The Free Press, Mankato, MN

April 18, 2013

Pre-schoolers show grown-ups importance of play

By Amanda Dyslin
Free Press Staff Writer

MANKATO — Eight pre-schoolers strolled out of The Children's House at Minnesota State University toward carefully placed pink mats.

They casually took off their socks and shoes in a way that showed this midday activity was becoming a common ritual. After finding a mat, they bounced up and down, awaiting further instruction.

"You ready? You want to do some yoga?" said Family Consumer Science professor Heather Von Bank.

They were ready. Especially Stella Carlin, 5, who was the quickest of the group to turn her body into each pose Von Bank called out.

"This is a warrior pose," Stella said. "This is how it looks. Do you like it?"

Yoga was one of several activities taking place in the hallway outside The Children's House at MSU between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. this week in celebration of the national observance of Week of the Young Child, sponsored by the National Association for the Education of Young Children.

The Children's House's theme was "Play: Where Learning Begins," and faculty worked with the children to stop adults in the hallway and ask them to participate. The idea was to remind adults of the importance of play, as a way to de-stress among other benefits.

Stella was eager to approach adults in the hall and ask them to join in, always saying politely, "Would you like to play with us?"

Some were eager to join in. "Sure, I'll do yoga," an MSU student said.

Others were a little too busy. "I wish I could, but I'm on my way to work," a woman said.

"We're trying to get adults to take five minutes out of their busy lives to play," said Children's House head teacher Heather Carlin, Stella's mom. "The children aren't afraid to just jump right in and start participating. What we find is adults are more reserved and wait for instruction."

This week the kids also drew caricatures of themselves, danced and learned to juggle.

Children's House director Jodi Malecha -- who was walking around giving tips on form and compliments to the youngsters -- said the yoga helps the kids with balance and coordination, among other skills. They do it as an activity as often as they can.

"Children's pose is one of my favorites," Stella said before the session wrapped up.

"Did everybody say 'Namaste'?" Von Bank said.

"Namaste," Stella shouted.