Yep...that's one of my little "family" members!
This little guy loves dress up. He loves the Hulk and princesses, and Thomas. He loves to play.
Exuberant, energetic, joyful; even at nap time!
One of the things I love about Family Childcare is the "family" part of it. There are opportunities each day for togetherness, conversations, and connections.
With a mixed age group we get to watch the babies become toddlers, then send them off to "big school" filled with pride and excitement.
Often, we get to remain in a child's life well into their adult years (showing my age ;) ). That's the way a community should be. That gives children a grounded center and memories of good moments shared that builds trust and confidence that the world is a good place. This is the way I want to raise my children AND the children in my care.
Me and My Family unit study is one of my favorites...
I love beginning the new school year with a study of social/emotional skill builders and awareness of ourselves and our family units.
Children LOVE their families and families are all unique. Welcoming new little students each August means that we get to know new friends and their families. Our curriculum partner, Mother Goose Time understands how vital it is to validate a young child, their emotions, and their unique family units.
We do this through songs, games, conversations, and language arts, science, math, and creative arts! We do this through lots of opportunities for solving conflicts and understanding that tantrums, conflicts, and the presence of emotion does not mean the absence of a good parent, good teacher, or "good" child.....it is simply an opportunity to teach and that is a VERY good moment!
What you focus on you get more of...
One of our favorite games this month was the "How Are You Feeling?" game.
We have an awesome game cube with replaceable picture pockets from Mother Goose Time and we have used it again and again.
It's soft smallish size is perfect for even the tiniest of hands!
We replaced these with our emotions faces and took turns passing it from person to person observing and discussing how the child on the cube felt as we rolled the "dice" and it landed on sad, happy, scared, etc.
We then discussed what makes us feel that way and made some dog-gone cute faces!!
This little learner has "angry" down!! We then talk about how we can help ourselves feel better. We decided that we don't like feeling scared, angry, sad, or lonely, but we WILL feel that way from time to time and it's o.k.
What is not o.k. is to STAY feeling those emotions. We like feeling happy, excited, and surprised (in a good way) better. We made a list of ways to help our friends and ourselves feel better. We observed that singing, hugs, blankies, and taking time away from others to play alone all can help with feeling mad or angry. We also discussed that we can play WITH a friend, a teacher, a pet, or parent when we feel scared, lonely or sad to feel better.
As usual, as we moved throughout the day there were many opportunities (tantrums, conflicts, and power struggles ;) ) We used these as teachable moments to try out our list. We made choices between singing a song or hugging a friend; waiting for a turn or taking time to self; asking a friend to play or playing with teacher.
We noticed that when we made choices, they worked and we felt better. We also made a very concentrated effort to record, "Caught ya's!" We "caught ya'" sharing! We "caught ya'" taking turns! We "caught ya'" being a helper! As we focus more on the "caught ya's" and less on anything else, the "caught ya'" moments become more and more contagious, fun, and sought after by each age group. The children's moods switch from "self focused" to "others focused" and we had a board filled full of "caught ya's!"
Why? Because what you focus on you get more of!
We use our game cube for letters and numbers too!
Children loves games so this little cube gets used by all ages and for many uses! Here we made a letter recognition game that we played over and over day after day this past week.
Our letters this month are A, M, and T; upper and lower case.
Games beat flashcards hands down!!
We also use our dough cutters with corresponding letters A, M, and T for hands on letter play.
Our Creative Arts and Language Arts embraced social/emotional skill building as well!!
Our Many Colored Days by Dr. Suess is one of our favorite books. It teaches colors and emotions in a safe and accepting manner that little readers can understand and identify with.
After reading this recommended book we used our Invitation To Create example and many colors as we discussed and painted how we felt. The resulting artwork was beautiful!
We had colorful rainbows and murals of black with swirls, shapes, and figures. We also had lots and lots of excited chatter as they each explained their masterpiece!
Part of our Me and My Family study included pets that make up our families. We have many, many types of pets. Some have cats, dogs, birds, fish, even bunnies!
I think bunny day was a hoppin' success!!
Giving them more...
Part of helping children understand their emotions is giving them special ways to learn how to positively calm themselves and express their energy in a safe manner.
Our very own Mr. Ninja is beloved by our children!! This is the perfect way for our littles to use their muscles to feel strong and empowered! It works, just look at these sweet faces.
Ms. Melissa comes to teach us yoga with songs, dances, stories, and special poses that correspond with the seasons and our thematic units! We practice these poses during each week when we need a brain break or as a calming transition to another activity. Even our little 2's know "Tree Pose!"
This is such a small sample of the week. We love, laugh and learn together. There are challenges and victories. We grow a bit taller and a bit stronger with each passing day.
Providing children with a solid basis of learning is a small portion of what we do.
Giving them more....making a difference in their lives daily is where the reward lay for me.
Yoga, Karate, Zoo Encounters, Librarian Storytime, and Community Visitors all comprise our whole child educational program. I believe that when we give children an safe environment where they can experience the world around them that we, as a community become an extension of "family."
This is a vital part of healthy children and healthy families.
As always, I wish you well and I hope you get to play today.
One of the main goals with this blog as a whole is to educate families as to the importance of the deep and meaningful aspects of play and how "play" is actually the very important business of learning for little ones. It is further to dissect the actions of educators, like myself, that provide experiences specifically designed and engineered to provide certain outcomes for children to make observations and build skills from, that they may not receive in any other setting.
The phrase "invitation to play" has long been a buzzword in the Early Childhood Education community. It is an "engineering of play" to provide such outcomes and play based learning experiences for young children.
In simple terms, it is designed to draw a child in. With a true "invitation" the child will naturally WANT to explore, discover, and have the freedom of time and materials to make a valuable impact on their own education. The teacher literally sets up and sets out materials in an impactful manner designed to make the play irresistible to little minds and big hearts!
But, in most instances, I think we are missing the true intent...
The "Invitation's" true importance.
The true "Invitation to Play" or "Invitation to Create" is as old as play itself. In simple terms is means, "Come play with me." It is designed to signify importance. It's purpose is to communicate a time of togetherness to the "invitee."
However, this simply is not the case in most instances. In most of the articles and images I have researched regarding the "Invitation to Play or Create" the MOST important aspect is missing.
Time and togetherness.
This is a sad portrayal of the American child's preschool (and often home life) experiences.
We can provide beautiful materials arranged, balanced, and researched. We spend time and money purchasing these, setting them up and then watching little eyes as they bound toward the awaiting objects, the tea party, the finger painting with loose and unconventional parts, the mud kitchen, the science lab filled with ladybug larvae or worm farm.
We photograph the excitement, label it, post it and we are DONE!
Mission accomplished, drop the mic, we did it!! We brought them joy and encouraged play (aren't we amazing teachers/parents/care providers?!?) PAT ON THE BACK and an A+++++ for effort!
Then it happens, "Will you play with me?"
"What? Ummmmm....I mean look at all this fun STUFF you have!" the child looks at it and looks at you and again asks, "Will you play with me?"
What most of these valuable experiences are missing is YOU.
Recall above when I noted true meaning of an "Invitation to Play?" The true meaning to a child is "I want to play WITH you." The child is drawn to the beauty and possibility of the mud kitchen, the tea party, the marble run, the leaf painting, the worm farm and what they want more than anything is to share it with you.
Without the conscious and deliberate presence of a caregiver meaningful conversations and authentic, lasting learning stagnate. WITH the presence of a parent or caregiver we can open up an incredible world imagination and understanding into how this little personality thinks, moves, and defines their world. It is nothing short of miraculous.
It takes patience, dirty hands, lots of paper towels (usually) and a willingness to be part of the mess. It takes the adult making observations about what they see and asking the child what they see, then listening and reflecting.
The best part? It really is so simple and easy to do.
This Invitation to Create is from our curriculum partner, Mother Goose Time, who has an amazing variety of "Invitations" that span science, math, language arts, and creative arts.
They have paperbags, cotton balls, black paper, and sticks. They also received (post pic) brown, white, and black paint and glue. Their inspiration piece was an owl family in a tree.
Now....how are children 1-4 going to make something that resembles owls with those? It actually turned out beautifully.... I was asked to help on several occasions with cutting, mixing, holding this here or there while it dried. We had cotton and brown bags stuck to everything!
Here we were talking about the dark and how things look different or "scary" because it is dark, but dark is just.....well....dark! In this "Invitation to Create and Play" we made "dark" animals (common ones that might be found in our room at night) with cut-outs from Mother Goose Time. These allowed us to have many conversations about dark and light and pretend and real. Every child needed my help creating these. Does it look like we are getting any less benefit from them because I didn't make the children, "do it themselves" so that it would be "their own creation?"
I ask them to show me how they are creating their art, if they would like to do it together, if they would like help or to do it themselves.
Their answers vary based on the idea in their heads. Helping a little one cut out a shape or use scissors, or create just the right shade of brown is not "doing it for them" and does not stunt growth. Helping with tape, glues, and glitter and assisting them in creating what they are wanting to rather than frustrated little ones quit because, "I can't." is an incredible experience in cooperation.
.Rather, it creates a spirit of cooperation and confidence that they know if they cannot do it themselves, they do not have to sit frustrated. They can simply come to me and I am always willing to help.
Isn't that what we all want? Someone to come along side us and lend a hand as we are reaching goals that may at first be out of reach? We still learn. Often, we learn more as we get to experience the help of an "expert" and watch and again and again allowing ourselves to be taught and coached. This is true for little ones as well.
Being a part of the "Invitation to Create" is a vital component to the education of young children whether one chooses to provide open ended, child-led play or project-based, teacher-facilitated materials. The MOST important part of the play is time and togetherness.
As always, I wish you well and I hope YOU get to play today.
Life is made of moments...
"There isn't anything more full of hope, joy and peace than a child's smile... It captures the mundane and makes it extraordinary." - LaDonna Woolsey
I am a Mother Goose Time Blogger. I decided to become one after trying their products because I they are comprehensive and serve my mixed age group well. I do receive products to review from Mother Goose Time and do so with my own honest and thorough opinions. For more information, please contact me at Ladonna@woolseyacademy.com