My Breaking Point in Traditional Childcare
After being a childcare director for several years, there was an incident with a teacher that dramatically changed my perspective on childcare, and led me to believe that drastic change is needed, not only in the way we are viewed as childcare centers, but in how the children and teachers are viewed in this industry.
So much pressure was being placed on children and childcare teachers alike. Rules, regulations, and standard needed to be met and was exhausting for everyone. I noticed an increase in what we call “behavioral issues,” and teachers searching for careers in other fields. The experience for the childcare professional was a lot like juggling spinning plates, and yet, this stress-level had become the new normal.
After the incident, I wanted to take time to support my employees and make sure they knew their voice mattered. They loved their work (as you have to into this industry), but with unhappy children and the struggle of meeting daily demands, it is difficult to remain inspired. So, I became passionate about discovering ways of supporting teachers and helping them keep the passion for their work alive.
I began researching and finding ways to support my teachers, knowing that when they are inspired, it will automatically overflow to the children. Discovering play-based learning was a game changer. The research behind it, showing enhancements in children’s academic and developmental outcomes, sets it apart.
"Our task, regarding creativity, is to help children climb their own mountains, as high as possible. No one can do more."
— Loris Malaguzzi
Knowing children are naturally motivated to play, play-based learning builds on this motivation using play as a context for learning—which means kids are happier. This methodology allows children to be themselves, to explore, experiment, discover, and problem solve in imaginative and playful ways.
The method is child-initiated and teacher-supported. Teachers engage fully with children’s learning process by planning play. This alone keeps them inspired and allows them to connect and engage with every child in more meaningful ways. Teachers get to be more creative with their planning, to bring out curiosity, provide a sense of wonder, and learning opportunities for every child at every developmental level.
Kids at Play provides a natural way of learning and development, not only for kids to become the best versions of themselves, but for teachers as well. Which speaks to both my passions: being an advocate for change in the childcare industry and inspiring preschool teachers.
The incident was heart wrenching. The teacher was so stressed with the pressure of maintaining cleanliness, the appearance of the room, lesson planning, and making sure standards were being met for every child, that she thought it would be easier to have kids sit at tables with only the toys she provided, for extremely long periods of time. Kids were either falling asleep or throwing a fit.
Both the teacher and the kids were stressing, and it was apparent she was no longer there to impact the children, but just to make it through the day. She lost her WHY, and we as a facility felt it. The teacher was not intentionally trying to hurt the children, she was just trying to “make it,” with the weight she thought she had to carry. But the weight broke her, and rather than her voicing, “This isn’t for me,” or “I need help,” she sucked it up and did the job as best she could.
I don’t want to merely provide a ‘job’ for our teachers, I want to provide a place for them to be inspired, to connect to a vision of change, a change in the industry, a change in how we think of ourselves and the children. I want to create a center that inspires teachers to be the best versions of themselves—honoring their unique teaching ability.
We all learn and grow in different ways. To not standardize a classroom, a teacher, or a child, we not only need to think outside the box. We need to get rid of the box. We need to bring back the basics of letting kids be kids, and letting teachers revel in the experience of waking the wonder.
— Rachael Wyman, Owner, Kids at Play
“It is a happy talent to know how to play.”
— Ralph Waldo Emerson