Share Share

Newsletter  Email

EI Clearinghouse Blog

Welcome to the EIC Clearinghouse Blog! Recommended resource reviews on a variety of topics including early intervention, teaching preschool, transitioning into elementary school, parenting with special needs and more.


October 30, 2012

bookBabies in the Rain: Promoting Play, Exploration, and Discovery with Infants and Toddlers

Johnson, Jeff A. Babies in the Rain: Promoting Play, Exploration, and Discovery with Infants and Toddlers. St. Paul, Minn.: Redleaf Press, 2010. Age Focus: 0-2. Softbound, 176 pgs. ISBN: 9781933653846 1933653841, $15.95

Drawing on both his experience as a parent and two decades in child care, Johnson reminds caregivers that infants and toddlers need rich experiences—not fancy toys—for them to learn and grow. His tone is not condescending, but he is quick to point out that caregivers often know what is best for their children and not the media or toy industry. Johnson also gives caregivers and parents the freedom to relax because young children have “bendy brains [that] are so resilient and primed for success that we can make a mistake every now and then.” Johnson’s explanations of infant and toddler development are easy to understand yet would also be helpful to someone who is already familiar with child development. His real-life stories emphasize his main point that we should actually be “teaching” infants and toddlers through their natural experiences: “[They] are born scientists, born explorers, born to learn what they need to know to succeed in the environment in which they find themselves.”

Johnson’s point is clear and well made: “We can choose to let infants and toddlers be infants and toddlers, not pushing their development but allowing it to unfold naturally and at their individual pace.”

Reviewed by Emily Riske
Special Education master’s student


October 12, 2012

bookCome and Play: Sensory-Integration Strategies for Children with Play Challenges

Cross, A. (2010). Come and Play: Sensory-Integration Strategies for Children with Play Challenges. St. Paul, MN: Redleaf Press. ISBN: 978-1-60554-022-1, $29.95

Following the success of her first book, Ants in Their Pants: Teaching Children Who Must Move to Learn, Aerial Cross eases early care and education professionals into the topic of sensory-integration in her engaging book Come and Play: Sensory-Integration Strategies for Children with Play Challenges. Cross offers numerous child-directed, sensory-integrated play activities for children who may be struggling within play contexts. Specifically addressed in the book are five play challenges often experienced by young children: (1) roaming around classroom, (2) dabbling without fully engaging in activities, (3) appearing anxious or overwhelmed, (4) appearing detached and uninterested in activities or peers, and (5) being rejected by peers during play. What you’ll love about this book is the variety of resources shared by the author. From a plethora of Web sites to identify and locate needed materials to numerous book suggestions on related topics, this book provides educators with a clear direction on how to begin incorporating creative, sensory-integrated play strategies across the early learning curriculum without hesitation. The suggested interventions and sensory activity ideas are equally relevant for parents and home-based care providers. Furthermore, Cross has successfully modeled the collaborative nature of early learning by including sensory-integration play tips and reflections from "Ms. Lilly," a seasoned occupational therapist, throughout the book. Overall, Come and Play: Sensory-Integration Strategies for Children with Play Challenges will be a fast favorite and go-to reference for enriching all young children’s play with sensory-integration strategies.

Lori Erbrederis Meyer, Ed.M.
Graduate Research Assistant
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Department of Special Education

July 18, 2012

Play is Important

By Nancy McEntire, Research Information Specialist in Early Childhood Education

Play has been defined in various ways. For children, it creates a world they can control and try out situations. Play means having fun, yet play has been called the work of children. As the National Association for the Education of Young Children asserts, “Play is an important vehicle for children's social, emotional, and cognitive development, as well as a reflection of their development.” Here are a couple of Web resources related to play.

  • Games for All Young Children 
    This Tip Sheet from the Illinois Early Learning Project points out that play and laughter can help develop friendship while encouraging physical fitness. Consider each child's abilities, and encourage all children to play by adapting games for children with special needs.
  • Preschool Lesson Plans for Physical Education
    Check out the lesson plans at PE Central. Many of these lessons include adaptation for special needs.

June 28, 2012

Book Review: Let Them Play: An Early Learning (Un)Curriculum

By Sarah Isaacs, EIC Librarian

LetThemPlayJohnson, Jeff A., and Denita Dinger. Let Them Play: An Early Learning (Un)Curriculum. St. Paul, Minn.: Redleaf Press, 2012. Age focus: 2–6. Softbound. ISBN: 978-1-60554-053-5, $34.95

Let Them Play is an easy and fun read geared to preschool teachers with engaging vignettes and photos that illustrate play concepts particularly well. In addition, this book would certainly appeal to many parents, special educators, and therapists. In Let Them Play, Johnson and Dinger support the (un)schooling philosophy of John Holt and speak freely about developing self-discipline and avoiding rewards and punishments à la Alfie Kohn. The book is a great resource for early childhood educators considering adding more unstructured free play as well as nature experiences back into the classroom day. One such notable example in Chapter 7 is “Planning a Plop” where caregivers introduce a novel item into the children’s environment, see what happens, and respond with more activities. Some of the authors’ messages—“Seek out simplicity,” “Less screentime,” “Back off a bit”—are timeless. Other—“Throw away your lesson plans,” “Encourage activist caregivers”—are more controversial but worth considering. Don’t expect a prepackaged curriculum of activities in this book; Johnson and Dinger seem to enjoy focusing on the adult’s mindset and ideas. Within the book are fun little “write-in-the-blank” exercises for caregivers to reflect on their own practice. Overall Let Them Play is a wonderful book that emphasizes the role of discovery, creativity, and freedom in the classroom in order for young children to develop self-control as well as language and social skills.

Reviewed by Natalie Danner, M.A., M.S.E.
Doctoral student in early childhood special education
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign