All Posts By

Amanda Camillo

How Early Childhood Education STEM Challenges Can Also Be Staff Team Building Exercises

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At Parkland Players, we love a good STEM Challenge! It is a great way for children to build problem solving skills, integrate the learning areas of science; technology; engineering; and math, and to practice communicating with others.

So last night at our staff meeting, we decided to have some STEM fun of our own! We used this activity:


  • Get into teams of approximately 5 people
  • Materials Needed:
    • Rubber bands
    • String
    • Cups
    • Scissors
  • Procedures/Strategies:
    • First, build the contraptions for moving the cups. Tie lengths of string (5 or 6) around a rubber band like the image above.
    • Next, work in groups and try to lift cups using this contraption, with each person holding one of the string extensions, and build a pyramid.
    • You are NOT allowed to touch the cups with your hands, only with the tool for picking the cups up.
    • The pyramid should have 3 cups on the bottom, then 2, then 1 on the top, like the diagram above.
    • First team to build their pyramid wins
  • Source:

Although the activity was meant for kids, our staff had a blast! The activity really showed where our staff succeeded in communicating with each other, and where there could be some room for improvement. The only thing we could have done differently, was maybe make a bigger pyramid, as our activity was finished pretty quickly.

So at your next staff event, consider giving STEM a try!


13 Benefits of Early Childhood Education: According to Educators

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There are a lot of theories and research out there regarding the impact of early childhood education on healthy long term development in children.

Today we are sharing an article written by a teacher with over 35 years of experience. Based on her personal observations she claims that there are 13 key benefits to early childhood education, including:

  • Socialization
  • Concept of Cooperation
  • Encouraging Holistic Development
  • Enthusiasm for Lifelong Learning
  • Education Through Experience
  • Respect
  • Teamwork
  • Resilience
  • Concentration
  • Patience
  • Confidence and Self-Esteem
  • Exposure to Diversity

We liked this article because the author emphasized some of the more qualitive benefits of early childhood education, certain things that can’t always be quantified in formal studies but are just as important.

For the full article visit:


Music and Cognitive Development

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Do you play music at home? What about when you are working, cooking, cleaning? Music is great for cognitive development, especially in the early years.

Check out this article for some of the awesome benefits of music on both a behavioural and brain level: 00cc It also has some great tips of what kind of music to play for different age groups and how music can be incorporated into games in order to maximize positive effects on development.

How do you incorporate music into your child’s daily development?


Signs of a Quality Summer Program

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It is August already! We are officially half way through the summer, but it’s not too late to get your child into a summer program that can be beneficial for their social, emotional, and cognitive development! So today, we are are sharing this article from, which outlines 6 qualities of a good summer program:

Give the article a read! What do you look for in a summer program for your kids?



Team Building with Legos for Staff (inspired by Pre-K)

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The other day, our Pre-K program was playing with legos so nicely with each other. They were encouraging each other, making suggestions for their structures and working together to create.

These are great qualities among children, but they are also great qualities among staff. So we set out to do some play of our own! Check out the fun activity for staff team building below.

Name of Activity: Legoman

  • Helps with:Communication
  • What You’ll Need:
    • Legos
  • Instructions:
  1. Divide everyone into small teams of two or more.
  2. Select an overseer who isn’t on a team to build a random structure using Lego building blocks within 10 minutes.
  3. The other teams must replicate the structure exactly (including size and color) within 15 minutes. However, only one member from each group may look at the original structure. They must figure out how to communicate the size, color, and shape of the original structure to their team.
  4. If this is too easy, add a rule that the member who can see the original structure can’t touch the new structure.





Encouraging Reading in the Summer

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Reading during the summer months is often the last thing on most kid’s minds. But encouraging reading even when school isn’t in session is an important thing to do as parents and caregivers. Reading during the summer months can help children to:

  • Retain and advance the reading skills they developed during the school year
  • Develop creative thinking skills and practice healthy imagination
  • Limit screen time activities
  • Learn about new places, things, cultures, stories
  • Foster new interests
  • Develop a love of reading that they can carry with them throughout their lives!

So, how can you encourage reading when there are so many other tempting summer activities out there?? Well first of all, keep in mind that it isn’t wrong for your child to want to be spending the summer months playing outdoors and having fun. Children have the breaks in the school year for a reason. School can be beneficial, but also stressful, even for children, and the summer break plays an important role in having them come back in September refreshed and in a state of mind where they are ready to learn. So don’t overload your child with books or academics during the summer, or suggest to them that they should be reading instead of playing outside in the sun. Everything is about balance. Try to incorporate a little bit of reading into your daily routine, without it being the main focus of your day.

An important place to start for encouraging literacy in the summer, is to find books that your child will actually enjoy! Have a conversation with them about what books they have read and why they liked them. If your child needs a little more encouragement to start a book and display limited interest, then seek out help. Your local librarian or bookstore will have tons of suggestions for you! You can also do some digging online! Good online resources will offer you information about the story, and the target age group. Right now, we are loving this list curated by teachers! Also, if your child is a tough sell for reading, try starting with a graphic novel. This genre has a lot of wonderful artwork and interesting storylines, while making the text less dense so that children are more likely to read it.

Some people like to try a summer reading challenge to encourage reading. This site: has an extensive list of summer reading challenges that you could incorporate into your summer literacy plan. You don’t have to do them all, just pick out the ones that you and your child enjoy! Our favourites are:

  • Set a goal for the number of books you can read over the summer, make a poster and track your progress
  • For vacations, find a book set in the location you are travelling to and read while there.
  • Read a graphic novel or comic book and then using sidewalk chalk (or crayons and paper) create your own illustrated story
  • Build a fort, and then read a book inside it!
  • Read a book written like a diary, then write your own diary of what you did over the summer

A final tip for encouraging reading over the summer is to start with yourself! Role model the behaviour for your children. Read your own book simultaneously when they are reading. Or, read a book aloud together!

For a fun art craft to go with your summer literacy, check out these tie dye bookmarks:

Happy Reading!!


Emotional Regulation and Exercise for Children

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What is emotional regulation?

“Emotional regulation is the ability to effectively manage and respond to an emotional experience. People unconsciously use emotion regulation strategies to cope with difficult situations many times throughout each day. When a child experiences dysregulation they aren’t able to diffuse their negative emotions. These emotions can take control leading to over-the-top reactions, outbursts, or meltdowns. This is an extremely common challenge for kids who have Autism, ADHD, Sensory Processing Disorder, or other neurological differences.” (Nicole Day, 2017, link to source below).

For more information on regulation, check out our series on self-regulation:

Some children struggle with self-regulation and need assistance regulating their emotions. However, regulation is a skill like any other, with attention and practice children can improve their self-regulation skills.


How does exercise come in?

As an adult, do you find that exercise, even something as simple as going for a walk, can help you to calm yourself down when you are upset or stressed? The same can work for kids!

Let us explain. The stress response is an expression of high levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which in turn stimulates the production of adrenaline (this hormone is associated with arousal and energy spikes). An increase in cortisol and adrenaline leads to in increase in anxiety, increase in dysregulation, and decreased communication and social skills.

Exercise has been proven to reduce cortisol levels and increase dopamine and other endorphins which are hormones responsible for that positive feels of comfort and satisfaction. Basically, exercise puts the brain in a chemical state where it is better able to regulate emotions!


What can you do?

Our source site (below) recommends a daily 7 minute HIIT in the mornings. Put on some music and get an interval time going (you can usually find an app for this). In the seven minute period set the timer to 45 seconds of active with 15 second rest periods in between. Do as many of the following movements as you can in that period!

  1. Frog Hops
  2. Bear Walk
  3. Gorilla Shuffles
  4. Starfish Jumps
  5. Cheetah Run
  6. Crab Crawl
  7. Elephant Stomps

The mechanism and technique of the movement is less important than actually doing it, so take your own interpretation on each exercise type, as long as you are being safe!

At the end of your HIIT, cool down with some stretches or yoga poses (at Parkland Players, we LOVE yoga for kids!)

Doing this daily will help your child (and even you) start your day with your brain in a place where it is most receptive to learning, in a state of calm, and able to express regulated responses to stressful moments throughout the day!



Emergency Preparedness

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Recently we had a great conversation with our friends over at Himama about emergency preparedness among children.

Blog writer and freelance journalist Diane Peters had some important questions about what steps to take when preparing children for emergency situations, how to have the impactful discussions without being alarming or causing fear in kids, and what things are necessary for daycares/schools and parents to make sure their children know how to respond in a crisis.

We want to thank Himama and Diane for allowing us to participate in such an important discourse and invite everyone to check out her article here Preparing Kids For Emergencies for some great tips and though-provoking information about what you can do to prepare kids for emergencies!

Emergency Kit Image Source: (visit this link for videos and tips on building an emergency kit).