| December 3, 2013

92nd Street Y Wonderplay Conference 2013
Yannique Benitez

While attending the 2013 Wonderplay Conference: Balancing Core Early Childhood Principles With 21st Century Expectations I participated in Catherine Steiner-Adair’s Mary Had a Little Ipad and JoAnn Deak’s From the Neck Up: Differences in Early Brain Development in Boys and Girls workshops. From these discussions I gained more knowledge about how to better instruct and educate young children.

Prior to these workshops Regina Gallagher and Maxine Greene were honored for their excellence in the field of education and Joan Almon and Dr. Stuart Brown gave presentations. I especially enjoyed hearing about the power of storytelling and puppetry in Almon’s presentation. She emphasized the importance of educators encouraging children to take risks to develop courage and learn from new experiences. According to Almon, children are innately able to assess risk and should also learn the importance of compassion, ethics, resilience and creativity. Brown used vivid photos and videos of various animals to illustrate the importance of play. His presentation beautifully demonstrated George Bernard Shaw’s notion that “we don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.”

From Adair’s workshop I walked away with the knowledge that technology is changing parenting in many families, with some children turning to devices as de facto parents. Unfortunately, many guardians are giving children electronic devices to self-soothe when these devices are infact stimulants, Adair said.

Jo Ann Deak’s workshop highlighted gender differences that occur as early as infancy and she noted males have higher levels of testosterone than females and often exhibit “see-do” behavior in which they see something of interest and immediately explore it. She provided the example of a little boy seeing a large pile of leaves and jumping in them. Females, however, have higher oxytocin levels and exhibit more cautionary behavior. Deak recommended teachers inspire girls to take risks and “hug the monster” to conquer fears. In contrast, most males can benefit more from being advised to seek help when they have difficulty handling tasks independently.

Overall, I was inspired by the work and research conducted by the lecturers and I look forward to attending future conferences as I begin my teaching career.