Children's Play

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    • 00:19

      Little Beans is an imaginative play space for kids and familycafe in Chicago.We are appropriate for kids zero to six years old,and we've been open since 2010.The goal of Little Beans is to develop a really fun and safeenvironment for parents to come with their kidsand experience a nice outing together with food, and fun,

    • 00:39

      and play.The concept behind Little Beans is for kidsto have a place to go with their families or caregiversto experience imaginative play.Imaginative play is the core of what we do here.At Little Beans, we really give children the opportunityto learn in this environment before they graduateto a preschool or kindergarten environment.

    • 00:59

      Here we teach them the importanceof learning to play with their peers,learning to think creatively, learningto be an imaginative person that has new ideasand learns interesting processes and solutions for doing things.It's so important, because it reallydoes teach them who they're goingto be for the rest of their lives.It's really the fundamental way that kidslearn how to develop their own personality.

    • 01:21

      We've had kids coming here since they were little.And now they're four or five, and we've actuallywatched their personality develop.Our goal here is to create a really fun environment for kidswhere they can create imaginative scenariosin their brains and then bring them to life in play.And so we have here a really fun village,we call it the "kid's village," that

    • 01:41

      can mimic their parents everyday life but in a more fun way.So we have a fire house, which is really funbecause the kids will imagine with the costumes.They'll become a fireman, put on the whole gear.They'll put out the fire.There's a burning building with a slide that's really fun.And then we have a little grocery storearea where the truck delivers the groceries

    • 02:04

      and the kids can slide down.Then they can come in here and stock their grocery store.The shelves are often unstocked because the kids oftenshop and put it in their house.Then we have a playhouse here.The kids will have a little tea party,or make breakfast, or lunch, or dinner.

    • 02:25

      They often will take care of rocking their babies downin here.It's just a lot of fun.This is probably their favorite house,because it has the most interactive, imaginative play.We have an area where the kids can then play with their dolls,do their laundry.There's a backyard back there.Then we have costumes and other fun thingsthat kids can dress up in for imaginative play.

    • 02:48

      A lounge for the parents to sit and relax and enjoy some time.On Sundays we put football on so the dads watch football.Lots of cars for the kids to ride around onand run their errands.A service station, so the kids will come fuel up the cars.

    • 03:08

      A little gas pump.They can work on the car inside the service stationand repair it-- lots of tools in there.We have a little school area for the kids to teachand learn, do numbers and such.Then we have different areas thatare for kids to read books or playwith cars and trucks, some padded area for the crawlers.

    • 03:31

      And a little choo choo train areawith a train and the track.There's a wall, little areas for magnets and play.There's a little area for crawlers.It's where we keep all of our smaller toysfor the little ones.

    • 03:54

      So here they might learn how to play differentlythan they would at home.At home they're playing by themselves,and here there might be a child thathelps them guide that play.That really helps them learn and thinkin a different way, which is really important for learningto negotiate the classroom later.

    • 04:19

      There are different areas of the playspacethat have different areas of focus.So we have areas for blocks, areasfor puzzles, areas for the more imaginative playand the large motor skill.But we also have different areas thatare set up for different skill sets and different ages.We have a section where the kids canlearn how to do something as simple as turningon and off a light.And that might be for the early crawler who's really

    • 04:40

      just learning how to use their handsor see the reaction to something.So we've tried to create some really interesting thingsthroughout the space that allow kidsto think about what they're doingand how that impacts them.So we might have a building area, or a train area thathas different, unique patterns thatchange so the child can really learn how to use their hands

    • 05:01

      and how to think about the impact of takingthat train to one place to anotherand use different, creative ways to do so.We also have just different areasthat are for large motor skill play.So we have basketball nets and ballsand a classroom where the kids can go wild.

    • 05:22

      And that's where we'll do things likea little mini half-dodgeball game or something.Or we have lots of cars and truckswhere the kids can learn how to use their skills to usetheir hands and their legs.Much of the space was designed with the idea of different ages

    • 05:43

      learning to play together, but also learningto develop their own skills at their own level.Unstructured play is incredibly importantbecause every kid plays and learns at their own pace,especially at a young age.Some kids are really content sitting and playingindependently or reading a book.Other kids are ready to put that costume on and run

    • 06:05

      through the playspace with an imaginative scenariothe second they walk in.So having that flexibility to warm up or do different thingsbefore they engage in what they're ultimatelygoing to do through play here is really important.Because some kids, they might need a little warm up timewhile others just get in and play hard.And so that unstructured nature of beingable to warm up and play at your own speed and your own pace

    • 06:27

      is really important.But learning to share is probablyone of the hardest things a kid can do.We always say here "sharing is caring,"and we encourage our friends here to make surethat they think about other ways that they could share a toy.We make sure we have multiple toys herethat are exactly the same.So if one child's having a hard time separating from an item,

    • 06:49

      we can guide them to another similar itemor help them find a new item thatmight make them just as excited.We do have staff in there along with the parents thathelp intervene and teach kids about how to make friends,and how to learn to share in an appropriate way.A lot of times a kid will grab a toy,and that isn't an appropriate way to share.So it's a lot of guiding kids to the appropriate way to share,

    • 07:12

      taking turns.It's interesting here, because wehave to be sensitive to the fact that the parents are hereand they might want to handle certain situationsin their own way through their own parenting,and so we allow that to take place first.And so we always defer to the parent to parent the waythey feel necessary and then we might assist with that.If we see a parent having a difficult time with their child

    • 07:33

      or another, we might just assist with thatand make some suggestions or guidethe child in our own unique way.We're playing with the parents and the kids.And so it can be fun, because we want the parents alsoto have the opportunity to sit back and have a cup of coffeewith their friend and have that social interactionthey very much need as an adult, too.So we try to allow that opportunity for the child

    • 07:54

      to separate from their parent knowing they're close,that they're there if they need them.But we do try to help that parent guide the situationif they need it and they ask for it.We try to create a space where the parents wouldbe just as happy as the kids.That's really important to us.There's a lot of places for kids to play.There's not a lot of places for parents and kidsto play happily together, united in their happiness.

Children's Play

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At the Little Beans Café, owner Shannon Valko helps children develop imaginative play skills, motor skills and sharing skills through the use of unstructured playgrounds. Valko created spaces where children can play at their own pace. Children—from infancy to age six—learn social skills by interacting with other children before attending school; the parent or caregiver is able to relax over a cup of coffee and/or talk with other adults.

SAGE Video In Practice
Children's Play

At the Little Beans Café, owner Shannon Valko helps children develop imaginative play skills, motor skills and sharing skills through the use of unstructured playgrounds. Valko created spaces where children can play at their own pace. Children—from infancy to age six—learn social skills by interacting with other children before attending school; the parent or caregiver is able to relax over a cup of coffee and/or talk with other adults.

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