The Child Care Business Podcast

Episode 16: The Power of Play for Both Children and Grown-Ups | Emma Tempest

September 30, 2021 Procare Solutions Season 1 Episode 16
The Child Care Business Podcast
Episode 16: The Power of Play for Both Children and Grown-Ups | Emma Tempest
Show Notes Transcript

This episode is pure joy as we get to talk with Emma Tempest, an internationally-known play coach who helps early childhood professionals incorporate play into their programming in a meaningful and often transformational way.

In this uplifting chat, Emma shares:

  • Why play is critical for child development – and adults too!
  • How adults can misinterpret play for bad behavior. 
  • How the traditional way to leverage play – often limited to a reward for a child who does their schoolwork or behaves well – is a backwards way to look at it.  
  • The detrimental effects of removing play from a child’s education.
  • How adults can get in touch with their inner child.
  • The importance of a mindset shift toward curiosity to embrace play in all its forms.
  • Why there’s no such thing as “unstructured play.”
  • The five things adults can do to best support children’s play.
  • And so much more! 

About Emma:

Emma Tempest is a Play Coach. How cool is that? She develops training and coaching for educators and families around how children learn through the power of play, and how to use play as a tool for building a strong foundation of wellbeing. But that’s not all – Emma also helps adults through play. Her belief is that play joins everybody together – from all ages, races, nationalities and cultures. 

Originally from England, Emma holds a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education from Leeds Metropolitan University. She now resides in New Jersey, but spreads her teachings far and wide, because, frankly, we ALL need this in our lives. 

You can find Emma in the following places:

Additional Resources:

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Contact Us:
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Speaker 1 (00:07):


Speaker 2 (00:08):

Welcome to the childcare business podcast brought to you by pro care solutions. This podcast is all about giving childcare, preschool, daycare, afterschool, and other early education professionals, a fun and upbeat way to learn about strategies and inspiration you can use to thrive. You'll hear from a variety of childcare thought leaders, including educators, owners, and industry experts on ways to innovate, to meet the needs of the children you serve from practical tips for managing operations, to uplifting stories of transformation and triumph. This podcast will be chalk full and insights you can use to fully realize the potential of your childcare business. Let's jump in,

Speaker 3 (00:52):

Welcome everybody to the childcare business podcast. Uh, you know, again, if you've been with us before, my name is Ryan Gwaltney and I'm really excited to have you join us today. And look, normally I would give a quick bio of my guests and I'm still going to do that. I think maybe here in a minute, but today, you know, I'm talking with, um, I'm talking with Emma, Tempest and Emma. I want to ask you one quick question that I was reading about you. You are from the UK from leads. Is that right? W what can you tell us? Just so everybody can hear the accent from the word go on this episode. What can you tell us for those of us on this side of the pond about leads and how old were you when you moved over here?

Speaker 4 (01:34):

Wow, that's a lot. Okay. So yes, I am from England. Um, I was born in a town called for this field, which is near Leeds. And then I grew up across the, this, like this big set of, I would say, I think technically mountains, but in America, everything's bigger. So just small Hills called the Pennine. And I went to, um, a place called a tiny little town called Appleby, but then I moved back to Leeds when I went to university and leads is, well, can I teach you some phrases?

Speaker 3 (02:06):

I would love it. If you can. What I was gonna ask you to do is like, if I'm not mistaken, because I have a followup question about leads, you call her area, correct? Like leads. Okay. So let's hear some phrases let's hear. Yeah.

Speaker 4 (02:19):

So if you want it just so leads is part of Yorkshire and Yorkshire. People are very proud of where they come from. And if you want it to say hello to someone, you'd say, Hey, yo,

Speaker 3 (02:31):

Can I say that right? Did I say that right? You're laughing. So I did not

Speaker 4 (02:35):

Pretty good shot. So it's like the, a out of the wood hay. And then as in pointing upwards, like, Hey,

Speaker 3 (02:44):

Yep. Okay. Okay. All right. I like that.

Speaker 4 (02:50):

What else is the, let me think. Um, if you want it to say, how are you, you might say y'all all right.

Speaker 3 (02:59):

I don't

Speaker 4 (02:59):

Even know if I should try to attempt this and well, we can edit it out. You all right? It's like saying, I, you all right, but you just say, y'all right.

Speaker 3 (03:09):

Y'all right. But

Speaker 4 (03:11):

Actually, really, really thinking about it. If you're in lays, you'd say y'all read.

Speaker 3 (03:16):

Got it. So if you're from other parts of England and you show up in leads, and don't say the greetings like that, everybody knows you're not From the city you're like from London. So are you an English football fan? And the reason I ask about leads, like I am an English football or soccer, and Leeds United is a team that I really enjoy watching play just their style. And I, I get the impression if people are from there, you almost have to be a fan. Is that accurate or not accurate?

Speaker 4 (03:50):

I'd say that's pretty accurate. Yeah. I have no longer have an interest in a football, but I know when I was little, I did. Um, and yeah, English people tend to be very, um, proud and passionate about football. Yes.

Speaker 3 (04:08):

Alright. There we go. So I, I needed to get, and I'm going to try to pull out as much of the accent and we'll see if we can have a little fun on this. Like as many leads phraseologies, as you can use on this, we'll, we'll track them and see how good you can be at that. So tell us, tell our audience, like I have a little bio here that, you know, our marketing team wrote up, but can you, can you give our audience a little sense of, of who you are, Emma and what you do for a living. And then we'll talk a little bit about that and kind of unpack some things.

Speaker 4 (04:37):

Sure. Yeah. So, um, ever since I was a little girl, I always wanted to be a teacher. Like it was just, I loved school. That was it. It was going to happen. So, um, like I said, I went to a university in Leeds and I graduated with my, um, early childhood education degree and I went and got a job as a teacher. It was just, that's what I did. Um, and I stayed at that one job for eight years. Um, working in a what's called a reception class since the first class of school. Um, so it was far and five-year-olds, we were very play-based. We were a very child led, very developmentally appropriate, all those things. Um, and then my husband got a job with a company in America. So we moved to Arkansas in 2016. And then from there I decided to work in some childcare centers and it just became massively clear to me that I needed to share what I knew about how play works in the UK with the whole of America

Speaker 3 (05:52):

Buddy in America. So, so, so explain that like, cause I want to continue talk a little bit about, you know, what, what you do and what that looks like now, but when you describe how play works in the UK and it being different than America, like what were your initial like reactions and observations to the difference? Can you explain that?

Speaker 4 (06:13):

I am speaking extremely generally here. So obviously it's not the same everywhere, but in England, at least that first year of school, quite often you get parents saying things like, oh, you're going to big school now. And all of a sudden they think that it's going to be work and worksheets. And the teacher stands at the front and teaches while all the children listen and fill selves up with learning. But in England that first year is still within, what's called the earliest foundation stage, which is from birth to five. Now we know early as goes up to eight, but as with the same as America, everybody seems to ignore that. And it's like, no, we have to start school at five. And the thing that I really liked about my job in England was even though we were in the school system, we could still do developmentally appropriate things and don't get me wrong.

Speaker 4 (07:08):

There's some things in that curriculum, especially now, they recently changed it. Um, the are developmentally inappropriate, but it gave us such power. And we felt empowered by that to let the children play, to listen to what they needed to actually just witness and have that honor of watching it unfold. And that's like one of my favorite things about play the fact that you can watch any child and you will get something out of it just as much as they do. Like if you know what you're looking for and you know how to appreciate all the brain work that's happening when they play, it just lights me up. And it just gets me really excited when I was in Arkansas. Although I saw that in the children, I did not see it in as many of the staff. So the staff could not put those dots together. They couldn't see what I could see. Like if a child was, I don't know, throwing toys, they would see it as a behavior issue. Whereas I would see it as, oh, they have a trajectory schema and they want to, you know, explore flight or whatever. And then I would go and provide something that might be a bit safer to throw. And I always felt like I had one particular teaching assistant who she would watch me do those things and she'd go, what did you just do?

Speaker 3 (08:40):

That is not what we do in Arkansas.

Speaker 4 (08:45):

Well, it was magic. And I'm like, no, it's just basic child development. But if you don't know it, then you don't know, like you don't know what you don't know. Then there's a whole pile of things that you don't even know that you know about. Like it just spirals on. So for me, it became exciting to teach people how to do what I did and how to see children as full human beings. Like they're not just there to be looked after from 6:00 AM to 6:00 PM. And although that's a big part of it and now we want to keep them alive, the so much happening in their brains, that it really is an honor to witness. And I feel like if you don't feel like that, you're not getting as much out of it that you could.

Speaker 3 (09:31):

Yeah. So do you think like, um, I like how you say the word honor, like an honor to watch kids actually run and play and observe this listening to you talk like in your experience and observations. And again, this is going to be a generalization as well, but do you feel like we've tried to take play out of the child's like education, like too early, not only too early, but also just overall, like not allowing enough space for kids just to be able to play. Is that, is that an accurate statement from what you observed

Speaker 4 (10:00):

A hundred percent? And like, you can see that in how kindergarten classes are set up and grade one and grade two. And it's the same in England. Like as soon as they go into what's called year one, when they're five and six, it just, it just changes like the whole setup changes so that it's listened to the teacher and the teacher is in charge and there's no access to centers. There's no free play. Or if there is, it's often, like we used to have an ASCO golden time on a Friday afternoon. So if you behaved well during the week, you'd get more golden time. And it was just so backwards. I'm like, no, the children who need it, who need that play that free time, the most are the ones who have behavior that adults find complicated. I don't like saying like children that have bad behaviors because I don't think there is such a thing, but I'm just trying to, I just, to me, all the science says that play is the way, and I believe that adults too. So the more opportunities we get to play, just everything in your life gets better. Yeah.

Speaker 3 (11:14):

Yeah. I actually, yesterday afternoon I have two nephews. My kids are older, but two nephews, first grader in preschool and a couple of times a month, my wife watches them. And so they were over yesterday after school and they were just talking about like, they got two recesses plus the lunch break. And I was like, that's like the best day ever. You guys got to go to recess outside twice. And you were talking about how the slides were wet. Cause it just rained. And like that was obviously the highlight of their day. Like, you know, being able to go out and just run and play you. You were saying something a minute ago, Emma, about the science supports that, like I'm curious, I'm sure there's studies that you're referencing, but just even like from a, like a qualitative standpoint on what you've observed is the risk of not allowing kids to get enough play. Are there outcomes that have been measured and studies that have been done about some of like the consequences of that? If that's the right word, if we don't allow kids to experience that at young ages.

Speaker 4 (12:13):

Oh yeah. I mean, even just from a brain development point of view, like that's why earliest does go through to eight years old. Um, because your brain is still growing. It's not fully developed until you're 25. And if you think about like, I know what I was like when I was

Speaker 3 (12:31):

I'm 45, my wife still says my brain's not fully developed, but that's a different topic. So

Speaker 4 (12:37):

It's true. Like we expect so much from children. And I think like in terms of studies, if you think about just the pandemic, like how that has shown children, uh, you know, frustrated and constantly on screens all the time and they don't have access to go out and play. Like they used to, um, every time I saw one of the parks that would be like taped off, it was almost like the caution tape of police crime scenes. And it would just break my heart because that's the kind of play that for some children who lived like in a high story apartments, they're not going to get that they don't have a garden. So there's public places or other places where they can have that freedom to play and to run around, like you said. Um, but I think even if, well, put, let me put it this way.

Speaker 4 (13:30):

If you search for ah, worksheets, um, what's the word I want our worksheets the best way for children to learn. You won't find any studies about it because it's not true. Like there's no, it, it used to really upset me when people would be like, okay, I'm all right, get what you're saying, but can you show me a study? Like I want the proof, I want the research and I'm like, literally Google it. Like, it's, it's a bound, but I just think the society that we live in, um, things like capitalism, white supremacy, even like the patriarchy has just crushed that innate need that we have to play. And especially when it comes to things like no child left behind and all the things in America that want to keep pushing our children more or a mall or a mall. Um, none of it is play-based and then we wonder why, like not to be derived, but then we wonder why we have things like high school shootings.

Speaker 4 (14:38):

So like in England, the most violent crime amongst children is stabbings because we don't have access to guns. So the violence is still there, but it's very specific to, I would say probably gang culture rather than random attacks in a school. Um, and yeah, I really do think it's because the children are playing in us. They are having opportunities to, you know, think for themselves or have an opportunity to feel an emotion and let that be okay because there's constantly somebody coming in to, you know, like helicopter parents, like coming in to save them and oh, no, we don't want them to feel sad because then something bad will happen. And it's like the feeling, the sad is how you learn, how to feel it in the future.

Speaker 3 (15:30):

So do you think, I, maybe you just answered this a moment ago, but you know the question on my mind as I hear you talk is like, w why do you think there was this change? You know, maybe culturally or socially where like we removed play. Cause I, from what I hear you saying is like, you know, historically there's been a lot of evidence that supports like, let kids go run and they're going to learn and develop as they play just naturally. Like, why do you think that's changed? Is it just, I don't want to like answer it for you, but is it like, like teachers trying to organize and keep structure and feel like having structure is a better way to run a classroom or in your opinion, what you've observed and learned? Like, are there reasons that you've developed on why we've changed that, like why we've taken away?

Speaker 4 (16:14):

I think there's two parts to that and I'm hoping I can remember both of them. So the first part is definitely the capitalism culture of schools, essentially being created to house children while parents go to book, like that was the original point of school before school children went in their families. They were meeting up with other families and having that hub of children collectively. And then when the industrial revolution happened and people realized, oh, well, if children are in school and we can make workers work longer hours, and then it just flows from there. And it just rolls on a MuleSoft. And if you think about like childcare centers now are open, some are open like 24 hours, which just blows my mind. That was just something I never even thought of. Um, but yeah, like if, and it becomes that self fulfilling prophecy of, well, I need to go to work to make money, to provide for my children. And then I spend that money on them in childcare, and then I have no money to spend on them for vacations or treats or anything like that because I'm spending all my money on childcare.

Speaker 3 (17:27):

Yeah. That's interesting. And so when you then came to America, started working in early childhood centers, saw the stark difference between what you had experienced in the UK and obviously what you're really passionate and have strong convictions on in terms of like incorporating play. Like what did you do? Cause then you obviously made a pivot and Hey, I believe I can help. So walk through a little bit of your career path and like what you did then and what you're doing today in terms of trying to support, you know, this topic.

Speaker 4 (18:01):

Um, I just remember the second point. I might have to splice that together. Oh my God. I forgot it again.

Speaker 3 (18:08):

The first one was I asked the question, why do we think we removed play? First one was like capitalism. And you know how parents, both parents had gone to work and it was a place to just keep kids so they could go to work. Number two. It,

Speaker 4 (18:21):

Yeah, I do. Um, so the second part of it is I think there's been a big misconception about how to process your feelings. Um, so when children are playing, they have, you know, those big, loud moments of energy, but they also sometimes are very quiet and concentrating. Like it's not one or the other, it's a spectrum of how you feeling. And I think in terms of the adults in the room, they sometimes forget that maybe forget it's not the right word. They sometimes have feelings about those children that bring up stuff from their own childhood. So for me, I loved school, like I said earlier, and I wanted to recreate that for children. For some people, they might have had some terrible childhood trauma and they want to make sure children never go through that. There's a whole wide range of reasons why people become educators.

Speaker 4 (19:28):

And I think for some of them, they don't see the damage that they are potentially doing by responding to children's needs in certain ways. So one of the things that I always liked doing in my classroom in England was I would play to like literally on my personal timetable of the day, it would be like Emma's playing time. And it was for a reason it was so that I could remember how that fell. It's I could connect with that with my inner child would little Emma and remember how it feels to really fully get into the flow of something, all how it feels when, you know, somebody takes something that I was about to use because when you're a grown up, you kind of forget all that because you have been brought up in a society where we share and sharing is caring. And I just makes me want to vomit.

Speaker 4 (20:25):

But like the whole point of it is if your bringing your own drama to the situation, it will always have an effect on the children, partially because their brains aren't developed like ours are yet, but simply because we're humans and we are wired to connect with other human beings. So even if you're not talking to a child, they can still hear what you're seeing down the corridor to three other kids, like it's all going in. And then when we internalize it and grow up with those messages, does that danger that then we say them out loud to the children. So partially why I shifted from being an educator to being a coach was because I wanted to show people how to, how to get in touch with that inner child again, and feel the playful things that our children feel now. And then that's where the honor comes from, because it becomes so special to witness children doing that. And they can't, I feel like once you feel that you can't undo it, it's like, oh yeah, I remember now

Speaker 3 (21:36):

How that works. And I w I do want to come back cause I want to talk about, or ask you some questions. Maybe you can provide some tips for our audience about like, how, how can you look at play and look at it in a new way to be able to understand what's actually happening. Like the example you gave earlier about, you know, a child throwing blocks. Like some people might observe that and think, oh, it's misbehaving or breaking the rule, whereas another, maybe more productive way to look at things like that and look at play and to learn from that. But talk about before I have you answer that, like talk about, so you left being a teacher, I'd be curious for your coaching business. How did you start it and what came first? And then how did you start working with centers and then maybe a little bit, and I'm asking you like four questions at once here, but, um, well, I'll remind you of the questions as we go, if you forget is, um, so, and what do you do for centers? Like if, if a center said, Hey, I want to ask him to come in and help us. Can you kind of walk through what that partnership looks like?

Speaker 4 (22:37):

So, um, when I moved to Arkansas, um, I got involved in their local, uh, early childhood affiliate and I would go to their, they had like monthly trainings. Um, and I'd go to those and I'm a long life learner. Like that's one of my top strengths. So I'd always be sat at the front with my hand up going, what do you mean by this? Can you tell me more about that? What does this, how does this look in a classroom and blah, blah, blah. I was that annoying person and being British in Arkansas is like sticking out like a sore thumb. So literally like after every single meeting, at least three people would come up to me and be like, oh my gosh, are you from London? You know, from the north I'm from where John Snow comes from and gave her phones. Um, but yeah, so I'd start talking to them about like English things, but then I know is that they start then either repeating the question that I'd asked. So they'd say, oh, when you asked this, what did you mean are they'd say something like, oh, I never would have thought to have asked that that was a really good question. And to me, like without sounding really smoke, I was just like, well, I just, I don't know. I just asked it, like, to me, it was just, that's what I do. It's like a natural

Speaker 3 (23:55):


Speaker 4 (23:56):

Yes, exactly. Yes. And it just kind of grew from there. So it went to, I ended up being on the board for that local affiliate. And then I worked with the statewide affiliate and got to be on their board too, which I'm still part of both. Um,

Speaker 3 (24:16):

For, for American listeners, the bod is like a board. We would say, I, I I'm, I'm, I'm having fun with the accent English accent. So you're on the bod, but as the board. Okay. I'm tracking.

Speaker 4 (24:30):

Yeah. So I got on the board with, with those two, um, associations and started to then deliver my own trainings. So I was taking the questions that people were asking and just making a training and then delivering it. And I started joining like preschool teacher, Facebook groups, and just commenting when people were asking questions and it just got to the point where people are like, oh, I really liked the way you set that off. Can you tell me more about this topic? So I started writing a blog and then started doing things like, um, in-person trainings, like you said, like going to centers and presenting at conferences. Um, and then pandemic hit. And I did loads of stuff on zoom. Um, but yeah, it just, it just kind of unfolded. And then as more questions kept coming, I just had this shift where I realized that it's almost not about the content. It's about the mindset of the person asking the question. So that's when I started getting into coaching, because I was like, if somebody has a question about let's use the block example, like my toddler is throwing blocks all the time. What do I do? You can Google that and get free.

Speaker 4 (25:52):

You can go in a Facebook group and ask for free, you know, get hundreds of people, replying book. If you don't make the mindset shift, that that isn't a problem. No answer is going to help you. You're just going to try one and then go, oh, it didn't work. And then the next day you might try another and go, oh, it didn't work until you have the mindset shift. That's the thing that I like teaching about. It's like going into centers, they think they have a problem. And then I go, Nope, that's not the problem. This is the problem. It's different.

Speaker 3 (26:28):

Yeah. So I'm curious, can you walk through like an example without giving names, but I'm curious about like, in terms of your efforts to try to help providers who maybe, like you said, they feel like there's a problem they're trying to solve and you come in and realize it's not the problem. They think it is like, you identify that and it becomes more of a focus of like, we have to shift the mindset. What does that exercise look like? Generally speaking for you, when you go in, how do you do that? How do you shift a director and a group of teachers mindsets to see children's what we might say, behaviors differently to encourage play and, and the outcomes that come with that?

Speaker 4 (27:07):

Well, unlike what my teaching assistant said, I am not magic, but it's essentially a set of particular coaching questions that really help you think differently because our thoughts in our head. So like, let's just carry on with the block example. So the lock example, um, was actually from a real classroom that I helped. And if the staff were thinking, this is a problem, then I would say, well, why is it problem? Because I would say 99% of people will be like, yeah, it's a problem. Like they can't throw them. They might hurt someone. They might get broken. There's a whole bunch of reasons.

Speaker 3 (27:54):

We have rules in place and they're not supposed to do it. So they break that rule.

Speaker 4 (27:58):

Yes. But when you get, when you drill down to the Y it's usually something on a deeper level, and that could be something fairly light. Like I have a responsibility for the children not to get hurt because I care about them because not just, it's my job as a human being, like, I care about them. Like, that's a pretty logical way, but when you go deeper, it could be because when you were four, somebody threw a block at you and it hit your head and you just don't remember that until you get coached and it brings it up and you figure out, oh, it's because I feel violated. Okay.

Speaker 3 (28:45):

Like how much out of curiosity, when you're working with teachers, how often is that type of stuff? Those types of deep things come up, like, cause my reaction to that would be generally, it would be the first example you gave, which is more like, Hey, I'm responsible for these kids. And I just don't want anybody to get hurt. That's my responsibility. But how'd you,

Speaker 4 (29:04):

It's a perfectly, yeah, it's totally,

Speaker 3 (29:07):

I guess, in your coaching, like how often it actually becomes a deeper issue that you're having to unpack for teachers or people in the classroom.

Speaker 4 (29:15):

Yeah. So when there's a slight difference. So when I'm teaching, when I'm just doing like a straight teachable moment, or if I'm doing like, like a webinar or something, I'd probably say we don't get there. It's very much like I tell them that it's a thought and that it's an optional thought to have because you always are in of how we, what, how and what you think the coaching is, where we get deeper. And I'd say probably like nine out of 10, I'll get them there. And it takes a lot of trust, especially like, I know your listeners, can't see, but I have purple hair and I'm British. And I'm a bit kooky as

Speaker 3 (30:01):

Well. I tried the trifecta purple hair a little bit for you. That's the trifecta.

Speaker 4 (30:08):

It's like, you know, who, who am I? Who am I to hear your deepest, darkest secrets? But the thing about coaching is it's not therapy. Although I mentioned like, going back to when you were far, I'm not here to heal your trauma. Like that is a therapist's job. But as a coach, I help you look to the future and I help you take a thought that you might have validated within yourself. You might've heard, it could be a parent, a teacher, a mentor. You might've heard them say something when you were 13. And that got embedded inside you as a rule, as like a general life belief. And I help you see that it is just a thought and thoughts can be changed and it's not easy. It takes practice. But that's why I have coaching tools to help you do that. Um, but yeah, definitely one of my favorite things when I go to centers is I observe what actually happens during the day. Um, because that shows me so much, like before I even teach them anything, just watching how people react to children's and I know we keep talking about behavior, but even just how long, how many minutes they're allowed to play. And if that play is true play, or if it's guided play, or if it's adult led activities that rotate while the other children play, like, it's really interesting to me.

Speaker 3 (31:44):

Yeah. That's so interesting. I mean, and when I hear you say like, you know, I used to help you like coach soccer for many years and young kids. And I, you know, would always say and observing like, like parents in youth sports, like so often I would be like, the parents are the ones that ruin this. The kids are fine. Like literally if we didn't have referees and parents, the kids would honestly make the fair call was like, oh no, that was off me. Or I filed you. And it was, they could officiate a game on their own. And then we throw in officials and parents and it's like, the adults oftentimes ended up ruining the experience. And when I hear you talk, I, it, I hear some of that same thread, which is like the parents or the adults and all the structure and all the rules we've put in place, at least from your expertise and experience. Like, oftentimes that's the impediment, that's the problem. Like if you just let kids go and be kids they're going to develop properly, but sometimes we put things in their way and actually restrict that. It sounds like, is that how you then kind of started to transition some of your business too, to like, not just coaching in the classrooms around kids and play, but it also translates to adults.

Speaker 4 (32:49):

Oh yeah, definitely. And I think just as a note, so the term structure play has a lot of structure. I think sometimes we, we misspeak when we say, oh, play is free from structure. When you actually watch children play, they plan things out. They negotiate, they have rules, but the difference is all of that emanates from them, not from a grownup.

Speaker 3 (33:15):

Interesting. Yeah. I like that. And those are the things that you're trying to teach, you know, adults and teachers, I guess, in our line of work and our industry to actually be able to see like, right, like when you're talking about, and this is what I asked you earlier, like some tips of like, and maybe, I don't know if anything comes to mind, Emma, but are there some things that you can leave with our audience and our listeners about, Hey, if this is an area, maybe you feel like you can grow in, or that you're struggling with, like of observing your classroom in a new way. Are there some really practical things people can do or like little like exercises they can do that you found to work to be able to observe their class differently and allow some of that free play to happen?

Speaker 4 (33:57):

Yeah. So I have a whole, um, training about the adult's role in children's play. Cause quite often people will say to me, okay, yeah, the kids can play, but what am I supposed to do? Like they think that I'm telling them that they should never talk to them and never do anything with them. Um, but that's just not true. So for me, I mean, I can tell you five of the basic things, if that's helpful.

Speaker 4 (34:25):

Um, so the first one is, and I get, they're not really in any order book, just so I, this is how I remember, um, is just setting the stage. So instead of being center of the stage, you all the guide on the side, I'm sure you've heard that phrase and fall. Um, so you want to create a physical environment. That is a yes environment. So if you have toys that are always in the cupboard at the closet translate for you, um, if you have ties that are always in the closet and the children have to ask to use them, there's a reason why they keep asking because they want to play with them while they're getting something out of them that you might not be seeing because it's not out in the environment all the time. Um, things like accessibility. So having, um, paper ready for the art center, which sounds so obvious, but I've been in at least two places that limited how many pieces of paper child could use in the art center. And I was just, I was just flabbergasted because to me it just, I understand people have budgets again. I do get that, but if you're already restricting their creativity, how are they supposed to learn? How much is enough? It's the same with glue? Like there's this phrase in America where people say one, what is it? One doc, not a lot,

Speaker 3 (35:57):

One dot, not a lot. Oh. And that's talking about like, kids like only use a little bit of glue. Yeah.

Speaker 4 (36:02):

Yeah. And they literally are allowed to use like a dot and like I've seen, um, on like, um, websites that sell teacher resources. There'll be like worksheets where children can practice doing one dot of glue. And I just, I don't understand that at all. I'm like use as much glue as you like, because then, you know, oh, that's too much.

Speaker 3 (36:24):

Got it. That's how you learn. And so you're saying flip it on its head, like restricted, but make your classroom open in a way that those things are accessible. Kids explore.

Speaker 4 (36:34):

Yeah. And then the second one is only help when necessary. So quite often, um, I'll see teachers dive into situations because they see that someone is about to get upset or they see that, um, you know, that one kid that always takes everything is about to go and take something off somebody else. But like you were saying earlier, children know how to problem solve. If they're given the chance to do it and you can model and pre-teach those skills like saying, um, uh, I'm not finished using that yet. And you can have it when I'm done like that. Like how many words? Like eight or something. It's, it's such a simple phrase, but with not taught like that, like when I did my teacher training, I wasn't taught simple phrases like that. Like, it's my turn. You can wait five minutes and then I'll let you know what I'm doing.

Speaker 4 (37:27):

Like they can, they can, you can teach them that and they will pick it up so fast. But it's about, it's that dance again, of like you knowing when to, when to interrupt and when to hold back. And a lot of it comes from what you're thinking of. Going back to your mindset again, if y'all thinking, oh, this is going to explode and it's going to be a huge fight. Your nervous system is going to react and you're going to have feelings inside of you that make you want to take action. Whereas if you can calm yourself a little bit, take a deep breath, you can make a more informed response because those kids are only going to have that one opportunity. You get to have the opportunity every single time. You know?

Speaker 3 (38:15):

So you're saying like the kids are going to learn and figure that out. So don't rush to interfere because it's natural for kids in those early stages to learn and develop by working through those things on their own. And I, yeah. So don't jump into,

Speaker 4 (38:31):

Yeah. And you don't want to teach them that they can't solve things because then they can relate, become reliant on adult intervention. And that's when you get those kids who constantly come up to you and say, miss, miss Emma, so-and-so still stillness. And it's like, well, it's almost like you've taught them to do that. So I don't know if, I don't know. I'm sure you are. Like I saw once in a kindergarten classroom, they had a tattle tail, like frog toy that they kept in the classroom. And if somebody had a problem and they went to the teacher and asked for help, the teacher would then send them to the frog. It was like a stuffed toy and got them to tell the frog what the problem was. And everybody was like, this is the best idea ever. Now, children won't come to me and ask for help. And it's like, why, why would you want a society where we don't ask each other for help?

Speaker 3 (39:25):

Yeah. Interesting. So, so you're saying like, let him work it out. Don't jump into soon and create the right balance between allowing them to sort through it and see California.

Speaker 4 (39:36):

Yeah. And that's the whole like, so one of the other things I talk about in this training in particular is empowerment. So being able to, you need to let things go because it's not about you, sorry to say. And just creating that, that yes. Environment by you thinking, well, how could I do this? So that my answer is yes, because you know, if some, if a child comes and says to you, you know, can I use the stick to hit this other kid? I'm not going to tell you to say yes, but maybe figure out what the need is, figure out, how can I help that child so that I can give them a yes. Answer. And it's all about trust and risk and you know, but you can't do any of that if your mindset isn't right.

Speaker 3 (40:23):

Yeah. It goes back to that mindset piece. Okay. I like that. That's two

Speaker 4 (40:28):

That's three. Okay. So then set the stage, help take notes, take notes, stand aside for a little bit on what what's happening in the room and just take observed notes of what is actually happening. Not what you think is happening,

Speaker 3 (40:50):

But, and when you say so when you're coaching your clients, when you say take notes, you're literally talking about physically writing down notes. Is that exercise that you found out?

Speaker 4 (40:58):

Yes. And obviously like, uh, do you talk about documentation? Like taking photos and videos, books actually sitting down and having a piece of paper and a pen, not only like connects that mind, body connection, but it's something that I see a lot teachers, they don't do. They see something happening and they instantly have a thought about it. And then they react to it because your thoughts fuel your feelings that drive your actions. Whereas if you just write down what happened as in the fact, like the actual circumstances, uh, Johnny threw a block at Sally, that would be a fact, but most people would go, oh no, Johnny threw a block at Sally and hurt her. And he's really annoying. I can't believe he did that. Uh, and it just it's full of thoughts. It's just full of judgment. It's it doesn't have any curiosity. Like we were saying earlier, when you write just the facts down, then you can separate that from how you think about it. And then that helps you build that curiosity muscle.

Speaker 3 (42:04):

Do you, do you, when you coach people just to double click on that item a little bit, when the, after people take notes and like maybe, Hey, every day, this week, just write down factual observations of what you see in their class. Is there, is there things that you would encourage your, your clients to do with those notes in terms of going back and looking at them and looking for patterns and how to analyze them? Anything you can add to that, like a practice of how to look at those notes and what to be looking for.

Speaker 4 (42:31):

Yeah. So there's loads of things that you can actually do with them. Um, simple things like how, how was that child feeling when they first walked in the door? You know, did the parents say, oh, we've had to have morning? Or would they be really, really excited to come in? Because sometimes what happens at home has a massive influence on what happens during the day. But you might not know what that thing is. And I know some, some staff that I used to work with, they would get really frustrated because they'd be like, I need to know what happened, because if I know what happened, then I can treat that child in a certain way. Whereas as we know, from like trauma informed learning, you should just treat everybody that way. Like everybody should be given a second chance. Everybody should be treated as if they matter.

Speaker 4 (43:24):

And that you care about them, no matter what behavior they exhibit, because y'all that you have to be that, that person in the room who they can trust. And like I said earlier, you literally keeping them alive all day, which is massive. When you think about it, like that's huge, I think plays such a perfect way to build that trust with somebody. So when you're writing a note about salons, um, actions or behaviors are, you know, it could be something, something they really engaged with, or, you know, it doesn't have to just be the bad behavior, hate that word. But I just, for the sake of this, it can just be, you know, writing an observation about a really nice playful moment that you saw between three girls out on the playground, but it's all, it's like, what are you making that mean? That's one of my favorite questions.

Speaker 4 (44:21):

So what are you making it mean? So if these three girls are getting along really well and the playing with this thing outside, say the mud kitchen, what are you making that mean? Are you making it mean that, that just smart, clever girls, which is a great patriarchy line? Or are you making it mean that, oh, we need to spend more time outside. We need to get more Sims for the mud kitchen. Um, we need to maybe listen into their conversation and record what they're actually saying. Like maybe they're interested in something, nothing to do with mud, you know, maybe they're role playing, baking cookies with grandma, but we need to get some grandmas. And it's like, does that surface level of what you see? And then it's what you think about it.

Speaker 3 (45:10):

I like it. And then what about maybe as a, I know we're running short on time, but maybe as a, as a, maybe a final question, maybe not if I want to ask another one or, or expand on it, but, but what about for teachers who say like, how do I know if it's working? So like, let's say that you go in and coach and, you know, teachers like you're able, you know, to get them to that spot where they recognize like, oh, this is super important. And my mindset has changed and I want to observe my classroom in different ways. Um, you know, I mean, obviously, maybe it's a self-explanatory question because I know if it's working, if I start to see behavior, what you don't like to call behaviors, but I start to see that change in development, but are there other things like that you can share, like, Hey, if you, if you try these things, how do you know if they're working? How do you know to keep leaning into them versus, Hey, it's not working in India. Try something.

Speaker 4 (46:00):

Yeah. That's a really good question. Um, I think again, it's twofold. So one way of it working is that obviously the children get along with each other, they are free to play and explore their own interests. The behaviors do minimize because they are getting on Beth. Um, and I just think the other way, the second, like the two-fold part is how you feel. So I talk a lot about self-care and wellbeing. And nine times out 10, the teachers who I talk to who are stressed out, have less play in their classrooms. Like it's a, it's a direct correlation. Um, the ones who are the happiest have children who play for longer periods of time, but they also take that time to themselves to play. Um, um, it sounds really like flippant, but play is just so powerful and not just for children. So I, I, my education and coaching is with positive psychology and the pillars that positive psychology covers.

Speaker 4 (47:19):

So I talked earlier about looking to the future. So traditional psychology looks to your past, looks to your childhood, looks to your trauma, positive psychology looks at what can actually make happens in the future. And the five pillars of positive emotions, engagement, relationships, meaning, and accomplishment. And then they sometimes add on health as well. Cause that's a big, huge thing. And the more I studied it, the more, it just lines up with the characteristics of clay like scarily. So, so when, when children are playing and yeah, the same things happen, they explore how they feel, all, all the feelings, not just the nice, happy ones, not just the, I call them comfortable and uncomfortable feelings rather than positive or negative, but they, they build relationships. They make meaning out of what they do. You know, when they're in the home corner, cooking dinner, that's because they've seen that in their house, they're making meaning out of their life. Um, they talk about accomplishments when they build an amazing tower in the block center, they celebrate and their friends clap and cheer, and they have, I know at least with some of the adults I've worked, if they have adults celebrating two, going, wow, look what you built. That's incredible. I like how you did this, or look at this piece and how that fits together this way they were talking about running around. They move all the time. How many adults, how long have we been sat here talking? And we haven't

Speaker 3 (48:51):

And little kids are not designed to go sit in a chair and not move in. This is, that brings up. I know I said it was last question, but I also gave myself an hour. So I have maybe two more quick ones. I probably should have asked this at the very beginning, but in terms of play, cause that's a big word, right? Like we talk about play, but is there a definition that you use, like you talked earlier about, you know, sometimes classrooms feel like, or teachers feel like they're letting kids play when really they're not because there's all the structure, like, is there a go-to definition of like how you define play? Cause we use that word a lot or is that an unfair question? Is that tough to answer that?

Speaker 4 (49:29):

No, that's totally fair. Um, so my like specific definition is anything that a child wants to do on their own agenda. Um, because usually the thing that stops play is an adult. Like we were saying earlier about the parents and like, I can't even tell you the amount of times when I used to be a nanny and I used to go to public parks and I'd have to like change my own mindset because I'd constantly hear parents and other nannies stopping play. Oh my gosh, it's so hard not to just be like, can I just teach you everything I know about child development and place

Speaker 3 (50:15):

I'm going against that. So I liked that anything that child, anything a child wants to do out of their own curiosity and instincts, they're naturally going to play that's what do, they're not going to sit down and naturally like, um, work on worksheet. They're going to go play.

Speaker 4 (50:33):

I mean, does a psychologist called Peter agree who has a great definition of play? Um, it has five separate characteristics and they're the things that line up with positive psychology. Really good. Um, so basically play is imaginative. Um, players are active and alert, but not stressed play is self-chosen. And most importantly, I think anyway, play as a free to quit at any time. So that that might shift some bones, people listening and Jerry and play the means of valued more than the ends. So that's kind of like your whole loose pots. Um, just playing with things rather than building it for a certain reason. And that play, like I said earlier, has structure and has rules, but they come from the players. So when you hear all those things, if you think as an adult, as an adult, you want to disengage with real life, you want to watch Netflix and eat popcorn and go on holiday. You know, you want to have that break from real life. If you think about when you're most active and not stressed, it's when you're engaged with something, it's when you're in that deep state of flow relationships, we have to connect with each other like you and I have this connection now that will be forever in our history, but we're free to quit any time. Like I could just look off now

Speaker 4 (52:04):

And then like the whole accomplishment, you know, we have goals, we have things we want to achieve in life. And then we'll see the one meaning in terms of meaning, how often do we say, like, what's the meaning of life? Why am I here? What purpose do I have? It just, it just lines up so perfectly we play. It just makes me so happy.

Speaker 3 (52:24):

Yeah. Yeah. It's obviously you, um, I mean, it's, it's always fun to talk with people that have a passion for what they do. Like an a, an, a conviction, like this is gonna, you know, change the world sounds maybe overly dramatic, but it's true youngest ages. So if people want to do, I want to be respectful of your time? Cause we were joking before we started recording Emma, how like everybody was running from their last meeting and is probably running to their next. So I know you're busy and we appreciate you carving time. If anybody in our audience wants to find you and learn more about this topic or explore the types of things that you offer and some of your expertise, can you share with our audience how they can find you and learn a little bit more about the things that you do.

Speaker 4 (53:08):

Yep. So I'm on Facebook and Instagram as the play coach and my website is make your own Um, and yeah, that's yeah. That's where I am.

Speaker 3 (53:22):

You are. So it's the play coach on Instagram or Facebook, Emma Tempest. You can also find her Is that correct? And then if you show up, you introduce yourself to Emma and you say a up something similar, then she's going to know that you were, you heard her on the podcast and maybe there'll be some kind of special deal. Shall we? It actually is super fun. Content am. I mean, I'm a, I'm a huge believer in the importance of that myself like of play and just letting kids develop. So it resonates with me. I think it'll resonate with our audience and hopefully help some people out. But, um, I hope some people will reach out to you as well. And then maybe the other question I was gonna ask you, and we don't have time because it's probably its own episode on its own, but like the impact of technology on this topic and how that's changed the way kids play both maybe for the