Blog Archives

August 11, 2017
- Play

When I got the job at Mighty Oaks I was thrilled, but also nervous to embark on a new type of teaching- a relationship-based, emotionally focused kind of teaching.  I was meant to play with the children but also work on their individualized goals.  I was meant to follow their lead but also maintain order and discipline in the classroom.  By training and through experience teaching in various other environments I was quite traditional.  The teacher ran the class and the children followed- very straightforward.  Before Mighty Oaks I saw play time as a time when I would get a break.  Of course I was aware of the importance of play, but I was not aware just how much progress could be made in areas of peer interaction, language, emotional development, and even academics.  For example, if a child tends to act impulsive and aggressive during play with peers, the teacher could mirror real play situations in the classroom through puppets or action figures during playtime.  Having a puppet or doll do something a bit naughty is a sure way to get their attention.  It could also be fun to ask the child to pretend to be the teacher.  That way the child identifies with the puppet but also gains the perspective of the teacher.   Similarly, if a child is working on extending reciprocal interaction, the teacher could use pretend play with toys (dolls, stuffed animals, action figures) to demonstrate an appropriate turn-taking conversation.   The most important piece of the play is the relationship between teacher and child and the bond that forms in the midst of the play. 

When a trained teacher or therapist carefully and intentionally engages herself in play the results will amaze you.  Stanley Greenspan said, “Research shows that when we provide children with emotionally relevant learning experiences- in which they are involved and interested and care about what they are learning- they want to learn.”  Children care about play.  The trick of the trade is to take advantage of this and create a play environment that excites and challenges them by appealing to their unique sense of fun while incorporating individual goals.  As the play goes on, the bond between teacher and child grows stronger.  This emotional bond forms trust, trust leads to listening to one another and valuing one another.  When a tough moment comes and a child needs to be disciplined, it will be much easier on the child when he or she trusts the teacher (or parent).  For me, I had to see it in action and experience it for myself to truly understand.

May 25, 2015
- Play

Text & Photos By Caroline Essame, Occupational Therapist & Art Therapist


When children play they are working hard trying to make sense of their world”.

This quote by Doug Goodkin sums up the key reason why play is important for our children. It is the way they understand and explore the world around them: whether that is through exploring chocolate spread on the table, understanding cause and affect and realising that they can make an impact on their environment, or understanding through jumping and rolling how their body moves in space, lining up farm animals in sequence to appreciate shape, form and order, or through creating a Lego kingdom feeling a sense of ownership and power in their own small world.

All children given the chance will play it is an instinct and the language of childhood. Through play children learn about their physical, cognitive and social/emotional worlds.

Play occurs in three main developmental stages:


Stage One: Sensory motor play – where they learn about their bodies and how their senses work, it is cause and affect play and how they learn about themselves and the outside world.






Stage Two: Objects play- this is where children play with toys and objects, learning about relationships through a tangible object and building expressive and communicative skills. This develops an understanding of others, symbolic thought and builds visual and creative memory.



Stage Three: Imaginative play – this is where children can play roles, imagine and create ideas and games. It is higher thought, the underpinning of social understanding and empathy and the development of the critical and symbolic thought needed for schooling and adult life.


More information on play and why it matters is available on or

Caroline Essame is a creative arts therapist and occupational therapist currently completing her Masters in Education thesis on creativity and play in early childhood learning.

April 29, 2015
- Academic Learning

All children are different and learn in different ways. Therefore, teaching methods need to be individualized. This is why we need Mighty Oaks! We love the kids the way they are.




(Thank you to the artist who drew this picture!)

Sitting at the desk all day receiving drills on worksheets does not produce results if this technique does not support the child's learning style, or if the child has some underlying challenges that need to be addressed first. For instance, practicing handwriting is very frustrating for the child if he struggles to hold the pencil, does not have the strength of the shoulder and arm to keep the arm still, and can't keep his eyes focused.

Moreover, not everyone needs to be a star in academics. Adequate skills are certainly needed to cope in this world, but we also need people who are good at work to design our software and meet our digital needs

...numbers to do our accounts

...sequencing to keep libraries neat

...sports to train our kids and keep us all fit

...arts and music to bring us joy

...kindness to take care of others and

..empathy and frienship skills to make the life worth living for everyone!

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