Our daycare center has a bouncer. This is an inflatable structure which the children love to BOUNCE in. I'm abit divided about the bouncer, as I am aware that it can be a good way to exercise in the winter months when we can't always be outside, but sometimes I wish we didn't have it in the center. Our director has requested that each room (group) use the bouncer at least weekly, so it is something I feel I have to do, and that in itself takes away from it for me. But as well it takes up the whole room for about 1 hour, with only 2 children allowed in it at the same time and it leaves the others who are waiting sometimes at loose ends, with not much room to be at loose ends in. As well it is fairly noisy, and I am personally sensitive to noise, it distracts me and makes me feel abit at loose ends too. So I think if I as an adult am bothered by the noise, so might a sensitive child, and that can lead to behavior problems sometimes (from overstimulation?). My children are just 2 1/2 and so don't always take to waiting or giving turns that well, and with the noise, and possibly the stimulation from the artificial bouncing sensations, I sometimes get meltdowns. I have 2 children I know will experience emotional meltdown when they need to give a turn to someone else, but no matter how much I predict it is difficult for these kids. So really sometimes having the bouncer can feel abit like an ordeal.
I think the bouncer would be fun at a children's birthday party, and at an indoor playground, and also maybe outside where the noise might diffuse abit. I tend to feel the bouncer doesn't have a place in an early childhood environment, it doesn't help create a warm, nurturing environment - and I as an educator know lots of ways to help my kids get gross motor development through sensori-motor fun activities, and I always have provided these especially in the winter. (Another required piece of equipment our director has introduced is some foam climbing modules, and 4 large tumbling mats, which we are required to rotate weekly from room to room, and this is proving challenging to staff to incorporate them in a harmonious way - but I think I'd like to write about this in another post.)
As I don't really have a choice in the matter; it is required I've attempted to be as positive as possible, I have put it on my calender as "Bouncer Fun Day" - I have my kids watch everything I do, and they love watching the pump fill the structure with air, etc. (Note to self maybe get books on pumps and balloons and study this with the group). I try to explain what I'm doing, we put on music (usually one child asks for his favourite Baby Einstein classical CD), and I do set up art, and some block building around the periphery.
And they do LOVE it, and I only need to do it once a week.
So Friday this week was Bouncer Fun Day, and we brought the bouncer in for the morning. It was abit icy for walking outside, so this is what we did for our exercise. Soon we won't worry about the Bouncer, as we'll be outside every day, and get our moving, and climbing outdoors in the fresh air.
On to the afternoon, and we had one of our busy, fabulous, quirky times together. Afternoons we mix groups as staff leave at the end of shifts, and as I get different children joining each day it can make for interesting group dynamics.I love observing the children at this time. I personally love being busy, which is why I really love working with the 2 1/2 year olds, they move quite frequently from place to place, and often need hands on help. But when older children move into our group, I stand back a little and observe more. I find some of my older children really like to help the younger children, and both ages enjoy these interactions.
We had just the regular play available, kitchen play, playdo, art, rice sensory play in a box - the basics such as blocks, and other toys. Today the rice had a way of getting on the floor, quite a distance from the table, and of course on the table the box sat on, as the children poured and measured..
Several children were busy helping me sweep up rice on an ongoing basis, with short handled brooms, and dustpans, and we really became quite efficient at this, which was really part of the fun.
One lovely moment - Guido (names changed), had spread the rice in a layer on the table, and then with the bottom of a yogourt container made concentric spirals, quietly, and repeatedly. What if I'd interfered and asked him to sweep the "mess" up? Well he'd have lost his moment, and so would have I. This was the best moment of my day, and the one that made me glad to be an early childhood educator. It wasn't dramatic but it took my breath away.