May 5, 2018

Anji Play: communicating with parents


During this past "spring" season (Jan-April in Wisconsin can hardly be considered spring, but we like optimistic euphemisms), I worked on creating some new tools for communicating with parents.  The opening gathering time with families hadn't been working well for us (not everyone shows up right at the beginning; the people who did show up were rarely the same ones I'd taken pictures/videos of the week before so the reflection process wasn't very meaningful; it felt like just a big delay that got in the way of play....) and so I'd stopped doing them, but I missed having the opportunity to give those few little verbal nuggets about Anji Play and the expectations of the program.

So I created print materials!  Each week, as repeat attendees* arrive, I handed them a different "Lessons Learned from Anji" slip of paper.  These were not much larger than a business card and contained only a sentence or two, but I hoped they were sentences that would help to deepen parents' understanding.


The sentences were quotes from presentations that I'd heard on the October 2017 Anji Play study tour, or ones that I'd gleaned from Anji Play Facebook posts.  I chose quotes that had been "a-ha" moments for myself and hoped parents would feel that same "a-ha" when reading my slips of paper.


I also sewed new "yes/no" boxes in January! At the beginning of each Anji Play program, participants (kids and parents both) receive a painted clothespin to clip onto their clothes.  One color is for first-time participants, the other color is for repeat attendees (this is helpful visual information for staff throughout the event). When participants are ready to leave, there's a printed question for kids and a separate question for adults.  They answer the question by dropping their clothespins into either the "yes" or the "no" box.  I created a set of questions that relate to each "Lesson Learned in Anji County" and tried to create questions that participants would feel equally comfortable saying "yes" or "no" to (so as not to influence their answer with suggestive wording).


I've heard from a few parents that they put the "lessons learned" each week on their refrigerator at home as a reminder, or that they find the slip of paper again when they're doing laundry and it's a reminder at that point.  I hope that these little reminders help parents to understand the great importance of self-determined play in their child's life.

*new attendees would get the postcard with an explanation Ms. Cheng's five starting stances: Eyes open, Ears open, Heart open, Mouth closed, Hands down.  I didn't pile another "tip of the week" on top of that huge (and sometimes challenging) message!

Please note: "Anji Play,” refers to a specific philosophy and comprehensive approach to early education developed by Ms. Cheng Xueqin in Anji County, China. I use the term "Anji Play" to describe my programming and throughout this blog with the explicit permission of Ms. Cheng because our programming has been developed as part of a close collaborative relationship with her and her team of Anji Play educators. If you are interested in learning more about how you can bring Anji Play to your community, please visit www.anjiplay.com

Mar 10, 2018

The App Fairy interviews Toca Boca!


You guys.  THIS is the episode I've been dreaming of ever since I started this series.  I interviewed TOCA BOCA!  Read more about it here.  Listen to the show and see photos and downloads here. 

YAY!!

p.s. This will likely be my last App Fairy episode ever.  If you want to see more App Fairy content, please take a moment to fill out the survey here and I'll send you lots of free stuff as a thank you!

Feb 17, 2018

New blog interview series: Podcasts for Kids!

Hey everyone! Does your family listen to podcasts in the car together? Mine does!  I'm starting a new monthly blog series over on the Joan Ganz Cooney Center blog where I interview some of our favorite podcasters.  January featured an interview with the creator of the Eleanor Amplified podcast.  Check it out!

Feb 15, 2018

New book (and podcast episode) about kids and screen time


Dad + me (and a smartphone)
I've got a new episode of the App Fairy in the works (so exciting!) but while I'm polishing it up, here's a great podcast interview about kids and screen time.  I've been reading about this issue for YEARS, but learned a few new things from this author, so give it a listen!

https://www.wnycstudios.org/story/find-right-amount-screen-time

It's based on a new book (which I haven't read yet) called The Art of Screen Time: how your family can balance digital media and real life by Anya Kamenetz

Don't forget!  Although I'm not doing a regular monthly app storytime this season, there will be a few app storytimes (called the Supper Club) at other branches.

April 3, Pinney Library, 6:00


May 3, Central Library, 6:00

Feb 7, 2018

Anji Play: Stepping Back and Being Present


 One of the trickiest parts to figure out in Anji Play is finding comfort in stepping back and still being present. Here are two (true!) stories to illustrate the opposite ends of the spectrum (names and specifics have been removed to protect privacy -- the photos below are unrelated to the incidents described and are simply included for those of us who have an easier time reading blocks of text that are broken up by photos!):

(note: right after this photo was taken, this child was scooped up and comforted by his caregiver!)
Scenario A:

A caregiver brings a young child to an Anji Play program. The adult is given the "hands down/mouth closed/eyes open/ears open/heart open" instructions and when, after she sets the child down to play, he begins to cry loudly, she decides that since the instructions have said "hands down/mouth closed" that she should not pick up the child or interact with him in any way. He continues to feel quite distressed, but she adheres to an understanding that these are the parameters of the program and doesn't respond to him.


Scenario B:

A caregiver brings a child to an Anji Play program. Her child is building a tall tower of blocks with a group of children, one of whom is a young, somewhat unstable toddler. The caregiver is concerned about the safety of the toddler when the tower gets so tall that it becomes wobbly, so she instructs her child to split the tower in half and build two shorter towers instead.





(note: this child had actually chosen to line up her blocks like this herself) 

In both of these scenarios, the adult responded based on their understanding of the practice of Anji Play, but in both instances practice got in the way of principle. In Anji Play, the very first and most important principle is Love. In scenario A, we might assume that the child was not feeling the safety net of love in that moment. Because there was no assurance of love and safety, that child did not feel comfortable taking any risks at all (including the social/emotional risk of venturing out to try playing). Sometimes we misunderstand “stepping back” as cold distance, but it’s really about communicating trust (in the child’s capabilities) and love. Before all else, children must feel safe and loved before they can feel free to choose their own play.




In scenario B, teachers in Anji County might choose, instead, to stand nearer the toddler, ready to protect them should the blocks fall their direction. The wonderful thing about that moment when the block tower is so tall that it becomes unsteady is precisely the unpredictability of it. When will it topple? Which direction will it fall? What will it sound like? Can I build it even taller next time? If we, as caregivers, step in at exactly that point, the child will not discover the answers to these questions and the flow of play is interrupted, broken. While it is always important for us to keep children safe, are there ways that we can keep them safe while not cutting off their opportunities to learn at the same time?

Please note: "Anji Play,” refers to a specific philosophy and comprehensive approach to early education developed by Ms. Cheng Xueqin in Anji County, China. I use the term "Anji Play" to describe my programming and throughout this blog with the explicit permission of Ms. Cheng because our programming has been developed as part of a close collaborative relationship with her and her team of Anji Play educators. If you are interested in learning more about how you can bring Anji Play to your community, please visit www.anjiplay.com

Jan 30, 2018

AnjiPlay: Let's talk about Risk!

"Risk" is one of the five pillars of AnjiPlay and probably the most visible pillar and the one that gives the most people concerns about this educational approach.  Let's break down this concept and think about how "risk" and "danger" are not the same thing.  There are many different types of risk and generally, children will only feel confident exploring these risks if they have a sense of security that comes from the love the adult caregivers feel towards the child.  If you feel like you're in a dangerous situation already, you're less apt to want to dive into risky behavior, so first and foremost comes love (and a sense that adults respect the children and their capabilities) and once that's established, children can explore these different kinds of risk. (more after the jump)

Jan 11, 2018

AnjiPlayDate, week 2: Water engineering galore!

This week, the preschoolers were joined by a few older homeschool kids.  One of the things I love about Anji Play is that the open-ended materials work equally well for people of all ages.  Older kids play differently with the materials than younger kids do, but it's fascinating to see them play side-by-side.  Here's a video of some water play that happened this week:
 
 I love how you can see him making different discoveries as he improves the design and watching how the kids interact together is fascinating to me.

We also brought in an old overhead projector this week inspired by Bakers & Astronauts.
The kids were doing early explorations with it -- putting objects on the screen, layering them, moving the projection higher and lower on the wall.  We did need to remove some pieces from the top of the lamp when it began getting hot.  Looking forward to seeing this progress next week!
 May you find a different perspective that brings you joy this week!


Please note: "Anji Play,” refers to a specific philosophy and comprehensive approach to early education developed by Ms. Cheng Xueqin in Anji County, China. I use the term "Anji Play" to describe my programming and throughout this blog with the explicit permission of Ms. Cheng because our programming has been developed as part of a close collaborative relationship with her and her team of Anji Play educators. If you are interested in learning more about how you can bring Anji Play to your community, please visit www.anjiplay.com

Jan 3, 2018

Hello again....

I normally make it a policy not to apologize for long absences on a blog, but... this was a very long --unintentionally long -- absence and I'm at that point where I need to post SOMETHING or I'll never get past the mental block of "I will never catch up."

Readers, I will never be able to catch up enough to share all of the great things that happened in AnjiPlayDate programs last fall and I regret that.  But, like the photo above, I feel like I've been balancing a lot of things as I continue to refine my program structure and I need time to make sure I'm doing it carefully and doing it well.

I had the amazing opportunity to return to China for a second visit to the schools of Anji County last October.  I learned so much on this trip -- a deeper understanding of the role of Play Sharing time, more opportunities to witness video analysis (where teachers show videos of children playing and talk about what's going on in the videos), and so many other things -- from nitty gritty how-to details to bigger picture philosophy discussions. I can't believe that I've been neck-deep in this educational approach for almost two years now and still find myself feeling like an utter novice, learning the most basic things and getting surprised with huge a-ha moments all the time.

For today, let's do something easy to get me back into the swing of blogging.  How about some photos from my trip?






 One thing I tried to pay closer attention to on this trip was the way the teachers observed the kids.




  
And my librarian heart thrilled to see some of the incredible reading environments the schools have crafted for the students.





Deep breaths everyone.  It's time to leap into a new year!


Please note: "Anji Play,” refers to a specific philosophy and comprehensive approach to early education developed by Ms. Cheng Xueqin in Anji County, China. I use the term "Anji Play" to describe my programming and throughout this blog with the explicit permission of Ms. Cheng because our programming has been developed as part of a close collaborative relationship with her and her team of Anji Play educators. If you are interested in learning more about how you can bring Anji Play to your community, please visit www.anjiplay.com


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