Thursday, 27 March 2014

Spring Time is for the Birds - A Needle - Felted Nest

In our family, we often give home-made gifts to one another at Christmas time. A few years ago my oldest daughter and her husband combined their efforts to give me a special surprise.  

A Mama Robin!

She found her in a thrift store and when you press her chest she sings.  She, of course, needed a nest for her eggs.  I had some brown batting that was just right.  I also needled three blue eggs for her.  

 I hung some branches from the daycare ceiling that the nest sat on.  Whenever the children asked, Mama Robin would fly down and sing for them.  I decided that she was not a toy that they would play with, so that she could stay special.  They accepted the fact that she stayed on her nest and came to visit them regularly.

The part my son-in-law contributed was a very sweet story.

A Bird Named Robin 

There once was a bird named Robin.  In the daytime she liked to fly over the treetops.  And at night time she liked to settle into her nest.  In her nest she kept three green leaves, three red threads, and three blue eggs.

She loved her blue eggs very much.  When night came she would sit on top of her eggs to keep them warm, and when she left in the morning she would say goodbye to each one.

One day after flying over the treetops, Robin came home to her nest.  She counted all three of her green leaves: one - two - three.  And she counted all three of her red threads: one - two - three.  But when she counted her  blue eggs there only two: one - two...the third egg was missing!

Robin was very worried about her third egg.  She started to look for it in the evening.  She flew to every treetop, but she could not find it in the trees.  Then she looked under every stone, but she could not find it on the ground.  The she  flew around the pond, but she could not find it in the water.

It was almost dark outside.  Robin was sad because she did not think she would ever find her egg .  She started to fly home.

On the way home, her friend Blue Jay called her name, " Robin! Is this yours?"

Robin looked at what Blue Jay was holding in his wings.  It was her blue egg!

"Yes!"  said Robin.  "That's my egg!"  Robin was so happy that she flew around Blue Jay five times!

She took the egg home and put it in her nest with the other two eggs and sat on them all night.

The next morning she said goodbye to the eggs again and went to fly over the tree tops.  When she came back she counted all three of her green leaves: one -two - three.  And she counted all three of her red threads: one - two  - three.  But there were no blue eggs.  Instead she counted three tiny baby birds: 
one - two - three!

I hope you enjoy this delightful story.

Happy Spring!

Monday, 24 March 2014

Loose Parts and Open Ended Toys in Action

This set of photos are of five children in our infant room playing with loose parts and open-ended toys.   The pictures were taken over the course of an hour in an area of the room where there were a variety of toys. They show the children exploring, and manipulating, moving toys around, constructing and designing and then re-designing.  They are using their senses to gather information about their world.  As an Educator I don't want to underestimate this process or their need to play freely in this manner.

I invited her to come and play.

Building with blocks. Practising stacking.  Practising turn taking.

Peeking through the colored blocks.

Touching yarn.

Tasting yarn.

Playing with the baby doll.  So loving.

This is just a sampling, a small glimpse into the play of these capable little ones.  Learning, growing, maturing, developing everyday, every hour.


‘Loose parts’ theory is about remembering that the best play comes from things that allow children to play in many different ways and on many different levels. Environments that include ‘loose parts’ are infinitely more stimulating and engaging than static ones. The play environment needs to promote and support imaginative play though the provision of ‘loose parts’ in a way that doesn’t direct play and play opportunities, but allows children to develop their own ideas and explore their world. 

Check out and LIKE my Face Book page HERE

Saturday, 22 March 2014

Loose Parts and Open Ended Toys - A Liberating Experience

I seem to think a lot about toys for our children in the infant room.  I thought about it a lot in the toddler room last year too.  Maybe at my ripe old age it just takes me longer to figure things out. In the last few years the whole center, particularly the toddler room and the 3-5 rooms, embraced a Reggio philosophy and so conscious decisions were being made to exchange plastic for natural. This can take a while as most daycares do not have lots of extra money.  But now we have pretty much eliminated the plastic toys and have replaced them with items that are made of wood, wool, metal, cardboard, or fabric etc.

 In the infant room we have agreed that we prefer just a few loose part toys because it can be overwhelming for children and staff.  I have to say we are minimalists when it comes to how much we have out at any one time.  Here's how it works.

We have a nice size room that is usually the sleep room.  However if no one is sleeping we go and play in there with a basket of balls.  Large balls, small balls, nobbly balls, wool balls.  The children can use their large muscles and be quite active.

We have our project area where we are exploring and wondering about light.

We share a small space in the toddler room that we use when they are not.

We are committed to going outside everyday and starting at about 9:30 or 10:00
we take groups of 3-4 children at a time for stroller rides, play on our covered patio or play in the outside yard.

And then we have the main play area where we have the loose part toys, a few dolls, and some books.  We also have a foam climbing structure and a wooden climbing bridge in this area.  We do spontaneous singing and dancing times here as well.  And eating, lots of eating!

It works.  What I like about loose parts the most is that apart from the obvious safety rules, the children are free to use the toys however they want to. They can take them anywhere in the room that they want to. There are no rules attached. When it is time to clean up are various points in the day the staff can set up beautiful toy invitations in different ways and in different areas.

Here is an example or what we have out and how an invitation might look.

Set up this way or that way.  

These felted jingle balls are about three years old.

I am fascinated with how the children play with these toys and receive information and meaning as they use their senses to explore.

I would love to hear about your thoughts on loose parts and how you incorporate them into your room.  Leave a comment!

Stay tuned as the next post will show these toys in action!  Fun stuff!  

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Breaking the Stereotype.

Most of the little ones in the infant room were napping, and I found myself picking up toys and tidying the room.  I say picking up and tidying, but what I really mean is intentionally creating new invitations with the toys.  The same toys over the course of the day but presented differently, makes everything new.
I placed a piece of red fleece fabric and the yellow doily onto the top step of the wooden climbing bridge and then placed two little dolls on top.

I saw a little boy approach and he seemed interested in the dolls.  

 I asked him, "Is that a blanket for the baby?"

He didn't respond verbally, but this is what he did.

His play was so focussed and it was all about putting the blanket on the baby and taking the blanket off again.

On and off.

I noticed that he got himself up onto the top step where the babies were.  He became more adept at putting the blanket on and off as he practised.

He worked at this for a long period of time.

Tender and sweet.

I found this blog post about boys and dolls that was just so lovely that I want to share it today.  Please take the time to check it out, you won't be disappointed.  Thanks Arlee!

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Always a Flip Side.

We just received happy, happy news!!  Our oldest daughter, her husband and their sweet, little girl are moving.  Here. To our city.  I am over the moon with excitement, of course.  We are scrambling around trying to find housing and they are scrambling around getting packed up and working out details in short order.

We are so looking forward to them coming, even though we can hardly believe it is happening.  No more long distance Face Time visits with the little girl.  Now we will have Face to Face visits.  What will that be like, I wonder?

While I am so excited for this welcome change in our lives, my pragmatic, what's the bottom line, mind, mulls over what this change means for other people.  Her sister, for example.  These two beautiful young sisters left home to go to college quite a few years ago.  My plan was that I would generously allow them to go and then they would come back home and live with me again.  But that is not the way it worked out.  They both successfully completed degrees and then more degrees and then masters degrees. They got jobs. The both met cute boys there and stayed.  No, that was not my plan at all.  But it is the way it is supposed to be right?  Our kids grow up and leave, just like they are supposed to. And now after all this time one is coming back.  I think the sisters are going to miss each other very much.  And little C will miss her Auntie very much.

 My son-in-law's family are going to miss them so much too.  I think this is the first time one of their sons will be living so far away.  Big changes for this family.  And little C will miss her Grandma and Grandpa, her Aunts and Uncles and little cousin. And their farm. And the dogs. Oh yes, it will be a big change.

It's the way of life it seems.  There is always a flip side.  Happy or sad.  Good or bad.  Too much or too little.

Hopefully, as the dust settles, and everyone gets used to the new changes, life will find it's rhythm once again.  A new rhythm.  A good rhythm.

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Welcome Spring!

Today was sunny and warm.  Well, relatively warm for an early spring day.  Most of the snow in our area has melted and last years grass and pine cones and pine needles have emerged, albeit faded and flat after a long winters sleep.  The children didn't notice that though.  When I let them out of the stroller to walk around on the grass, it was love at first sight. 

They walked around in a kind of wonder.  

I love how all their attention was focused on the earth.  Like it was a virtual playground to be explored and discovered, but no equipment necessary.

Looking down.

Finding sticks and stones.  Treasures really, when one is two.

Nature at their fingertips.  Free to touch and experience.  Breathing in sweet fresh air. 

Frolicking in the sun and shadows.

Check out and LIKE my Face Book page HERE.

Monday, 10 March 2014

Project Work in the Infant Room - Mirror, Mirror

Sometimes there is no need for words.........the pictures speak.

A playful interaction with light and reflection.