Early Childhood Curriculum: A Creative Play Model (3rd Edition)

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9780130968548: Early Childhood Curriculum: A Creative Play Model (3rd Edition)

This comprehensive guide provides information on planning programs with a play-based, developmental curriculum for children from birth to five years of age and covers basic principles and current research in early childhood curricula. The book is unique in that it discusses the creative play model for use with children from infancy through preschool by presenting an integrated, individualized curricular approach that helps teachers to be sensitive to and to plan for young children with a variety of developmental and cultural backgrounds. For teachers and future teachers specializing in Early Childhood Education.

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About the Author:

Carol E. Catron, author and consultant, is former director of the Early Childhood Education Teacher Licensure Program and faculty member in the Department of Child and Family Studies at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. She also is former director of the University of Tennessee Child Development Laboratories. She was born and raised in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, where she developed a special love and understanding for young children through her relationships with seven nieces and nephews. She graduated from Transylvania University in Lexington, Kentucky, with a bachelor's degree in elementary education. Her master's and doctoral degrees are in early childhood education from George Peabody College of Vanderbilt University. Prior to teaching and directing in university settings, she taught kindergarten in public and private schools, taught preschool in parent cooperative and university laboratory settings, and organized and directed the first preschool program in the Nashville, Tennessee, metropolitan school system. She has taught numerous workshops on storytelling with young children and, with her sister, Barbara Catron Parks, has published three storytelling books: Super Storytelling, Cooking Up a Story, and Celebrate with a Story.

Dr. Catron's areas of expertise are in play therapy, curriculum development, staff development and evaluation, and storytelling with young children. She also is involved in child advocacy efforts through professional organizations and agencies and has served as a mentor and validator for The National Association for the Education of Young Children's Academy of Early Childhood Programs.

Jan Allen is an associate professor in the Department of Child and Family Studies at the University of Tennessee. She was born and raised in Oakdale, Louisiana, graduated from Oakdale High School, and attended Louisiana Tech University. She graduated from Oklahoma Baptist University, Shawnee, Oklahoma, with a bachelor's degree in home economics education. After working in Head Start from 1975 to 1977, she obtained a master's degree from the University of Oklahoma and a doctoral degree from Purdue University in child development.

Dr. Allen has been a faculty member at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, since 1982, teaching undergraduate and graduate classes in child development, early childhood education, and children and stress. She conducts research on early childhood work environments and job satisfaction, licensing and policy issues in child care, children's moral development, and young children's political socialization. She is currently writing a book about the children she taught in Head Start and their lives 25 years later. Her interests in public policy focus on child care, early childhood intervention, and children and stress.

In 1993, Dr. Allen was chosen as one of the first two Chancellor's Teacher-Scholars at UTK; in 1997, she was appointed assistant dean of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Graduate School. With her colleague Sky Huck, she developed and coordinates the university's Graduate Teaching Assistant Mentoring Program: Developing Future Faculty as Teacher-Scholars, an initiative of research, training, and support and recognition for GTAs in their instructional role at a research university. She also directs the University's College of Human Ecology's Child Care Resource and Referral Office, a clearinghouse for research, policy development, parent education, and teacher training for 16 counties in eastern Tennessee.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

We began writing the first edition of this book in 1985 when we decided that a comprehensive, play-based, developmental curriculum for children was not available for teachers who wanted to match educational philosophy with program focus, to link individual developmental assessment and curriculum planning, and to integrate all aspects of the program for young children, including those with disabilities.

Our primary purpose in writing this book is to help teachers provide the highest-quality programs possible for children, parents, and teachers. Our focus is on creative-play curriculum as a means of optimizing children's development in the areas of personal awareness, emotional wellbeing, socialization, communication, cognition, and perceptual motor skills. Creativity is not simply an additional developmental domain; the potential for creative development is inherent in all domains and is an integral part of a developmentally appropriate curriculum. Creative processes and the ability to co-construct knowledge from experience and interactions are essential for children to fully realize skills in problem solving and generating innovative ideas. Play is the method through which creative potential is fostered and developed.

We have drawn from several sources to develop the creative-play curriculum model. Our educational backgrounds in child development, early childhood education, and teacher education have enabled us to use the theoretical and empirical knowledge from these fields to draw conclusions and suggest implications for curriculum development and implementation. From our teaching and administrative experiences in public and private kindergarten, preschool programs, Head Start, child-care cooperatives, and university laboratories, we have learned what is effective classroom practice when research and theory have failed to provide the answers. This has allowed us to combine research, theory, and best practices in developing, using, and evaluating curricula.


This text covers basic principles and current research in early childhood curricula; however, it also is a comprehensive guide to planning programs with a play-based, developmental curriculum for children from birth to age 5. This creative-play model presents an integrated, individualized curricular approach that helps teachers be sensitive to and plan for young children with a variety of developmental and cultural backgrounds.

Several special features contribute to the usefulness and comprehensiveness of the book:

  • Emphasis on creative play to support children's learning and development. In addition to presenting an overview of other curriculum models, this text describes using creative play to implement the various components of this curriculum model. The reader is guided to understand the specific steps in implementing a play-based, constructivist philosophy of young children's learning in a program setting.
  • Demonstration of the complex and interrelated components of the visible and invisible curriculum. This benefits students and practitioners by outlining all the components necessary to plan and implement an effective, comprehensive early childhood curriculum and clarifying the relationship of each component to the overall program.
  • Integration of developmental assessment and curriculum planning. A developmental checklist is included that is designed to correlate with curriculum objectives. Assessment information is presented to support the belief that curriculum planning and child assessment are integrated and complementary processes rather than separate or parallel functions. Students and practitioners can understand the importance of using information about children's development in both activity planning and child assessment.
  • Integration throughout all curricular components of information for programming for young children with disabilities. Adaptations for use of the curriculum and activities for children with disabilities are included throughout the book to help early childhood teachers plan for meeting the needs of all young children—including those with special needs—throughout the program.
  • Focus on helping children develop skills to cope with an unsettled world and to help develop supportive and healing relationships with caring adults.
  • Sample forms and charts that can be reproduced and used in early childhood programs.


The book is organized into four major sections. Part One, Early Childhood Curriculum, explains the purpose of curriculum in early childhood programs and influences on curriculum development. It presents several curricula and describes various components of a curriculum. A specific curriculum model, creative play, is described in detail and is the organizing framework of the remainder of the book. The creative-play curriculum model is a flexible, open-ended model that is easily adapted by teachers for a range of age groups from infancy through preschool and for a variety of populations of children.

Part Two, Invisible Curriculum, presents information about early childhood program aspects that significantly affect the teaching and learning environment, yet are not always visible to the observer and not always carefully planned. These program aspects must be thoughtfully considered and designed before the program is ready for children and families. In this section, there are separate chapters on the role of the teacher, partnerships with parents, classroom management and guidance, classroom design and organization, and the outdoor play environment. These chapters include both theoretical and practical information for teachers and highlight issues for teachers striving to implement quality programs for children. These issues include working environments, staff' interactions and relationships, development of a professional identity, and moving beyond mandates and minimal standards to creating excellence in early childhood programs.

Part Three, Visible Curriculum, focuses on the more obvious dimensions of early childhood programs: curriculum activities and child observation and assessment. This section includes a chapter on each developmental domain with a section of classroom activities for each age group.

Part Four, Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood Curricula, focuses on the increasing concern about contemporary stressors and the developmental risks they pose to young children as well as the major implications for teachers as they implement curriculum to promote healthy development and emotional well-being.

The appendixes contain development assessment instruments—including a developmental checklist and guidelines for writing child observations—that are easily reproducible for use by students and practitioners.


Each chapter begins with a vignette that describes a practical situation and dilemma faced by a child and family. These real-world examples encourage readers to critically analyze the situation and consider ways to address the problem. A list of questions following each vignette identifies issues that should be examined before choosing a course of action. Each chapter ends with a suggested solution to the problem. The vignettes are examples derived from our own experiences in early childhood programs and are designed to help readers link information with implementation. Each chapter also ends with a summary with a suggested list of discussion questions to facilitate understanding of the material presented.

Each chapter presents an area of child development and links it with practical information to help teachers support and facilitate this developmental domain. Curriculum activities for each domain are described at the end of Chapters 10 through 15. Examples for practical application are included throughout the text with lists of guidelines that suggest program evaluation criteria and implementation ideas.


We use the terms child care, preschool programs, and early childhood education interchangeably to refer to programs that serve children from birth to age 8. The book's emphasis is on programs for children from birth to age 5. We define these groups, for curriculum planning and environmental design purposes, as follows: infants, 6 weeks to 15 months; toddlers, 15 months to 3 years; and preschoolers, 3 to 5 years. Most programs provide a variety of multiage groupings; teachers should choose and adapt activities and teaching techniques that are appropriate for a specific classroom.


This textbook reflects our lifelong professional commitment to creating the best learning environment for young children and our own struggles with securing adequate funding for early childhood programs, designing growth-promoting environments for teachers as well as children, searching for solutions to teacher burnout and turnover, working effectively and compassionately with children and families under stress, and educating administrators and policymakers about the needs of children and families. The heart and soul of our writing is a concern for providing excellent programs for children, parents, and teachers. Our hope is that this concern for the quality of young children's lives will have an impact on curricula in early childhood education programs.

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Catron, Carol E.; Allen, Jan
ISBN 10: 0130968544 ISBN 13: 9780130968548
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Catron, Carol E.; Allen, Jan
Published by Prentice Hall (2002)
ISBN 10: 0130968544 ISBN 13: 9780130968548
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