Child led play..the adult’s role

Every child’s brain-development-work is done through play. Play provides the brain building blocks that will set them up for the rest of their life. In this formative time of their lives, children gather information about the world, master the use of their bodies, learn social skills and pick up every little detail to do with fitting into the culture that surrounds them.

-Claire Caro

We already know that play is how young children learn. But learning through play is not a matter of leaving your child to do as they wish with no support. It also is not directing what they play and how they play it. How to find the balance? Why find a balance?

Thank you to Hobson mom Patricia Mackie for passing along this article from NaturePlay! Enjoy!


Helping children cope with tragedy…

When the news is seemingly full of tragic events, it’s difficult to sort through our own feelings as adults, let alone tactfully and effectively help our children deal with their emotions too! In light of recent events in Hobson’s own hometown as well as Hurricane Sandy on the east coast, we thought some resources might be helpful as you guide your children toward making sense of the world.

Fred Rogers is always a good resource for helping young children. Here is an article from his website.

The following is taken from a National Association of School Psychologists pamphlet posted by Brookdale School in Naperville.

Helping Children Cope with Loss, Death, and Grief
Tips for Parents
Children growing up today are more aware of death than adults may realize. They see it on television and movie screens and read about it in the news media. Many of them will have to face the death of someone they know before they reach maturity.
Whether the death is of a loved one or someone in the school or community the child knows, it is important that a child be guided to an understanding of what has happened and what it means. It isn’t always easy for adults to know how to do that. This brochure offers some helpful pointers.
What should we tell children about a death?
Children should be told about a death by someone close to them, and they should be told the truth. Children have different understandings of death at different ages. Find out the particular child’s viewpoint. The child needs to understand that the death has occurred, that it is final and that is all right to express feelings.
Adults must encourage children to accept the reality of death. Children always know when they are not being told the truth about something important.
How do children react to death?
Like adults, children react to traumatic situations with disbelief, bodily distress, anger, guilt, anxiety, and panic. Children and adults follow a common process as they work through their grief.
A child’s initial reaction may be denial and protest. The child cannot quite believe the loved one is dead and attempts, sometime with anger, to regain this person. Pain, fear, and despair may follow as the child begins to understand that the person really is gone forever. Finally, there may be hope as the child begins to accept the death and reorganize life without the loved one.
However, it would be misleading to suggest that all children will follow a predictable pattern. Children often act out their feelings about death in ways that seem inappropriate to adults. A child in denial may simply go outside and play as if nothing happened. Children may not be able to say what they feel in words and may depend on body language and behavior to vent feelings.
Children may act out as a way of working out grief and anger at life’s perceived injustice. Perceptive adults should try to understand what this behavior really means.
Childhood bereavement may also be more long-term than an adult’s. Do not be surprised to see grief return on special occasions such as birthdays and holidays and during significant life events such as graduation. Also, do not be surprised to hear more detailed questions as the child grows and is better able to comprehend the answers.
How can children be encouraged to express their grief?
Give children every opportunity to ask questions, discuss memories of the person who has died and unburden feelings. Don’t be afraid of tears or angry reactions and don’t be afraid to express your own grief in front of the children. Let the child know that you are hurting too. Share memories and tears together. If you hide your hurt from the child, he/she will know something is wrong, but not know what to do. They may even feel they did something to hurt you. Parents who openly express their own emotions free their children to do the same.
Children should feel free to express their grief in their own way. A child may express anger at the loved one for “leaving.” Or a child may make an honest statement like “I’m glad it wasn’t me.” These reactions are normal.
Children should know that it is all right to have and express such feelings.
Encourage children to reach out to adults other than their parents as well – a grandparent, aunt or uncle, clergy or should counselor. This is especially important if parents are too upset themselves to cope with their children’s feelings. For children whose grief is deep and sustained, provide every opportunity to talk about their loss. Then help them get out of themselves and into social activities appropriate for their age.
Are there any reactions that can be harmful to a child?
Avoid telling children to “be brave” or “be strong” for the sake of younger children or a parent who is taking the death hard. Children who keep grief bottled up inside may develop more serious problems later. It’s better to be realistic and say, “Yes, it’s tough” or, I feel bad too.”

Family religious beliefs can provide needed strength and comfort. However, avoid statements like “Your brother went to sleep and God took him home,” or “God took Daddy because God wants good people in heaven.” The child may come to fear going to sleep or being “good”.
Children are an integral part of the family and should be included in significant occasions. For children, as well as adults, the ceremony surrounding death is of enormous significance. If the children will be attending the visitation or wake and funeral, explain in advance some of the details. Tell them what to expect. Put them at ease by describing what will happen during the visitation or service so they understand why it is being done. Allow the children to verbalize their feelings and concerns about any details they don’t understand.
Helping Children Cope
The following tips will help parent support children who have experienced the loss of parents, friends, teachers, or other significant people in their lives. .
• Allow children to be the teachers about their grief experiences: Give children the opportunity to tell their story and be a good listener.
• Don’t assume that every child in a certain age group understands death in the same way or with the same feelings: all children are different and their view of the world is unique and shaped by different experiences.
• Grieving is a process, not an event: Parents and schools need to allow adequate time for each child to grieve in the manner that works for that child. Pressing children to resume “normal” activities without the chance to deal with their emotional pain may prompt additional problems or negative reactions.
• Don’t lie or tell half-truths to children about the tragic event: Children are often bright and sensitive. They see through false information and wonder why you do not trust them with the truth. Lies do not help the children through the healing process or help develop effective coping strategies for life’s future tragedies or losses.
• Help all children, regardless of age, to understand loss and death: Give children information at the level that they can understand. Allow the child to guide adults as to the need for more information or clarification of the information presented. Loss and death are both part of the cycle of life that children need to understand.
• Encourage children to ask questions about loss and death: Adults need to be less anxious about not knowing all the answers. Treat questions with respect and a willingness to help the child find his or her own answers.
• Don’t assume that children always grieve in an orderly or predictable way: We all grieve in different ways and there is no one “correct” way for people to move through the grieving process.
• Children will need long-lasting support: The more losses the child suffers, the more difficult it will be to recover. This is especially true if they have lost a parent who was their major source of support. Try to develop multiple supports for children who suffer significant losses.
• Keep in mind that grief work is hard: It is hard work for adults and hard for children as well.
• Understand that grief work is complicated: Deaths that come unexpectedly can bring many issues that are difficult to comprehend. The sudden or violent nature of the death can further complicate the grieving process.
• Be aware of your own need to grieve: Focusing on the children in your care is
important, but not at the expense of your emotional needs. Adults who have lost a loved one will be far more able to help children work through their grief it they get help themselves. For some families, it may be important to see family grief counseling, as well as individual sources of support.
• Maintain a normal routine: Keeping to a regular schedule can be reassuring and promote physical health. Ensure that children get plenty of sleep, regular meals, and exercise. Encourage them to keep up with their schoolwork and extracurricular activities but don’t push them if they seem overwhelmed.
• Spend family time: Doing enjoyable activities with you reinforces your children’s sense of stability and normalcy. Try to do things together, such as eat meals, read, play sports or games, go for walks, or bike rides, or watch nonviolent, nonstresful TV. When stressed, young children may also want more physical contact (e.g.’ hugs, holding hands, sitting on your lap, etc.). You know your children best, and your love and support are the most important factors to their sense of security.
• Emphasize people’s resilience. Focus on children’s competencies in terms of their daily life and in other difficult times. Help them identify what they have done in the past that helped them cope when they were anxious or upset. As appropriate, remind them that people who have weathered challenges, have come through even stronger.
• Be optimistic: Resilience studies indicate that people who cope best are comfortable expressing strong emotions, surrounded by caring family and friends, keep a positive view of the future, and utilize problem solving skills.
• Be a good listener and observer: Let children guide you as to how concerned they are or how much information they need. If they are not anxious or focused on the recent events, don’t dwell on them. You
should not bring the current stressful even to their attention if they do not appear to have any questions and/or that it is generating stress. But be available to answer their questions to the best of your ability. Young children may not be able to express themselves verbally. Pay attention to changes in their behavior or social interactions. Most school-age children can discuss their concerns although they may need you to provide an “opening” to start a conversation. Don’t push, but ask what they think about what has happened. Even if they don’t want or need to talk now, they may later. They will know you care about what they think and feel, and that you are available to answer their questions.
• Prepare your child for any anticipated family changes: If dealing with a change in family circumstance or financial concerns, do not hide the truth from your child. Children sense parents’ worry and the unknown can be scarier than the truth. Acknowledge that change can feel uncomfortable but reassure them that the family will be okay. However, avoid unnecessary discussions in front of your child (particularly a young child) of events or circumstances that might increase their stress. Help your child have a part in decision-making when appropriate. Remind your child of their ability to get through tough times, particularly with the love and support of family and friends.
• Do something positive with your children to help others in need: Making a positive contribution to the community helps people feel more in control and builds a stronger sense of connection. This can include encouraging student to help neighbors who might need assistance or organizing a project at a local shelter or community center.
• Know potential child stress reactions: Most children will not be affected to a significant degree and many who are will be able to cope with concerns over the current
events either independently or with the help of parents and other caring adults. However some children may have more extreme reactions because of personal circumstances. Symptoms may differ depending on age. Adults should contact a professional if children exhibit significant changes in behavior or any of the following symptoms over an extended period of time—irritability, aggressiveness, clinginess, nightmares, school avoidance, poor concentration, withdrawal from activities and friends.

The National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) has made these materials available free of charge to the public to promote the ability of children and youth to cope with unsettling events.

Goblins and ghosts and monsters….oh my!

I was looking through the articles in the office file cabinet today and as soon as I saw this one, I knew it was perfect for today’s blog post. Typed on a typewriter, with handwritten notes in the margin…this article has clearly been written some time ago but the concepts hold true just the same. It was written in 1990 by Angela Andrews, who’s credentials include Scott School Kindergarten teacher, Adjunct Faculty at National-Louis University, and winner of a Presidential Educator’s Award. Ms. Andrews makes some important points about Halloween from the child’s perspective. The following is a selection from this article. Enjoy!


Children at preschool age are very impressionable, and for many preschoolers, Halloween can be a terrifying time. Although they sometimes behave as though they are excited and enthusiastic, many are silently dreading the holiday. In regard to Halloween and its festivities, we recommend:

~Emphasize to your child that Halloween is a holiday where boys and girls dress up and pretend. Emphasize that there is a boy or girl behind those costumes, just pretending.

~Give your child an out. If he doesn’t seem particularly interested in choosing a costume or talking about Halloween, let it go. Soon they will be able to enjoy the holiday. Right now it may just frighten them.

~Don’t insist that your child wear a costume. Particularly if this is your first child,  your enthusiasm for the holiday might prompt you to purchase or make an elaborate costume for your child. Even when he helps pick it out, your child may decide not to wear it on Halloween. Please understand that perhaps this is the year that they are dress rehearsing for Halloween and perhaps next year they will be able to participate more fully.

Play is how young children learn!

“Play is the way the child learns what no one can teach him.

It is the way he explores and orients himself to the natural world of space and time, of things, animals, structures and people….

Play is a child’s work.”

~ L.K. Frank

If you have (or had) a child at Hobson School, you know that we do things a little differently. You know that we understand the value of play. Play is how learning happens for young children. As I write this, I hear the learning going on. Boys in cowboy boots are exploring social dynamics through role playing. Children at the playdough table are wondering how many more pumpkins they need to shape to make a total of ten, beginning to make sense of numbers as a way to solve problems.  At the desk, someone is writing a letter to a friend, exploring the idea that print has meaning. Without an adult being directly involved in transfering information,  it could look as though the children are “just playing”. However, years of research in the field of child development tells us otherwise.  As our director says, “the times may change but child development does not.”

 Here is a good article from I found today, further illustrating play as learning. Enjoy! (JC)

sensory play ~ why is it important?

ImageOne of our awesome Hobson parents brought in a bowl of “Oobleck” today. “Oobleck” is a mixture of cornstarch and water. It is simeultaneously slippery and slimy, chalky and hard. It was fun to watch the children flock to the bowl, plunging in with both hands…exploring…feeling….learning.

Sensory play is so very important for young children to learn about their world. Here is an article from notjustcute that explains it perfectly! Enjoy!


Think of your average preschooler.  How long has this child been proficient with language?  Depending on the age, the child may not really be too proficient yet!  Others seem to have been talking non-stop since 2 1/2, but that means they’ve been talking now for all of…..about a year!  Now think of how long these children have been seeing, smelling, hearing, feeling, and tasting.  Their whole lives!  Children are wired to receive and utilize sensory input from day one.  This is why children will dive in hands first, exploring a new substance.  The senses are their most familiar, most basic way to explore, process, and come to understand new information.


This is why we must allow young children to learn through experience, not just lecture.  These children need to use their senses and be engaged in meaningful experiences.  As we talk with them about what they are observing and sensing, we give them new language tools to connect with these more familiar sensory tools, building language as well as supporting cognitive concepts specific to the experience. 

Now, the flip side to this equation is important to remember as well.  Just as children learn through their senses, they also are developing the ability to use those senses and are building the neurological pathways associated with each one.  With added sensory experiences, combined with the scaffolding of adults and peers, children become more perceptive.  Their sensory intake and processing becomes more acute.  As they are better able to use their senses, they are then better able to learn through their senses.

Sensory play is really part of the scientific process.  Whether out loud or within the internal dialogue of the mind, children have developed a question, leading them to investigate– by grabbing, smelling, listening, rubbing, staring, licking , what have you!  They are using their senses to collect data and from that, attempt to answer their own questions.  Whether or not young children are always able to verbally communicate this process, it is still a valid exercise in scientific inquiry.

The sensory table is the usually the first place people think of for sensory play.  That’s logical, as the term “sensory” is shared by both.  The sensory table certainly stands as an open invitation for hands-on exploration, but it is not the only place where the senses come into play.  Throughout the preschool room and throughout the preschooler’s day, there are appeals being made to the five senses.  The sound of toppling towers in the block area, the feel of finger-paint sliding under their fingertips, the glow of the Light Brite at the small manip table, the smell of cinnamon playdough.  As teachers, the more we can attend to the sensory involvement of our planned activities, the more our children will be engaged and the more they will learn. 

For example, when discussing the need for warm clothes in the winter time, we can simply tell children about it, or we can have them hold ice cubes, one in a bare hand, and one in a gloved hand, let them really feel the difference and then meaningfully attach a verbal discussion to the sensory experience.


Back at the sensory table, we can find many more benefits to sensory play.  That bin of sand, or foam, or colorful rice is more than just another way to keep kids busy, it is a bustling factory of developmental growth.  In addition to honing sensory and science skills, sensory play builds language, social, and dramatic play skills as the children negotiate with one another to share tools, create stories, and build dialogues.  Both small and large motor skills get a boost as well, as the children manipulate the medium and tools of the day.  Creative, divergent thinking is displayed as the children are essentially invited to explore and come up with new ways to use the materials.  Cognitive skills are fostered as well as the children learn about specific concepts pertinent to the bin’s contents.  Things like gravity, parts of plants, states of matter, and color mixing are easily explored and understood through sensory play.  As you teach appropriate boundaries with sensory play, children develop more self-control and body awareness.

As one of the truest open-ended activities, sensory play provides an opportunity for every child to succeed.  No matter whether you are gifted or delayed, learning a new language or mastering your first, you can’t really fail with a bin full of beans or a ball of playdough.  Children who struggle to succeed or who are apprehensive about failure often find solace in sensory play.  The simple act of pouring water or running fingers through rice is often cathartic and calming to many children who may be struggling emotionally.  It can soothe the nervous child, distract the homesick child, and serve as an outlet for the angry child.  For children with special needs and sensory integration disorders, sensory play may be particularly therapeutic.  (Please note that we must also avoid over-stimulation in many sensitive children.  Special attention must also be paid to children with sensory integration disorder and properly recognizing their thresholds.)

We often think of the sensory table as being a tactile activity, which it largely is, but the other senses come into play as well!  The tapping sounds of popcorn kernels hitting the bin, the pungent smell of baking soda and vinegar at work, the sight of separating colors as tinted water, oil, and syrup are mixed together are all sensory experiences that can be tapped at the sensory table.  Taste sometimes finds less desirable ways to sneak in at the table as well, though taste-tests can also be properly planned as fantastic sensory experiences!

Find ways to optimize sensory play for your children.  Whether that’s providing a bin of sand to explore, giving your child a dish wand and plastic dishes to “wash” at the sink, or finding ways to integrate the senses into your other activities, provide space and time for sensory play!  It’s a natural and satisfying way to explore and learn!

More to Explore at Hobson School ~ Autumn Explorations

Introducing “More to Explore” at Hobson School! We are now accepting sign ups for the first of several extra exploration opportunities available for current 2 and 3 day members as well as alums in kindergarten. Thank you to all who filled out the interest survey!

“Autumn Explorations” will be held on three Fridays from 1:00 pm – 2:30 pm. (October 19, 26, and November 2.) In this nature based class we will be going on a leaf hunt, observing changes outdoors, and discovering busy fall critters. It’s sure to be a great time!  The fee for all three classes is $45. Contact Joyce or Patrice with any questions!

Hello and welcome!

Hi there! Welcome to the official blog of Hobson Cooperative Nursery School located in Naperville, Illinois. Here you will find posts about interesting things going on in the classroom as well as links to articles, sites, and community events that may be of interest to those involved with young children. We hope that even if you do not live near Naperville, you will enjoy our blog and find it to be a helpful resource.