Play is something we talk about all the time at Cherry Grove! Those that know me well, know that I am a devoted follower of Albert Einstein and his biggest mantra with regards to the importance of play. I have often talked to parents about how we define play as something that is purely for amusement and that we struggle to see the importance of it as grown ups. Nathan Wallis writes on Family Times (familytimes.co.nz),
"we understand the word play to mean the opposite of serious work ... that is easy and trivial. Often grown-ups use the 'P word' to dismiss what children are doing as unimportant - when it's time to tidy up or do some 'real' learning. Yet, for kids, play is challenging and important: its how they learn".
Let's think about it contextually as an adult who play's a sport, then we can begin to see the worth in 'playing' for children learning and developing - without the experience WE have enjoyed over the years! We know that being actively engaged in a sport as an adult requires focus, commitment, and practice if we want to continue getting better at it. Repetitious play allows us to improve, to try new things, to use the knowledge and adapt if we play at different venues or on different surfaces - it gives us a better understanding of how we can do better. Children have this same model during their play, especially if it is 'free' or 'open ended' play where they get to determine their own purpose and not someone else's desired outcome. Children are amazing at adapting their limited experience into meaningful play in differing environments to help them better understanding and learn all the nuances that come with life and the would around them.
Children learn through adapting their play as their experiences grow and fine tune their learning through trial and error. The cause and effect that comes from trialing different ideas is a natural part of a child's play that we take for granted. Not only does experience through trial and error encourage children to keep investigating, it also builds resilience. Children unable to understand the disappointment of failure leave themselves vulnerable to anxiety and a lack of understanding when outcomes don't go their way. Children also appreciate success a lot more when it's earned and when they have had an appreciation of what a 'misfire' looks and feels like. Don't get me wrong, it's hard watching your child fail - incredibly hard and you just want to save them - but the reality is that we all need to understand the ebbs and flows of daily life and be able to bounce back with an understanding that the glitches which take place are all opportunities to extend learning.
And if you take all the above and apply it to a social setting, the amount of learning that happens with regards to a child's social competence is amazing. Interpersonal relationships all require problem solving - something as adults we are constantly aware of thanks to our amazing verbal and written communication skills! Children achieve so much understanding through watching and learning along side others - social transactions are learnt through role modeling most effectively. We use social coaching constantly at Cherry Grove to provide a solid exemplars. Using clear, step-by-step instructions through play we are demonstrating what acceptable social transactions look like in a positive environment that has meaning and context to a child.
Play is a universal language for children and we need to ensure we are maximising the opportunities associated with it to give children every chance to grow their understanding of the world around them, while also developing emotionally and socially. The 'P' word is a currency that works so embrace it and have fun doing it, because the outcomes for our children are so dependent on it!
What does the word 'QUALITY' mean when you think about childcare? It doesn't matter what Centre you are looking at, the promotional material will inevitably use quality to assure you they are a great solution for all your childcare and kindergarten needs! I look all over the world at education websites because I am genuinely interested to learn how other places provide and deliver learning and development. I have been so taken in by some websites that I have enrolled in all sorts of interesting courses, including beekeeping - yes, I am a living testament to when advertising works well! But I digress, if we all have 'quality' what does it really mean?
Our New Zealand ECE regulations mean there is a level of quality that we have to maintain over a wide ranging set of standards in order to open our doors for tamariki. Like most things, there's a vast spectrum to the definition of quality and I don't wish to enter into any discrediting anyone else's quality - that's not my job, that's the Ministry of Educations! But what I can do is say I don't think a broad definition of quality is right for children in childcare. Would you chose to go and stay at a 1-star motel just because it's registered and in business?! As a backpacker I have certainly done that but I wouldn't have said it was a quality stay and it definitely wasn't memorable for all the right reasons - I can now laugh about the rat that ran across the floor and the hat I wore to bed so I didn't have to touch the pillow! My point is, our tamariki deserve a better standard of quality across the board. I'd love to provide my business owners with outstanding profit but that comes at a cost I'm not comfortable with. Quality has to mean more than just ratios, surely it must also be about satisfaction, relationships that are meaningful, genuine care, welfare, and continuity. Please, don't get me wrong quality is something that can swing throughout any given day and I am always wondering how we can do better as it's what drives me - no person or place is perfect, being human is what we all have in common.
All of my musings on our Cherry Grove blog come as a result of experiences that have left me thinking. I recently bumped into someone I haven't seen in a long time, she has now relocated to Hawke's Bay and has gone from working in primary to teaching early childcare. I, of course, asked where she was working. She laughed and said there were 5 centres owned by her employers and the daily numbers at each place determined where she would end up working for the day. There was a lot more to this story but I won't bore you with the details or hop on an soapbox about continuity but it did make me realise how lucky I am that I know and adore the teaching team that turns up to Cherry Grove every day. They provide me with quality that I trust, admire, and am proud of - sure that looks different in terms of our outcomes each day but I know they are continuing to strive to make our quality better every day because they have strong relationships with all our families and each other.
Quality is certainly hard to define and even harder to measure as you can certainly be a 1-star childcare centre and still consider you are offering the same quality as everyone else because you are abiding by the regulations. But don't our most vulnerable New Zealanders deserve better quality control? Like I said this is not me judging anyone else but wondering if we can do better as a country to assess the quality of childcare by more than just ratios and learning stories. Something to ponder!
Cherry Grove is set on over an acre and a half of wide open land made for playing and exploring. We are heavily invested in providing small home-like indoor environments that children can be nurtured, understood, and have all their learning and development needs taken care of.
At Cherry Grove we have eight rooms that cater for small groups to ensure care and development is age-appropriate and children are given the individual guidance and attention they deserve. Each room provides for a developmental stage and the ages of each room are a guide rather specific time-frames as all tamariki grow and learn at varying paces:
Seeds: Our Nursery Room for 0-12 month old's
Sprouts: Our Nursery Room for 12-18 month old's
Budlets: Our Nursery Room for 18-24 month old's
Buds: Our Toddler Room for 2-2.5 year old's
Blossom: Our Toddler Room for 2.5-3 year old's
Cherry: Our Toddler Room for 3-3.5 year old's
Busy Bees: Our Kindergarten Room for 3.5-4.5 year old's
Honey Bees: Our Kindergarten Transition to School Room for 4.5-6 year old's
Cherry Grove also has a Family Centre that provides for families wishing to learn and play alongside their child/ren. This designated building is perfect for those families that have the ability to share in the learning journey together through the early stages of a child's life.
We are very proud of our environment at Cherry Grove and the opportunities the uniqueness of our Centre provides to children and their families alike. The small numbers in all our rooms allow us to spend time understanding the needs and interests of every child and, just as importantly, the aspirations of their whanau. If you would like to know more about our philosophy and what makes Cherry Grove so unique, please do not hesitate to contact me as I'm passionate about what we have to offer!