Last month, Jennie Ito, founder and play and toy Consultant for The Play Kitchen, shared a wonderful story with KaBOOM! about her son and his favorite book, My Dream Playground! Written by KaBOOM! Vice President of Program Management Kate Becker, the book tells the story of a determined young girl who makes her dream playground a reality with the help of her family, friends and community. Jennie’s son Benjamin loved the story so much he chose to share My Dream Playground with his preschool class at the Children’s House of Los Altos. The children in Benjamin’s class were so warmed and excited by the book that they turned it into inspiration for a fun class project and had each child design their very own “dream playground."
Kids need a balance of active play every day in order to become happy, healthy, and successful adults.
We know that play is most fun when it's spontaneous, interactive, and creative. So, KaBOOM! spoke with Benjamin’s teacher, Kiri Fluetsch, to shed more light on how My Dream Playground inspired the kids in Children’s House of Los Altos preschool class to imagine, create and play.
What were some of the kids' reactions after reading My Dream Playground?
“I want to make a playground.”
“What does dream mean?”
“They built it!”
“That looks fun!”
“I want to play there!”
“How did she draw that?”
Our children connected with this story, especially since it was paired with our building unit and our discussions of the building process. My Dream Playground helped show the children the process of building something that was exciting to them, something they have seen in their world and enjoy at school every day.
How did it feel to see the kids' excitement about play after reading My Dream Playground?
The conversations on the playground were amazing. The kids would reference the book, and ask who built their playground. They wondered if children were a part of the planning process and if they got to wear hardhats! As an early childhood educator, watching the children transfer their knowledge from the playground to the story was a great experience. Watching their cognitive processes advance through this story was truly wonderful.
What are some things these kids have learned from My Dream Playground, and how is it inspired them?
We have talked about following your dreams, working to the best of your ability to make your dreams come true, and working together to achieve a goal. The children have created their own dream playgrounds and described their choices for the layout of their dream playgrounds. Each child had to have swings!
How has the topic or perception of play changed in your classrooms since reading My Dream Playground?
I don’t think our perception of play has changed, however, we have been more aware of the children’s thinking process and fostering their ability to think and plan. We have made more opportunities for the children to plan and draw what inspires them.
Do you have plans of continuing or incorporating more activities focused on play? If so, how?
We have incorporated many activities that focus on play. We continuously change our dramatic play area to represent certain themes; it is currently a newspaper office. We have been working on dramatic play activities, such as acting out books and songs. Our schedule also allows for the children to have most of the day for discovering and exploring. The children have many opportunities to play and foster their wants and needs with their peers through activities and materials in both the indoor and outdoor environments.
Why do you think play is important?
As an accredited school through the National Association of the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) we believe that play is important for developing self-regulation, as well as promoting language, cognition and social competence. Play gives children opportunities to interact with others, explore their world, express and control their emotions as well as learning problem solving techniques.