April 2021 - Little Scholars Playground

Welcome to Little Scholars Playground

Estimated reading time: 3 mins

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Welcome to the home of Little Scholars Playground! We’re a children’s book publisher and early years hub. We create diverse children’s books and learning resources.

It started in 2020 lockdown

Our founders were having a casual conversation about how difficult it is to find wide-ranging books for young children with main character representation of black people specifically. As people of action, the founders quickly determined that between them, they possessed the skillset to begin to chip-away at this problem.

Fast-forward and Little Scholars Playground was born. With a single mission to create engaging, diverse children’s literature, tackling this imbalance one-book-at-a-time

Why we’re calling for greater diversity in children’s books

We feel that it is very important for children to read books with main characters that look like themselves. It’s not only good for a child’s confidence and self-worth. But we also feel this will help develop their love for reading. As well as helping to instil strong aspirations and helping to encourage a child to reach their full potential.

A third of children in English schools are from an ethnic minorities group^, however in the UK only 5% of children’s books feature a main character from a non-white background*. Also, children are 8.2% more likely to see an animal main character in children’s books than a non-white character*.

There are more books with black characters, so improvement has been made. However we found most of the books to be focused on hair or history, which is definitely needed but can at times feel heavy for young children. We want to create fun, positive, iconic characters that are loved by all. We want black children to dress up for World Book Day and not be asked who they’re dressed up as.

STEM and black children

Between us we have 20 years’ experience of working in the STEM industry, so we’re also passionate about encouraging young black children to embrace STEM.

Meet the people behind Little Scholars playground

Natalie is a tremendously talented illustrator with a particular passion for making sure all children have representation in literature. She’s a product designer by profession, with a career spanning across digital design, coding and marketing. As a mother to a daughter, Natalie is conscious of the lack of black women in the STEM industry and works to encourage black women and girls to develop a passion for STEM.

Denhue is the father of a toddler daughter who began his writing career experimenting with breaking down big ideas for a young audience. By profession, Denhue is an aeronautical engineer and has a degree in Aerospace Technology with Management. This has plenty to do with his natural interest in STEM related topics.

*Stat according to the Centre for Literacy in Primary Education (CLPE)

^Stat according to the Department of Education

Natalie

Little Scholars Playground
info@littlescholarsplayground.com

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About the Author

Natalie Little Scholars Playground

Natalie is the co-founder and illustrator at Little Scholars Playground. She is passionate about literacy, learning, illustrating, black women in STEM and Montessori.

Why it’s a good idea to embrace Montessori in your home

Estimated reading time: 3 mins

So, what is Montessori?

The Montessori method of education was created by Italian physician Maria Montessori. Her goal was to promote independence in children, with the view that children are naturally eager for knowledge and capable of initiating their own learning. Some of the key Montessori methods that you can use at home include:

  • Child’s choice of activity from within a range of options
  • Activities that facilitate movement and activity
  • A ‘discovery’ model, where your child learns concepts from working with materials rather than by direct instruction
  • Specialised educational/ sensory materials often made out of natural, aesthetic materials such as wood, rather than plastic (this will help support your child’s development, as many of the plastic toys overstimulates and does ‘the work’ for your child).
  • A thoughtfully prepared environment where materials are organised by subject area, are accessible to children, and are appropriately sized
  • Explore nature in and outside the home
  • Freedom, within limits.

How I discovered Montessori

I discovered Montessori after having my daughter in 2019. I have always been conscious of the over use of plastic and found plastic toys with flashing lights overstimulated her, without actually helping her to develop. I was also aware of the crucial age of 0-3 years, where her brain would develop the most. This sparked my desire to ensure I gave her the best start in life. After some Googling, the term Montessori kept coming up. It was something I had heard in the home before, as my Mother is a Nursery Manager, so naturally I wanted to learn more. I found the Montessori approach to parenting to go beyond education, including following my child, respecting her and understanding where she is developmentally, so that the expectations I have for her are appropriate and achievable for her.

It’s a good idea to embrace Montessori even if the typical people practicing it don’t look like you

I did notice that many of the people practicing Montessori did not look like me, however I did not become discouraged by this. Some feel that you need a big budget, or perceive Montessori to be expensive to incorporate in the home or even elitist. Montessori Nurseries are also more expensive. But this is even more reason to practice it at home as much as possible. Many sensory activities for example can be made from things within the home.

How to start bringing Montessori into your home

You don’t need lots of the expensive, fancy things like you see posted on social media. So don’t put pressure on yourself and do the best you can with what you have within your home. There are great books out there on Montessori’s philosophy. You will then learn that simple things such as putting your child’s toys low enough for them to reach, creating sensory activities from materials within the home and involving your toddler in activities such as putting away your groceries or watering your plants, will help your child meet their developmental needs. Montessori said:

“The birth of a child is the child’s first act of independence.”

Maria Montessori

I so agree. You need to respect your child’s need for independence and go with their natural flow. This will in turn create a child that feels valued and has high self-esteem and self-worth. This will set them well on the way to becoming a great little scholar.

We will be posting lots of sensory activities, learning resources and information on how Montessori can help your child become the little scholar they can be, so do check our blog regularly.

We’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic. Comment below, let’s start a conversation.

Natalie

Little Scholars Playground
info@littlescholarsplayground.com

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About the Author

Natalie is the co-founder and illustrator at Little Scholars Playground. She is passionate about literacy, learning, illustrating, black women in STEM and Montessori.

How to introduce Black children to STEM

Estimated reading time: 2 mins

So what exactly is STEM and why is it so important?

STEM is a neat little acronym for Science Technology Engineering & Maths. One idea behind grouping these broad disciplines into something memorable; is to draw attention to an emerging policy choice within schools, focused on increasing educational interest within STEM. By stimulating interest in STEM early on, we can begin to motivate more young people to study STEM at an advanced level and to enter STEM related industries. This is particularly important for Black individuals who at university for example, only represent 6.2% of students enrolled onto STEM related subjects*.

STEM in early childhood

The idea of introducing STEM to children in the early years is to begin the process of creating scholarly minds. Little children who ask questions, seek out answers, solve problems and become innovators who go onto contribute to the human story. The sooner we get our little ones to see that our world is filled with shapes, materials, forces and numbers; is the start of something special, in the form of inquisitive minds.

An example of STEM in the real world

If you pause and think about the many technological advances humankind has achieved over the centuries, you should be able to appreciate the importance of STEM in our everyday lives. The aeroplane for example, my favourite technological advancement, has transformed our ability to be connected globally with little effort. The thirst for flight has been achieved over 100 years by countless individuals, who have innovated by combining maths and science, and by applying engineering skills to find technological solutions. The end result being to fly you through the sky, delivering you safely across the globe.

Continuing with the theme of flying and literally reaching for the skies, we thought it a good idea to introduce you to Dr Mae C. Jemison, an American engineer, doctor, and former NASA astronaut. She became the first black woman to travel into space when she served as a mission specialist aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavour in 1992.
Mae’s story is one of high achievement and adventure. Mae’s introduction to STEM came from her uncle, who encouraged her interests for science, anthropology and astronomy. As parents and caregivers, the impact of your encouragement and feeding the curiosity can pay off massively, as we’ve just seen in the example of Mae.

How to introduce STEM to children

Encouragement and exposure to broad experiences is a good place to start. Try to nourish as best as you can the little sparks of interests you may see early on. Introduce new ideas continually, invest in wide-ranging books and learning resources that stimulate an interest for STEM. From early on, some simple but effective things you can do include:

  • Questions – ask ‘why,’ ‘what’ and ‘how’ as a way of getting children to explain their thinking
  • Language – use words which link to STEM related topics like: balance, hard, soft, hot, cold, push, pull, high, low
  • Exploration – encourage exploratory play, by introducing messy play with different textures and liquids of varying consistency
  • Imagination – create experiments which include role-playing, scenarios and task specific activities
  • Explanation – explain how simple objects and tools around your house work.

We’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic. Comment below, let’s start a conversation.

*Stat according to the Black British Professionals in STEM

Denhue

Little Scholars Playground
info@littlescholarsplayground.com

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About the Author

Denhue Little Scholars Playground

Denhue is the co-founder and Author at Little Scholars Playground. He is passionate about literacy, learning, writing and STEM.