Despite the snowstorm outside, it’s already mid-March! Though it may not look like it today, that means warmer weather ahead, blooming buds, and more time spent outdoors! It also means we’ve spent the last nine weeks getting to know each other, playing and learning.
The past nine weeks have been an absolute joy for us. We’ve gotten the chance to get to know all of you better and have become an even stronger and bigger LEAP community. We want to thank each of you for joining us to learn, explore, and play together. Hasn’t it been so much fun?
As out winter series of LEAP comes to a close, we thought we’d reflect on some of our favorite memories from the past few months as we explored different animal habitats. From watching the baby gorillas play side-by-side with little LEAPers to digging in the sensory bin next to a fennec fox, we’ve enjoyed so many adventures together! Here are a few of our favorite moments:
It’s been so gratifying and inspiring to see everyone—toddlers, parents, animals, and us too—grow and change over the past two months. We’ve seen increases in confidence, language, attention span, creativity, and independence across the board.
The free play format of LEAP can sometimes make it difficult to assess growth and learning, but you as parents and caregivers are well-equipped to evaluate change in your child. We ask that you take a few moments to consider the following, thinking back to January before LEAP began, to now:
Independence and self-directed play
Does your child direct her own play? Is she confident in choosing which station to explore and for how long? Does he need encouragement or help getting started?
Confidence and comfort in trying new things
Is your child interested and excited to discover a new material in the sensory bin or a new process art project? Does your child want to explore things he or she didn’t before? Are you seeking our sensory experiences outside of LEAP?
Have you found your child stays at a station longer than before? Does he spend more time doing something when he chooses the activity?
Have you noticed new vocabulary words in conversations with other children, with you, or with teachers or other adults? Are you hearing them use words to describe their actions? Is your child using adjectives to describe how things sound, look, smell, or feel like more often?
Creativity and imagination
Is your child using the materials in innovative, creative, and out of the box ways? Does she pretend she’s an armadillo and curl up in a ball? Does he enjoy acting like a bear and walking around on all fours? Don’t underestimate the value of imaginary play and remember that “make believe” has been shown to strengthen a wide variety of mental abilities.
We’d love to hear how you answered the questions above so we can better understand the impact LEAP has on your child’s learning and development. It can take a while before these changes become evident, so keep an eye out for change in your child over time. As always, feel free to share your ideas with us and what you’re doing at home to incorporate nature play into your regular routine. Remember to keep in touch!
The Lincoln Park Zoo LEAP Team