I enjoyed attending this workshop, and it's distinguished presenters, Robin Adeney, and Maureen Kachor.
The event began with a presentation on the Regina Children's Charter, by Mary McGrath, the executive director of the Regina Early Learning Center. She explained that the creation of the charter, rose from the United Nations Declaration of the rights of the child, and that it seems the local community may need to take up this cause in an effort to encourage and promote the wellbeing and development of children. It really seems like our society hasn't made enough progress to ensure the optimal level of care for it's children, that is expressed in the declaration.
There is a measurement of children's readiness for school called the EDI, and in the year 2008 - 09 Regina children fell behind rhe national score of readiness.This score does not include those children with n
developmental delays, and learning disabilities.This is disturbing.
A group named the Regina and Early Childhood Network meets the last Thur. of every month at 1:30 to 3:30 at the United Way, and Mary invited anyone to join to work towards the needs of young children in our community.
Mary quoted Marian Edelman who said, "If we don't stand up for young children we don't stand up for much."
Robin Adeney presented her work towards her Phd. dissertation on children's play, Tales from the dollhouse: Children composing identities through play, language and story.
Robin described the method of narrative inquiry, and gave us each 20 minutes to reflect on one or two personal childhood play experiences as a way of experiencing the narrative inquiry process.As well Robin reflected on 3 of her personal childhood play experiences.
I really felt this was an effective way of showing us how narrative inquiry works.
Robin spent 1 school year observing an interacting with children in a preschool to study play, and the experience of play and it's meaning for a child's life.
Her work revealed to her that play is the primary interest for children, that they think about play, that they are truly focused in the process of play, and often function at a higher cognitive level when engaged in play.She describes the play of children as healing, spirtitual, and healing.
She describes the role of the "playful" adult as helping newcomers enter play, by possibly just sitting on the floor with a newcomer, and gently seeing how the child may find to enter, allowing the child to be empowered to find his/her way. She also sees adults as co-players, and that children learn best with play. Play is multi- vocal, using gestures, body language, song, dance, and speech to communicate.
Children in play enjoy moving props around from one play center to another, and do not always use materials in expected ways, they also need to move to learn.
Robin also provided a list of found objects to enhance children's play such as egg cartons, cardboard boxes, costume jewlery, containers, tape, string, etc.
She provided a quotation from the New Brunswick Curriculum Framework, that "Found materials present many opportunities for flexible and fluid thinking. Children can explore ideas for sorting or categorizing and experiment with the aesthetic of what is beautiful to them, both in what they select and how they fashion a finished project. Children will see new possibilities in these everyday objects."
Robin emphasized that play is a profound experience for children, that has profound implications for who the child will grow up into, and even an indicator for the life paths children will take as adults. When conducting personal narrative inquiries we might see hints of why we chose our career paths from the play we engaged in as children. This shows why adults should take care to allow large blocks of play for children, providing materials and environments to enhance, and to be co-players when the opportunity comes up.
Robin described the adult who plays with children, as engaging in "an act of care, love, and interest."
Maureen Kachor, is a play therapist, and she presented us with her workshop, Playful Practices to Promote Emotional Wellbeing.
She describes play as having multiple functions for young children allowing the growth and enhancement in all areas of development, language, sensory, motor, social/emotional,and cognitive.
Maureen talked about "resilience". and describes the adult who provides warm and consistent care as facilitating the birth of the resilient self. She explained that when the child experiences stress later in life, the child can achieve emotional self regulation by "going to a gentle, nurturing place inside to find calm and solace", which first needs to be constructed in early childhood through gentle nurturing interactions with adults in the child's life.
Maureen also explained how helping the child calm, allows the child to use and develop problem solving, which comes from our prefrontal cortex. There are many ways to encourage calm: manipulating playdo, or a squeeze ball, deep breathing, drawing, play, among others. There are some differences to be aware of depending on the child, if the child had experienced narcotic abstinance syndrome at birth, he or she may have sensory overload problems, so some sensory activities would not be helpful, the child may prefer quiet in a small space alone. As well FASD children will not want sensory stimulation, or to be looked at in the face directly. Maureen said one effective way of modeling comforting strategies, is to comfort a toy when the child is needing comfort.
A calm place such as a small pup tent could help within the group setting allowing a child privacy. Maureen emphasized privacy and respect for the child, and not asking questions, but just allowing a child to work out his/her feelings and thoughts with the materials available.
She defined self regulation as the ability to experience anger without hurting others. Some ideas for learning about acknowledging anger, and expressing it in a healthy way are in the manual, Play Skills Program Manual, by the Families First Partnership Program in Saskatoon. One idea is making shakers, and shaking your angries out, this is a playful way of acknowling angry feelings. Maureen really cautioned against talking too directly about feelings as this will be experienced as invasive and disrespectful by the child.
My reflections on the presentations:
I'm so glad I had the chance to hear the material presented, it was illuminating.
For my own work I will look to provide more opportunities for children to direct their own play, and allow them to use materials in unexpected ways without being so worried with keeping things they way I as the adult thought they should be used. I will want to make sure I'm not so involved in my own agenda that I don't allow myself to respond to invitations to play by my children, remembering that my children will be more inclined to learn from me if I am a co-player, and a playful adult.
I will try to ensure long blocks of play and to respect the play as sacred and spiritual, and as forming the identities of the children in my care, and of having a profound influence in their life paths.
I will remember that by being comforting, nurturing, and protecting my children's right to privacy that I am creating neural pathways for the child, and allowing the growth of the child's prefrontal cortex.
I will try to maintain a calm, structured day for my children remembering that that enhances emotional regulation.
I also plan to read the play skills manual, and to begin implementing some of the activities that fit for me and my group.
One big area that was stressed was the value of open ended, found materials, as well as the joy and value of the outdoors, so I will remember this, and try to find ways to play outdoors more.
I really can't do justice to all the the ideas presented at this workshop by these accompliished individuals, but hopefully I will find some of my work with my children improving and growing through what I heard, and learned.