Friday, 27 September 2013

Vamping By Ramping!

            This blog post is for all the early childhood educators and families that struggle with that certain part of the day. I mean the part of the day when messes have been made, toys have been scattered all over the place, and the children are too exhausted to move another muscle. Have you guessed it yet?

Anyone who has been around children knows clean up time can be quite the task. We have all heard every excuse in the book as to why they can’t or shouldn’t have to participate.

1.       “I didn’t even play with that!”

2.       “I’m too tired!”

3.       “I already picked up though.”

4.       “I don’t feel good, I need to lay down.”

5.       “My mom told me I don’t have to.” (Yeah right)

The excuses can be so creative it’s rather impressive; however we need to be a little inventive as well. Sometimes the good old fashioned timer trick, or putting things away by colors is successful, but children quickly catch on to what we’re trying to do. I’m always trying to think of new games that get everyone involved.

 Our latest tidy game is using the ramps from our block corner. I put one end of it in a bucket and had one of the children put a block on top. As the block slid down and dropped into the bucket I saw the child’s face light up and knew exactly what he was thinking; That was cool. As he continued to put the blocks away children ran over to see what this game was all about. After the blocks were all away they ran to the couch and said “Let’s try the pillow!” and after that, the babies were sliding into their cribs. They went around the entire room using the ramps to tidy up everything! This method of clean up took longer than usual but that doesn’t matter! What matters is the children were cleaning up and actually enjoying it!
                We don’t use the ramps everyday because sometimes we don’t need to, and if you over use something it loses its “magic”. Clean up time is important for children to participate in because it teaches them about responsibility. (Also, no one and I mean no one wants to step on a lego piece!)

                                                Do you have any cleanup games that are successful?

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

A Sense of Belonging with Blocks

            When the hot summer days quickly begin to fade into crisp autumn air, we know a new preschool year is upon us. Like every year, with the new leaves come new children. Although we are a full year program, September always brings new faces to our center, and it is an exciting time for all.

Preschool can be a scary place, especially if a child has never been before. For most, it’s the first time they are away from their families with complete strangers. (And several children invading their personal space.) It is our job as an early childhood educator to make the transition from home to preschool as comfortable as possible. We can do this by consistent morning routines to help drop off time, and providing a comfortable environment where a child feels safe and can develop a sense of belonging. When a child feels safe and accepted they can truly be themselves and have the confidence to flourish.  

 With so many new faces in our classroom we decided to make an invitation using their names and pictures. We took a portrait of each child, cut it out, and laminated it onto a block. On the other side, we put their names. When the children came in the next morning they went straight to the table with the blocks. Immediately they found their names. “Hey, I found my name over here!” said one child. When I asked what they thought would happen when they flipped the block over they quickly flipped it over and revealed their picture. They all began laughing and pointing out the things they noticed about themselves. “I have a blue shirt on!” explained one little boy.

            The children at the table found their friends names next and eagerly showed them. The new children in our room had a big smile when they saw their block which sparked conversations with the older children. At that moment while I watched the newer children integrate themselves amongst the preschool veterans, I knew they felt like they belonged here at Little Munchkins.


 What can do next?
 We have used our picture blocks in several invitations so far. By including the blocks with other invitations the children can role play as themselves. They have explored the wild habitat of the African wilderness, been inspiration for a self portrait, and even built cars and houses for themselves in the block corner. We are excited to see how else we can expand on our blocks, do you have any ideas?


Friday, 6 September 2013

"Magic" Magnets

This morning we set up a table top invitation with different magnets and a giant wooden picture frame. One little girl sat down with a big smile on her face and began sticking all the magnets together. She looked at me and said, “Look, it sticks!” I asked her “Why do you think it sticks together like that?” She replied, “I don’t know. It’s sticky.” I asked her if it felt sticky, and she continued by running her finger across the magnet. “It’s not sticky. I think it’s magic.” I explained to her that it was called a magnet and magnets stick to things that are made out of certain kinds of medal. She then stuck magnets onto the rings of my notebook, smiled, and said “That’s medal!”

After we found all the things our magnets would stick to, the little girl placed one of the magnetic balls onto the large wooden frame we had on the table. The ball rolled along the frame as if it were on a track. This brought attention from the other children, and four more children joined our group. I placed a magnet in the middle of the frame and rolled the ball towards it. The children seemed very excited by the snapping noise it made and asked for me to do it again. I asked them “What would happen if I moved the magnet to the very end?” “You would have to push it real hard!” said one of the children. We moved magnets at all different distances and decided how hard we would have to push it in order for it to connect with the other magnet.

I continued our invitation by asking “How can we roll the ball without touching it?” They thought for a second, took the magnet wand and pushed it down the frame. To challenge them a little further I asked, “How can we roll the ball without touching it with our hands or another magnet?” The children sat longer this time looking around the table for other options. “Hmmm... I don’t know” answered one of the children. I walked over to the end of the frame and blew on the ball making it roll. Everyone began to laugh and immediately tried to do the same.

Just then, one of the children lifted up the edge of the frame resulting in the ball rolling off the frame and onto the floor. “Hey! You did it too high.” answered another child. They got another ball and tried again, only this time lifting the frame a little bit. “We did it! We moved it without our hands!”
Why This Matters:
The children worked together to figure out how to move the ball without  using their hands or using another magnet. This took communication, team work, and listening skills. The children learned about science by experimenting with magnets, and measurement was used by determining different speeds and distances.
What We Could Do Next:
I'd like to extend this invitation by providing the children with different surfaces (such as sandpaper, bubble wrap, water, etc.) and try to see if we can still move the ball without our hands. We could also try experimenting with different strength magnets to see how much weight it could hold and record our results.  
Do you have any ideas that we could try?
                                                                                                                 - Leslie Dionne; Preschool Educator