What is Play-Based?

Foundations takes what's developmentally appropriate about Montessori education and Reggio Emilia education and combines them into our child-led play-based environment. Environments like these value play above all else. We do not force children to sit and do worksheets. We do not force children to sit and recite the alphabet. We scaffold information one-on-one with children based on their interest and excitement. Foundations values the importance of developmentally appropriate practice in early childhood education

At Foundations, children have the freedom and control to engage in any of the following activities when ever they are motivated to do so, and receive teacher support, encouragement, and careful supervision throughout. But with all that freedom, what are they learning?

Music & Movement

Listening to music and dancing can be wonderful play experiences for children. Most young children enjoy this activity immensely. These activities provide a wonderful opportunity to talk about feelings (for example, “Does this song sound happy or sad?”) or concepts such as opposites (for example, “Is the music fast or slow?”). A discussion about what you see or think when you hear a piece of music is a great way to expand storytelling skills and imagination. For children, listening to music and dancing:

  • Connects the world of movement and sound with the inner world of feelings and observation
  • Helps them learn patterns, rhythm and differences in sounds
  • Expands a child’s imagination
  • Aids physical fitness, balance, coordination and movement abilities
  • Finger plays and other nursery rhymes help develop:
    • Language skills (verbal and listening skills)
    • Small motor skills; hand-eye coordination
    • Memory, rhyming
    • Self-esteem

Process Art

While you may not recognize the drawing or painting, the chances are very high that your child can tell you a whole story behind the colors and shapes and placement of certain lines. They mean something in your child’s world. Cutting and drawing develop the muscles in their hands and fingers that will later button their shirt and write their name. They learn cooperation while sharing materials. When working on a collage with shapes, children can sort and classify items into groups based on shape and color. Sorting and classifying objects are skills needed to learn to read or do math.

The amount of pride a child shows in artwork is a boost to a developing sense of self. An adult who shows interest in artwork is an even bigger boost for a child’s sense of esteem. Remember, with arts and crafts activities, the process of making the art, not the product (or finished picture), is most important! Ask your children to tell you about their arts and crafts activities. Ask not just about what it is, but about colors they have used, materials they chose or feelings they tried to express. Engaging in arts and crafts activities helps children learn and develop:

  • Creativity
  • Pre-reading and pre-math skills
  • Social skills
  • Emotional expression and exploration
  • Strength in hands and fingers (fine motor skills)
  • Self-esteem

Free & abundant Outdoor Play

Outdoor play provides children with opportunities that develop their muscles while also introducing them to the world around them and interactions with others. Exercise and developing the habit of maintaining good physical health is extremely important. Using their muscles while running, jumping or throwing develops large motor skills. Kids learn creativity during outdoor play as they invent games of tag or hide-and-seek, and their outdoor adventures build social awareness and risktaking skills. Outdoor play helps kids learn and develop:

  • Balance and coordination (jumping, climbing, skipping, etc.)
  • Strength in all muscle groups (large motor skills)
  • Healthy lifestyle and activity habits
  • Social interaction skills through taking turns, outdoor games, etc.
  • Creativity
  • Awareness of the world around them and nature (sun, trees, wind, etc.)
  • Observation and use of their senses (seeing, hearing, feeling, smelling, moving, etc.)

Healthy family-style meals

Children have to learn to wait their turn and have to ask others to pass them items during meal times – they are learning what will one day manifest as self-driven manners. When setting the table for meals, they may count the number of people eating and set one place for each person – they are exploring math concepts. Serving themselves food, picking up food items and using silverware strengthens the muscles that later be will used in writing – they are gaining small-muscle coordination. Talking together while they are eating or serving meal items – they are learning conversation with others. Meal time helps children develop:

  • Social skills and manners
  • Small-motor skills
  • One-to-one correspondence and counting (the ability to match one item to one item, such as one napkin to one person)
  • Spatial organization
  • Verbal skills – talking with others at a meal
  • Understanding of volume (for example, cup is full or empty) and fractions (for example, half a cookie)
  • Awareness of the importance of healthy food habits

Building with Blocks & Loose Materials

Blocks must balance and be stacked in a symmetrical way to remain standing. And, of course, children talk to one another the entire time they are building with blocks. Children really do learn a variety of life skills from building with blocks. When you get home from the grocery store and have to make all the boxes and cans fit in your pantry or the cartons and containers fit into your refrigerator, you are relying on all the skills you used while building with blocks. Playing with blocks can help children learn:

  • Scientific principles and concepts (balance, gravity, cause and effect, etc.)
  • Mathematical concepts (symmetry, shape, geometry)
  • Small-muscle skills; hand-eye coordination
  • Feelings of competence and self-esteem
  • Life skills – concentration, abstract thought
  • Social interaction with others
  • Creativity and organization of materials

Dramatic Play

Often you will see adult themes in a child’s play – taking care of babies, going to work, being a firefighter, driving or going to the grocery store. This play can even involve good guys and bad guys, rough and tumble play, and the mention of weapons. This is a child’s way of trying to understand “going to work” or other activities that parents do on a daily basis, or an attempt to materialize anxieties, fears, or curiosities and gain power and control over them. The story lines often are very complicated when children are playing games with dress-up clothes or other “real life” toys, especially with older preschoolers. They will assign everyone a role, describe the plot and explain who has what duties. Coming up with all the pieces for the play really takes a lot of thought. Through such pretend play and interaction, children learn:

  • Practicing situations from the grown-up world in a setting that is safe and secure
  • Understanding of the world around them and daily living activities
  • Concentration and attention skills
  • Sequential acts and story writing/telling
  • Flexibility, cooperation and compromise
  • Empathy and consideration for the feelings of others
  • Abstract thinking

Exploring Independence with Freedom

Because we allow children to exercise free will and the expansion of interests at Foundations, there are ample opportunities for kids to get messy. We do not exclude children from messy play for any reason when it begins. We can help mitigate the amount of mess that goes home, but parents are encouraged to only send children in clothes that can get very messy as well as multiple changes of clothes. We have a washing machine on site for washing messy clothes of children who do not have laundry units in their homes or children who get so messy they become uncomfortable or cold.