Islington Village offers screen free programs; no computers, no tablets, with the exception of staff-use tablets. The staff-use tablets at Islington Village are offered during the program and planning time, in which caregivers research, gather, document and exchange new experiences to incorporate in the classroom. The activities implemented in the classroom are based on the caregivers noted observations of children’s emerging interest and skills.
With regards to children and screens, research has shown that when young children spend too much time in front of a screen and not enough getting required stimuli from the real world, their development becomes stunted. From social and play experiences children take in nonverbal cues, learn how to read the hundreds of unspoken signs—facial expression, tone of voice, and more—that add colour and depth to real-world relationships. And when spending too much time in front of an iPad instead of chatting and playing with teachers and other children, children’s empathetic abilities—the near-instinctive way we read situations and get a feel for other people—is dulled.
Therefore, in support and advocation of play, Islington Village has recently implemented a “loose parts” program; enticing and provoking children to use and explore natural, manipulative and real life materials in their play. Loose parts, natural materials and open ended materials are all known as divergent materials. Divergent materials are valuable for active learning. As children carry manipulatives from one centre of the classroom to another, they engage in creative thinking. They can change the material’s identity to match the activity in a play area. Pattern blocks can become pasta when a child in the dramatic play area uses a wooden spoon to stir in a pot on the stove. Pieces from an alphabet puzzle go to the writing area so children can copy the letters, matching them from a book. Bottle caps become a pirate’s treasure when they are hidden outside in the sand bin.
The key in play, is for children to feel supported and honoured, to explore their own ideas, questions and theories. So, don’t be afraid to join in the play and exploration; when children feel supported, the benefits are vast. Through supported play, a child gains confidence as well as self-esteem, builds relationships, problem-solves, learns conflict resolution, expands language, understands rules and limits, discovers talents, sparks creativity, inspires thinking, defines personality, and sorts out likes and dislikes.