When I began envisioning the playroom at Play, Work or Dash, I visualized the whimsical mural on the wall, the soothing colors, the less cluttered way to present toys, the open space to play, the toys and games that would fill the shelves, the soft mats and fun dress-up clothes, the climbing structure and play kitchen. The playroom would be a beacon of fun for little ones. This was my vision.
After running a multi-aged home-based daycare for 10 years, I knew the child care part of the playroom would be a snap. I would find qualified staff and train them the best way I knew how. We would feed the kids, change the kids, keep the kids of all ages happy – picking out the most age-appropriate games, crafts and activities.
I came up with a schedule that took into account our friends that would stay 90 minutes or three hours. I had lesson plans drawn up. We were ready.
Then we opened and I realized that it was not quite the same as what I was used to at the daycare. Our mission was slightly different. Our rotating group of kids kept us on our toes. Some were used to separating. Others would need a little more time. Also, these parents weren’t the same. Some were comfortable handing their not fully adjusted child into our arms and walking out to wait out the tears. Others preferred to stay until their children were calm – or chose to work right outside the playroom doors. This was new for everyone.
Luckily, our staff was quick to adjust. We recognized that the children entering our playroom were our most special guests – here for only a short time on a mostly infrequent basis. As such, we realized our job was to make their time with us extra engaging and fun from the moment they arrived until the moment they left.
We learned how to draw the children in with the least amount of tears. Sometimes this means blowing lots of bubbles or simply stacking blocks or running cars down a ramp while patiently waiting for the kids to join in on the fun. We respect everyone’s (the kids and parents’) speed and comfort-level adjusting.
Our role is to get to know each of the children’s interests – even if they are only here once – and get on their level. This is why we sit on the floor and play with the children – to fully engage them and keep them occupied and interested in whatever they want. The children socialize and play while our staff facilitate all of their needs and JOIN IN on the fun.
Even snack or mealtime is an opportunity to be engaged, which is why our staff will read books to the children while they eat.
We keep the activities moving and allow the kids to pick which craft they want to work on each day. Sometimes, they will spend their whole time crafting. Other times, they will choose to only blow bubbles, have tea parties, or race cars on the mats.
Our staff worries about the cleaning up and doesn’t ask the kids to do anything other than enjoy their time. This is why at the end of their visit there are sometimes more tears than at drop-off. We unabashedly spoil the kids, so the parents can work without interruption or fear of a melt-down. In a way, we are actually spoiling the parents too!
Our playroom is special because we understand the magic that happens when children are allowed to be children.