D’Lynn Smith has witnessed the amazing ways in which children learn for the past 30 years. A certified kindergarten through fifth grade teacher, Miss D’Lynn, as she is affectionately called by her students, has observed that children learn best through play.

So, she decided after 30 years in the early childhood education field that it was time to go on her own. She opened Acres of Play preschool in 2017 for children from 3 to 5 years old, offering a child-led program that focuses on true early childhood play in the purest form. Smith said she believes children are better prepared for future success when they have experienced the opportunity to learn through their own initiated play.

“Students climb trees, play in mud puddles, use tools and build their own creations,” she said. “They are given the vocabulary and opportunity to learn how to handle conflict and learn respect for one another.”

Acres of Play was aided by an Early Childhood Investment Corporation Great Start to Quality grant, which provide for the purchase of play materials that foster problem solving, exploration, physical and social growth, Smith said.

The grant helped purchase a new hand pumped water station to add to the children’s outside play space.

“Water play is a huge source of growth for young children,” Smith said. “It is as important that they dump, pour, and create things in their play as it is to breathe oxygen. Using their whole body in this type of play builds muscles that will allow for body control in writing, sitting for longer periods, and concentrating as they enter the traditional school setting.”

Other items purchased with the grant funds include a wind tunnel, ramps, tubes, blocks, light table, and sanitizing equipment to practice dental hygiene after meals.

Smith, who holds a master’s degree in early childhood education, opened Acres of Play with the goal of offering all children the opportunity to play in a manner that is true to their nature.

“Students play outside in the snow, in the rain, in the woods, and observe and use nature as a key role in the learning environment,” she said. “Students help cook meals by cutting and chopping, stirring and mixing. They eat fresh fruits, vegetables and try new foods continuously.”

Class sizes at Acres of Play are small, currently limited to six children. Smith said all children are learners and worthy of the right to learn through play. Children of all learning abilities are welcome and the school accepts state assisted pay. Based on the very important belief that all families have different needs, Acres of Play offers full week, one to five days, full- or half-day programming.

In addition, Acres of Play is offering summer play camps for children Pre-K through third grade this summer and is also accepting enrollment for the upcoming school year beginning in September.

For more information, please visit missdlynn.com, follow Acres of Play on Facebook, and for enrollment information, call (517) 213-6281.