Today is Sept. 16, and we have three events to celebrate today that delight the hearts of children, parents and early childhood teachers! They are National Play-Doh Day, National School Backpack Awareness Day and Collect Rocks Day.
The Play-Doh Center is my favorite center in the early childhood classroom. I am so thankful for the schoolteacher who wanted a safe modeling clay for her preschoolers. She asked her brother-in-law Joseph McVicker, who worked for a chemical company, to come up with her teacher dream. He provided the answer to her dream, and it only took flour, water and food coloring. Play-Doh was created in 1955 and went to the market in 1956. Today, let’s pull out the Play-Doh and discuss its many benefits. Safety health policies can be incorporated into Play-Doh play, maybe by children having their own cans or bags of Play-Doh.
Play-Doh offers a child a free play outlet. Free play is so important in the developmental steps of a young child. It is voluntary, spontaneous, open-ended play with no right or wrong answers. The reward and satisfaction to children is in the play itself.
The sensory benefits of Play-Doh for young children help them develop strength, fine tune motor skills and control – which relate to other skills such as holding pencils and crayons, learning to cut with scissors and learning to zip – and button up clothes.
Play-Doh provides a beautiful intergenerational activity time between the young and elderly. We never get too old to play and create with Play-Doh. Sharing a favorite story with a child, parent and grandparent then working as a team to create the characters and scenes of the story provides ways for children to use language, increase vocabulary and practice comprehension skills in recreating the story in telling the story as Play-Doh art.
Math and Science lessons can also be incorporated in Play-Doh play. Rolling out a certain number of snakes, rolling out bird eggs to place in a Play-Doh nest and making stick people and stick animals require molding different shapes, counting skills and creating and comparing different shapes and sizes. What a wonderful way to learn and apply math.
I love to observe children engaging in cooperative play as they share, create and explore their creations in the Play-Doh center. Like Play-Doh, children’s hearts and self-esteem can be shaped into objects they don’t desire to be or into objects that radiate like the bright colors of Play-Doh. It is so heartwarming to see smiles or twinkles in young children’s eyes when they are praised or encouraged for just who they are or what they do.
Also, children benefit from National School Backpack Awareness Day today. In 1938 Gerry Outdoors invented the modern backpack. In 1968 the nylon, lightweight backpacks were introduced all over our county. Jan Sport began the world’s largest backpack business in 1968. The American Occupational Therapy Association began National School Backpack Awareness Day in September 2001 to make sure that students wear backpacks safely. As teachers and parents, we can see where improper use of backpacks can lead to muscle injuries, back pain and bone injuries. These kinds of injuries can interfere with the learning process.
Three tips that are shared on National Backpack Awareness Day for Backpack safety by American Occupational Therapy Association are:
1. Use both straps because slinging the backpack on one shoulder affects posture as well as causing injuries and pain.
2. Students should adjust the height of how they wear their backpacks. They should be worn high on their back. It is suggested an inch or two above the hips.
3. The waist and chest straps, which are the horizontal straps, help to distribute the weight and keep the load stable as a student moves.
These are such good tips to learn, remember and share.
Let’s go and have some safe fun today by celebrating “Collect Rocks Day.” I’m not sure how the celebration got started, but it does encourage geology, which is the study of the Earth. Children love to collect rocks of different types and sizes. In my classroom over the years, this teacher has been so impressed with the rock collections that have come in the classroom to be shared on “Show and Tell” Day.
Rock collecting with young students can encourage math skills by counting the rocks; organizational skills by organizing the rocks according to color, size and shape; and reading skills by finding out information about the rocks a child is collecting and children reading or listening to their parents or teachers reading about the rocks they are collecting. For children to show and talk about their rock collections enhances communication and social skills.
It is so much family fun to go hiking and looking for different rocks on trails, the beach, by creeks or in the woods. Personally, my young son loved to collect rocks and learn about them. This childhood hobby has grown up with him into an adult hobby.
I hope these three celebrations today help you and your child to play freely, stay safe and possibly start hobbies for a lifetime!