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Author: Lindsay Pereira

Lindsay Pereira is a Montréal-based freelance writer, creative writing Master's student, parenting and early education blogger, "mommy products" and children's book reviewer, and (exhausted!) mom of three darling troublemakers (including twins!). She has extensive academic writing experience in the fields of art history, anthropology, and English literature. In her previous (pre-mommy) life, Lindsay was a licensed MassoKinesitherapist and enjoyed writing and blogging on the subjects of therapy, health, and wellness.

Enhance Learning With Dramatic Play

Dramatic play is known as a make-believe activity where children assign and accept roles, to then act them out. It’s a fun time for them where they use their creativity and imagination to pretend to be someone or something else. They dramatize their actions and place themselves into situations that go along with the roles they have decided to play.

Truth be told, this type of play is often considered to be more of a frivolous activity by some. Yet, enabling kids to develop such skills in areas like social studies, abstract thinking, literacy, and math, remains an essential part of the developmental learning process.

An Essential Learning Environment

When we watch kids play, we witness how they smoothly reinvent scenes that would typically take place in life like in a department store, a gas station, a library, a construction site, or even a classroom. This shows us that, to reach the fullest potential of dramatic play with regards to learning, daycare and preschool educators must “set the stage” throughout their classroom(s).

How Do Educators “Set the Stage” for Dramatic Play?

Dramatic play areas need to be inviting to children. The presentation of the area needs to inspire creativity and imagination. It should be a designated area where kids can instantly become someone else.

What is a Dramatic Play Skill Set?

There are five main skills that children enlist and further develop as they act out dramatic play experiences.

1) Role Playing:

Here, children use verbal expressions and mimic behaviors of whatever they are pretending to be. In the beginning, they will only imitate one action, perhaps two. But, the more they participate in dramatic play, the more they will expand those roles by imagining several actions that are relevant to their designated role.

2) Prop Use:

Children can elaborate or extend on their play, all by including objects into their pretend play. At first, they’ll usually rely on realistic, looks-just-like-it’s-suppossed-to, props. Then, they’ll move on to prop substitution, for instance, using a scarf to represent a watering hose, and then progress to “mime actions” or holding their empty hands in a certain manner to show that they are (pretending) to hold a “real” hose.

3) Make-Believe/Pretend Play:

Dramatic play is, essentially, playing make-believe. Kids take on a role, pretending to be a father, fireman, racecar driver, and so on, by emulating movements and actions they have witnessed before. Once they start to use dramatic play more and more, kids will then start to incorporate words to enhance their re-enactments. Sometimes, children even engage in a deeper, fantasy-like play, where the stories and situations they come up with are not based on reality.

4) Interaction and Social Skills:

The beauty of dramatic play is that it promotes the development of social skills. They acquire these social skills through the interaction with family, friends, and playmates. As children learn valuable social skills and increase that development through dramatic play, they will learn to adapt to pretending to play alone within scenarios, to pretend play that involves other children. In this last instance, children will play various roles and relate to each other from the viewpoint of their assigned roles.

5) Communication:

Dramatic play, without a doubt, promotes speaking, vocalization, and listening skills. When kids partake in dramatic play, they repeat words they have heard people say in similar situations and recognize that they have to listen to everyone one else to be able to respond appropriately. Additionally, it teaches them to pick their words carefully, so other children will understand precisely what it is they are striving to communicate.

Parent and Child

5 Separation Anxiety Tips for Teachers

As preschool and daycare teachers know all too well, separation anxiety can appear in numerous forms. Though some individuals may believe it only happens during a child’s first few weeks of school, this is, regrettably, inaccurate. Most preschoolers often transition quite well into the classroom setting. However, teachers will, undoubtedly, have a few that do not.

Separation anxiety in children may present itself as sitting quietly on a chair avoiding any interaction with their new classmates. Others, more commonly, may cry. Some may even have an all-out tantrum. Oh, ye all-knowing gods of early education, what is a teacher TO DO???!!!

Understand the Big Picture and Quash that Anxiety Monster

Behold this informative list of separation anxiety tips! Teachers, these five steps will calm those early morning jitters and help settle any classroom fiasco.

Separation Anxiety Monster Quasher #1:

The Classroom Meet and Greet

Aside from acknowledging a child’s feelings, it is also imperative to recognize a parent’s emotions and concerns as well. Typically, parents experience guilt, apprehension, anger, frustration, and helplessness. It’s completely normal and understandable, of course, given the situation. Yet, when you verbally empathize with a parent, it lets them know that you do care.

It helps to greet each child and parent at morning drop-off time.  At this point, you can assure them that you will help their child settle in. Let them know that their child is most assuredly NOT the only one to react this way and that it is a very common occurrence in the daycare and preschool setting.

Separation Anxiety Monster Quasher #2:

Acceptance of Emotions

Acceptance of emotions is a huge, important point. In fact, if you have a highlighter nearby, I suggest you circle and color this section in. Here’s what you need to really pay attention to as a teacher:

Many well-intentioned statements or comments are often made to a child suffering from separation anxiety which results in a total dismissal of how they are truly feeling in the moment. And, although they were made with the intention of aiding them with their feelings, the result is that those same comments and statements won’t alter that child’s emotions. In fact, it could just make everything all that much worse.

Please, avoid saying things such as:

“Oh, no! Don’t cry! Look! This is a happy preschool/daycare! We don’t cry here!”

“You’re a big girl/boy now, and preschoolers don’t cry at school!”

“You’re a big kid now, not a baby!  Go play! No more tears!”

These types of statements, again, simply dismiss how children are feeling. Their separation anxiety has to do with being in a new, unknown place AND being separated from their family. It is important to acknowledge how they feel.

Separation Anxiety Monster Quasher #3:

Reassurance and Encouragement

Once the parent has left, then sit down with the anxious child and reassure them that their parent will most definitely return for them. Now, try to get them involved in a classroom activity that you have available. If, however, the child is not interested in interacting or getting involved in the activity, just accept it.  Instead, offer them a quiet choice.  Do not attempt to force interaction and play since they simply need to calm down from their anxiety.

Separation Anxiety Monster Quasher #4:

Communication Quencher

Usually, if a child has a tough time at morning drop-off, then that is the image that parents remain with the entire day: My child is sad/angry/crying/freaking out. And, naturally, they feel horrible about it.

Why not let them know that their child is, in fact (hopefully), doing fine later on in the day? Honestly, it only takes a few minutes to do so and can be done with a short text. You can even include a picture of their little one in an activity (as long as you don’t include other children in the picture, for confidentiality reasons).

Or, if a child had a particularly difficult drop-off, consider calling the parent instead. However, one word of warning, do not, REPEAT, DO NOT call them in front of their child. Because, obviously, all hell will break loose, and you’ll find yourself back at square one. Not only will parents truly appreciate the quick call, but they’ll also learn that you do honestly care about their child.

Separation Anxiety Monster Quasher #5:

Talking it Out

Talk it out with both the parents and the children. And, not just the child in question, but all the children in the classroom. It’s the perfect opportunity to discuss feelings in the classroom.

Talking it Out with the Children:

Talk to kids about how they are feeling during school at circle time. Here’s a chance to perhaps incorporate a How Do You Feel Today? segment to your classroom time. Try using emotion faces to help children link the appropriate emotion to the discussion, whether by using pictures or stickers or artwork. Perhaps you’d be interested in using a chart system that allows kids to place emotion stickers next to their name which would allow them to connect with how they are feeling each day.

Talking it Out with the Parents:

Do try to be available at pick-up time, especially for those children having separation anxiety issues. Let the parent(s) know how their child transitioned throughout the day. Although, if a parent wishes to talk longer about their child’s separation anxiety, it would be helpful to arrange a more appropriate time to speak. Why not suggest that you call them after school instead? Please keep in mind that discussing such delicate issues in front of their child, and really, the class in general, can lead to further feelings of being self-conscious…. which can lead to even MORE anxiety. Remember, little ears are always listening!

Children in a forest

Four Real Benefits of Nature Play

If you have ever wondered about the real value of some good ole’ fashioned fresh air and outdoor time, then I would suggest you watch children as they bury their nose in some wildflowers, find an unusual alien-like insect in the woods, or happily splash around in a creek. As children explore their outdoor environment, they experience that special kind of pleasurable satisfaction nature provides that many adults remember feeling as children, and, as their parents did before them. A sunny summer afternoon running through the garden sprinkler or winter weekend spent playing hockey on a frozen lake are wonderful Canadian traditions, happily experienced and always fondly remembered.

When Playing Outside Can Seem Like a Daunting Task

However, the stress and effort of preparing young preschoolers for outdoor play, especially in colder seasons (… oh, you know… the coats, the assorted cold weather accessories, the piles of shoes and boots, the lineups at the bathroom…), can oftentimes feel a tad overwhelming. And that’s not all teachers have to worry about. What about the risk of injury? Insect stings? Mud puddle mishaps? Or possible zombie apocalypse?! Dear lord, the list just never ends.

Outdoor Play versus Nature Play: Is One Really Better?

Nature play is not just simply playing somewhere outside. It is actually more of a child-directed and child-initiated form of play in a natural space, such as an overgrown field, patch of woods, or the unmaintained areas of a neighborhood, and offers a great many benefits. Check out these following four benefits that nature play has to offer your childcare center.

Nature Play Benefit #1: Healthier Kids

Imagine a child running through a small patch of woods where trees have magically transformed into hiding places, upturned roots into forts, and fallen branches into jungle gyms. Now, compare the imaginative possibilities a child has in these woods to the possibilities provided by a swing or a slide in a playground. In both these instances there is a chance for physical activity, yet, undoubtedly, the woods do offer more options. This malleable and flexible aspect of nature is referred to by researchers as the ‘affordance’ of nature, and it is this affordance that offers substantial benefits to physical and motor skill development in small children.

Nature Play Benefit #2: Sharpened Intelligence

The variety provided by nature both stimulates and develops a child’s body physically, all the while offering an added boost to their brain development. When children are engaged in dynamic and varied outdoor play, they encounter ample opportunities for decision making. These circumstances, in turn, stimulate creative thinking and problem-solving in situations that are not typically found in a playground or static indoor environment.

Nature Play Benefit #3: Stress Relief and Social Bonding

Have you ever felt more relaxed after a walk along the lake or a hike in the woods? Most probably, the answer to that question is a loud YES! Well, it’s the same for kids. An added bonus to feeling relaxed is that time spent in nature often strengthens social bonds between children. Unstructured time inherent in play activities allows for the social interactions deemed to be crucial building blocks of emotional intelligence. When play time takes place in nature, kids have substantially increased possibilities for problem-solving, sharing, negotiating, and working together. So, you see, nature works as a facilitator of sorts for significant childhood social interactions.

Nature Play Benefit #4: Nurturing Care for Our Planet

As a general consensus, the scientific community believes that Earth will face tremendous environmental challenges in the upcoming years. Thus, in order to overcome these challenges, we will be in need of people who not only understand the Earth but who also have come to truly appreciate and care for it. Therefore, naturally (no pun intended!), research shows that nature play is a crucial stepping stone for developing these types of individuals. When children spend time in direct contact with the environment, through nature play, they can have the positive experiences that may, in fact, precondition them to care about nature and the world later on in life.