Play Is Learning! Especially for a Child

Learning at Country Fun Child Care is based on what I believe is the foundation of learning in young children – PLAY.

Young children should be provided the opportunities to use their natural curiosity to explore their environment, as learning isn’t about repeating what another says. Learning requires one to engage and experiment to find out how things work and that is what children do in their play. Child-directed activities, with adult support, provide expansion of learning respecting the uniqueness of each child. Projects incorporated into play are developed around the interests and skill levels of the children participating.

Play has an essential role in a child’s overall development as it:


  • fosters creativity and imagination
  • encourages cognitive, emotional, and social skills
  • cultivates initiative and independence
  • promotes problem solving and decision making
  • teaches emotional control
  • furthers cooperation with others
  • develops motor coordination and enhances overall physical health

A variety of open-ended toys and manipulatives are available at all times for children to play with. 


The selection of these toys and the physical set-up of the child care space changes as the interests and developmental level of the children indicate. Projects incorporated into our play are developed around the interests and skill levels of the children participating. Children are continually assessed using the Maine Early Learning Developmental Standards.

What is my job as an early childhood educator?

My job is to provide the children that come into my care with the tools and knowledge necessary to succeed at whatever they choose to do.

It is my responsibility to help the children in my care have a successful beginning on their learning path by supporting their abilities to:

  • developing a trusting relationship with adults
  • understanding and following a routine
  • learning to transition between activities
  • encouraging children to collaborate and work together with peers
  • developing an understanding of themselves as individual
  • allowing children to take the initiative, express opinions and make choices
  • viewing a child’s errors as learning opportunities
  • using a child’s interests to motivate and engage them in learning
  • assessing a child’s thinking, as well as their work, in order to support their learning
  • develop a strong oral and receptive vocabulary
  • develop readiness skills in math and reading
  • develop gross and fine motor skills

I have found by approaching all interactions with “intention”, I am doing the best I can by the children in care. I believe I need to not just observe, but be sensitive to the individual needs of the young children in care. From there I can determine the most effective teaching strategies to use for each child and experience. I want to help each child get a good start on their path to a successful and fulfilling life. Not what I want for them, or what their parents want for them, but what they want for themselves. Children need to learn who they are and what they are capable of. With a positive self-image and self-esteem anything is possible.

From a belief that strong families support a child’s development, I see our daily contact providing the opportunity to develop a strong relationship with each family. It is also important to provide outside resource material directly to families when needed in supporting each child’s development.

“Intention” Curriculum

In the 30+ years I have been actively involved with the education of young children, I have learned that education is always changing. It often appears like a pendulum, with practices swinging from one extreme to another. I believe that change is a good thing and as educators we should always be trying to find whatever will work in support of the children we are entrusted to teach. However, I also think there needs to be good sense behind the choices we are making in that teaching. Fads do not serve anyone well.

Personally, I listen with as open a mind as possible to different methods and approaches as they find their way into education. I take what I find to be beneficial for the children in my care and incorporate those practices as best I can. Over the years I have never found one method or school of thought that was the “best” for everyone.

The “best” for me has always been a mixture of pieces that I fused together to offer the experiences and guidance each child needed at that specific point in time. What I have found to be consistent is that if one approaches their teaching practice with “intention”, they will usually be doing the best they can by their students. I believe teachers need to not just observe, but be sensitive to the individual needs of their students. From that point they can determine the most effective teaching strategies to use for each experience.

What do I mean by “intention”?

When one teaches with intention, one:

  • has a learning environment that is rich in materials to offer students a variety of experiences and chances for interactions
  • continually observes students to gage interests and level of comprehension
  • encourages exploration
  • talks with and listens to the students
  • challenges students to question, stretch their abilities, and work outside their comfort zone
  • continually extends students’ existing knowledge as new lessons are introduced
  • covers all areas of instruction
  • understands the content to be taught
  • matches content to the developmental levels and emerging skills of students
  • plans, but remains flexible
  • uses spontaneous or unexpected teaching opportunities
  • reflects on success of strategies used and alternatives
  • reflects on their own strengths and weaknesses to direct their continuing professional development

Operating a family childcare home hasn’t changed my thoughts regarding teaching with intention. It has only reinforced this point of view. It doesn’t matter if I am helping an infant developing body awareness, a toddler expanding their developing language skills, a preschooler learning the alphabet, or the school-aged with homework support, if I approach each student and situation with intention I end up providing them with the “best” I can.

Weather Safety

Planning for outside time means weather safety is part of a child care provider’s daily routine. Changes in weather require continual monitoring to ensure the health and safety of the children. lnfants/toddlers will tolerate shorter periods of outdoor play, but they are unable to tell the child care provider if they are too hot or cold, so close monitoring is required in more challenging weather and air quality conditions.

  • Remind children to drink while playing and apply more sunscreen as needed.
  • Children need a firm approach to wearing proper clothing for the weather (they may want to play without coals, hats or mittens).
  • Children become fussy when uncomfortable.
  • Dress infants/toddlers in lightweight cotton or cotton-like fabrics during the warmer months.
  • In cooler or cold months dress infants in layers to keep them warm.
  • Protect infants from the sun by limiting the amount of time outdoors and playing in shaded areas.

Children in attendance for more than four hours and over the age of 12 months shall have a minimum of 60 minutes outdoors daily, barring weather that presents a risk to Children in accordance with Child Care Weather Watch  and the Air Quality Index. Gross motor activity will be substituted for outdoor time when weather does not permit outdoor time. Infants must go outside at least once daily in accordance with Child Care Weather Watch and Air Quality Index. If the air quality index is “Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups” (USG) or higher, Children must be kept indoors. Current and expected air quality concentrations for the upcoming 24 hours are found at Online Air Quality Daily Forecast for Maine. Air quality forecasts are scheduled to be updated by 3:00 pm weekdays and other times as necessary. Forecasts are also available on the Bureau’s Air Quality Hotline at (800) 223-1196.


Condition GREEN – Children may play outdoors and be comfortable. Watch for signs of children becoming uncomfortable while playing. Use precautions regarding clothing. sunscreen, and beverages for all child age groups.

Condition YELLOW use caution, shorten the length of outdoor time and closely observe the children for signs of being too hot or cold.

Condition REDmost children should not play outdoors due to the health risk.

Healthy Celebration Options

It has been my practice at Country Fun to not have any major celebrations around holidays and birthdays. This practice is the best way I know to honor the diversity of the values/customs/practices of families in care.

In honoring family traditions, I have always allowed individual families to offer a simple celebration on birthdays and some holidays as they have requested. Usually this has been to bring in a food treat for sharing as one of our snacks. Following are suggestions for families that wish to provide a healthy celebration for sharing on their child’s special day.

Healthy Celebration Snack Food Ideas:  * Currently there is a child in care who has food dye allergies.  Labels on purchased food sources need to be carefully read. Please check with me before bringing a special celebration snack to be shared with the whole group.

  • Fruit smoothies (blend berries, bananas and pineapple)
  • Fresh fruit assortment, fruit and cheese kabobs, fruit salad, fruit with low-fat whipped topping
  • Dried fruit (raisins, cranberries, apricots, banana chips), 100% fruit snacks
  • Vegetable trays with low-fat dip
  • Whole-grain crackers with cheese cubes, string cheese or hummus
  • Waffles or pancakes topped with fruit
  • Pretzels, low-fat popcorn, rice cakes, breadsticks, graham crackers and animal crackers
  • Angel food cake, plain or topped with fruit
  • Bagel slices with jam, fruit or grain muffin (low-fat), whole wheat English muffin, hot pretzels
  • Pizza with low-fat toppings (vegetables, lean ham, Canadian bacon), pizza dippers with marinara sauce
  • Ham, cheese or turkey wrap pinwheels (with low-fat condiments)
  • Low-fat pudding, low-fat yogurt, squeezable yogurt, yogurt smoothies, yogurt parfaits or banana splits (yogurt and fruit topped with cereal, granola (nut free) or crushed graham crackers)
  • Quesadillas or bean burrito with salsa
  • Low-fat breakfast or granola (peanut and nut free) bars
  • Low-fat tortilla chips with salsa or bean dip
  • Trail/cereal mix (whole-grain, low-sugar cereals mixed with dried fruit, pretzels, etc. – No peanuts or nuts)

Non-Food Ideas:

  • Piñata with toys
  • Purchase a book for the programs library in the birthday child’s name, or send in a couple of special books from home or local library to be read at storytime
  • Send in a special video to share
  • Provide materials for a creative experience in art or music
  • Provide materials for special party games or activities