Play:


Fosters creativity and imagination.


Encourages cognitive, emotional, and social skills.


Cultivates initiative and independence.

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Promotes problem solving and decision making.


Teaches emotional control.


Furthers cooperation with others.


Develops motor coordination and enhances physical health.


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Stages of Play

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Throughout the year I am continually observing and noting how the children in care here are progressing through the various stages/milestones of child development. One area that I really focus in on is their style of play.

My observations are guided by training and workshops where the work of sociologist Mildred Parten was discussed. Mildred Parten observed American preschool age children at free play and developed a theory on the stages of play. She saw these stages as having a developmental order. Today there is some disagreement among educators about whether or not there really is a true sequence to the stages of play.

For myself I find the Parten’s stages to be a solid starting place and recognize that with each child being unique there will of course be differences. However, the red flag goes up if these differences are severe and there appears to be no outside influence impacting the child’s development.

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Mildred Parten’s six different types of play:

  1. Unoccupied (play) – child is not playing, just observing.
  2. Solitary (independent) play – child plays alone and is focused on their chosen activity.
  3. Onlooker play – child watches others at play, but does not engage in it. I see this as a change from solitary, because of the notice of what others are doing.
  4. Parallel play – child plays separately from others, but mimicking their play.
  5. Associative play – child is interested in the other children playing, but not necessarily in the activity they are doing. This is not observing, like onlooking, as there is a lot of interaction occurring between them.
  6. Cooperative play – child is interested both in the people playing and the activity. Here the play is organized, and everyone has a role. This stage seems to develop fairly quickly once children enter elementary school.

Value of Art

Proven benefits of children learning about and participating in art while they are young.

  • Art stimulates both sides of the brain.
  • Art promotes self esteem and allows for self-expression.
  • Art encourages children to give more attention to the physical space that surrounds them.
  • Art develops hand eye coordination, stimulating perception.
  • Art teaches children to think creatively to solve problems with there being the possibility of more than one solution.
  • Children can share and reflect on their work of art and learn something about the world they’re in.

I feel strongly that what many refer to as “arts & crafts” projects available for children should be as open-ended as possible. A child’s originality must influence the outcome of their personal project. Without originality, children focus on doing it “right”. If our goals are creativity, exploration, self-esteem, self-worth, and self-expression, then there isn’t space for right or wrong.

The development of a child’s imagination is a very important step in learning good problem solving skills and becoming a lifelong learner. For me the process a child experiences when engaged in expressing themselves through an art project is an important part of them developing their creativity. I also understand that there are times the product also has value. The project however is still driven by the child’s originality.

When the focus is the process there is not a finished piece by the teacher shown for demonstration purposes or hung up as a model. That type of model sets limitations on a child’s creative response – they want to do it just like the teacher – they perceive there to be a right and wrong way. As the teacher setting the stage for the experience it’s important to remember to have fun, encourage exploration and creativity.

Creative arts projects for young children can enhance such skills as eye-hand coordination, small muscle development, problem solving, decision making, following multi-step directions, and self-esteem.

Many times the creative experience does not just involve the creative process, but is tied into other learning experiences, such as books, expanding the learning.

Here’s an example:

We used footprints and handprints, which are always fun for children, to add to a collaged background to demonstrate the learning happening around Maine lobsters as part of our unit on Maine.


It’s important that parents early on understand the value of process over product. Working with parents so that they do not expect to always have that recognizable finished product supports their children remaining comfortable trying, exploring, and taking risks. Encourage them not to ask “What is it?” Ask open ended questions that draw out the process the child participated in to arrive with the project they are sharing. It can be difficult to convince parents of all the learning that is going on, so it’s important to share information from whatever learning guidelines you use in developing the curriculum for your program.

5-2-1-0 Let’s Go!

Dear Families,

I believe that all children deserve the opportunity to be healthy and successful. Healthy eating and physical activity are crucial for proper development and improve concentration, memory and mood, helping children become better learners. In the past Country Fun Child Care has directly participated in Let’s Go! 5-2-1-0 Goes to Child Care, a community program that provides trainings and resources.

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While I value the trainings, resources and general message of 5-2-1-0, I also value the use of current technology as another tool within my program. Country Fun is a mixed aged program where children under 2 also have exposure to this technology / screen time. 5-2-1-0 has a no screen time under 2 policy. I cannot in good faith meet that policy, so I no longer directly participate in 5-2-1-0.

You will find a complete explanation on my approach and usage of technology under “Screen Time Policy“.

I continue to work to make Country Fun Child Care a healthy place for your children to learn and grow. We follow the five Let’s Go! healthy strategies.

  1. We limit unhealthy choices for snacks and celebrations and promote healthy choices instead.
  2. We limit or do not provide sugary drinks and provide water instead.
  3. We do not reward children with food.
  4. We provide opportunities for children to get physical activity every day.
  5. We limit recreational screen time.

TOILET INDEPENDENCE

Serving mixed ages, it’s seems like there is almost always a child involved in toilet training at Country Fun.

First, we use a regular toilet adapted with a special lid/seat for developing “toilet independence” at Country Fun. I do not use a portable potty.

I personally find learning “toilet independence” to be less stressful if it is totally child led. The achievement needs to fulfill something for them, and for children that is often different than for a parent. When child lead the development of this skill is usually fairly quick.

To be child led, I need a child to:

  • be able to communicate their need.
  • be able to get their pants down without help.
  • to want to do this.

A child will need to remain in diapers while learning “toilet independence”.


A couple of short posts I think has some good points. Read and enjoy. From Childhood 101 / Real Mums Talk About Toilet Training series:

How to Start Potty Training: Is My Toddler Ready?

Potty Training Methods

Nighttime Potty Training Tips

Toilet Learning: Teaching Kids How to Wipe (part 6)

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:

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  • 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. 

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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.