The best way to prove that play counts, that play is the best way young children learn is to just do it. Play speaks for itself, and Denita Dinger speaks enthusiastically for play as well. She is passionate about providing positive, play-centered environments that promote self exploration, imagination and "the important stuff". Independent problem solving, confidence, self control, owning discoveries, cooperating, sharing, asking for what we need, instigating, leading and listening are what Denita considers the "important stuff". The important stuff builds the base for which all learning can build on.

Firmly believing that listening to children will produce the most amazing learning opportunities, Denita thrives on thinking outside the box, and on her toes to enhance play-centered learning. She has been the owner and operator of Giggles and Grins, a family child care home in Sioux Falls, SD since 1998. Denita uses her BS in Eled and Early Childhood Ed. to not only find clever ways for young children to learn through natural discovery and investigative play, but to also "sell" play to parents who are expecting "worksheet learning".

Denita's presentations are heartfelt, humorous, valuable and most importantly, REAL. She doesn't just throw out theory -- she is all about practice. Denita actively lives what she talks about, it is her passion. Monday- Friday she shares her days with ten 2-5 year olds in her program. More often then not, what happened during the past week turns up in Denita's presentations. Sharing fresh, successful learning moments she has experienced with young children is her pleasure. Her journey from saying: "We play for a bit before we get to the "important stuff". " to now, "Play IS the "important stuff". " will motivate all early childhood professionals. Denita has a special gift of inspiring others to give ownership of discovery to children, to see the value in play and spread the word that play counts!

Take a look at the Keynote and workshops listed and described below. Need something that's not there? Just ask! Denita is constantly developing new workshops, and what you are seeking may be in the works!

Denita has been a keynote presenter since 2008 and is in the process of co-authoring a third book for Redleaf Press . Her first book, co-authored with Jeff Johnson, Let Them Play: An Early Childhood UNcurriculum came out in March, 2012, and the second "Let's Play" will be available in late Fall of 2014.

Keynote Presentations

**NOTE: some workshops can be adjusted and work well as Keynotes too -- just ask!

"Play Counts!"

Works best in a 90 min. time slot

Play counts... if we let it. Denita’s passion for following a child's lead is contagious. In order to create opportunities that are LOADED with the "important stuff" Denita prefers to "plop" and follow. You will leave her session with a new appreciation for play and a fresh perspective on the value of trusting children to lead their learning. This keynote is filled to the brim with simple ideas for play-based learning that young children THRIVE on. Denita shares her tried and true method to put ageappropriate learning IN, and take the forced boxed stuff OUT. Participants will leave this session refreshed, energized and feeling empowered with valuable tools that will help them let PLAY COUNT, and educate the parents as well!

"Playing Our Way to Reading Someday!! (2nd Edition)"

Works best in a 90 min. time slot and pairs nicely with “The Power of One Word”

Some parents are anxious to brag that their child recognizes letters, knows the meaning of words and can write their name. This workshop reminds us of the important "stuff" that creates a sturdy base for those "braggable" accomplishments. Solving problems, imagining, cooperating, compromising, spatial awareness, pushing, dragging, digging and squeezing are just a small example of the skills that form the base of literacy. You will leave this workshop literally filled to the brim with creative NEW ideas that will foster a base for the "BIGGER" literacy skills to build on effortlessly, all through play!

Workshop Descriptions

**NOTE: Unless otherwise noted, all workshops are 90 minutes in length

"Empowering Children with the Gift of Control"

Afraid of what that "out of control" child in your program will do if you "just" let them play? Feeling like sticking to a rigid schedule is the only way for you to be in control? Do you think “play-based” and “child-led” means no structure? Then this is the workshop for you! We all have a desire to be in control. Children are the same, they seek control, they NEED control. Taking a toy away from another child fills that urge for control. Being trusted to solve problems, choose a task and find a new way to use materials also fills the need for control and has the bonus affect of being empowering. You will walk away from this workshop with practical ideas that will empower children with the type of control that provides opportunities to build life-long skills.

"The Power of One Word"

One word has the power to create curiosity, solve problems, make discoveries and fill a morning, day, week or more with crazy amounts of learning! Lots of brainstorming will be done as you learn more about the "Mystery Word" concept and how it can be used to enhance any play-based, child-led program. Children will learn their letters through active, child-led discovery and meaningful use, NOT with boring, inappropriate drilling. Denita will share her list of proven, successful mystery words, as well as plenty of new words that the group brainstorms! You will be practicing your "think on your toes" skills and spontaneity will be your new friend! This cross curriculum concept will have you excited to get back to work just to see that spark in the children in your program.

“Play Warrior Boot Camp”

Length is very negotiable….anywhere from 90 minutes – 6 hours)

No guts, no glory! This workshop isn’t for the faint of heart! Designed specifically for the early childhood professional who is ready to embrace and defend the value of play. Participants will be put through rigid drills, brainstorming sessions, a “tough questions” obstacle course and will leave with a toolbox full of research-based artillery that will help them educate parents and others of the power of play. It is recommended that you stretch before attending as a flexible brain is required!

“Plopping 101”

According to Denita, a plop is something that is placed in an early childhood environment without any adult direction or expectations. The adult steps back and follows where children take the plop. This workshop will further explore plop possibilities. You will have opportunities to dissect the needs and interests of the children currently in your program so that you can more accurately choose plops that will inspire them and create opportunities for children to own discoveries. You will leave with a list of Denita’s favorite plops as well as your own list of ideas that are specifically chosen for your unique crew! Bring your brainstorming hats and get ready to think outside the box!!

"Let Them Play"

This workshop requires 2 ˝ - 3 hours and lots of space

Based on the book Denita co-authored with Jeff Johnson, "Let Them Play: An Early Childhood "Un"curriculum", this hands-on workshop not only covers dissecting play, but also HOW and WHY to let children learn through play. Tried and true techniques will be shared as well as more ideas then your supply cabinet will hold! Encourage young children to try new ideas, explore freely, collaborate, solve problems, handle conflict, share and own discoveries!! All ideas shared use easy-to-find and inexpensive supplies that can be used for a variety of activities. You will experience, first hand, the learning potential in the simple! Come to this workshop prepared to play and have fun!!

"Thinking Outside the Box....Math through Play!"

Make math meaningful through rhythm and rhyme and loads of quick and easy activities using nontraditional materials. Put the power of age-appropriate learning in the hands of the children through the wonders of play! Participants will be thinking outside the box and eager to see what fantastic new ideas can emerge in their own programs! Let's play!

Fees & Contact Information

Contact Denita for current rates.