Saturday, October 29, 2011

Me Getting a Grip

In the past few posts, on this early childhood blog, I have found myself writing about my challenges, and difficulties this fall in my small group of 2 1/2 year old children.

This weekend I finally spent a good amount of time alone in my room, cleaning, and preparing for November. And I came to realize that although I felt I wasn't coping well for the last two months, we still managed to do some art, and some learning. We have come a long way, and so I thought it would be fun to show some of our activities.

 We talked and read  about scarecrows, and we created construction paper versions of scare crows with "pumpkin" heads. The children used glue spreaders, and white glue, and glued paper shapes I had precut to white paper, and then I cut around them later. The children were getting a feel for using glue spreaders, and at the same time making something they could identify. We made these for the monthly bulletin board. Each group in the daycare contributes art based on a theme, for a bulletin board at the front entry to the center.

The children enjoyed playing in this sensory tub of flour mixed with spices (cinnamon, and ginger). And we also made an apple pie from scratch. The children used butter knives to slice the apples, and we also made our own pie dough. Everyone seemed to think the pie tasted very good as well!

 These small brooms came in handy to brush flour dust off clothes, and as well now my kids love sweeping the floor around the sandbox. One of my children takes great pleasure from sweeping with the adult sized broom, and having me hold the dustpan to catch the sand.

We made footprint "ghosts", and the children somewhat gingerly allowed me to paint their feet with white paint.I love painting their feet, because I know they will find it relaxing, and it somewhat reminds me of the pleasure I remember in having my Mom paint my toenails as a child.One child didn't want to take off his socks and have his feet painted, but did allow me to paint his hands. I think each small activity we engaged in this past month was a building of trust, and this one even more so.Well, I can't wait to do more barefeet fun, such as walking in the squishy marbles I've read about in several blogs this while.

We learned an old traditional Halloween fingerplay, "Five Little Pumpkins", and also just played with the felt pieces. This group loves stories, fingerplays and action songs, and I also love them.

We pounded golf tees into pumpkins. I love this idea which I found at the wonderful blog, Learning for Life. The children love this too.This has been out since the past Monday, and I will keep it going until we need to dispose of the pumpkins. It is relaxing, and children from all the age groups have enjoyed it.

I was surprised at how quiet the activity is. Quiet and soothing is always a good thing to have in my room.

 We painted egg cartons to make these "ornamental corns". And the children then painted many egg cartons in many other colours - purple, green, and reds.

We gathered autumn leaves, and sang about autumn leaves and made leaf collages.

I try to have collage materials set out for the children to use at any time with glue sticks, or with white glue and glue spreaders.

Here are our treat bags ready for Monday. On Monday there will be a Halloween party and the children can wear costumes, and bring treats for the people in their group. Often there is great dancing music and everyone has a wonderful time dancing.

We'll carve a small pumpkin and read a favourite book. 

And we'll be sure to get to play outside. As with any party, there will be some stress, and the best way I've found, with my small group, to counter stress is to enjoy the outdoors.These children just love being outside.

 Tuesday will be the start of a new month, and we will begin to learn about ladybugs,and other insects. My children have been preoccupied with the finding of ladybugs all October, and so I know this will be a topic of interest. I was able to find some informative books at the public library with good pictures and explanations of the life cycle of bugs.

I think having the opportunity to have a good block of time to get myself and my environment in abit of order has helped me to "get a grip".

 Out of curiousity I looked the saying "to get a grip", up on the internet, and found 2 good definitions:

- "to make an effort to control your emotions and behave more calmly" (Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary and Thesaurus); and

- "To start to deal with a problem, situation, or job that you have to do" (MacMillan Dictionary and Thesaurus ).

I feel most calm when I can work in an organized fashion, and I think by taking this time over the weekend will result for me in more sense of calm in my work. I am so fortunate to work where I do, in a wonderful building with light and space, and a supportive, cooperative administration. As well, I know that I am priviliged to live where I do; that I have so much that others don't have access to, and as well  employment in a field I do love. I know that there are always ways that things could be better, but just for today I am choosing to feel grateful, and that what I have is enough. 

I think my children, also are feeling more confident in me and the environment, as we've glued, painted, sung, danced and played together. They have learned that there is some reliable order to the day - a time to eat, and to play, a time to rest, and to dance, and also that when they are upset or in tears, there will be a time for soothing words and hugs. As well, these young children have learned that they can have faith that their trusted adult - be it parent, or grandparent, an aunt or uncle, will come back at the end of the day.

I think together, me and my small children are "getting a grip".

Many thanks to anyone who has had the patience to read through this post.

Wishing you and yours a safe and Happy Halloween!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Monday and this is how things went

 We started our day with pounding .
I found this wonderful idea for golf tees and pumpkins from Kierna, at Learning for Life.
The children really enjoyed this, and for some it took time to manage. For some of the youngest to find success I pushed the tee in abit first, so they could pound without someone holding the tee for them.

I have a mixed age group, with several toddler aged children (under 2), and the rest are in the youngest range of 2 to 3. Most days I also will have one or two older children who just want to be with us.So, this IS a busy room, and there is tons of social learning going on.

I truly love working with this age group, it's my preferred age group, as I enjoy watching the growth of these children. I also like being busy, and I'm a pretty good multi tasker.

This year, I have been feeling abit taxed by the end of the day. I have several challenging behaviors, in this group of children, involving throwing of toys, biting, and RUNNING. At the beginning of September, I had a room full of children crying, due to separation anxiety. And because the children would come in at variable times of the day, this did go on for most of the day - it seems as soon as one child was calm, then another child would come in crying and everyone started up again.

However I am not without my resources - all the good skills and resources of the ECE profession - SINGING, HUGGING, DANCING, OUT DOOR PLAY, and of course SENSORY PLAY - sand play, playdough, water play, flubber, shaving cream.....

As well I've been grateful for Teacher Tom's blog and his thoughtful, inspirational posts.

I just need to single out Tom's posts here, as I've been getting such helpful inspiration through reading his words.

This weekend Tom wrote about dark and  light, and today in a similar vein I found myself reflecting on another pair of opposites - chaos and order. I love order personally. I am a person who always functions best in an orderly environment, and I believe a calm, orderly environment is good for children too.But children also need mess -  with this group I am needing to develop more comfort with messy...

 My children do like to dump. Today I decided it would be interesting to just take some pictures of what was going on.

 Hmmm - puzzle in the baby stroller. Various blocks, and a stray giraffe.

But here I found a small treasure, someone has left.

...and another small treasure...

 And at cleanup time we pretended that the blocks were "autumn leaves", and picked them as we sang our autumn leaves song.

Later, I found a small treasure of my own in the day care's kitchen...a fruit box, which we used to create some fun in the sand box. (Another wonderful idea gleaned from several blogs).

I am very pleased with the renewed focus the children found with the box, and I will certainly continue to try new ideas like this.I am so grateful for all the wonderful things shared through blogging - my teaching is enriched, and my children benefit...and that is what counts, I think.

It looks like I need to do some clean up of my own!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

The world of make believe

I've been thinking of how children love make believe, and how fortunate I am to be invited into this world now and then throughout the day.

Sometimes it is possible to miss out on the fun when I become overly concerned with routines, and getting through the schedule of the day.

But this past Tuesday, I was glad I let myself play. Matthew (name changed), had his small stuffed chicken at the morning snack table, and mentioned that the chicken was hungry. I was serving cereal, and got a bowl for the chicken, and Matthew quietly smiled, and let me know the chicken was also thirsty, so a glass of water was served to the chicken. The other children went about eating and talking, but the mood of the table seemed to sparkle.

Another time I may have asked Matthew to put his stuffed toy under his chair, and not considered playing along, but I'm glad I did, as the rest of the morning just seemed a little happier, and content.


Monday, October 17, 2011

A Little bit of Light heartedness

Mullin Avenue Workshop: A Little bit of Light heartedness

I thought this would be just the right note of fun I am needing at present in my work.

I have just learned that Lisa Murphy, aka as the Ooey Gooey Lady will be returning to our city this winter for a workshop, and that she has a new series of fabulous workshops.I am certainly planning to attend for some great inspiration and fun!

I checked her on the internet this evening and found a series of delightful new videos on fingerplays. I think this video on the Banana phone is delightful. I am going to try it!

I hope you will enjoy this video. Just click on the highlighted words above to view.


Monday, October 10, 2011

A Small Thanksgiving Art Project, and some thoughts on Room Design

We celebrate Thanksgiving this weekend, here in Canada. This year I found myself continuing to work on routines, and comfort for my children. I have a few children with some  challenging needs, so find myself wanting to simplify, and  create a day that will be low key, and comforting. This generally means outdoors play, and allowing the children to play fluidly without introducing too many new things. Perhaps some of this is also for my own comfort level, to assess the abilities of my group slowly.

Generally by this time in the year, my group would be painting at the easel daily; playing in several sensory stations at once (such as shaving cream, play dough, sand, etc ); as well as other interesting activities, but this is not the case this year. I have one or two children that will throw objects, and hurt others, or possibly tantrum at an inopportune time, and this seems to have a snowballing effect on my very young group.

So, we are gradually exploring the medium of paint, and I limit the time I can have my sensory areas open.

I do sometimes enjoy creating art projects of something the children can take home to their parents as a keepsake, along with all the creative art.

So this week we made handprint turkeys for Thanksgiving. The children enjoyed having their hands painted on an individual basis, and after taping the finished project to toilet paper rolls, were quite proud and satisfied with the result. The finished project could be a finger puppet or a table centerpiece.

The next day, I introduced painting egg cartons in yellow, and brown shades (to be made into corncobs eventually), and the group explored using the paintbrushes, and naturally they also enjoyed painting their hands! :) Well, I hope to post some pictures of our finished project, after we get to glueing streamers for the husks, if we do indeed get to it!

I do plan on getting to easel painting, fingerpainting, and all the other wonderful creative ways of painting possible!

I've been looking through an interesting book, this past week, Inspiring Spaces for Young Children, by Jessica Deviney, S. Duncan, et al., (2010). The book features beautiful photos, that are quite inspiring, along with thoughtful quotes, and short easy to understand written suggestions for creating early childhood environments that are comforting, and authentic.The authors tend towards the Reggio influence, and I enjoyed this aspect. At times I felt some of the ideas were abit too staged, and more for the adult eye. I feel that the Reggio ideas are about light, spaciousness, and child friendly environments, but felt that sometimes the book veered away from this - to a concern with interior decorating.

I liked one particular window hanging, of dried oranges, (p. 76);  so this week I borrowed a co-worker's dehydrator, and my children watched as I sliced oranges and lemons, (and they tasted both), and we placed the slices in the dehydrator. When dry, I strung them on fishing line, and attached them to a tree branch.

I like the effect on the room, the children gaze at it now and then, and it creates a focus.

  I have cleaned my room of most clutter, with a new year, and am slowly adding what makes the room feel creative. And the following quote by Loris Malaguzzi, speaks to me of why we want to work on the environment - "We value space because of its power to organize...and it's potential for sparking all kinds of social, affective, and cognitive learning." (p. 8)

I think for me, this is the reason for care in my room design, the learning and comfort of the children, and of me the teacher, as well.

I had purchased these "door stars". two years ago, from Ten Thousand Villages, a store run by the Mennonite church, and had them hanging in my doorway. The door stars come from India, and it is a Hindu tradition, that when someone passes through your doorway, they leave any disturbing thoughts outside.When I returned to work this fall, from summer vacation, I found that somehow they'd fallen and become tangled, and it took me some time to untangle. I have them now hanging from the ceiling in the center of the room, and they are "twinkle stars".

Monday, October 3, 2011

It's the Start of a New Month

Well, it's now October, and it seems I'm finally catching my breath, and have a sense of who the children in my small group of 2 1/2 years olds are; what they like to do; and what kind of group I'll have.

The last month has seemed more busy than usual for September. I feel I've been working to deal with more separation anxiety than usual, as several of my children started at the daycare, without a chance to transition gradually. As well I have two toddler aged children, and the remainder of my children are all at the very youngest of the age group.

Some mornings it seemed that when one child started crying, everyone needed to cry. But slowly, very gradually the children are developing more sense of trust in the environment, and in me.

I'm really starting to like my group's developing personality, as the children have begun to comfort one another. I remind my children to give their peers "gentle touches", as now and then I find this age group will hit, or push.  I am always intrigued to see children take my recommendations to heart, and remind themselves and one another to give a gentle touch.

This group also likes to hug! It is really heartwarming to see a child leave for the day, and receive a hug from his or her friends, and everyone waving goodbye.

We've been spending our days very simply, following the basic routines of breakfast; washup; story; and then mainly heading outdoors. After about one hour of play in the glorious, sunny autumn weather, we head back in for lunch; washup; and nap.Wake up routine follows with snack, and more simple, comforting play, then heading outdoors usually for the rest of the day.

I've needed to keep it simple this past month to allow for my children to establish some security, and comfort, and now I think we're ready for some actual art and movement and more focused play. I have had sensory play available, as I know that is a comfort for most children - but it has been of the most simple kind - the sand table, play dough, and as well a "flour" table with baking tools, which has been popular

I enjoy singing, and movement games, and I've been happy to find that this group also like these. So we've started singing and moving to several songs about autumn leaves, squirrels and rabbits.

A favourite is one I call "Sleeping Bunnies". The children curl up on the floor, "sleeping", and I sing "See the little bunnies sleeping til it's nearly noon; Come and let us wake them gently with our merry tune; Oh how still, are they ill -" and here I can pause and allow silence for quite some time, as the children wait for a clap of hands, and "Wake up do. Hop little bunny, hop, hop hop.....and stop, on your spot." This group of children are very good at sleeping quietly, waiting for the clap, and like to have the game repeated several times.

Soon, the children will likely be interested in more free forms of movement, but this particular group appears to be enjoying the comfort of these simple preschool games, at this early time.