Friday, 12 June 2015

Spring Nature Table - An Invitation to Explore

I've noticed a few toddlers stepping on ants in the yard.  Or covering them with dirt.  I've talked to them about ants and tried to nurture an interest.  One of the ideas I had in the classroom was to set up a spring Nature Table.

We'll see what happens.

Some other ideas I have are:

*to make a spiders web with wool outside in a corner
*catch some ants in a container and observe them for a week
*books in the book shelf
*observing where ants go outside, cultivating an interest by being interested
*insects at the play-do table

Project work - Child Led Investigations.

I was perusing this article recently and while I have to admit that I didn't read the whole thing (it's quite long) a few paragraphs caught my eye as I have been thinking about an on-going project in our toddler room this year.  I copied some highlights from the article throughout this blog post to share with you.

A project is an in-depth investigation of a topic worth learning more about. The investigation is usually undertaken by a small group of children within a class, sometimes by a whole class, and occasionally by an individual child. The key feature of a project is that it is a research effort deliberately focused on finding answers to questions about a topic posed either by the children, the teacher, or the teacher working with the children. (Katz, 1994, p. 1) 

Back in the fall one child, in particular,  in our toddler room, was interested in all things fire fighter related.  We got out some books for the book area and it fanned the flame!  Other children became interested as well.  In response to their interest we built a fire truck out of a box.  We also had a mesh fire truck and we set them up side by side hoping that with two we could encourage team work.  Fire fighters work as a group!  We fabricated some hoses, and had some DIY helmets one of our Dads made for our sports court, but the children were happy  using them for fire fighting as well.  We played the Fire Truck song by Ivan Ulz, on the CD player.  The children played with all of  this for quite a while and then moved more into a construction/machines interest.  There was however, always an overlapping that happened as the fire fighter interest continued to emerge from time to time.

Painting our DIY fire truck.

Helmet of all kinds.

Projects provide the backbone of the children’s and teachers’ learning experiences. They are based on the strong conviction that learning by doing is of great importance and that to discuss in group and to revisit ideas and experiences is the premier way of gaining better understanding and learning. (p. 7) 

One of the DIY hoses I fabricated from a skipping rope.  This has been really durable.

Hoses of all kinds.

As with all things toddler, the hoses and helmets were being used one moment, one day, and then suddenly not.

The relevant evidence from these studies suggests that preschool programs based on child-initiated learning activities contribute to children’s short- and long-term academic and social development, while preschool programs based on teacher-directed lessons obtain a short-term advantage in children’s academic development by sacrificing a long-term contribution to their social and emotional development. On this basis, research supports the use by preschool programs of a curriculum approach based on child initiated learning activities rather than one based on teacher-directed lessons. (p. 2) 

Metal wine rack ladders.

"Come on, you guys, come up the ladder!"

The 3-5's have a cool portable ladder in their yard.  We get to play in there now and then, and look at the team work as they figure out how to stand it up somewhere.

This pic below is of three little fire fighters "shooting water" with pylons from the construction area. Yet another example of how the fire fighter interest overlaps and intertwines with their other play and learning. This was yesterday, months and months after the fire fighting play began in our room.  It is still relevant and interesting to them.

I love project work because it enables my children to go in depth with their learning. They really like to investigate and really like to explore. Project work allows me to meaningfully bring real artifacts into the classroom for them to get down, get their hands into their learning . . . just a real in-depth exploration of the topic. I like project work too because it covers all areas of curriculum and does not just focus on one thing such as literacy. A project can help me integrate all areas of the curriculum in an engaging way. 

—Lora Taylor, prekindergarten teacher


If you do open the article, can I recommend that you scroll down to the table that outlines the differences between teacher planned experiences and the project approach?  That was very interesting and important I thought.

 For more reading  - Project Based Pre-school - a little shorter blog post!

Sunday, 7 June 2015

Toddler - Rough and Tumble Play

If you have been following this blog, you will remember that in our toddler room this year we have had a lot of boys.  Eleven boys and three girls currently.  That means, as an all female staff, we have had to try and understand the male brain if we are to exist in harmony.   It has been one of my goals to create a "Yes" space for all of the children in our room. What does that mean exactly?  Well, I wanted to examine rules, and room design and routines.  Why do we do it that way?  Is it working?  What are the children doing each day?  What do they want to learn?  Are the children happy?  Are the children frustrated?

One of the things we always have is an area (s) were the children can be physical.  We recently set up the foam climber.  One morning three little boys began using it and they found that the ramp part separated from the large block.  Maybe the velcro wasn't fastened properly but whatever the case, having the "crack"  created some epic rough and tumble play.

As a staff we recently enjoyed a couple workshops on rough and tumble play and boys.  We learned how important this type of play is for children.  One of the "rules" is that the rough and tumble play must be mutual with smiles on the faces.  If one wants to stop the play must stop.  When we started out with this little group of boys in September we had more of a zero tolerance for rough housing with each other.  We felt that their self-regulation was too immature and as well they had trouble discerning whether or not their playmate was actually having a good time!

However now they are 10 months older and we are feeling like they can communicate better in a rough and tumble scenario.

They proved they were ready on this particular morning.  The rough and tumble play consisted of jumping, yelling, body slamming, and jostling.

I sat just beyond the climber but I don't think I intervened in any way even once.

Sometimes when they jumped into the crack they might have jumped onto each other.  Lots of laughter ensued.


At one point a very young female toddler ventured into this rough and tumble zone.  I wondered how that would go, and as usual the toddlers amazed me in how they played around her.  They were well aware that she was there.

She tried her own jumping and then carried on her way.  She didn't hang around long, but I loved how she was respected by the rowdy boys.

They ended up their play by squeezing themselves into the shelves. 

I loved watching them use their bodies in such amazing ways.  I was proud of myself for staying out of their play and saying yes to them about their choice of play.  

It was good.


Here is an article by Michelle Tannock who facilitated the workshop for us.

Interested in reading more on rough and tumble play?  

My co-worker wrote about her experience of having rough and tumble play in their 3-5 room.

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Practise makes Perfect.

Once upon a time there was a little boy who wanted to pour.  He was fast.  So fast that he would grab the water jug at lunch time and pour the water into his cup and beyond.  So I thought he could do with some practise. 

 And practise he did.

He arrived early one morning and I had this little invitation ready for him.

Sure enough he accepted!

He poured and he poured and he poured.

We refilled the teapot numerous times.

He paused from pouring for a while when the hinge on the teapot caught his attention.

What I learned from him is that....a stimulated child, is a happy child.

He played with this for at least an hour.  An hour. That's a long time for a toddler to stick with anything.

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Rain - an Unconventional Toy

It poured rain all day today.  I, personally, welcome the rain as we live in a semi-arid desert and the earth is already dry with the warm temperatures we have had.  
The rain provided twelve toddlers with numerous learning opportunities and wonderful surprises.

We noticed that there were beautiful water droplets on the end of the pine needles.

He noticed that the pine needles were sharp.  The rain made ordinary pine needles sparkly and interesting.

Look how shiny the concrete is.  

Rain water gathered in our water table.

Rain water was also found in pots and trucks.  This little one dumped out the water and watched  it disappear as the sand soaked it up.

We have a big puddle that we walked and jumped in.  

After dumping the water out of his boots a couple times, he decided to abandon them.

I asked him what it felt like and he said, "Dirt".

This little one also went bare foot in the sand box.  Wet feet and sand/dirt can create an interesting sensory experience that some need to feel in order to know if they like it or not.  

More rain on the forecast tomorrow.  

Tomorrows programming done - check