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Introduction e DOUBLE TAP TO ZOOM WITH PHONE OR TABLET Whether you are a teacher, teacher assistant, or a family child care provider, you have seen children playing with enthusiasm. Children find ways to play together in classrooms, dramatic play areas, outdoor playgrounds, and on living room floors. You have also seen children’s play end in tears or fights over toys. Despite these conflicts and angry moments, children want to play together and you have an important role in making it happen. Perhaps you are not always clear about your role. You may have many questions about what play is, what children are learning, and how you can help children reach a more mature level of play. This book answers these questions, outlines strategies to create an engaging play envi- ronment, helps you understand play skill development, and suggests ways you can encourage children’s growth through play. It also covers challenges children have during play, such as conflicts over toys and violent play, and how you address them. You could complete this book as an individual to improve your strategies around play, as a teaching team seeking better ways to work together on play environments, as an entire center organizing around a goal of strengthening play in your classrooms, or as a learning community or class studying children’s play. However you approach the book, you will find ideas to make play come alive and give children a powerful way to learn and grow. r Nadia, a teacher in the four-year-old room, sat at a table and smiled at the busy activity around her. It was free-choice time and children were playing in several interest centers. A group of four children was in the house area setting the table and fixing dinner, another group was in the block area constructing an airport, and several children were signing cards in the writing center. The cards were going in the class mailbox when the children were finished. Setting the Stage for Play Maybe if you were Nadia you would feel grateful that the children were involved and busy. However, experiences like this do not just happen. Nadia took an active role in making this successful play happen in her room because she believes young children grow and thrive through play. COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL 5