PLAY, LEARN & GROW, our Early Learning Center, opened last fall. In the past year, countless families have shopped in the library market; cooked some one-of-a-kind meals; raked, mowed, and hoed in the little backyard; built some super Duplo structures; and played with letters, numbers, shapes, puzzles, and more. Many of you have been enjoying our early learning space from the beginning. Others are just discovering it, so we thought this was the perfect time to re-introduce PLAY, LEARN, & GROW to our community.
We know that experiences in the early years last a lifetime. We also know that young children learn best through play and interaction with caring adults. So we designed a play space to help infants through kindergarteners build the best possible foundations for later learning. PLAY, LEARN & GROW is so much more than the kind of play areas found in restaurants and malls.In our space, we play with purpose – the purpose of building young brains and strong bonds between adults and children. That is why it is a NO PHONE ZONE. We know little ones can be exhausting. We understand the need for a break, a chance to talk to other grown-ups, or catch up on messages. But in the Early Learning Center, the focus should always be on helping children play, learn, and grow.
Our Early Learning and Literacy Center was years in the planning. It was finally made possible by some generous memorial donations. The space was carefully designed to align with Every Child Ready to Read research and standards. EECR has identified six skills children must have experience with before they can learn to read – Vocabulary, Print Recognition, Letter Knowledge, Phonic Awareness (recognizing sounds in words), Narrative Skills, Experience with Books, Excitement about Books and Reading. It may sound complicated, but it’s not. Early Literacy will develop naturally if children have plenty of interaction and real world experiences with caring adults. (To learn more, visit our Early Literacy page.)
You are probably already doing the everyday things that build those early learning skills – talking, reading, singing, writing, and playing. The Early Learning Center just gives you more “Ways to Play.” Each area has suggested “Ways to Play” that will help build those important skills. For example, a trip to the library market, can teach so many important lessons –even for babies. Naming and describing the play food can teach vocabulary and colors. Pointing out words on labels encourages print awareness and letter recognition. Children can also get experience with counting and sorting. Making a shopping list or play money provides experiences with writing. Just playing in the store builds narrative skills as kids create their own story. That’s just one example of the power of play. Each area offers plenty of building blocks for early learning.
Of course, we want to help develop lifelong readers and learners. We also care about children’s emotional and social development. Those necessary social skills can also be developed in PLAY, LEARN & GROW – sharing, taking turns, cleaning up, using inside voices, and showing respect for property and other people. Anyone who knows young children realizes that none of those things came naturally to little ones. They must be modeled by adults and reinforced over and over and over and over again. Little by little, children will catch on.
We encourage you to take full advantage of all the PLAY LEARN & GROW experience has to offer. After all that playtime (or before) cuddle up in one of our comfy chairs and share some picture books. Better yet, take a stack home with you.