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Children sit next to each other on a classroom carpet. One child has her hand extended, thumb raised.


Amanda Gooch

Amanda Gooch

January 1, 2023

An essential question we need to ask ourselves to enhance our practice is: Why does play matter? Children learn through play and play to learn. Children learn about themselves, their bodies, their feelings. They learn and connect with others around them. They learn about their environment and "things" in their environment like toys and nature. Through active hands-on play; children will develop their motor and movement skills, problem solving and cognitive skills, language, social and emotional skills.

An additional essential question we need to ask ourselves to enhance our practice is: What is the importance of play-based learning?

Play-based learning at its finest utilizes the environment as a third teacher, in conjunction with the students and classroom facilitator. A place were every activity and object placed in the space has a purpose, adds to the learning, and helps scaffold information across the learning domains. 

In children’s brains, when they are playing, they’re doing the deepest learning. Children learn best when at least one of these four pillars are present in the classroom:

  1. The child is able to take an active role in the learning environment

  2. The child is engaged

  3. The information presented is meaningful

  4. The child is able to learn and interact in a social context

Many of you may believe that we need to choose between play-based learning and rigorous academic standards when integrating the two is very possible.

To find out more about play based learning, click on this Resilient Educator link.

Now that we understand the importance of play and why play matters, let’s talk about the importance of child engagement in play and learning. During our most recent professional development day, we explored with the help of Mr. Alan Guttman, the R.A. McWilliam's Scale for Teachers’ Assessment of Routines Engagement; also known as STARE. 

When we look at what children are doing in the present and observe engaging behavior, we are able to assess children’s development. Measuring group and individual levels of engagement provides immediate and relevant feedback regarding the quality of the care environment. What are some words you would use to describe what engagement looks, sounds, and feels like when observing when a child is engaged? Click on this link (PDF) for a more comprehensive form to complete on assessing child engagement in the classroom:

By taking a deeper look into the comprehensive data collected on child engagement in our classroom we are able to ensure paths to high quality engagement. As educators we are creating learning environments that support frequent and long periods of sophisticated engagement. We are also balancing intentional interactions that are attuned and aligned with genuine child interests and passions. By observing, reflecting and being prepared to interact flexibly we are in essence following the child’s lead. With the information collected we are able to show engaged support of learning through our CLASS lens. We are spending most of our time in active facilitation by being involved with our students, providing intentional opportunities and guidance for learning and development. We are also furthering our student’s emotional and behavioral support by emphasizing children’s interests, motivations, and points of view. 

It’s going to be a wonderful and interactive time at our next professional development day. We welcome Dr. Dana Winters from the Fred Rogers Institute as she presents “Simple Interactions” on Saturday February 11th 2023. Just a friendly reminder, the workshop will be hosted at Indian River State College Muller Campus, Richardson Center. Together we will gain an deeper understanding of the role of interactions in human development; identify ways that human interactions can be encouraged across all levels of a system; and apply the conceptual foundation of developmental relationships to the everyday practice of supporting the learning and growing of children, families, and colleagues. I can’t wait to see you all there.

I thank you for your dedication and willingness to pour into the next generation through education as we elevate and promote the highest quality early childhood development and education in Indian River County.

Wishing you the best,


Email Amanda

Register For Simple Interactions

A teacher and a student sit next to each other, playing musical instruments.
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