D'Lynn Smith believes in letting kids make a mess. She also believes in letting them explore, move and direct their own playtime activities as a way to learn.
In early 2017, D'Lynn Smith opened Acres of Play based on her long-held philosophy of early learning and childcare. The licensed preschool—or "playschool" as Smith calls it—offers a home-based option for working families of 3-, 4- and 5-year old children.
"I opened this because I saw a great decline in programs offering true play for children—or simply allowing children to play authentically according to their nature," says Smith. "There's this huge academic push for kids to know their alphabet and be mathematically set and test well before kindergarten. I want to bring back that true, child-led form of play."
Acres of Play is located at D'Lynn's ranch-style home in Charlotte. She converted three rooms in the upper level for the preschool, starting with the 12-foot by 15-foot living room that became the main classroom and nap area. One of the three bedrooms became a "construction room" complete with toy bricks and tubes and other building materials; a second became an art and playhouse area furnished with a toy kitchen and stove, and an art table with supplies for making and creating.
Children go on occasional field trips and venture outdoors every day for play. The landscape of the huge, two-acre backyard is equipped with a climbing structure, a mud kitchen made with pallets, buckets and water, tools for shoveling and scooping, and items to roll and push and move.
"We do a lot of sensory and imaginary play," says Smith. "I don't have trademarked toys, and we don't watch movies or have screen time. We read a lot. We sing. We dance. We have art activities that are their own. It's very child-driven and child-led."
Acres of Play is licensed for six children and runs during the academic year. Smith also offers a series of summer camps based on age groups for children up to third grade. The preschool is currently enrolling for fall.
Source: D'Lynn Smith, Owner and Teacher, Acres of Play
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor
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