Thursday, November 29, 2012

It's Begining to Look a Lot Like Christmas!

It is much quicker for me to Facebook during the Holidays --- please follow "Play Counts" on Facebook for several daily updates as to what exciting Christmasy things we are doing!

Lots of ideas that can be translated into other times of the year as well!!

Hope you are having a magical holiday season filled with imaginations and creativity (with LOTS of learning hidden in the middle!!)

Merry Christmas!


Friday, November 16, 2012

Plopping 101

Due to recent requests to explain what I mean when I use the term "plop",  I have decided to write up this little tutorial:

 I am a defender of play and a professional brain developer.  I am also a self-declared "plopper".  Through my 14 years of operating a family childcare business, I have had the privilege of observing children, ages 2-6, make sense of this wonderful world we live in. I have also discovered the art and value of the "plop".

A plop, by my own, self-made definition is (insert vision of me putting on instant, IQ-boosting spectacles and clearing my throat): 
Plop (noun):

      Anything that is placed in a child’s environment with zero adult direction, demonstration or expectation.  The child is given the freedom of time, technique, task and team.  The adult quietly observes and gives opportunities for children to try, fail, succeed, explore and ask for what they need.

I use to have a love affair with planning. I can't tell you how much I loved filling planners with activities, songs, games, and materials that I KNEW young children would greatly enjoy.  I knew how long they would want to do each thing.  I knew that they would want to learn about dinosaurs for two weeks in March.  I loved planning for months in advance and looking at all the learning that was going to happen.  I loved marking off my little check list of all the early learning guidelines that we were going to meet.  Bottom line,   I. LOVED. BEING. IN. CONTROL.

I learned a lot during those years of being in control, leading young children.  Those years of being afraid to trust children to lead me.  Those years when children asked me what we were going to do every single day, unable to lead themselves.

Here is a small list of what I learned during "those" years:

1)  When one forces children to do something, one is going to have discipline issues.
2)  I took it personally when "my crew" didn't like MY hard work and planning, and found myself making them do my "great" ideas anyway because I just KNEW they would see the light.(see #1 for why this is a problem)
3)  Children have their own ideas of what they would like to do, and those ideas are usually far better than those of a controlling adult.
4)  When children are followers instead of leaders too much, they lose confidence in their own ideas.
5)  Sometimes, MOST times....better, random and spontaneous things happen, that plans can't possibly be made for, that are way better then any plan ever could be.
6)  When wonderfully spontaneous things happen enough, one accepts the fact that over-planning and leading is not such a good way to accomplish early learning goals......(insert LIGHTBULB!).

These lessons are what led me to being a "plopper".  I loved to plan, but I had realized the negative side of being too rigid and too planned.   So...I began planning a plop.  It was the perfect marriage between my love of planning, and giving children open-ended opportunities to be in charge of their own learning.

Below is a list of random facts and thoughts about plopping.  Each item links to a previously written blog post

A plop allows for open ended exploration  By quietly placing something that creates curiosity in a child's environment, without ANY direction...the possibilities are literally endless and wide open!

A plop can be, and usually is something VERY simple  When plopping, don't forget the SIMPLE. Do not overthink the "plop".  Many people have told me that they are not clever enough to come up with a new plop everyday.  1) A plop does not need to be clever, leave the job of "clever" to your littles. 2) You don't need a new plop schedule needs to be followed when plopping. Some plops last for weeks in my program. Some flop, but I keep them in the environment, and my littles find a purpose for it days later...or, sometimes never.  Sometimes I add to a current plop. There truly is no right or wrong way to plop...other then to give directions and demonstration and attach adult expectations to the plop.

Following children can lead to more plops!  When the environment children are in causes them to wonder...they become the leader in the plopping game!  Observe your children, listen to their cues, listen to the conversations.  Grab a word they are using and add a mystery word to deepen the learning!

A plop can lead to children asking for what they need (YES!)  Some plops require more....give children the opportunity to ask for what more they need.

How can you plop?  There are many ways to plop. You can plop before the children arrive by either having the plop be very obvious, or be sneaky, and hide the plop amongst the other toys in the environment.  You can plop while the children are playing, simply set a plop on a table, or on the floor, then step back and await it's discovery.  You can plop as a group.  This technique is one I use when there are safety concerns to discuss with the plop.
A plop can inspire IMAGINATIONS  Open ended, simple, wonder-causing plops inspire imaginations EVERY SINGLE TIME!  Imaginations are needed for SOLVING PROBLEMS!

A plop can be a problem that needs to be solved  Plopping a plop in an inconvenient location, plopping an incomplete plop or the plop itself can create moments for children to be problem solvers. Perhaps a new plop is up on the ceiling.  Let the children figure out a technique to get it down.

There you have it!  The basics of "plopping" -- now, don't just hang around here!  Go plop something!!

About the Author:
Denita Dinger is an internationally-known speaker and author.  

To inquire about booking her for your next conference or training, email her at

Thursday, November 15, 2012


Socks.  That's read correctly.  Socks.  Who knew there was so much learning in socks?

Simply.  you also read correctly.  This is a very simple, this is not a post announcing an earth shattering new way for young children to learn.  It is just a reminder that there IS learning in the VERY simple!

Let me set the scene:  The mystery word on this particular day was "mix".  After having fun mixing ourselves and organizing us in different ways (See my Facebook page, "Play Counts" to learn more of our everyday adventures ) we moved on to mixing up socks. 

Simply, Socks #1:  mix and match, find the pairs.   I just mixed up the socks and tossed them all around the room ( the children love it when I do this!!).   When I was finished, the word "Go!" or sometimes the words "Match them!" started the fun!  I have added an element of time to this as well with the use of a stop watch.  It's a nice way to throw some math into the fun:  number recognition, function and measurement.  Each time we see if we can match all of the socks quicker then we did before.

While doing this, a child or two would return to the bucket with a sock on their hand.  This sparked another idea, and a way to use socks to strengthen those all important small motor muscles!

Simply Socks #2:  Once again, I scattered the socks, but the directions changed.   See how many socks you can put on ONE hand!!  Take a look at the pictures below to see the focus, determination, coordination and muscle strength this took:

I love observing children taking part in activities at THEIR level!
  This is 2 yr old Trillian....he is still figuring out all the wonderful things his hands do, and how to make them do said wonderful things. 
Following a child's lead,  and letting them learn through spontaneous moments meets children right where they are!

Ethan is adding his fourth sock.  At this point the process is quite challenging.  Look at his face though....he doesn't show any signs of giving up does he!!?

This was HARD work!  When all the socks were on hands, we counted as each child pulled off the socks one at a time.  Patience, consideration, more small motor work and counting are just a few of the things I observed during this.

The children had anywhere from one sock to four socks on their hand.  I was most impressed.  The natural flow of our morning lead to one more activity.  It's basically the same as what we just did, but using TEAMWORK!  Any time I can get my children to work together, I go for it.  Cooperating and working together is such an important, even priceless life-long skill!

Simply Socks #3:  Working together!  Repeat #2, but work together.  One friend hold open the sock, while the other pushes their hand in.  The photos below show you the benefits of teamwork:

The person holding the sock has to patiently hold the sock open, and still while the person putting their hand into the sock needs to use visual planning and determination.  Both have to remain focused on the task at hand.

In the end, Gavin had ELEVEN socks on his hand!!!  Look at their faces!!!  I believe this picture speaks for itself!  These are two focused children excited and proud to be accomplishing the task at hand!

When all the socks were used up, again....we pulled off the socks one at a time and counted!  It was so exciting to see how many socks we could fit on one hand using teamwork!

A few more ideas:

Simply Socks #4:  Put silly socks on over the socks the children brought...practicing makes perfect, and putting socks on our feet is hard work!
Simply Socks #5:  Put socks on hands and then pick up items off the floor.  Keep adding a sock to make the task more difficult!
Simply Socks #6:   Just "plop" the socks in the environment and see what ideas the children think of!  Their minds are far more creative and uninhibited then ours are!

SIDE NOTE:  A plop, by my own, self-made definition is (insert vision of me putting on instant, IQ-boosting spectacles and clearing my throat): an object, book, story, song or mystery word that is quietly placed (aka: plopped) into a child's environment while sharing no (zip, zero, none, notta) pre-conceived adult ideas in order to give ownership of discovery to children. The "plopper" is prepared for what could POSSIBLY happen...but is willing to drop those ideas in order to follow the usually BETTER possibilities a child's mind imagines!

There you have it.  I told you it wasn't an earth shattering post.  I do, however, hope it sparks your imagination, to once again, see the learning in the SIMPLE!

You just can't deny it....PLAY COUNTS!!!