Helping Clean Up Time Happen Smoothly

Posted by on Apr 12, 2013

Helping Clean Up Time Happen Smoothly

Cleaning up is an essential element of every Playtime, but it isn’t always the most popular part of the evening for the kids (or for volunteers for that matter). Here are some suggestions for making clean up time go over better: 1) Give Clear Signals. Clean up time can be a difficult transition for the children. Many children – especially those with chaotic histories – struggle with switching gears, so remembering to give a clear warning that there are 5 minutes left before clean up can help kids prepare for the change. For individual children you know find clean up especially challenging, more frequent reminder may be necessary. 2) Be Flexible. We want to be consistent about cleaning up, but if a child has just one more piece left to put together a puzzle, or only needs to add a set of googly eyes to finish up their clay monster, it is okay to give them the space to complete their project. 2) Respect and Acknowledge Feelings. Clean up time also signals to them that Playtime is ending, which can be sad for kids – especially for those children who don’t have many toys in their rooms.If a child is refusing to help clean up, it may help to acknowledge that you understand that they are sad that Playtime is almost over. Offer to read with them after the toys are put away, so they have something to look forward to. 3) Give Them Visual Cues. Help children know where things go by having clearly labeled storage areas that are always in the same place. Since many of our Playtime kids aren’t yet readers, picture labels might be helpful. Tip: If your Playroom is not already labeled this way, your site leaders will love you (even more) for offering to help out with this. 4) Offer Specific Praise & Be Developmentally Aware. As always, give lots of specific positive feedback when a child is engaging in a desired behavior. For example, “Makiya, you are working so hard to put all those books on the shelf!” Remember that children function at different levels: a two-year can (and should be expected to) help clean up, but they may only be able to put away one or two large and easily-graspable items whereas most five-year-olds can do much more than that. However, each child is different and if a child who frequently has tantrums during clean up picks up even a single toy, make sure to praise them.  5) Put Some Play Into It!: Clean up time can be tough even for kids who have stable lives and lots of toys. After all, cleaning up is not as much fun as playing! Here are some suggestions to make cleaning up a little more fun, so that it still feels like part of the play. This is the Playtime Project after all!: Play...

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The Importance of Having Black Dolls in the Playroom

Posted by on Mar 29, 2013

The Importance of Having Black Dolls in the Playroom

Loving her baby doll! The Playtime Project requests that all dolls donated both for use in our playrooms and as gifts for individual children reflect the fact that we primarily serve African-American youth. The growing popularity of a short documentary film by 22-year-old Samantha Knowles entitled Why Do You Have Black Dolls? (watch the trailer here) is a great opportunity to reflect on why it is so important that we have black dolls in our playrooms. In describing why, with so many seemingly more substantial issues facing the African-American community – poverty, violence, etc. – she chose to focus on dolls, Knowles stated, “the conversation always reverts back to image and what is a more powerful and formative image for a young black child than her dolls?” Many people are familiar with the “Doll Study” done in 1939 by psychologists Kenneth & Mamie Clark, which examined black children’s preferences for white and black dolls and found that the children tended to find the white doll to be “nicer” and more enjoyable to play with. Perhaps fewer people, though, are aware that this study was repeated (on a small scale) in 2005 by the then 17-year-old Kiri Davis – who found similar results to the original study. While Dr. Thelma Dye of the Northside Center for Child Development cautions that these results should not lead to the assumption that all black children suffer from low self-esteem, she encourages continued exploration of the meaning of these studies. Author Debbie Behan Garrett explains, “When a young child is playing with a doll, she is mimicking being a mother, and in her young, impressionable years, I want that child to understand that there’s nothing wrong with being black. If black children are force-fed that white is better, or if that’s all that they are exposed to, then they might start to think, ‘What is wrong with me?'” By providing children with African-American dolls that reflect their beauty, we can help to instill in them a positive self-image. One child interviewed by Knowles said of her black doll, “She had curly hair just like me, so I picked this doll. I have black dolls because they are pretty and everyone likes black dolls.” This is the message we want our Playtime kids to carry with them! For more information on the history of black dolls, read this fascinating article: Black is Beautiful: Why Black Dolls Matter by Lisa Hix Purchase dolls for our Playrooms by visiting our Amazon...

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“You can’t play with us!”: Handling Relational Aggression in the Playroom

Posted by on Feb 22, 2013

“You can’t play with us!”: Handling Relational Aggression in the Playroom

The Playtime Project aims to provide children with a safe play experience, where they can leave some of their stress behind and just have fun. This goal can be undermined when the children are mean to each other, which is why we are careful to intervene when children hit each other or call each other names. However, there are other kinds of hurtful behavior that can be just as damaging to the kids. When children exclude their peers from playing with them or try to control their behavior (e.g., “You can’t sit with us unless you . . . “), it can be tempting to dismiss this as normal developmental behavior. However, this is actually a form of bullying called Relational Aggression, and if it occurs in the playroom, it needs to be addressed. While often thought to occur more frequently with girls, relational aggression is actually seen almost as frequently in boys. It is most common in children in middle childhood (around 8 years old) through adolescence, so there is a high likelihood you will see this type of behavior in most of our sites. Unsurprisingly, victims of relational aggression tend to develop low self-esteem and depression. But perpetrators of relational aggression are also at risk – many aggressors have traumatic pasts and engage in bullying to feel better about themselves. If their behavior is not addressed, they may continue to engage in negative social interactions throughout their lives. So, what should you do when you see relational aggression at Playtime? Follow these steps: 1) Intervene immediately: Approach all the children involved and separate them so you can talk to each of them alone. Seek the help of other volunteers or your site leaders if you need it. 2) Get the facts: Speak to each child involved individually to get their perspective on what happened. Do not place blame on any of the participants – not even the child you perceive to be the perpetrator. 3) Support the victim: Listen to the child and show them you want to help. Ask them what the need from you. Help them understand that they did not do anything wrong, and role-play some strategies with them about what to do if the bullying happens again. Do NOT tell them to ignore the bullying. Ignoring bullying does not stop it – they need your help.Talk about friendship and help them understand how to choose good, caring friends. Let them know that you take this seriously, and that they should come to you or another volunteer if they continued to be bullied. 4) Support the perpetrator: Remember, children who act as aggressors in the playroom are usually victims in other areas of their life, so be understanding of them and listen to their perspective. Make sure they know what the problematic behavior is and calmly tell them that bullying is not tolerated at...

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Tip of the Week: A Good Volunteer’s Guide to Not Using That Word!

Posted by on Jan 15, 2013

Tip of the Week: A Good Volunteer’s Guide to Not Using That Word!

Let’s banish “Are you being good?” from our vocabulary. The children we work with are in the process of forming their identities, deciding whether they are “good” or “bad.” It’s important that we are *specific* about our guidance and do not get lazy with our language. Instead of asking whether a child thinks he or she is being “good,” ask:  “Are you sitting quietly?” or  “Are you sharing with your friends?” You are modelling complete sentences and new words AND helping children build positive self-concepts – that’s the way to build children up!!  Take some time this week to review our Positive Language Worksheet and learn the most effective ways to praise (and correct) children. See a related tip on positive language...

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Tip of the Week: Never Underestimate Your Presence!

Posted by on Sep 18, 2012

Tip of the Week: Never Underestimate Your Presence!

As the saying goes, “The world is run by those who show up.”    One of our volunteers came to us through the White House Internship Program this summer. At the end of her time here, she wrote to us to tell us what an impact Playtime had on her. She gave us permission to share her story:    I have been homeless twice in my life. The first time, I was an infant, and my mother, brother, and I lived in a car. The second time, I was 17 and my adoptive mother told me she didn’t want me around anymore…the degradation of not feeling a part of a family, of always feeling like a burden, is something I will never forget. For the past four years, I’ve had a place of my own and a network of friends who care deeply about my well-being. I know that homelessness does not end until until a person finds both of these things. The Homeless Children’s Playtime Project has the potential to help children make the kinds of connections with peers that break cycles of poverty and abuse.   You never know who you are volunteering with side-by-side, or what the children you are playing with are going through. So whenever you have doubts about the importance of your presence at Playtime, remember that you are what makes Playtime possible. You are Playtime. You make a difference that you may never realize the full impact of. But the children know, and so do...

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