6.4 Lessons from the Sandbox: Discovering Play and Embracing the Whole Child through the Lens of Fred Rogers

Presenter: Dr. Kathleen Harris

Title: Dean School of Education and Applied Social Sciences

Organization: Seton Hill University

Co-Presenter: Shelby Ilich

Co-Presenter: Sara Shadwick

Workshop Description
Mister Rogers’ messages of respect, acceptance, and kindness came over the airwaves into homes, inspiring family life by encouraging us to see the world outside through a lens of joy and awe, giving us sacred moments during which we could slow down and be grateful for our blessings. In 1983 Mister Rogers wrote Mister Rogers Talks to Parents sharing his experiences, thoughts, and feelings on parenting and a variety of topics regarding raising resilient children. Mr. Rogers’ believed children need adults who are convinced of the value of childhood. This workshop will introduce the ministry of Fred Rogers and address how listening to Mister Rogers’ messages can support and nurture families and early childhood teachers in today’s society. By taking time to be present in the moment with children, families can awaken caring relationships with their child and being aware of the world from their child’s perspective, which is often filled with curiosity, new discoveries, and wonder.

A section of the workshop will be devoted to play through Mister Rogers’ Eyes. Children need to play. “Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children, play is serious learning. At various times, play is a way to cope with life and to prepare for adulthood. Playing is a way to solve problems and to express feelings. In fact, play is the real work of childhood” (Rogers, 1994, p. 47). Family members’ watch children play and mimic the world around them. Children engage in various types of play which are vital for development. Families can utilize the beliefs of Fred Rogers to better understand their children and promote a safe, nurturing environment for development. The wisdom of Fred Rogers guides how families view and approach play with their children. Part of the workshop will explore the joy of children’s play through the eyes of a mother guiding a child’s imagination with wonder and new discoveries. Educators attending will participate in play activities inspired by Fred Rogers.

The workshop will also focus on the trials and tribulations of a mother supporting her child who is on the Autism Spectrum. The mother’s journey goes from denial to acceptance that the child has a disability. As educators, we must provide information and guidance for families seeking an understanding of Autism. Supporting parents with knowledge of Autism and services will give additional help. Ultimately, our role as educators will determine the families and their student’s success. Discovering what her child needed was not an easy task. Fred Rogers provides the best example, which includes unconditional acceptance and compassion for every child. Fred Rogers did not discriminate; he made all children feel important and unique and just the way they are. The concept and compassion for all students with disabilities are what we all aspire to achieve. Inclusionary literature will be introduced and shared with educators along with opportunities to role play and discuss ways educators can be powerful 'change agents' for families who are raising children with disabilities.