Sunday, February 27, 2011

Reminder List

As I've read various wonderful ideas this week, on some of the blogs I've followed, I've said to myself, "Remember to try this."

So I've decided to be sure and remember when the season or time comes, by putting these ideas down here:

- totem poles from coffee cans, from Amy's blog, "Child Central Station", start collecting, and think of a way to make it stand secure in our play structure;

- butterflies from laundry detergent jugs;

- more creative outdoor play ideas I found on Jenny's blog, "Let the Children Play" , such as mudpie kitchen, outdoor shade spots, play poles,

- using koolaid powder for snow paint, from Child Central Station;

- Buddy bears from the blog "Flights of Whimsy", this is something I want to start now

- read more about "progressive education", because it resonates with my beliefs, and I want to learn more;

- keep reading all the blogs for wise, sane, and positive food for thought .

It doesn't take a cape to make a super hero

I truly love working with young children, often what they say stays with me for a long time, and give me food for thought.

Here are a couple of my favourites:

Scott (names changed), is one of "my kids", meaning first I was his Toddler teacher, then he and I moved up t the next age group together, and now he's in the 4 to 5  year group, so we've been dialoguing together off and on for 2 years. So in the past summer, he was visiting my group, and we were getting ready to go outside, and he observed my feet, in sandals and said, "I see you have dry skin on your feet.", which I acknowledged. Next he said "I hate dry skin, yuck". I explained I should use lotion on my feet, but sometimes I get busy and forget.

So, a couple of weeks later,  we were walking outside to our play yard, and Scott said, "I see you still have dry skin on your feet", and I replied "I forget to put lotion on my feet.", and Scott said "If I lived with you I would remind you to put lotion on your feet."

I think this was sweet for several reasons, partly because of who he is, and also makes me remember, that our children invest much thought into their lives, including their teachers, and we need to remember the importance we hold in their lives, and try to insure respect for the sacred bond between child and teacher.
( Personal reminder, don't forget feet in personal regimen, children don't miss a thing.)


Guido, has a love of superheros, and robots. When he first entered my group 1 1/2 years ago, we played robots with blocks, we drew robots, we read about robots, and we built a wonderful box robot, and soon became fast friends. Guido is now moved up to the next age group, but often visits, based on the day, so he will often want to be a super hero, and want to engage me and his friends in super hero play.He's extremely inventive, and will sometimes enter my room, already in his hero persona, and fly about the room.

At our center we have a " no weapons play" rule, and based on individual staff preferences " no super hero" rule, because it can move into rough play.  I usually am for this rule especially with the older kids, who are physically strong and could hurt someone if engaging in a super hero battle. In Guido' case he is quite persistant in his play, and will give good reasons supporting his play. Such as, "Guido remember 'no super heroes at daycare',  and Guido might reply 'I'm a good super hero, I save people'.

He sometimes will want a scarf or doll blanket, tied at his neck for a cape, to which I will say 'No super hero capes in daycare Guido', and one day he said something so awesome, "It doesn't take a cape to make a super hero', which I think I might someday make into a poster and put up in my room.

I recently read some research on boys' play needs and think maybe super hero play does need to be expressed.How do other centers, and preschools deal with super hero , and other potentially rough play? Am I in the dark ages here, when placing this play off limits? Part of me thinks so.

Well, that's all for now, although with Guido's sayings  alone I could probably write a book.


Saturday, February 26, 2011

A Happy, Quirky daycare vignette

We have been in a very cold spell in southern Saskatchewan, and so have spent the week indoors.

Both staff and children have weathered the situation quite well, finding time to enjoy creative play and art, and special moments.

Just before lunch I retrieved my children from another teacher, as I'd been doing some planning, and so we entered our room, and although we had only 30 minutes to lunch, the children were eager to play.

I had set out 2 pairs of ballet slippers, one an adult pair, and the other small child sized black slippers, and I had provided several girls bathing suits in the dressup area.

The children immediately dressed for some dancing, and after some innitial concern re: who would wear the shoes, we established a system of passing them on to the next child, etc.

Jeremy (all names changed) asked for the Baby Einstein cd, (I'd recently brought this cd in for rest time, but Jeremy asks for it every day, all day),  So to some magical classical music my children created a magical dance moment, whirling, twirling, pirouetting in joyful abandon.When lunch arrived the children were willing to come sit down, having apparently recharged from the dance moment, and we had a very pleasant happy lunch time.

And if this wasn't good enough, Guido arrived in time for lunch, entering the room as a galloping horse! Guido galloped around the room, very fast, and "pulled on the reins" of his horse, but to no avail."My horse won't stop". How fun was this, for all involved as the other children looked on in bemusement. After a bit of horseplay, Guido admitted he might be hungry, and came to eat with relish.

A lovely way to spend our Friday, and the happy mood continued til all went home at the end of the day.

These are the monents that make my work sustaining and always delightful.

Thought it would be good to share.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

How do I define Common Sense?

I feel using commonsense in my work as a child care professional, means using what fits for myself, and my children. I firmly believe from my own experience (and I have also read this), that when I sit on the floor with my children that their stress level goes down. So when comforting a frightened or upset child I generally sit down on the floor and hold the child. It has worked so many times, that I just always do this, and usually sit on the floor when playing with my kids, etc. as a matter of course.

I believe that if I use emergent curriculum and closely observe and listen to my children for cues as to what they are interested in, and then keep an open mind about how the children chose to use what I offer to them, that they will enjoy their play, and learn more readily.

I believe that if I engage my children in dialogue throughout the day in an honest, natural, give and take way, that it will increase trust, learning and also language development. I also feel that table manners are better, and are not an issue, if I engage my children in interesting conversation at meal times, about just about anything, colours, families, pets,plans, ...

I know that children thrive on outdoor play, so my commonsense tells me don't forget to be outside whenever possible.

In a way, commonsense is using what my senses observe and tell me about children and what works in the environment we have to work with.

Lately, in early childhood education, there is some talk of not having storytime or "circle", because it isn't right to take the children from their play and "require" them to participate.My common sense tells me that children love story time and songs, and that they will miss out if I don't make it part of their day's routine.I was always very flexible in my past 23 years with my story times, etc. allowing some children to walk around the outside of the circle if that was what the child needed to do, but I knew the child was listening in his/her way. I feel that alot of language development happens at these times, as well as fun, and a learned heritage of story, song and rhymes that may not get passed down if we let this go in favour of free play.I just believe that some routine is comforting, and stabilizing to children. As well sitting quietly and resting is an important skill to learn. Everyone should know how to quiet their body from time to time I believe. I am wondering if most other centers still have selected times for listening, story and song?

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Reflections on reading several early childhood education blogs

Well, this past weekend, I decided to learn more about the blogging world, and chose to look at the wonderful blog," Let the Children Play", and so I emailed Jenny, to find a whole new world of bloggers, with a wealth of ideas, inspiration, and a network of colleagues.Thanks so much Jenny for taking the time to reply to me, and for passing my infor. on to a few of your friends.

I'm seeing the great potential for learning and sharing in the blogging community.

I'd like to thank those who took the time to look at my blog.

I can't begin to read all the good blogs available, but so far, I've of course enjoyed Jenny's blog "Let the Children Play", I can really understand your need to find shade and water play for cooling, In Saskatchewan summers the temp. often gets to the high 30's (not often 40 though) We have a weather policy that we must stay in if the temp. is 27 or over, but I notice that in your center you are out all times, so shade would be essential.

I thoroughly LOVE all your photos from both your center, and from other resources, thanks so much for the inspiration!! I intend to try and implement some of the water play ideas this coming summer. And the photos on play poles are incredibly creative. I really want to do some things like this in our play area.

Moving north I would like to thank Annie, from Child Central Station for taking the time to comment on my blog, and I really enjoy your photos, as well as all your good ideas.Your children are fortunate that you relish play, and it seems aren't afraid of the cold weather. I love that you find different ways of playing with, and in snow.In Saskatchewan we too have LOTs of snow, and it will last until the middle of April, most likely. I plan to use koolaid in my snow paint from now on, I like that it also smells good. Annie you have so many good ideas, and I like your features such as What to do with it Wednesdays., And your feature on fort Fridays is nice.And you bring in other sources so well. Thank you for your list of blogs, there is truly so much available now to find ideas, and inspiration. You are inspiring and really heroic I think with all your snow activities. I also just want to mention your cardboard sleds, and track makers, which I think are great.

Thank you Karen for posting a comment.

Geraldine thanks so much for your help and encouragement to me as I started the blog, and for of course your good advice for my cats Arthur and Herbert. I really enjoy reading your blog My Real Life Review; it gives food for thought. And it's so nice to reconnect with you after a few years. Thank you Ger for dropping in and posting your supportive comments. I hope our connection will continue over time, it means alot to find old friends.

Well this is all for now, I think I'll read abit more, and may have more to write tomorrow!
 All the best!!!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

One Quiet Afternoon was cold today, and windy, so we stayed in. The children were pretty tired, as we'd been to the gym in the morning and they'd run, run, and run, and thrown balls and just had lots of good fun.

So, we came back, had lunch, and the kids settled in for a nap. Normally the children are awake between 2:00 and 2:45, but today I decided to let them sleep til they woke on their own. I opened the blinds and moved around making abit of noise, to help them wake, and slowly they got up. First Sara, (all names changed) was up, and just played abit, then Nina, and so I gave these 2 their snack, then Helana woke and came to eat. It was so nice to allow the children to wake gradually, and I think we three just savoured the intimate, gentle time.At 3:30 we still had one more child sleeping, and although I wouldn't ususally let the child sleep this long it just felt alright.

Three children from another group then joined us, and I started to wake Jenna, who seemed surprised to find her friends playing but also it felt like a natural, comfortable way to wake this day.While she was in the bathroom her Mom and Dad came, and they were happy to stay and let her eat her snack. She enjoyed the special time having Mom and Dad sit with her while she ate, and the other children played  at cooking in the kitchen center; painting at the easel; building towers with Wedgits (and knocking them down) - and this was a precious interlude in a usually pretty busy time of day.

Later the girls who were "cooking", spread  a blanket on the floor and set up a picnic, and we feasted on "pudding" - the perfect ending to any day!

Just thought it would be nice to share a pleasant daycare moment.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Notes from the Regina CAYC workshop For the Love of Play Feb. 12, 2011

I enjoyed attending this workshop, and it's distinguished presenters, Robin Adeney, and Maureen Kachor.

The event began with a presentation on the Regina Children's Charter, by Mary McGrath, the executive director of the Regina Early Learning Center. She explained that  the creation of the charter, rose from the United Nations Declaration of the rights of the child, and that it seems the local community may need to take up this cause in an effort to encourage and promote the wellbeing and development of children. It really seems like our society hasn't made enough progress to ensure the optimal level of care for it's children, that is expressed in the declaration.

There is a measurement of children's readiness for school called the EDI, and in the year 2008 - 09 Regina children fell behind rhe national score of readiness.This score does not include those children with n
developmental delays, and learning disabilities.This is disturbing.

A group named the Regina and Early Childhood Network meets the last Thur. of every month at 1:30 to 3:30 at the United Way, and Mary invited anyone to join to work towards the needs of young children in our community.

Mary quoted Marian Edelman who said, "If we don't stand up for young children we don't stand up for much."


Robin Adeney presented her work towards her Phd. dissertation on children's play, Tales from the dollhouse: Children composing identities through play, language and story.

Robin described the method of narrative inquiry, and gave us each 20 minutes to reflect on one or two personal childhood play experiences as a way of experiencing the narrative inquiry process.As well Robin reflected on 3 of her personal childhood play experiences.

I really felt this was an effective way of showing us how narrative inquiry works.

Robin spent 1 school year observing an interacting with children in a preschool to study play, and the experience of play and it's meaning for a child's life.

Her work revealed to her that play is the primary interest for children, that they think about play, that they are truly focused in the process of play, and often function at a higher cognitive level when engaged in play.She describes the play of children as healing, spirtitual, and healing.

She describes the role of the "playful" adult as helping newcomers enter play, by possibly just sitting on the floor with a newcomer, and gently seeing how the child may find to enter, allowing the child to be empowered to find his/her way. She also sees adults as co-players, and that children learn best with play. Play is multi- vocal, using gestures, body language, song, dance, and speech to communicate.

Children in play enjoy moving props around from one play center to another, and do not always use materials in expected ways, they also need to move to learn.

Robin also provided a list of found objects to enhance children's play such as egg cartons, cardboard boxes, costume jewlery, containers, tape, string, etc.

She provided a quotation from the New Brunswick Curriculum Framework, that "Found materials present many opportunities for flexible and fluid thinking. Children can explore ideas for sorting or categorizing and experiment with the aesthetic of what is beautiful to them, both in what they select and how they fashion a finished project. Children will see new possibilities in these everyday objects."

Robin emphasized that play is a profound experience for children, that has profound implications for who the child will grow up into, and even an indicator for the life paths children will take as adults. When conducting personal narrative inquiries we might see hints of why we chose our career paths from the play we engaged in as children. This shows why adults should take care to allow large blocks of play for children, providing materials and environments to enhance, and to be co-players when the opportunity comes up.

Robin described the adult who plays with children, as engaging in "an act of care, love, and interest."


Maureen Kachor, is a play therapist, and she presented us with her workshop, Playful Practices to Promote Emotional Wellbeing. 

She describes play as having multiple functions for young children allowing the growth and enhancement in all areas of development, language, sensory, motor, social/emotional,and cognitive.

Maureen talked about "resilience". and describes the adult who provides warm and consistent care as facilitating the birth of the resilient self. She explained that when the child experiences stress later in life, the child can achieve emotional self regulation by "going to a gentle, nurturing place inside to find calm and solace", which first needs to be constructed in early childhood through gentle nurturing interactions with adults in the child's life.

Maureen also explained how helping the child calm, allows the child to use and develop problem solving, which comes from our prefrontal cortex. There are many ways to encourage calm:  manipulating playdo, or a squeeze ball, deep breathing, drawing, play, among others. There are some differences to be aware of depending on the child, if the child had experienced narcotic abstinance syndrome at birth, he or she may have sensory overload problems, so some sensory activities would not be helpful, the child may prefer quiet in a small space alone. As well FASD children will not want sensory stimulation, or to be looked at in the face directly. Maureen said one effective way of modeling comforting strategies, is to comfort a toy when the child is needing comfort.

A calm place such as a small pup tent could help within the group setting allowing a child privacy. Maureen emphasized privacy and respect for the child, and not asking questions, but just allowing a child to work out his/her feelings and thoughts with the materials available.

 She defined self regulation as the ability to experience anger without hurting others. Some ideas for learning about acknowledging anger, and expressing it in a healthy way are in the manual, Play Skills Program Manual, by the Families First Partnership Program in Saskatoon. One idea is making shakers, and shaking your angries out, this is a playful way of acknowling angry feelings. Maureen really cautioned against talking too directly about feelings as this will be experienced as invasive and disrespectful by the child.

My reflections on the presentations:

I'm so glad I had the chance to hear the material presented, it was illuminating.

For my own work I will look to provide more opportunities for children to direct their own play, and allow them to use materials in unexpected ways without being so worried with keeping things they way I as the adult thought they should be used. I will want to make sure I'm not so involved in my own agenda that I don't allow myself to respond to invitations to play by my children, remembering that my children will be more inclined to learn from me if I am a co-player, and a playful adult.

I will try to ensure long blocks of play and to respect the play as sacred and spiritual, and as forming the identities of the children in my care, and of having a profound influence in their life paths.

I will remember that by being comforting, nurturing, and protecting my children's right to privacy that I am creating neural pathways for the child, and allowing the growth of the child's prefrontal cortex.

I will try to maintain a calm, structured day for my children remembering that that enhances emotional regulation.

I also plan to read the play skills manual, and to begin implementing some of the activities that fit for me and my group.

One big area that was stressed was the value of open ended, found materials, as well as the joy and value of the outdoors, so I will remember this, and try to find ways to play outdoors more.

I really can't do justice to all the the ideas presented at this workshop by these accompliished individuals, but hopefully I will find some of my work with my children improving and growing through what I heard, and learned. 




Thursday, February 3, 2011

Some Thoughts about starting this blog

I looked up common sense and early childhood ed., and was overwhelmed by the wealth of entries with these words. Well I'm not alone in linking the terms. I'll want to start reading, but it will take time, but should prove worthwhile.

It is pretty humbling to see all the accumulated research on this area, how do I presume to offer anything worth reading or to offer any new perspective? Then again how can I presume to even know  much of anything given the enormity of knowledge available. So I see it will be important to start back reading in order to feel up todate in this are, and then perhaps to offer any new perspective, or anything worth reading by any other person, that might be uplifting or in any way enlightening..

But yet I do have first hand knowledge from being a child care worker "on the floor" daily for 7 hours every day, using my skills, knowledge, empathy, personal intuition, reserves of patience and kindness, as well as ability to multitask, and problem solve on the spot. I also have my life experience of having been a single mom; having been a child growing up in the 50's and 60's; having been a university student in the 70's; having a certificate in Early Childhood Education; having worked on the floor in  child care since 1988; having learned from some of the nicest, wisest, most sane people I could have been blessed to work with over the years, and hopefully having learned from these wise souls.

My personal approach to working with small children in daycare, is eclectic, gleaned from what I've learned formally from school, and informally from fellow workers, reading and insights from the work itself.Naturally Piaget is one of the backbones of my formal learning, as well as other early childhood researchers such as Erickson; Sears, etc.

For approaches to teaching, Montessori and her writing and methods is an influenceI enjoy reading about the early kindergarten movement in Europe, and North America..

Play is so important, and I enjoy providing enriched environments which can encourage play, including dramatic play.

Story telling and language learning is a major concern for me in providing quality child care.

Providing sensory experiences is important to me, as I remember how vivid knowledge through the senses such as touch, smell, sight was for me as a child. I have found providing sensory opportunities to a group of children can be calming, and somehow allows the child to focus, and hear and learn following sensory play.

I believe in providing choices for children, and lots of varied opportunities in all areas of development on a daily basis. I believe that also children benefit from limits, and boundaries, but I do believe in child directed activities, rather than teacher directed.

I am worried at what I am presently seeing with an emphasis on "open ended" activities, and letting children make too many decisions for themselves within the daycare environment.I don't believe a toddler or even 3 year old child has enough judgement to pull him or herself away from an awesome play to eat snack, for example. So if the child care worker then after a certain time decides the child doesn't want to eat, and puts away the snack, the result can be a hungry, upset, and out of control child when the parent attempts to take their child home. To me this is irresponsible, I believe all effort needs to be made to strongly encourage the child to eat, because the child needs food. So the invitation to eat can be welcoming, and warm, and the snack can be done in as simple or fun way as the child care worker likes, but I believe there is a responsibility on part of the adults to ensure his or her children do eat, as the child requires nutrients to function, learn, grow, and make it through the day in an enjoyable way. Recent research I've read does say all of us function and think best with proper nutrition.  Children in a social group setting for up to 10 hours a day, need all the resources and help we can give them to get through their day in as happy and stress free way as possible.

I am absolutely not saying to "force" children to eat, but there is nothing wrong in my mind with having a child come to sit and perhaps drink a glass of water, and  be offered the chance to eat, if the child refuses to eat, naturally we don't want to force the child. I'm aware that would lead to a possible dislike of food, social setting, or even an eating disorder of some kind. But I feel we aren't serving the child or her or his family well, by not making a strong effort to have the child have something to eat at an appropriate interval. Children are not adults and don;'t have the judgement to make certain decisions for themselves, although they certainly can and should make many choices throughout their day.

That's it for today!


Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Introducing Myself

Hi! I am a child care provider, working within a quality daycare setting, within a quite priviliged environment. We are situated within a post secondary setting, providing care for children of students, instructors, employees of the institution, as well as families of the general population in our city.

I feel very priviliged to work in this center, we are a unionized group of child care workers, we enjoy several wonderful benefits, and generally have good rapport between staff and the director, and the assistant director, as well as with the families who operate the center as a parent board of directors.We receive many opportunities to attend training workshops, and generally grow to enhance our work with the children.

I've worked within child care for about 23 years, and having gone through some ups and downs in my feelings towards my work, I find myself generally happy and feel fulfilled and rewarded usually by the time spent with children. Truly they do say the darndest things and are truly beautiful!

Sometimes the hardest part of the work has been living at almost poverty level for many years, on the very pitiful wages, so that I think having come through feeling happy and fulfilled by the work is quite an accomplishment, and perhaps also a measure of how rewarding it can be in spite of some small hardships. Actually most daycare workers I have known and worked with have been creative, inspired individuals, putting in many unpaid hours of preparation, for the love of teaching small children, on sometimes pretty meagre pay, often supplementing the supplys of their center from their own pocket. We often spend our free time reading about ECE; taking extra classes to improve our work and knowledge of ECE; attending various workshops; sewing items for our work such as doll clothes, blankets, children's dressup, and making flannel stories, or teacher made games, etc.

This is because we believe our children deserve good care, and we have pride in our profession I believe.

I feel very lucky to be working now in child care with so many resources, and so much research being done into this profession. There is always something new to learn about teaching techniques; about how children best learn; about child development; about children's rights; about fun and zany activities to do with the children; about language and development; about child nutrition; about health and well being; well it seems I could go on...

I also feel blessed to work in child care at this time in this country where we do have ample resources and interest in the care of children, and so good opportunities to do the right thing for the children in our care.

Some of the writers and books I have found helpful in my work and who have  helped me to develop my personal frame of reference for early childhood education are Adele Faber;  Barbara Coloroso; Carol Stock Kranowitz who wrote The Out of Sync Child, and The Out of Sync Child Has Fun; as well I have been reading recently The Hundred Languages of Children- The Reggio Emilia Approach.

Two favourite resources I have depended on for many years are Resources for Creative Teaching in Early Childhood Education, by Bonnie Mack Fleming, et. al.;  and Workjobs by Mary Baratta Lorton.

I LOVE the Early Childhood Environment Rating Scale, by Thelma Harms, et. al for it's clearness, conciseness, and no-nonsense about ECE. I was priviliged to attend a child care conference once with Thelma Harms as the keynote speaker, she was inspiring giving context for how ECERS was created.  It was thrilling to be part of the audience standing  and applauding at the end of her address.

 Recently  I've felt inspired by Deb Curtis, et al. and her book Designs for Living and Learning. Transforming Early Childhood Environments. I find her ideas and suggestions for wonder inspriring environments and curriculums well thought out, and they fit with developmentally appropriate practises in child care

So this is just a little bit about where I come from, and a context for comments I may make next time I sit down to write.

I am having some concerns that when implementing new ideas,  possibly the new is being seen as better than what has come before, with not a very harmonious result.

I'm hoping that I won't come across as wanting to hold on to old ways out of reluctance to try new, because I do like to learn the new. But I want to speak up for a common-sense approach to change, and for not "throwing out the baby with the bathwater" if you know what I mean.

Just to add, another resource I use is the journal of the Canadian Association of Young Children, and I often attend workshops by the CAYC, in my city.

So next time I hope to address a few of my concerns, and go from there.

I certainly would be interested to hear comments and/or thoughts.