with the world around them. You can promote early learning by engaging them in activities that increase their skills and competencies. Selecting suitable materials, including toys and books, is an important first step in creating activities for a high- quality, play-based program. Safety You should always consider safety when you’re selecting toys and planning activi- ties for young children. Be sure that any manufactured items used by infants, tod- dlers, and twos are labeled by their producers as age-appropriate. All toys should be durable, easy to clean, and large enough that they—or pieces of them—cannot be swallowed or cause choking. As you know, children under age three explore the world through their senses, and they put everything in their mouths. This puts them at high risk for swallowing and choking on things. You can buy baby-care devices that assess the size of objects to determine if they’re too small for infants or tod- dlers to play with or might pose choking hazards. Don’t allow infants and toddlers to play with small objects like marbles, small balls, or toys that break down easily into smaller pieces. Don’t acquire toys with sharp edges, points, encased liquids, or materials that could break apart when mouthed or bitten. Make sure that manufactured products have been carefully tested and are non- toxic. Toy animals and dolls should not have glued-on or stapled parts (for example, wigs or eyes). Always remove paper tags before offering the toys to children. The Art and Creative Materials Institute (ACMI) is a terrific safety resource: it lists art, craft, and creative materials that are safe and nontoxic for children to use. Use only those art and craft materials bearing ACMI’s Approved Product (AP) seal of approval. Learn more about ACMI and safe materials at When you’re acquiring plastic toys or baby bottles, you have your homework COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL 3