"Want to PLAY?"

June 17, 2022

This blog spot is about:

“Wanna play?” Words everyone remembers from their childhood when a peer runs up to you on the playground and asks if you’re in for a game or romp through the slides. Whether with cars, dinosaurs, dolls, or legos, play is a basic element of childhood that many kids intrinsically grasp easily and naturally. But, at Crossroads, we know that not everyone knows how to play.

Not naturally, not intrinsically, and certainly not easily. Many kids, especially those with special needs, need help to learn how.

Play is a term that encompasses everything from dolls to toy trains, from Trouble to soccer, from house to superheroes. Play builds skills in every area of life, from independence to interaction, from attending to transitioning, from people skills to school skills to job skills.

Playing with a toy in its intended manner, interacting with others in ways that are positive, using one’s time in fun and healthy ways, engaging in new activities to build variety and interests…. so many things to learn! Yes, it’s an area that’s tremendously important to work on with children.

All of Crossroads Center for Children’s classrooms, whether preschool or school age, have toys, games, and most importantly, a time set aside for the class to work on play skills. Some classrooms call it social skills, others call it play centers, but no matter the name, the skill set being worked on is play. Play and social skills are further addressed during other group times, such as Circle, Centers, Art, Music, Physical Education. The progress of the individual children in the classroom is facilitated through strategically planning activities, interactions, and opportunities to target each students’ particular goals.

How are play skills taught? The same way as other skills at the school are addressed – by breaking the skills down into more manageable sets and steps, by modeling the steps, by gradually lessening the prompting, and by taking data so that progress is truly measurable. For example, when teaching how to build with legos, rather than lining them up, the teacher might start with having the child stack just 2 legos, and reinforcing this achievement each time the child succeeds. When the child is consistently successful with 2 legos, he or she can work with 3, and so on. In this manner, little by little, students make gains that they can carry over into other, generalized settings. Armed with knowing how to play, the child is more able to join in and play with others when “wanna play?” is asked by a peer. 


See how our students are making progress with play skills!


People, Places and Things  9.15.22

Starting off the new school year, students at Crossroads are learning to be in new classrooms, with new friends and teachers, and with new materials and spaces to explore. Here in Room 8, children are learning about buildings and the things that go with them, or in them. As well, they are using dolls and figurines to explore people in and out, on and under, beside and between. Mrs. Susanna and Mr. Tyrese encourage the students to use language and to interact with each other.


Board Games 6.17.22

Students in Room 14 have been working on learning to play several board games this year. There’s a lot to take in when learning to play a game! You have new rules, new materials, and new etiquette to learn, all on top of the challenges of waiting for your turn, remembering the object, and taking your own turn when it’s time. Why, just the sitting in a seat for as long as the game takes, and paying attention that long, is something that can be exhausting.

And yet here we are in this successful game of Sorry. “B” and “L” have it down with just a bit of help staying on track from time to time. What an amazing thing to know how to do, so that when opportunities come up where they want play, they will know how.


5.9.22 Super Hero Play

Children playing with figures, whether Barbie dolls or Superheros, typically role-play many different activities and personalities through the figures. The figure can talk, fly, dance, hug, or whatever else the child wants it to. Super hero play is a popular activity and can also teach social skills.

Here we have a group in Room 14 playing with figures. Team members model moving the figures, and making them talk, encouraging the boys in this group to do the same. Skills like greetings, being strong with great powers, and saving the day are exchanged, giving the students some practice for playing with others with this type of play.

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3.31.22 Zooming Planes

The act of turn-taking might develop through trial and error for lots of kids, but here we teach it. Children in Room 1 are as young as 2 years, and are learning to take turns in classroom play centers with some coaching from staff. It won’t come as a surprise to anyone in this class later on in childhood, that playing with others means taking turns, sharing, and waiting. Here are some of the children practicing turn-taking by zooming airplanes back and forth.


2.16.2022 Hide and Seek

It’s not a frequent occurrence for our students to participate together in active games with little support; most classes need a bit of coaxing and prompting for children to engage in games such as these. But here we can see the kids in Room 8 enjoying a game of Hide and Seek. Ms.Maddie is playing with them, and Mrs. Susannah is voicing encouragements, like, “go hide!” but the children are engaging with a high degree of independence and “age-appropriateness.” It’s moving and exciting to watch, for sure!

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1.24.22 Puzzling Puzzles

We’ve written so many times about the great opportunities for skill-building using puzzles, and we even dedicated a whole month to Puzzles in our Crossroads Challenge Group last year. ( CLICK here to join this year’s challenge! ) Puzzles work fine motor abilities and strengthen fingers, while simultaneously stretching a child’s problem-solving and spatial comprehension skills. Not to mention building tolerance and decreasing frustration over time.

Here we see “T” a Room 3 student tackling a puzzle that looks to be wooden and about 12 pieces, a sturdy challenge for a kiddo as young as he is. Just look at the concentration expressed on that adorable face and you can see his gears working!

We are always so proud of the students for making progress, showing growth in skills! Good for you, “T”!


12.20.21 Vroom

Cars and trucks are favorites for play centers and for good reason. When children play with cars and trucks, they get to be the “driver,” and being the one controlling the movements gives them a sense of control over their environment. They also reap the benefits of fine motor work and gross motor activity, as they manipulate the car and then move to where the car has moved to. If playing with others, there are ample opportunities for turn-taking, competition, cooperation, and modeling. Learning about speed and velocity hands-on is also a benefit.

Here’s a helpful article we found about the benefits of playing with toy cars:  https://kidsonwheelz.ca/blogs/news/how-do-children-benefit-from-playing-with-toy-cars

Pictured here we bring you a recent car play center in Room 1 that shows that students have learned to play with cars. It’s important to note that at Crossroads, there can be a lot of work going into learning how to functionally play with any of the toys we share. Many children off the bat prefer to play with the toy in their own way at first, such as stacking, grouping, and lining up the toys rather than playing with the toy in its intended manner. Teachers here work on these skills in steps and sets over time and are always thrilled when a group like the one shown is able to successfully play together.

 


11.24.21 Potato Head

Potato Head toys are so much fun for little ones and offer wonderful opportunities for learning. One obvious spudly benefit is learning body parts as the player builds eyes, nose, ears mouth arms, and feet for the potato. Clothing and accessories are part of the play, too, and here, the kiddos in Room 2 got creative with trying on some of the accessories on their own faces.


10.28.21 Functional Toy Play

For a great majority of our students here at Crossroads, the function of a particular toy is not obvious. Stacking legos, “driving” cars, and animating little people are not necessarily the ways our students know how to play with the toys. Some may say, “so what?” and we would say that when a child is playing with toys in the way they are intended to be played with, they will have improved learning from the play, improved communication skills coming from the play, and improved interpersonal skills pertaining to playing with other children with that toy.

That’s why we teach functional play skills here.

There are many goals that children have on their Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) addressing specific play and social skills. Each child’s goals are individualized so Child A’s social goals can be quite different from Child B’s.  A child with goals addressing functional play can learn to build a 3 block design, then a 4 block design, and so on. He might learn to move a train along a track, a car along a road, a truck along a path. She might learn to make a cow moo, a horse neigh, a duck quack. All of these skills will build in communication and language skills, increase play actions, and expand play partners.

Children who learn how to play with toys functionally are able to play more independently with other children later on, enjoying cooperative play in groups and duos.


7.14.21 Multiplayer Games

Just before the break, Ms. Melissa from Room 14 sent in this great picture of two students having a super successful game time together. “Q and V played a multi-player game together on the iPad today, ” she wrote.

There is more conveyed in this simple sentence than one might suppose.

Technological games have a lot of support in terms of developing skills; problem-solving, dexterity, and even reading skills are said to be boosted by playing games on a computer, iPad, or phone. When you add another person to the game, there are the benefits, too, of the social skills we consistently teach, such as sharing, taking turns, communicating, tolerating others, and so on.

For countless children at Crossroads, it takes many, many steps to get here, to an actual game such as you see pictured.  Between the fine details of playing the game itself and the little nuances of playing with another person, there are a lot of skills involved.  For Q and V to sit and play a full game, with little assistance, prompting, or refocusing, it is a full-on achievement, a success story to be shared. The many skills they have worked on have come together in this game.

Thanks to Melissa for sharing this story with us! We are all so proud.

 


6.4.21 Superpower Play

We’ve written before about kids becoming superheroes, and the benefits of pretend play, but the new PJ Masks toys are marketed to buyers to help children learn problem-solving, social, and emotional skills via the superpowers that PJ Masks has.

Here’s an article for more: https://www.forbes.com/sites/andyrobertson/2016/05/06/pj-masks-app-games-parents/?sh=7661f5806e81

It’s why one of our teachers asked specifically for these toys recently on our wish list, and thanks to one of our kind families, we received a bag full of them yesterday. The kids were excited to get the new toys, and to start playing. Mrs. Danielle, the teacher, has plans for incorporating the toys into learning activities to help her students build the skills they need.


4.27.2021 Dress Up Play

Dress up play sparks imagination, fosters fine motor skills and boosts language and communication, says this article found at HeatlhLine.com:  https://www.healthline.com/health/childrens-health/playing-dress-up, and we know it to be true from experience. When children dress up as different characters, professions, and personalities, they get to experience new perspectives and challenge themselves in new ways.

Here are some precious moments from Room 14 recently. These boys were given costume sets that were donated by a parent, and each child got his own. They became superheroes, touring the school with their teachers to look for problems to solve, people to help. In one case they rescued some plants that needed to be watered, while in another, they fed some fish who were desperately hungry.

Of course, the positive reinforcement that comes with doing good deeds is helpful in building the very skills that are desired and being worked on in the classroom, like helping others, using communication skills, and working together. Room 14’s here to save the day!!


Make sure to check out the sister to this blog spot, What’s So Important About Social Skills for Children?

What’s So Important About Social Skills for Children?


4.21.2021 Kitchen Play

When it’s time to play with the kitchens, Room 7‘s students are cooking! There are foods, dishes and utensils to put into the oven, onto the stove, and so on. As students practice with these objects, they are exploring spatial concepts, and acquiring important language skills. This is a great example of parallel play, where children are playing alongside others. Even though they are yet interacting as much as they will later on, they are still observing each other and gaining clues from their actions.

Here’s a great article about the stages of play, by encourageplay.com.

At another table, the children are playing with shape magnets. These are beautifully colored and each shape is framed by a magnetic rim, for building and constructing. While at this center, the children are encouraged to locate pieces by shape and color, and to add it to the construction underway, thereby giving the children practice with language skills, shapes and colors.

Both centers are set up for skill development and lots of fun!

 


4.7.2021 Books on the Rug

It’s true that we usually think of book time as academic time. Literacy development is surely a critical aspect of educational programming with many parts and portions of its own. But there’s also a social aspect of sharing books that can’t go unsung, and that is what today’s story is about.

Ms. Jena, Room 4‘s teacher gives the children a time slot each day to hang out on the rug with each other and read. Most of these youngsters can’t really read in the adult sense of the word, however by being exposed to a variety of books at various levels, they are developing valuable literacy skills that will help their reading abilities develop. Additionally and pertaining to this article is the matter of social skills, something that is also deeply important for our Crossroads students. Here are 5 social skills that are targeted at this time:

  1. Tolerating others in a group space. Many children prefer to be on their own, but it’s not realistic to go through life in solitary. So, decreasing resistance to being part of a group in a shared space is important.
  2. Understanding personal space. When in a group space, there are boundaries to personal space that youngsters don’t comprehend until they learn them. Book time on the rug is the perfect setting to establish personal space using markers on the rug and corners of the area.
  3. Waiting patiently. Kids typically want it and they want it now. It’s part of life to have to wait and to be patient while waiting. When kids share a bin of books, the opportunity is likely to have to wait for a desired book that is being enjoyed by a friend.
  4.  Sharing and taking turns. These are actually two different things but for the sake of keeping things simple for this purpose, let’s just say that a bin of books offers a bin of opportunities to share books and take turns with books. Further, some of the books are being read aloud by a team member, requiring the students to take turns in selecting the book to be read and to share the attention of the adult.
  5. Modeling. Some students are recognizing the front and back of the book, while others are reading words. Some are identifying letters, and some are pointing to pictures. Being part of a group of rich diversity allows everyone to learn from each other, make efforts that wouldn’t come to mind on one’s own.

3.23.2021 Figures and Buildings

There are endless benefits of play to a child’s learning. Important concepts such as colors, labels, quantities, and sizes of things are communicated by parents and teachers when playing with children. Toys have names, they have substance and qualities that give the child a greater understanding of the world we live in.

In Room 3 some of the concepts children are working on are prepositions. In, out, on, off, next to, between over, under… the difference between them can be tricky for children. That makes this playgroup a great one. There are buildings – here a treehouse and a farm – and there are figures – little figures of animals are used today. The classroom team guides students, for instance, to put the horse IN, or to put the cow ON, and so on. The children are in small groups, center-style, and will switch after a certain time period.

Along with prepositions, social skills such as turn-taking, playing within a group of children, sharing, and staying seated in a short group, are all getting a work-out. This year alone, the kiddos in Room 3 have improved their skills in this area in so many ways.


3.2.2021 Building and Connecting

Opportunities to construct are important for young children. Toys that connect to each other help children learn how objects are used together, and how things work. Children can be creative when building, and also might enjoy watching what other children are doing with similar toys.

Children in Room 7 enjoyed playing with interlocking blocks and bubble beads recently in play centers. Connecting the blocks and beads, and taking them apart again, naming the colors, and showing their work to teachers and friends were just some of the skills the students accomplished here.


11.25.2020 Little Hands and Little Toys

There’s no question that children enjoy toys, but playing with toys actually benefits children, too. Youngsters learn new motor skills – both fine and gross motor – when playing with toys. Cognitive skills are created and strengthened such as problem-solving, color, shape and functional understanding, and pretend skills. Social skills are also fortified when kids play near or with others as they do in their classrooms. They watch and imitate each other, and use their toys to interact with their environment and each other.

It’s always amazing to watch kids hard at play, and that’s why we have this story to share with you. Room 1 contains some of our youngest children, and learning to play with toys is still somewhat of a new experience for many. Two months ago, when our Fall Session began, learning Play Center routines was somewhat challenging for many of the classrooms, including this one. But now in November, there’s already so much progress in how the students are playing, happily and with focus.

Great job, Room 1!


10.26.2020 Puzzles are important for lots of reasons!

From eye-hand coordination, to shape recognition, puzzles are developmentally beneficial. Children work on puzzles in every room, moving from puzzles with one piece to several, to many as their skills improve. Most of our teachers are keen on the wooden puzzles, which are hardy and also theme-based, however, cardboard or foam puzzles and interlocking ones are also handy depending upon the child and his or her current ability and interest.

Here’s a really great article about the benefits of puzzles, by Premium Joy:

11 Benefits of Puzzles for Child Development

In Room 4 recently, students played on the rug with lots of choices of puzzles. There were firetrucks and dinosaurs, farm vehicles, and farm animals. Everyone was engaged and successful, and team members were close by to offer help as needed.

As puzzles are a lifelong leisure interest, these little guys are working now on something they can get better at forever. Great job, Room 4!


3.26.2020

What happens when you’re home from school due to a seriously contagious virus? Your child is asking for his friends and teachers, or her speech therapist, or lunch buddy.

We’re all in this crummy COVID-19 virus boat together, and the team members at Crossroads are working hard to help. Here’s a YouTube video found and shared by Room 12‘s Special Education Teacher, Mrs. Erin, that might just be the ticket to helping your child understand why he or she can’t play with friends right now.


11.20.19 “Wanna play?”

Words everyone remembers from their childhood when a peer runs up to you on the playground and asks if you’re in for a game or romp through the slides. Whether with cars, dinosaurs, dolls, or legos, play is a basic element of childhood that many kids intrinsically grasp easily and naturally.

But, at Crossroads, we know that not everyone knows how to play.

Not naturally, not intrinsically, and certainly not easily.

Many kids, especially those with special needs, need help to learn how.

Play is a term that encompasses everything from dolls to toy trains, from Trouble to soccer, from house to superheroes. Play builds skills in every area of life, from independence to interaction, from attending to transitioning, from people skills to school skills to job skills.

Playing with a toy in its intended manner, interacting with others in ways that are positive, using one’s time in fun and healthy ways, engaging in new activities to build variety and interests…. so many things to learn! Yes, it’s an area that’s tremendously important to work on with children.

All of Crossroads Center for Children’s classrooms, whether preschool or school age, have toys, games, and most importantly, a time set aside for the class to work on play skills. Some classrooms call it social skills, others call it play centers, but no matter the name, the skill set being worked on is play. Play and social skills are further addressed during other group times, such as Circle, Centers, Art, Music, Physical Education. The progress of the individual children in the classroom is facilitated through strategically planning activities, interactions, and opportunities to target each students’ particular goals.

How are play skills taught? The same way as other skills at the school are addressed – by breaking the skills down into more manageable sets and steps, by modeling the steps, by gradually lessening the prompting, and by taking data so that progress is truly measurable. For example, when teaching how to build with legos, rather than lining them up, the teacher might start with having the child stack just 2 legos, and reinforcing this achievement each time the child succeeds. When the child is consistently successful with 2 legos, he or she can work with 3, and so on. In this manner, little by little, students make gains that they can carry over into other, generalized settings. Armed with knowing how to play, the child is more able to join in and play with others when “wanna play?” is asked by a peer.

 

Building successful lives, one play activity at a time

Remembrance FundGraduation, Achievements 2022