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The Importance of Play, Getting To Know Families and Cooking Interest Center
September 04, 2012
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The Importance of Play, Getting To Know Families and Cooking Interest Center

Welcome to the eleventh issue of the Preschool Plan-It Primer, a free newsletter from .

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September 2012, Issue # 11

In This Issue:

Article: The Importance of Play

Tips & Timesavers: Getting To Know Families

Interest Center Focus: Cooking Interest Center

What’s New? Search It, Find It, Plan It!

The Importance of Play

We’ve often heard it said that play IS a child’s work. Many parents see their children playing at school in your interest centers and will ask, “When do they learn?” As teachers, you know they are learning during this free choice time and you have a great opportunity to explain that learning to parents!

Let’s look at how play helps children in all areas of development: Fine Motor Development

The development of children’s small muscles in their fingers and hands are essential to success in activities such as cutting, writing, tying their own shoes and more. Play provides child-directed activities to work on fine motor development as they lace beads, manipulate play dough, dress dolls in the housekeeping center and lace or button dress up clothes in dramatic play.

Gross Motor Development

The development of children’s larger muscles are important for their success in participating in classroom activities that require body control such as walking from one classroom to another, up and down stair, running, throwing balls, climbing play structures and more. Gross motor activities such as using a parachute, tossing balls (to each other and into a large basket), games that include jumping and stopping and then starting again (i.e. “Let’s jump 3 times. Now stop! Let’s jump 5 times.”) help children to develop their large muscle groups and learn to control them.

Social-Emotional Development

Becoming part of a large group is pretty new for most preschoolers and it is harder than we sometimes give them credit for! Think of being at a wedding or other large function and “mingling” in the room with groups of people you don’t know very well. It takes time to become comfortable in this setting for us and even more so for children.

Play is the most natural way for children to navigate through this area! They learn how to become a family in the housekeeping area, or work together to build a house with other children who like using blocks as much as they do. When they choose to play in an area that interests them, talking and cooperating with their peers becomes easier because they all have a common interest in that play area.

Language Development

Children use their language skills, problem solving skills and more while playing. They can use their language skills to explain to others about their ideas. They can use their imaginations and creativity. Play allows children time to think freely without an adult directed focus (“Now we are going to do ____.”)

Academic learning can also happen during play when the activities available are planned in advance by the teachers. Preschool-Plan-It’s themes are based on activities that take place in Interest Centers. For example, in your Math Center, you might place a muffin tin (numbering each tin 1-12), a bowl of colored pom-poms and plastic tongs.

The children will pretend they are cooking as they use the tongs to place the correct number of pom-poms in each tin. This activity is helping to develop their fine motor skills (using the tongs), intellectual (cognitive) skills due to the number recognition, one-to-one correspondence as they count each pom-pom and gross motor skills when they carry and balance the muffin tin over to the housekeeping area to bake the Pom-Pom muffins in the oven.

In addition, they will be using their language skills to tell the other children what they are cooking, who they are cooking for, and other details of the baking extravaganza! Child-directed learning at its best!

Children do learn through play. They learn skills that will last a lifetime!

TIPS and TIMESAVERS: Getting To Know Families

It’s a new year and a new group of children! Some of your children may be returning and some may be new to your program. How do you memorize all those names?!

Pictures, pictures, pictures! Take pictures of your children and post them on your birthday board or near their cubbies. Use their names when you talk with them.

Instead of asking “What are you making with the play dough today?” ask “What are you making with the play dough today, Cheryl.” The more you say their names, the quicker you’ll remember them! Make it a goal to know all of their names by the end of your first week.

And what about the parents? When the end of the year comes, are you surprised at how many of the parents you know by face but not by name? Take on the attitude that you don’t just serve children, you serve families!

Let me share the one way to get to know them that has been essential in my getting to know parents’ names each year. Under each student’s name on your attendance sheet, print both the mother’s and father’s first name.

I have also added a grandparent’s name if that is who often drops off or picks up the child. Again, address them by name when they pick up and make it a plan to get to know their names and faces by the end of the first month.

For more ideas for teachers such as organization,

CLICK HERE to go to the Teacher Timesavers Page

INTEREST CENTER FOCUS: Cooking Interest Center

But wait.....we don't have access to an oven!?!!

Cooking with children in preschool does not always mean using the oven! There are many recipes that do not require and oven, stove or microwave!

A Cooking Interest Center is usually a portable center that is set up on a day you are preparing food with the children rather than having it available daily as a children’s choice. It is not a center that is necessarily used every day! You can use your Cooking Center at one of your everyday tables that you have designated for Art or Math/Manipulatives.

For more information on how and where to set up your interest centers in your classroom, CLIKE HERE to go to the Classroom Design Page

What do children learn from cooking?

Preschool children will:

Develop socio-emotional skills by working together in small groups and taking turns mixing.

Improve their self help skills by preparing and serving their own snacks.

Learn about nutrition and food choices.

Develop small motor control and coordination (as they mix and pour and scoop), eye-hand coordination (by pouring, cracking eggs, measuring).

Develop math skills by measuring, counting number of teaspoons of an ingredient, etc.)

They also develop a great sense of pride because they “made it themselves”! You can also increase pride in their culture by incorporating family recipes).


It is important, for allergy reasons, to use ONLY these bowls and items when preparing food with children if any of your children have allergies.

The item your student is allergic to may have been used in a bowl you use from home. This is called Cross Contamination.

Example: You make peanut butter fudge or cookies with almond extract at home. You have washed the wooden spoon that you used and know it is clean. You use that spoon in the classroom to mix fruit with the children.

That spoon may still have traces of the peanut butter or almond extract on or in it. If your student has a peanut allergy or a tree nut allergy, they may have a severe allergic reaction because of the trace amount of the allergen (peanut or almond) that is on the spoon.

Cross Contamination causes many allergic reactions in preschool. DO NOT TAKE CHANCES if you have children with allergies in your classroom.

Provide a set of new items listed above to be used for ALL preschool food activities and avoid having to make a 9-1-1 call.

For a list of suggested materials to have in your Cooking Interest Center and for some recipes to get you started, CLICK HERE to go to the Cooking Interest Center Page

WHAT’S NEW? Search It, Find It, Plan It at !

The following pages were added to the website since the last newsletter:

Ambulance Theme

Birds Theme

Community Helpers Theme

Construction Theme

Doctor Theme

Grocer Theme Theme

Hairdresser Theme

Librarian Theme

Nurse Theme

Police Theme

Teacher Theme

Comments? Ideas for future newsletters? Feedback? This newsletter is written FOR you, so I'd love to hear from you. Just reply to this zine and tell me what you think!

Until Next Time,


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