2016 CAEYC Annual Conference and Expo

By Bryn Kressin and Anna Patterson, Teachers 

Tips on enriching children’s play and choosing books they will love were two of the highlights of this year’s conference of the California Association for the Education of Young Children, held in April. Approximately 2,400 early childhood professionals and administrators filled workshops and the exposition hall for the three-day event in Pasadena, California, which focused on the theme, “Early Education: A Pathway to Lifelong Learning.” 

Keynote speaker Diane Levin grabbed our attention with her presentation, “Remote-Controlled Teaching, Remote- Controlled Play: What’s going on? What can we do about it?” Levin, a professor of education at Wheelock College and author of Beyond Remote-Controlled Childhood, raised concerns about the amount of screen time in young children’s lives and the lack of hands-on experiences. Both of these trends are likely to have a negative impact on the development of children’s social intelligence, creativity and critical thinking. To remedy this growing epidemic, Levin outlined strategies parents and educators can use to enrich children’s play. Among them: making meaningful connections between children’s interests and their developmental needs, providing toys that allow open-ended uses, asking open-ended questions, modeling problem-solving strategies, talking about play and helping children develop play interests over time. At Bing, the five basic, open-ended materials—blocks, clay, paint, sand and water—along with the child-centered, play-based curriculum strongly support these strategies. For those interested in exploring the topic further, Levin referenced available resources on her website: www.truceteachers.org

Another noteworthy presentation at this year’s conference asked the question, “What constitutes a good book?” Isabel Baker, owner of The Book Vine bookstore, answered this question in her talk, “Read Aloud Wow! The Best New Books for Preschool Children.” According to Baker, a good book is “a work of art through the combination of illustration and words” and, most importantly, brings joy to the community. Also, it is often tied to multiple curriculum topics and has rich language that will build a child’s vocabulary. Baker’s enthusiasm and passion for books was infectious as she read and discussed some of her favorites coming out this year, which incorporate community, multiculturalism, science, math, social and emotional themes. When choosing a book for a read-aloud, Baker says: “It should be a book that you love,” because when a reader’s passion for the book is apparent, children have a more enjoyable reading experience. We came back eager to share these new books with our classrooms at story time and with the entire Bing community. 

This year’s CAEYC conference embodied the passion not only to teach, but also to learn in the complex, innovative and ever-evolving field of early childhood education. We attended presentations pertaining to social and emotional intelligence, improving communication between school and home, supporting children and families with special needs, infusing mathematics with play and choosing quality children’s literature. We returned from the conference feeling that, like the children we work with, we too are on a journey of life-long learning.