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Early Learning Hives: Learning Through Play

“Momma, look! Look momma, look!” Think of how many times your children have wanted your attention to show you something they built out of Legos or a funny costume they put together consisting of fairy wings and gardening gloves. Children love to create and express themselves through play, and do you know play is part of healthy development?

Play stimulates children mentally and physically and teaches them language and literacy skills. Children learn about language through playing as the activities help them put thoughts into words and talk about what they are doing. Children develop cognitive and motor skills, mature emotionally and gain confidence during play. Often children become so absorbed in the world of their creation that it increases their ability to concentrate, problem solve and demonstrate flexible thinking.

Playing with others develops important social skills including communication, empathy and cooperation. When children play with other children, they learn how to share, take turns and make friends. Parents and caregivers who actively participate in play activities with their child are supporting their little one’s emotional development. A child’s sense of security and self-esteem increases during playtime with a parent. Setting expectations such as picking up toys and following the rules also can be learned through play and helps the child prepare for school.

Elements of Play:

  • Creative
  • Spontaneous
  • Unstructured/no end goals
  • Active
  • Chosen by the child
  • Fun and enjoyable

The Tampa-Hillsborough County Public Library has created designated spaces, called Early Learning Hives, for children from birth through age 6 to develop skills through play. These Early Learning Hives are a safe, dynamic and low-pressure environment for children to discover the world around them. Adults play an important role in early education, and these spaces include activities for children and adults to enjoy together. Furnished with age appropriate toys, puzzles and games, children are engaged and encouraged to explore from the moment they step or crawl through the door.

Currently the New Tampa Regional Library and the Jimmie B. Keel Regional Library have Early Learning Hives, and plans are underway to add Early Learning Hives for the new Riverview Branch Library and SouthShore Regional Library. Each location features a variety of activities where children can learn colors, shapes, letters and numbers. Fine and gross motor skills can be developed as children play with blocks, trains and an assortment of sensory toys. The puppet theatres allow children to retell their favorite stories or make up new ones using their imagination. Areas for dramatic play where children can dress up like a fire fighter, police officer or veterinarian and pretend play with props are among the most popular activities in the Early Learning Hives.

Read and play with the characters in these titles. Booklist:


Photos provided by Tampa Hillsborough County Library

Originally published in Tampa Bay Parenting’s June Issue.

Allison Brazis
Allison Brazis
Allison Brazis is a Public Service Regional Manager with the Tampa-Hillsborough County Public Library. She is a graduate from Flagler College with a bachelor’s degree in History and a master’s degree in library and information science from the University of South Florida. She and her husband have a 5 year old son and twin 3 year old girls. Her favorite part of the day is reading to them before bedtime.

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