by Kristie Pretti-Frontczak, Ph.D.
“Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood.” Fred Rogers
When Fred Rogers and many of his predecessors, such as Maria Montessori, spoke of play, they did so with an understanding of the great importance it serves in human growth and development. Play is more than “just having fun,” and it is more than the outcomes that are achieved. It is through play that children experience the world. It is through play that neural pathways are created and strengthened.
Repeated opportunities to experience, explore, and interact with the world is necessary for developmental processes to unfold. In fact, researchers have provided “unequivocal evidence that the brain physically changes, increasing and strengthening the neural connections through repetitive experience” . That means, through multiple opportunities to play, children are able to watch, copy, practice, and eventually learn….EVERYTHING.
In this webinar series, we not only explore the importance of play, but we deepen our commitment to fostering strong relationships with children and learn strategies to expand the richness and complexity of their play. Together, we learn how children go from sensory exploration to developing highly complex and cooperative play skills. Together, we learn how “rather than detracting from academic learning, play appears to support the abilities that underlie such learning and thus to promote school success.” 
More specifically, in 1-2-3 Play with Me! Recognizing and Valuing the Power of Play, we examine how children are naturally curious and learn best through practice and observation. A highlight from this webinar will be to gain strategies for being a strong play partner.
In Have a Seat! Learning What Children Know Through Play, we consider the advantages of assessing during play. A highlight from this webinar are the strategies for engaging in authentic assessment practices as we aim to better understand what children know and can do.
In When Play is More than Just ‘Playing‘: Delivering Intentional Instruction through Daily Interactions, we focus on the importance of teaching the whole child and promoting emotional, social, motor, and cognitive skills through play. In this webinar participants learn how to build upon children’s natural curiosity and embed instruction in a way that continues and extends vs. disrupts learning.
Lastly, in Beyond the Shape Sorter: Playful Interactions that Promote Strong Academic and Social-Emotional Skills, we examine the relationship between play and a child’s future success. A highlight from this webinar explores how to support all children through play, even those who may be “stuck” and don’t seem to find new and more sophisticated ways to play.
 National Association for the Education of Young Children [NAEYC]. (2009). Developmentally appropriate practice in early childhood programs serving children from birth through age 8 [position statement]. Washington, DC: Author.
 Winter, P. (2010). Engaging families in the early childhood development story- Neuroscience and early childhood development: Summary of selected literature and key messages for parenting. Victoria, Australia: Education Services Australia Ltd., Ministerial Council for Education, Early Childhood Development and Youth Affairs (MCEECDYA).
Image by BethL at pixabay.com, Licensed Creative Commons Zero (CC0)