Play & Learning

I am very excited about our new 4-part blog series- "Play & Learning"! Why are we dedicating an entire series to play? Because children learn through play! Learning and play are not two separate activities for the child but instead, inextricably intertwined. I hope you'll follow us as we discuss over the coming weeks: some things to know (this week), how to think through picking the right toy, strategies for using the toys you have, and where to find toys! This is truly a fun topic to explore!

"Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood."                                                                                                                              -Fred Rogers

"Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood."                                                                                                                              -Fred Rogers


Some Important Things to Know About Play

"Play is not some touchy-feely activity."

"Play is not some touchy-feely activity."

  1. Maria Montessori said, "Play is the work of the child." How true this is! We've all seen kids deeply engaged in an activity, putting in their all to problem solve, accomplish a task, or try something new! My 3-year-old son can often be caught furrowing his brow or sticking out his tongue in deep concentration during play.
  2. "Children learn through play" 
    • According to Fromberg and Gullo (1992), play enhances language development, social competence, creativity, imagination, and thinking skills. Frost (1992) concurred, stating that "play is the chief vehicle for the development of imagination and intelligence, language, social skills, and perceptual-motor abilities in infants and young children" (p. 48). (Fox) 
  3. Play develops the "whole child." 
    • Fine Motor: From a baby learning to point, to a toddler learning to turn a page, these develop the muscles in fingers that will soon lead to hold a pencil, imitating lines, and writing letters!
    • Gross Motor: From a baby rolling over to running across the room while holding a book, play leads to the development of gross motor skills.
    • Language Skills- As children explore objects during play, they learn vocabulary (i.e. the names of the fruits & vegetables with their kitchen set). 
    • Social- Children learn to express their wants and needs verbally during play, developing social skills.
    • All of these skills come together, helping develop cognition and the child's understanding of the world.
  4. Play is a very broad term. Regardless, all forms of play are beneficial in the development of a child.
    1. Who? Play may take place individually, with a partner, or with a group. Play can happen with a parent and child or a child with his/her peers.
    2.  What? Play can include toys or be as basic as a Mother and her baby smiling reciprocally.  
    3. Where? Play can take place outside at the park or in your backyard, but it can also take place indoors during bath time, while reading a book, or playing with toys on the floor.
  5. Play is healthy and reduces stress! (Bongiorno) Research shows this and parents across America know it intrinsically. 

Side note for the early childhood professionals out there: We are using the term "play"  in a broad sense for this blog series (includes direct instruction and free-play unless otherwise noted)


Bongiorno, L. (n.d.). 10 Things Every Parent Should Know about Play. Retrieved January 12, 2017, from

Fox, J. E. (n.d.). Back-to-Basics: Play in Early Childhood. Retrieved January 12, 2017, from

What on earth is IDEA?


IDEA stands for Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. So naturally, it makes sense that IDEA is a law for in the field for education for people with disabilities. 


  • To ensure that children with disabilities have the opportunity to receive a free appropriate public education, just like other children.

Brief History:

  • IDEA was enacted by Congress in 1975
  • Originally called Education for All Handicapped Children Act (PL 94-142)
  • IDEA 2004 Part C- Provided services for children with disabilities from birth to 3. Stated that very young children do not need a label to be served (can be served through a label/diagnosis or developmental delay). 

Parts of IDEA

  • Part A: Discusses the purpose of the special education law, definitions of terms, and general provisions.
  • Part B: Requires services for school-aged children, including preschoolers. Discussed funding, state plans, evaluation, eligibility, due process, discipline ad other areas relating ot direct services. Requirement of IEPs (Individualized Education Plans).
  • Part C: Requires services for babies and toddlers to the 3rd birthday. Requires a comprehensive child find system and IFSPs (Individualized Family Service Plans)
  • Part D: Focuses on the need to improve special education programs, preparing personnel, disseminating information, supporting research, and applying research findings to education.

IDEA & Early Intervention

  • IDEA is an educational law, and Early Intervention is an educational service. We are not doctors, nurses or clinicians. We are teachers. We are here to teach you research-based strategies that you can use to help your child meet developmental milestones.
  • IDEA guarantees the right to "FAPE" (free appropriate public education). For Early Intervention, this means that our educational services are free to you and your family!
  • IDEA requires "Zero reject." Local schools must provide for all regardless of severity of disability. If your child meets eligibility requirements, you or she cannot be denied services.
  • Nondescriminatory Evaluations. Assessment of disability is in accordance with the child's language and culture. For families whose native language is something other than English, you will be provided an interpreter. 
  • Appropriate education. We (parent, Early Interventionist, and any other providers) develop an IFSP (Individualized Family Service Plan) which must be followed. The IFSP is developed around health history, developmental levels, and family priorities. We work together to develop goals and services that address the individual needs of the infant or child.
  • Least Restrictive Environment. Our philosophy is that children develop at better rates when taught in the same environment as their peers without disabilities (also called the "natural" environment). Some places we provide Early Intervention services include your home, the park, the library, a restaurant, or the grocery store. Some environments that would not be considered natural and where we would not provide Early Intervention services would include a clinic, hospital, or school for children with special needs.
  • Due Process. Parents have the right to object when not in agreement.
    • Parent can examine all records.
    • Parents are to be consulted about program before it goes into effect.
    • Parents are to receive written notice of proposed changes/placement.
    • Parents can request legal representation if problems cannot be resolved.

What did my child just qualify for?

"My child qualifies for Early Intervention services. What does that mean?"

Early Intervention is really a two part service including Special Instruction & Service Coordination. If someone asks me what Early Intervention is or what an Early Interventionist does, my one sentence explanation is-

We equip parents with strategies and services in order to help children meet developmental goals.

Special Instruction is a time where your Early Interventionist will share research-based strategies with you to help your child meet developmental goals. Lets pick this apart a bit more-

  • Special Instruction, also known as Family Training. You may hear both terms, but they're the same thing.
  • Time: Special Instruction is provided four times a month, for an hour each time.
  • Research-based activities: So much of what we do will look like play first glance. However, all of our activities are based on research. Your Early Interventionist is there to teach you the most effective means of accomplishing goals. We'll share the research with you and teach you the benefits!
  • Goals: Much more on this later, but... You select the goals for your child. We are here to teach you what skills come next developmentally, but you choose the specific goals based on the concerns you have for your child.  

Service Coordination is when your Early Interventionist connects you with services that meet the needs of your family and your child. What types of services might your Early Interventionist help you get connected with?

  • BabyNet 16 Services such as speech therapy, occupational therapy, etc. (look for future blog post!)
  • Medicaid, TEFRA
  • Housinge
  • Autism Testing
  • ABA Therapy
  • Parent Support (i.e. Family Connections)
  • Head Start, Early Head Start, Private Preschool
  • Transition to the School District at age 3

Special Instruction (Strategies) + Service Coordination (Services) = Early Intervention

What is Early Intervention?

Welcome to Early Intervention 101! This entry is the first in a series where we will be delving into the world of Early Intervention. 

98% of the time I tell someone about Tiny Feet or that I am an Early Interventionist, the first thing they say is, "What's Early Intervention?" My goal for today (and this series) is to briefly describe Early Intervention without all of the professional education jargon we (those of us in this field) use unintentionally.

First, lets look at the words-

  • Early- We work with children from newborn up to 5 years old.
  • Intervention- Our job is to "intervene" in these early years, teaching parents activities and strategies that they can use with their children.

Two things to note from my description above

"Children learn through play!

"Children learn through play!

  • I did use the word "teaching." This is intentional. Early Intervention is an educational service funded through education law (more on that in another post). We are not medical. No doctors, nurses, or therapists here. We are teachers. We teach. Think happiness and rainbows here. Haha! Anyways, we teach parents or caregivers strategies and activities based on the latest research. So much of what we do looks like play, and it is! Children learn through play! However, our play is very intentional. Each activity we use is selected because of the parent's concerns and the child's current developmental skills. Much more on developmental concerns to come! 
  • Use of "intervene." Why are we intervening? (SIDE NOTE- That sounds awful... Truly cringe worthy... Please don't take it that way. We are not a bunch of people from the government zooming in to take over a situation. We are simply people who have dedicated our lives to helping children in need, taking the time to become professionals. This culmination makes for a word such as "intervention" in the field of education.) Babies or children are eligible (qualify for, authorized, or entitled to) if they have a qualifying condition or have an area of delayed development such as language or motor skills. We are "intervening" in these early years to help children who are behind in development or who may have a condition that causes them to develop more slowly. The brain is more "plastic" or flexible during the first three years of life, so these interventions are critical and will have great impact down the road. 

In a Nutshell--- Early Intervention is a service for babies and children with a diagnosis/special need or developmental delay. Early Interventionists teach families strategies that will help their children reach developmental milestones.

What questions do you have?