So finally, here is the third installment of my book review for Gaye Gronlund’s “Developmentally Appropriate Play”. Now I realise that a three part book review is probably quite unusual (after all, this is a relatively brief and concise book on guiding children to higher levels of play – it’s no Game of Thrones). But bear with me here – I am two months into starting this blog at the same time as my family day care business, I am also working two other casual jobs and have another thing on the side called ‘raising a family’.
Not that I am complaining – I am really happy with how everything has turned out – I just totally underestimated how much time everything would take. Time to settle new children into care while they build attachment with me. Time to reflect on the best use of my environment. Time to plan for experiences that cater to all the age groups I have. Time to menu plan and cook. Just as a few examples.
However I totally love doing this blog and I have so many more ideas on articles I can write and books I can review to record my thoughts and to be a resource to others who are in this most important profession of caring for and educating the littlest members of our community.
Chapter 6 is about provoking children into more complex play. The term ‘provocation’ can be seen in a negative light but here its meaning is related to stimulating play and providing opportunities for more complex thinking, and examples are provided for how to do this with different age groups. This can be done through excursions or special visitors, using books, offering new materials (or taking some away), and considering groupings of children (although the latter is more suited to long day care centres, it can still be a useful consideration in family day care).
I have always been inspired by the idea of setting up play spaces that allow children to act out the stories they have been reading (or more likely, have had read to them). A tip here is to allow children to re-tell the story in their own words and don’t worry too much if they get the story line a bit mixed up. One of our favourite stories at the moment is “Peek-a-Poo – What’s in your nappy?” about an inquisitive mouse who goes around asking all of his animal friends what’s in their nappy. This book has given me ideas for how to set this up as a play experience as a provocation for complex play.
Family day care educators may initially get discouraged by the thought of provocations for play because at first it sounds like you have to go out and buy new resources that match every single emerging interest that children develop. However this is not the case; having a “prop box”or by teaching children to use objects as symbols for other objects allows you to create lots of different play themes. This is also great for children’s imagination and problem solving. Also it forces children to improvise which builds the important skills of creativity and flexibility.
Chapter 7 is about adding representation to further enrich play, that is to document on paper. By helping children to document as part of their play, whether it’s writing, drawing or mathematical representation, educators can encourage deeper play as well as embedding literacy and numeracy skills into the program, and helping children to see that their play is valuable. I totally agree with the author’s caution here about not turning this into an academic lesson – any drawing or writing that you do with the children needs to add to their play and not interrupt it. There are lots of great suggestions in this chapter about how to do this in a practical way, as well as stories of how other teachers have successfully extended on children’s play with documentation. There are also suggestions for what to do if you put out the writing materials and the children don’t use them, how to show children that their attempts at writing are valued (even if they don’t look the same as ‘adult writing’), and an appendix at the end of the book with templates for writing in different play scenarios (see photo above).
The book finishes with a chapter on incorporating standards and goals into children’s play. In my context, this means using the five outcomes of the Early Years Learning Framework to assess and plan for children’s learning. The author argues that you don’t need to memorise standards (or outcomes) but you do need to be familiar enough with them that you know what to look for when observing children. Examples are given of how to incorporate academic learning into children’s play interests. This is a really important point as there is still a lot of confusion in the early childhood sector about the meaning of “Intentional Teaching” which is one of the practices of the EYLF.
As I said earlier on in the review, this book is most suited to educators who have children aged from three to six years old, whereas I (and many others in family day care) have younger children and babies. I still think that the concepts discussed in this book are important considerations for all educators and a great reminder that “play is not just play”. The book prompts you to think about the different kinds of play that children engage in and to really tune in when you are observing children at play so that you can notice the detail of what they are saying and doing and then use this information to plan for extending on play and learning. A strong point is the real life stories given and the practical strategies. As this is a fairly compact book, it does leave you wanting more in terms of ideas for play and extending on particular interests.