Monday, September 21, 2015

How Preschoolers and Kindergarteners Learn

"Amalie tests the obstacle course she built" by Lars Plougmann

Finding the right balance between play-time and academic learning is a problem every parent faces with their child.  We instinctively know that kids need to run around but that they also need intellectual stimulation.  Play provides young children with both.

You might picture learning taking place in a classroom led by a teacher who gives students drills and instructions.  But research on early childhood learning has found that it is more helpful to guide a child than to give her direct instruction.  In fact, one study found that over time, children performed worse in preschools focusing on direct instruction and preschools that combined play-centered and teacher-centered approaches, compared to children in play-based preschools.  Rather than telling a child the "right" way to do something, allowing her to explore with guidance fosters greater creativity in thinking and problem-solving.

"Adventures in Preschool Science" by San Jose Library

For parents concerned with academic achievement, it is important to know that play-based learning does not need to exclude academics.  A child should have opportunity for unstructured play, which can help develop gross and fine motor skills along with imagination.  But bringing adult guidance into exploratory play can take the learning to another level.  A child enjoying the outdoors can learn about science through rocks (geology) and animals (biology).  A child playing with toys can learn about math by adding and subtracting a few members from a group of stuffed animals.

"Mountain kids" by Travis Swan

With all that has been said about play-based learning, there is still a place for direct instruction.  In writing, a child needs to know how to form each letter and how to place them in the right order.  Practice drills and direct instructions can be an effective writing lesson.  (But the lesson might be even better learned if it can also be made into a playful game!)

"Lyra teachers her dinosaurs how to write" by Jenny Lee Silver

There are many early education philosophies that focus on different play-based and/or academic-based activities.  Parents can decide which philosophy best matches their goals and their child's individual learning style.

On Wednesday, October 28th, 2015, parents can meet representatives of area preschools and kindergartens at Parent Talk's 11th Annual Preschool & Kindergarten Fair.  The fair will be held at  Christ Episcopal Church in Needham from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.  Registration is not required for this popular event.  Admission is free for Parent Talk members and $10 for non-members.

About the Author
Darlene W. Cancell is an attorney turned stay-at-home mom, and most recently blog coordinator for Parent Talk.

Do you have thoughts related to this post? Please share them in the Comments section below.  


Sunday, September 13, 2015

More Reasons to Buy "Used," Not "New" - Parent Talk's Used Clothing, Toy & Equipment Sale this Fall

Now is the time of year that I start counting down days to the event that first introduced me to Parent Talk -- the biannual Used Clothing, Toy and Equipment Sale.  A few years ago, I walked into Parent Talk's fall sale at Christ Episcopal Church for the first time, not knowing what to expect.  After the bundle of new expenses brought on with becoming a first-time mommy, I had eyes and ears ever open for great baby items at great prices.  I immediately was floored by the massive selection of useful items in good condition that were housed in multiple rooms and floors of the church, plus the outdoors.  From large, outdoor play structures to small, handheld toys, from children's clothes to maternity items, from books to games, this Sale had it all.

Toys and Strollers lined up for sale outside Christ Episcopal Church.

In contrast to the yard sales I had been to, everything was clearly priced and laid out in a logical way. This made shopping a breeze.  I walked out with 2 large plastic bags full of items.  I also left greatly impressed with the organization sponsoring the Sale.  Parent Talk somehow knew exactly what I needed in producing this well-oiled, large and successful volunteer-run event. 

People like me already know that Parent Talk's upcoming October Sale is worth supporting with donated goods and attending as a shopper and volunteer.  But some folks just like buying new.  They squirm at the idea of owning anything second hand, or prefer to toss their own, worn items into the trash rather than pass them along to someone else.  To these folks, I offer a few reasons to consider supporting the marketplace of used goods.

Book Room at the Parent Talk Used Clothing, Toy and Equipment Sale.

Buying Used Allows Room for Creativity and Flexibility

Used items routinely cost 50% or less of an item's price when new, so a consumer can afford to experiment with purchases.  Not sure how an expensive baby carrier will feel on your back?  Buy them used, and you can afford to try out multiple options.  If you routinely purchase pink, brown or blue clothing for your child, why not try bright green or bright orange for a change and see how it works?  Create a wardrobe for your child's dolls and stuffed animals with used infant or preemie clothes.  Used items can be disassembled for fun and crafts.  Has your child ever wanted to operate on the insides of a wind-up clock or toy car?  Let him or her experiment with opening a cheap, used one.

"Three wheels on my wagon!" by Les Chapfield

Buying Used is Good for the Environment

New paper products require tree clearing.  New plastic items require oil extraction.  New metal items mean extracting metal from the earth in ground-razing activities.  In contrast, used items do not require any new extraction, refining, or processing which would result in consuming additional natural resources, some of which are limited.  No new energy is needed to "make" a used item because the electricity associated with farming, manufacturing and shipping operations has already been spent in the initial production of the item.   There is no new pollution (such as chemicals or carbon emissions) associated with "making" a used item.  For example, a new cotton tee-shirt represents the harvesting and processing of cotton, which likely includes farming operations that use pesticides.   According to one used clothing recycling company, the production of one cotton shirt requires one-third of a pound of pesticides.  However, no new resources or pesticides are expended in purchasing a used tee-shirt.  Also, there is savings in packaging such as plastic wrap, Styrofoam and cardboard boxes, which though accompanying an item when it is new, need not be produced for a used item.

"Open-pit Copper Mine Mission Complex" by docentjoyce

Buying or Donating Used Items Translates to Supporting to the Local Community

In the case of Parent Talk's Sale, community support happens in several ways.  First of all, as a non-profit organization, Parent Talk's revenues go not to shareholders, but to its mission of "helping families with young children connect, learn, play, and grow together."  Proceeds from donated items will directly fund Parent Talk activities and member benefits.  Proceeds from the used clothing, toys and equipment that are sold on consignment go to local consignors and Parent Talk.  In contrast, proceeds from new, store-bought items can be expected to go to a corporate retailer or manufacturer.  Often, that entity is not local.  Buying items "new" in such cases fails to provide direct support to our local community.

Additionally, items that remain after the Parent Talk Sale go to local charities, so any donations to the Sale that remain unsold should eventually find their way into someone's grateful hands.  Many items will have far reaching impact.  Charities from the Greater Boston area are invited to participate at the end of the Sale by sweeping through and choosing items that will benefit the needs of the communities they serve.  Local charity Circle of Hope states, "The clothing we collect from Parent Talk sales is vital to our mission.  Without the Parent Talk items, we would struggle to provide enough clothing for all of the children we serve."

Quality at Less Expense

Top brand names for toys or equipment can be purchased for much less when used, compared to their prices when new.  Purchasing used designer or boutique clothes can mean obtaining superior quality clothing at more affordable prices.  At the Parent Talk Sale, items tend to be in good to great condition, and sometimes even have original tags still attached.

Racks of children's clothing at an October Sale.

Need I say more?  Mark your calendars!  This year, Parent Talk's fall Used Clothing, Toy and Equipment Sale will again be held at Christ Episcopal Church (across from the Needham Public Library) on October 17, 2015.  Volunteers and donations are welcome and still needed.  The general sale runs from 8:30 a.m. to 11:45 a.m., followed by the clearance bag sale from 12:00 p.m. to 1:00 p.m.  Sale items are generally targeted for ages 0-8.

About the Author
Darlene W. Cancell is an attorney turned stay-at-home mom, and most recently blog coordinator for Parent Talk.

Do you have thoughts related to this post? Please share them in the Comments section below.  


1. Waseem Trading Company, Top 10 Reasons to Buy Used Clothing & Used Shoes, available at

2. MAC Recycling, Why Recycle Clothes?, available at:

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