Thursday, March 22, 2012

Play Time is Key to Children's Development

Socializing and playing with friends is one of the hallmarks of childhood. 

Creative Minds Learning Center schools provide opportunities for structured learning generously mixed with free play to meet the needs of the children. As they crave interaction with their peers, they safely explore new skills by playing freely and working on projects. When children are given opportunities to play, they make up games, negotiate rules and make sure others are playing fair. All of that helps to teach children how to make decisions, to solve problems and gain self-control. Children who have too many emotional outbursts or who insist on getting their way too often quickly learn they need to change their behavior to meet the social needs as a group.Through free play, "they are acquiring the basic competencies we ultimately need to become adults," said Gray, author of two studies published recently in the American Journal of Play. But since the mid-1950s, adults have played an increasingly larger role in their children's activities, to the detriment of their kids' mental health, Gray said. And, playing organized sports with a coach or other adult directing the activity doesn't replace "free" play that's directed by kids, he noted. While this is true, we also know that play time with family and parents is also imperative to a child's security in exploring their environment and building trust. 

Playing is important for developing children on many different levels. One of the most critical aspects of play is the pleasant involvement with parents. As a child grows older it is also very necessary for that child to learn to play independently for short periods of time and to use their imagination. This and simple number and vocabulary concepts are the most appropriate lessons to learn for school readiness. It is important to note that they can all be taught while having fun.

Play can take many forms. This makes a great deal of sense to parents who are suddenly aware of how much work it can be to entertain an active infant and how difficult it can be to focus on having fun and not scolding a rambunctious toddler. Regardless of whether play is outside or in, quiet or rowdy, it is simply important to take time for fun and enjoy the time with your child.
Early Play
With a newborn baby, there is not a lot of opportunity for fun and games. They tend to sleep quite a bit for the first few weeks. But when the baby wakes up and becomes aware of his surroundings, there are many games to play. Young infants may not have much control of their facial expressions, but they can still benefit and even learn from playing with parents. Singing songs, playing peek-a-boo and taking baby on tours of everything is wonderful for parent and child.
Young babies also must spend time on their stomachs to work their neck and back muscles. This can be frustrating for the young one, but parents can make it more fun by singing silly songs or showing baby interesting objects. Remember to talk to your baby about everything as you are playing. Show your baby the scenes from the windows or look at pictures on the wall. Vocabulary is building from day one, and the only way to truly learn words is to hear trusted adults speak them.

Toddler Play
Toddlers are a very special breed. They are simply exhausting in their quest to discover everything both safe and not. This is the age that many parents discover the need for discipline and a vacation. Try hard not to stifle the young explorer, however. Making a mess is part of learning, and there is no way to figure out what is at the bottom of the drawer unless the rest of the contents are on the floor.
You will have years of a clean house when your children are gone; enjoy this time without worrying too much about spilled juice or ketchup as finger paint. Play chase, throw balls, jump up and down, dance, and sing. Take your big boy or girl everywhere that allows young people. There are so many interesting things to learn and see.

It is the parent’s job to find these opportunities at home so that the child may relish the experience.
When a child reaches a certain age, they seem to be almost self sufficient in their playtime. Television, video games, and the computer may occupy much of their free time, but parents should set limits on this. Encourage active play, especially outdoors, and fight the temptation to sit back and watch. Kids are always thrilled when Dad will shoot a few baskets and Mom will swing on the swing set. Again, there will be years of time looking back on their childhood, don’t waste opportunities reading the paper or folding laundry.
All manners of play are important. Puzzles and coloring are just as important to having a good time and building a foundation for learning as hide and seek and board games. Riding bikes and taking walks can be opportunities to bond with your children and demonstrate the importance of quality time together. Childhood is so fleeting. Relish every moment of it as actively as possible.

Child Play
When a child reaches a certain age, they seem to be almost self sufficient in their playtime. Parents should set limits on television and computers at home. Encourage active play, especially outdoors, and fight the temptation to sit back and watch. Kids are always thrilled when Dad will shoot a few baskets and Mom will swing on the swing set. Again, there will be years of time looking back on their childhood, don’t waste opportunities reading the paper or folding laundry.
All manners of play are important. Puzzles and coloring are just as important to having a good time and building a foundation for learning as hide and seek and board games. Riding bikes and taking walks can be opportunities to bond with your children and demonstrate the importance of quality time together. Childhood is so fleeting. Relish every moment of it as actively as possible.

Children at Creative Minds creating flubber and experiencing messy play!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Recipe for Success!

Study while others are sleeping; work while others are loafing; prepare while others are playing; and dream while others are wishing. 

-William A. Ward

Monday, March 19, 2012

CMLC's Testimonial Page

Happy Monday!

Thank you to all of the families that contributed a testimonial of their experience at CMLC! We appreciate and value all of your positive feedback! Please visit our Testimonial Page to view some testimonials from our families. If you would like to contribute a testimonial to CMLC's testimonial page, please see your Director for more details! We are so thankful for our CMLC families and friends, and the community we have all built together!

Friday, March 16, 2012

CMLC Teacher Development Day!

The Creative Minds Team will have the opportunity to attend a Teacher Development Day on Friday, March 30th! All CMLC schools are closed on this day. CMLC is excited to offer paid time and training for our teachers to obtain their continued education credentials while team building with fellow staff from all school locations! We are thrilled to be hosting several certified trainers from Portland at our school to present progressive and valuable information about Early Childhood Education!

These presentations will not only increase our teachers knowledge, developing their skills as an early childhood educator, but will continue to build their educational and professional careers in this field.

What a wonderful opportunity for growth and to enhance CMLC's program and learning experience for the children!

Have a wonderful weekend!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Garden Fundraiser!

Creative Minds is excited for our Annual Spring Fundraiser for our Children's Gardening programs! This year, we have selected Urban Farmer as our fundraising partner. Urban Farmer works to produce, develop and sell only the best quality organic and heirloom seeds on the market. At Creative Minds, we connect the children to the natural world where they learn about the cyclic nature of the seasons and begin to find out more about where their food comes from. Their gardens are the magical place to learn the cycle of life with plants and experience the many transformations of the natural world.

A little more about Urban Farmer...

Urban Farmer Heirloom Seeds
They stand behind the preservation of heirloom and traditional seed varieties. Heirloom and traditional varieties have endured because of their time-tested value to generations of gardeners and farmers. Whether for their great taste, high nutrition, or vigorous growth, they are trying to preserve as many of these treasured varieties as possible. They offer both open-pollinated and hybrid seeds, all of which represent agro-biodiversity as well as value to the gardener, farmer, and consumer of the end food products..

Urban Farmer's Philosophy
At Urban Farmer, we want to preserve and develop seeds through organic and natural mating methods. We want to teach young and old the value of farming and the great benefits that come along with it. We believe in the value of a re-built food system that can naturally support the worlds population through health environments, healthy economies, healthy communities and healthy bodies. 
Everyday that we are in business, we are working to provide an essential component in the re-building of our healthy food system.

Safe Seed Pledge by Urban Farmer
For the benefit of all farmers, gardeners and consumers who want an alternative, Urban Farmer pledges that they do not knowingly buy or sell genetically engineered seeds or plants. The mechanical transfer of genetic material outside of natural reproductive methods and between genera, families or kingdoms, poses great biological risks as well as economic, political, and cultural threats. They feel that genetically engineered varieties have been insufficiently tested prior to public release. More research and testing is necessary to further assess the potential risks of genetically engineered seeds. Further, they wish to support agricultural progress that leads to healthier soils, to genetically diverse agricultural ecosystems, and ultimately to healthy people and communities.

Eco-friendly Products
Urban Farmer was founded on the use of recycling old magazines and using them to package seeds. They recycle thousand of magazines each year to give them another use. Since then, they have searched and offered eco-friendly products that have leave a smaller fingerprint on our eco-system. 

50% of all products sold through Urban Farmer will be used towards CMLC's Children's Gardening Programs at the schools. Last year, $1,800 was raised and went directly into each schools Gardens which the children benefited greatly from. This year, we are hoping to beat last year's totals to purchase and build more raised beds, purchase more gardening tools, seeds and soil. Please visit their website for more information: Urban Farmer 
Please see your school's Director for an order form or go to our website for a copy: Creative Minds Website

Thank you for your support of CMLC's Children Gardening Programs!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Oregon Director's Conference 2012

Our Directors returned from the beautiful Oregon Coast for the annual Oregon Directors Conference for Early Childhood Education. The theme this year was "Connecting Children to Nature". 
This is the second year for our Regional Director, Brittany and the first time for Meredith, April and Jillian. We are excited to invest in our team's education and look forward to sharing this at our upcoming Teacher's Development Day on 3/30! Always, keeping our school's progressive for the children and teachers of Creative Minds, our team is dedicated to learning new tools to teach children because the first five years of a child's life is the most important. Nature and the outdoors is an important aspect of our program at Creative Minds and we look forward to introducing the children to the new tools we have learned to bring our classrooms outdoors.

Creative Minds Named Model School for Toxic Free Practices

Creative Minds Learning Centers have been recognized by Oregon Metro as model schools for a toxic free environment for the children! 
Creative Minds Learning Centers is making environmental stewardship part of the curriculum. Its five Portland area child development centers includes hands-on learning about recycling and composting, including letting kids get their hands dirty growing organic foods. The young stewards have even learned to sort recyclables from lunch leftovers. Plus, parents are asked to contribute recyclables from home for reuse in creative projects throughout the school.
Regional director Brittany Galego sees lack of know-how as a main hurdle to going green but believes that supplementing research with staff and parent support helps a lot. “Our approach keeps changing and evolving thanks to our community commitment,” says Galego.
Creative Minds staff are eager to further grow their green program. The company participates in the national Eco-Healthy Child Care program, which endorses providers that implement best practices for an environmentally healthy facility, and supports the development of renewable energy through its utility, Pacific Power. In addition, the center’s new school menu will focus on more local, sustainable foods. -- Sabrina Gogol
Eco Healthy and Toxic Free since 1997:
Creative Minds Learning Centers have been serving Oregon communities since 1997 and have always maintained healthy and eco friendly environments for children. Recycling, a healthy menu with Organic Dairy, gardening fresh vegetables for school lunches and toxic free cleaning practices all add up to an A+ for healthy practices. Creative Minds is always progressive with healthy practices teaching the children responsibility and caring for our planet.

Nature's Healing Effects for Young Children

Treat the earth well: it was not given to you by your parents, it was loaned to you by your children. We do not inherit the Earth from our Ancestors, we borrow it from our Children.

~ Ancient American Indian Proverb

It is being discovered that nature has healing effects on children. Richard Louv, author of the book "the Last Child in the Woods" coined the term nature-deficit disorder. All across the United States there is a decline in the number of families visiting National Parks and an increase in the ownership of electronic media by children. Louv, says children growing up today are deprived from the many healing elements found within nature. There are a growing number of research studies that indicate the negative effects that occur when children experience less time in nature. 
Louv beieves that a couple reasons for this is that there are more demands on children's time. In past generations children had much more free or unstructured time where they could create, dream, and fantasize through play. This type of imaginative play helps build a child's character, develop a child's sense of autonomy, practice problem solving, and uncover his or her own natural element of creativity. Another reason is children spend less time outdoors. Many research studies now indicate that three out of four Americans suffer from vitamin D deficiency. Sunlight exposure is the only reliable way for the body to generate and activate vitamin D in the body. Vitamin D is not actually a vitamin but a fat soluble hormone that influences the development and maintenance of over 300 genes. Scientists are now discovering that many of the current health problems we have in the United States are related to a vitamin D deficiency. Another important factor to consider is that children are subject to a sedentary lifestyle. Children are increasingly less mobile and more sedentary. This has lead to the current epidemic of obesity and low vitamin D levels. Less time spent outside means less time for activity and less exposure to sunlight. Obese children need twice as much vitamin D than children of a healthy weight because vitamin D is not absorbed as effectively in obese individuals.

Benefits of Nature on Children

When children frequently play in nature it provides important benefits to their spiritual, intellectual, physical, emotional, and mental well-being. Here are few proven ways children benefit from unstructured outdoor play.
  1. Better focus and concentration.Dr. Kuo found that when children who have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) play outside they demonstrate a better ability to focus, concentrate, and perform. Children who frequently play outside in an unstructured environment have demonstrated higher scores on concentration tests than children who play indoors. These researchers believe that the brain needs time to renew or have mental breaks. The time children spend in nature acts to restore attention opposed to time spend in front of the television or playing video games which drains the attention centers in the brain.
  2. Better coordination and agility. Scientists have found that children who regularly play outside have better coordination, agility, and balance. These children develop better motor skills and are less metabolically challenged than children who spend most of the time indoors.
  3. Improved memory skills. Memory levels improve when children play outside. This might be due to the extra benefits they receive from vitamin D. Or an improvement in memory could be due to the fact that play in a natural environment heightens the mechanistic ability of the four senses.
  4. Physically healthier. When children remain indoors they are not often exposed to the health benefits of fresh air. Infections breed in enclosed environments. Encouraging children to play outside helps strengthen their immunity resulting in less sickness.
  5. Better prepared for real world situations. When children play in natural environments they learn to improve their awareness to their surroundings, use and navigate the world with heightened senses, and build on their observation skills. Learning in a natural environment helps children handle real world situations better than time spent in front of the computer or time spent playing video games.
  6. More imaginative play. According to researchers, children who play outside often have more imaginative play that helps build social skills. When outside children can use leaves, dirt, sand, water, grass, and other natural elements to feel the texture of nature, observe the multitude of colors found in nature, and listen to the unique sounds of nature. Those creative and engaging experiences where children experience an element of surprise as they uncover the "secrets" found in nature cannot be experienced indoors.
  7. Better ability to handle daily stressors. Researchers found that when children play outside nature has a calming element which helps children to better handle everyday life stressors. The more children play in nature, the greater the stress benefits are.
  8. Better social relationships. Children who often play in nature have better social relationships with their peers. Unstructured outdoor play reduces the amount of bullying behavior.
  9. Cultivates a love for nature and for life. Regular contact with nature gives children a love for nature and the environment. We cannot love what we fear. Children who grow up without frequent contact with nature may not possess a desire to preserve nature and protect the environment, when they become adults.
  10. Encourages autonomy and individuality. Children who frequently play outdoors have the opportunity to feel powerful. When children play video games they might feel powerful after winning a game or uncovering a hidden or secret passage but this power does not compare with the energized power they receive from overcoming elements found in nature. For example, when children discover how to climb a tree, open up an acorn, or build a sand castle they will anticipate the adventures that await them in nature.
Creative Minds Learning Center schools believe in going outdoors as much as possible and creating learning experiences at every turn. Gardening and imaginative play are some of the experiences the children have at our schools.  Each school features a designated outdoor play area for the children. Our Gateway school has one of the largest private play grounds in Portland (over a half an acre) with a garden space, toddler area, gross motor development areas, bicycle path, play houses and more. Our other schools have natural play areas which inspire the children to play safely with their friends. Creative Minds does not believe in playgrounds that tell the child what to do.