Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Colored Glue and Water Color Resist

I love this art project! I think it came out really fantastic. 

I let the children pick out which color of glue they wanted to use and  put a few squirts of the color of choice into a 1/2 full glue bottle. I let the children shake the bottles until their arms and/or attention span gave out. I like the idea of older children using the glue for more detailed drawings, or tracing a pre-drawn picture or coloring page. These children aren't to that stage, though, so I left it as a free expression activity.

The 3 1/2 year old had no problem with the glue activity with minimal verbal instructions.

 Since this was a new activity, I found several issues with the toddlers, though:
  • When we glue, I always tell them to keep the tip on the paper to not create globs of glue, so they had issues with holding the glue up above the paper.
  • They were fascinated by the glue coming out, and just wanted to watch it do so, rather than moving it around to create something. Once they started moving it around, the tip automatically went onto the paper to "draw."  
  • They had no trouble squeezing the bottle, but it took some effort to get their hands in the correct position and they had to use two hands.
Final version for G, 22months
I realized that this is a 3-instruction task and that the toddlers are still at a 1-2 instruction level. The need to hold the glue up, squeeze and move, all at the same time, was confusing for them and required some assistance/instruction on my part. They eventually got it, but I had to help hold it up and squeeze while telling them to move it around for a few seconds before letting them go to it.

It was high humidity here so the glue remained tacky for more than a day. I could have used the blow drier or oven on low to help them along, but we weren't in any hurry so I just let them air dry on the counter. Unfortunately, I did get a lid on my son's and smudged his some. I'm sure I'll hear about that for a few years.  

Final version for B, 3 1/2
B had no trouble with the concept of using different colors, washing her brush between colors, and staying in the lines as much as possible. She was very diligent and did a great job, as I expected at 3 1/2.

H at 2 1/2, though, I was not expecting to be as diligent. I was pleasantly surprised however. She worked really hard at staying in the lines and making different areas different colors. She did do more mixing of colors than B.

Final version for H, 2 1/2
I just let the toddlers have at it with watercolors, but was surprised that they were actually fairly meticulous with their brushing as well. It always helps to have the older ones go first for demonstration.

J at almost 11, wasn't really interested in the activity, didn't cave to my admonishment that art is good for the soul, and only did it because it got him out of doing math for a few minutes. He free hand created an ocean scene with bubbles, sea weed, a fish, an oil spill and a dark skinned mermaid. He said he felt it was just wrong that mermaids were always white skinned. [I liked that, but he still made her blonde. Go figure.] He liked the process and is interested in exploring it further and putting more effort into his next creation.
Final version for J, 11
We all really liked this craft and will add it to the repertoire. I need to get more glue bottles, but we will keep a rainbow of glue colors available for art from now on.

The Pinterest pin for this idea, geared towards older preschoolers to school age is from Pink and Green Momma, and the original is credited to this post from That Artist Woman, geared towards school-age children. 

  • Fine motor
  • Gross motor
  • Art creative expression, mixed media
  • Following directions
Tags: art, craft, preschool, daycare, childcare, pre-k, prek, glue, water color, resist, stained glass, toddler

Truth Tuesday #5 - Days End Meltdowns

Truth Tuesday is blog posts regarding my 
Murphy's Laws of childcare.

#5 A child will have the most wonderful day...until 30 seconds prior to his/her parent arriving. Either another child will take away their toy, they will trip, they will have a production in their pants, get into trouble, or some other childhood catastrophe will befall that requires them to be screaming and wailing like a banshee when mom or dad walks through the door. 

We try for the utmost zen environment here, but I swear the children have an uncanny knack for knowing when their parents are arriving and the precise moment to go ballistic.
Tags: childcare, daycare, pre-k, prek, tantrums

Monday, March 26, 2012

Home Childcare Specific Picture Frame Dry Erase

This idea has been on Pinterest for a long time. I loved the idea immediately. For mine, childcare specific, I used a consistent font and pastel papers for readablility. 

I kept the days of the week for writing in menu and calendar notes regarding special events or activities. The three notices I give regularly to parents are when I need additional clothing changes, diapers and formula, so I used the three remaining spaces for those. 


Now I can just jot them down as needed and the parents can view it and respond. Before, I would send an email or let them know at pick up, and often get side tracked and forget. This is working out much better for us. This is right next to my front door at eye level, so the parents see it every time they walk out the door. 

  • It is a frame from WalMart that costs $10
  • Print out your headings onto scrapbook paper of your choice
  • Using the frame backing or glass as a template cut the paper to size
  • Place paper into frames
  • Use dry erase markers on the glass 

[My pasta salad is whole wheat bow ties, low-sodium ham, frozen peas, a little mayo, lemon juice, dried dill and onion powder. Served with fruit.]

You can view the original idea at Next to Heaven.
Tags: childcare, daycare, preschool, pre-k, prek, home childcare, home daycare, daycare management, white board, dry erase, picture frame dry erase, scrapbook,  menu, board, memo

Friday, March 23, 2012

Butterfly Footprint with Printable

A made the first of these footprint butterflies. Not sure where I got the quote from, but it says, "Beautiful butterfly so precious and sweet, amazing how you look like [name;s] feet!" Click HERE for the girl and boy version blanks for these. A is in kindergarten and her foot JUST fit, so it should be a good size for preschoolers, toddlers and babies.

These are definitely frame-able keepsakes that would make wonderful mother's, father's or grandparent's day gifts.

1.  Have child write their name on the line provided.
2.  Fold paper in half.
3.  Have child paint one foot with colors and pattern(s) of choice. The foot needs to be covered in a pretty thick layer of paint to make the print come out well.

4.  Place footprint onto 1/2 of page with the OUTSIDE of the foot against the CENTER LINE of the paper. This requires teacher assistance to get it positioned correctly and smooshed around enough to fill in, especially if a child has a high arch.

5.  Have child fold paper together and smoosh to make a symmetrical print.

6.  Open and let child decorate ONE SIDE of the print with additional paint.

7.  Have child fold paper together and smoosh again to make a symmetrical print.
 8.  Have child paint the body, head and antennae.

Math symmetry
Language and Science vocabulary wings, antennae, body; poem and name
Fine motor 
Art creative expression
Following directions
Tags: childcare, preschool, butterflies, butterfly, footprint, craft, art, symmetry, math, poem, poetry, pre-k, prek, spring, insects, bugs, mother's day, father's day, grandparent's day

Friday, March 16, 2012


As I finish up potty training one child and begin to enter the 2-year-old phase of training two more, I thought this post was a good review...long, but thorough.

I tend to keep potty training very low-key and the child's responsibility. It usually takes us about two weeks, with rare accidents for a few weeks longer. If a child makes the decision they want to potty train, and they have been prepped along, then it really is like a light switch flicking and the war is won, we just need a few battles to finalize it. I have had children be potty trained from diapers to done in 24 hours if THEY decided it was time. 

My soon-to-be 2-year-olds have been sitting on the potty chair here and at home since they were 18 months whenever and however they wanted. Now, at two, when we diaper, we discuss that pee and poop go in the toilet and not our pants and that if they need to go, they need to let me know so they can go in the potty chair. This is simply prep, creating the expectation and knowledge base, for the next six months, unless they show that they are really ready for potty training prior to 2 1/2.

22 months first time trying to poop on the potty.
Parents always get excited when their around-18-month-old child starts showing interest in the bathroom processes. Even though I explain to them that the interest is in ANYTHING that the parent does, as they are at that developmental stage of mimicking adults, the parents almost universally think the child is interested and ready for potty training. They soon realize that THEY, the parents, are much more interested in it than the child. 

All research shows that the optimum age for potty training is 29 months. Any earlier, and it's just frustrating for the child and the care givers, as children are usually completely potty trained with no accidents right around the age of three, no matter what age the training begins. Boys frequently take longer than girls, being closer to that 36 month mark. So any earlier, and you are setting up the child for frequent failure [a wonderful introduction to their first independence], a power struggle when the failure leads to them not wanting to participate at all, and the child feeling inadequate and a constant disappointment to the parents. Not a good situation. It is best to wait until they are really ready, willing and able.

Frequently people will say a child was potty trained prior to two. It is actually the caregiver that is trained to watch for the child's cues and takes the initiative to toilet the child. It is not the child totally responsible for doing the toileting, i.e. POTTY TRAINED.

Signs of readiness in the child:
  • Stays dry for a few hours at a time 
  • Wakes up dry 
  • Understands words like potty, wet and dry 
  • Participates in dressing and undressing 
  • Follows simple directions 
  • Appears to know s/he is about to go
  • Able to communicate in some manner that they need to go
Signs of readiness in the PARENTS:

  • Are committed to the process 
  • Are willing to make the accommodations necessary for their child to be successful 
  • Are willing to let their child have some control of the process 
  • Are ready for the mess and willing to handle it calmly and respectfully 
  • Understand that potty training is a two steps forward one step back LEARNING PROCESS 
  • Are doing this because their child WANTS TO or is READY FOR IT, not because grandma or some other person has determined that the child "should be potty trained by now." [Eye roll because I can't begin to count the number of times my clients have talked to me about being pressured by relatives to begin potty training!] 
  • Understand that home success and school success are often on separate timelines 

32 months and working on that last accomplishment -
5 days straight with no accidents 
Preparing a child:
  • Teach your child the words for bathroom functions and body parts 
  • Allow your child to observe others using the toilet and explain the steps involved 
  • Have your child assist in dressing and undressing 
  • Read to your child books and watch videos about toilet learning 
  • Get a potty chair/toilet topper and explain that it is his/her chair 
  • Around 18 months they can begin sitting on the potty chair when the parent is going to the bathroom. Describe every single step in the process of toileting as you perform it. This is important to establish routine. This can be accomplished with the child clothed or down to their diaper, or unclothed. This is one time when it's nice to have a potty chair, because the parent can sit on the big one (even if you don't have to go!) and the child can sit on the little one, and often this camaraderie will assist the child with wanting to do it, rather than them having to do it just themselves. 
  • Let the child "teach" a doll or stuffed animal how to go on the potty, watch them play and guide them as needed in the correct procedure, including praise. It's even better if it is a doll that actually wets. 
  • Around 2, transition all toileting activities to the bathroom. Stop using a changing table. Keep all toileting items within child’s reach and have him/her responsible for getting them and using them to their ability. For instance, have the child bring the new diaper and wipes, and afterward re-dress and place the used diaper into the trash. Let your child know that if they need assistance, they need to ask for it. Don't just help. Ask if they would LIKE help. If the answer is no, then back off and let them know you are available if they would LIKE help, and to just ask. Start giving over responsibility for toileting to the child and start stressing that it is their job now, but you are available to help if THEY feel they need it.

Children view potty training as a grand adventure...for a while. Then the new wears off and they back slide. They don't want to take the time out to go to the bathroom once the fanfare has died down, which it must always do. So, I try to keep the fanfare to a minimum from the beginning. 
One of the hardest parts of potty training is getting down the routine, so I suggest you work on the routine first. 
  • We (everyone in the family above the age of 2) go to the potty as soon as we wake up. 
  • We go to the potty before we leave the house to go ANYWHERE...shopping/church/etc. 
  • We go to the potty before going to nap/bed.
Make it a routine that the child is sat on the potty immediately after waking up. S/he usually will need to go at that time and will learn to hold it until you get him/her there. This is the one time when sitting there and staying there is non-negotiable, if the child is found dry in the morning. Leave the child there with a toy or book until s/he goes. If the child gets up, return him/her to the potty. This is the one time of the day that you can GUARANTEE they have to go, and provides the perfect, consistent scenario to establish that this is what we do now, absolutely every morning, no matter what.

Consistency is key!

The routine is frankly the hardest part of potty training for the busy lives families tend to lead today, and it is as much about training the parents and caregivers as it is the child. Children do NOT want to stop to go to the bathroom, and this leads to the greatest number of accidents. Parents also find it difficult to change their routine to build in time to toilet the child in a calm manner, without rushing or demanding, which is vital to success.

Remember that toilet usage (actually going, and going between routine times) is a child's choice and responsibility and that must be stressed at all times. The routine is NOT the child's choice...This is WHAT WE DO. When the parent goes, the child should be present and sitting on their seat, and the parent should explain EVERY SINGLE LITTLE STEP that they are performing...I'm taking down my pants, I'm sitting down on the toilet, I'm putting my peepee in the toilet, I'm getting some toilet paper... Then ask the child, what comes next? What is a normal process for us is a multi-step activity for a child learning how. TEACH them how to do it and when. As for the actual going in the pot, that's just gravy.

Commend your child for dry diapers. When they DO go on the potty, a simple, "Good job" and a high five should be enough. Have the expectation and the child will live up to it. This isn't a circus, it's a normal part of everyday life, and that's how it should be treated. Remember as well, that this is the first time, the first THING, your child has complete control over. They CAN hold it until they get their pants up, they CAN wait until they get a diaper on. That's why you work on the process first. That's the hard part. Getting them to stop and sit. In this they have no choice, because once they are in underwear, they won't have any choice.

However, in the early stages, the simple expectation is that they will sit on the potty. Not that they will stay there, not that they will do anything productive, just that they will take a moment and sit down on the pot at the designated time to work on the routine. The routine is that we toilet first thing in the morning, before leaving anywhere, and before bed. Period. We all do. That they can get down between 2-2 1/2.

Before making the decision to potty trainensure that all care providers are equally committed to the process. If you decided that, “Oh, it’s vacation time and we don’t really want to mess with it this week,” then your child will regress. This is a huge issue for your child and you must be committed to making it work for your child or it can lead to feelings of shame, inadequacy, frustration, fear, and confusion, rather than empowerment and pride. Begin ONLY when the family environment is calm, without new or upsetting events or transitions, such as a new baby, parent's new job, visitors, family member illness, a move, transitioning to a toddler bed or another room, or holidays.

Things to remember:

  • This is a skill. It takes time for the concepts and steps to come together, and it takes practice to build the muscle memory necessary for success.
  • Girls are born with the physical ability to be potty trained. Boys are not. Boys develop the muscles necessary to control their bladder usually by the age of three. However, it is not uncommon for these muscles to not develop within this time frame, or to not develop fully at all. That is why there are thirteen-year-old boys who still wet the bed. Please keep this in mind if you have a boy to toilet train. If there are continuous problems, it may be that they are physically unable to be potty trained at this time. Especially at night when the muscles relax.
  • Nighttime dryness and pooping in the toilet may follow much later than daytime dryness.
  • Children know that Pull-Ups are the same as diapers. I have seen potty trained children suddenly go in their pants when placed back into a Pull-Up. Why make the effort to go to the potty when they can comfortably go where ever they are and keep doing what they want to do? The reasons for moving from diapers to Pull-Ups are to utilize the feel-and-learn aspect many of them have now so that they can feel some wetness when they go, and to learn the behaviors of pulling the pants up and down to go. The wetness aspect can also be achieved by placing a strip of paper towel into the diaper at every change. Once you transition to Pull-Ups and again to underwear, do not go backwards! You will simply confuse the child and let them think that going in their pants is still a viable option. Using Pull-Ups at night after transitioning up is fine. When they go at night, it is not a conscious decision.
  • When the child is transitioned to Pull-Ups, act as if they are underwear when changing the child. Have them stand up and bend over to be wiped down and wipe with toilet paper for poop, placing it in the toilet. Do not have them lay down to be changed after the age of 2 1/2.
  • Once the child shows a good understanding of potty training, the most effective thing you can do is to transition to 5-ply training pants with plastic pants over them.You will need many sets at first. Or, use underwear with a Pull-up over the top.This is a messy process but highly effective. It is a huge wake up call to a child when they feel that soaking wetness all over themselves after having a couple years of the moisture being wicked instantly away with disposable diapers
  • A good activity for quick results is to have a potty boot camp. By taking two consecutive days and devoting them to potty training your child. This is the time to load them up with all the kool-aid or other coveted beverage s/he can drink and salty snacks to keep them drinking. Camp out in the bathroom (hopefully tile) with a FEW books and toys, or somewhere else in the house or outside in a tent with a plastic drop cloth. The child needs to be segregated with a single parent who is paying strict attention to the child [no phone, etc.], a potty chair, and no distractions. Sing together, read together, and regularly have the child try to go on the potty. Offer rewards during boot camp. Have the child call daddy/grandma/grandpa, etc. if successful. Boot camp is the one time to make a big deal of potty training. Keep it calm and fun and exciting. 
  • At 3 years old, if not potty trained, and often boys are NOT, the child is old enough to be responsible for cleaning up any messes they make. Be prepared to clean up AFTER they clean up and assist as needed, but a 3 year old should be responsible for cleaning up even poop messes they make and placing the soiled clothing in an appropriate receptacle. 
  • At school we can't keep them naked, but at home you can. Warm weather is a wonderful time to potty train outside where messes can be hosed off and no big deal. Even at school we have a peeing tree where the boys can go in the back corner of the yard and do their business. It seems to be a good incentive for them. 
  • That being said, do yourself a favor and do not let little boys stand up when using the potty chair or toilet. I have grown boys and a tween, and they still can't seem to always control the thing, which is why they clean their own bathrooms. Have little boys sit down and tell them to use their finger to point it down. A cup guard on your potty seat can be helpful, but they are messy and make it more difficult to sanitize the seat. The pee soaks down between where it fastens on and getting it off usually is rather yucky. It is a myth that pee is sterile, but it usually doesn't have much bacteria unless it is left sitting around to collect bacteria. So don't fret too much about pee getting germs anywhere. Poop is another issue. It is full of bacteria and can cause horrible stomach ailments, so sanitizing is extremely important.
  • Potty training while in child care can be very emotional. Children do not want to leave an activity, potentially lose possession of a toy, or be segregated in another room away from all the action. At home there are usually fewer distractions, more order, and more security that a toy will still be waiting for their return and not have disappeared into the hands of another. Care providers can assist with this through routine of toileting at certain times when most activity stops for diaper changes or group toileting, toileting during transitions, having a safe place for toys in the child's possession to be stored while toileting, and reassurance that they can return to their activity once through. Parents need to be educated that fully potty trained at care will most likely come much later than fully trained at home. There are just too many distractions and social issues at play to make it an easy choice for the child to comply.
Once in full potty-training mode:
  • Have child wear loose-fitting training pants and clothing. This is not the time for a lot of buttons, zippers and overalls. S/he needs pull-and-go clothing.
  • Provide reminders to go to the potty, and don’t ask if s/he needs to go potty, as the answer will usually be no, even if s/he does. Use a timer and take child in regularly every 2 hours. Encourage dry pants.
  • Be sensitive to child’s fear, if any, of flushing.
  • Have the child help place poop into the toilet every time out of the Pull-Up (or diaper) and have child flush it to build an understanding of that is where it belongs. 
  • Practice the entire process with a doll or stuffed animal if the child shows interest. 
  • Keep wipes, Pull-Ups/underwear, and clothing changes where the child can reach them independently. The child should be able to change a wet Pull-Up by him/herself and encouraged and allowed to do so.
  • Expect accidents and be relaxed about them, helping the child to clean up and change clothing to the best of their ability with your follow-up. Make the child responsible for their own toileting. 
  • Toilet training is the first thing that s/he has complete control over and will or will not use that control. Don’t shame or punish.
  • Have a basket/bin of special toys and books next to the potty that the child only can use when on the toilet as an added incentive.
  • It is hard for a child to stop an activity to go potty. Follow a not so desirable activity (potty) by a desirable activity (story, outside).
  • TAKE THE POTTY WITH YOU! Outside, Grandma's house, in the car, in the mall... If you are taking your child into an environment that is potentially setting them up for failure, then it is your responsibility to assist with their success. If your child says they need to go, you make sure they CAN GO, even if it means pulling off the freeway and toileting in the mini van's cargo space. 
Purchase a convertible potty chair. One that can be a potty chair or toilet topper, so that they will remain comfy with it as they transition, and if you need to take just the topper on outings due to size. It will fit in a plastic tote to take to shopping or restaurants. I also LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the one I got because it has a comfy cushiony seat so little bottoms can park out on it for as long as they would like comfortably. 

In the beginning, offer incentives and give good reinforcement for their accomplishments. As success is gained, transition to celebrating new skills, such as staying dry, asking to go, or pooping in the toilet. Try to not make it a completely huge deal, though. If you do, once the child isn't receiving the hoopla then they WILL backslide. They need to be successful because they choose to be and because it is something that is expected of them, not for rewards and outlandish praise.


My criteria for a child getting a Potty Master certificate, in the order I expect them to be accomplished:

  • They tell me they need to go PRIOR to going
  • They pee in the toilet/potty chair 
  • They poop in the toilet/potty chair
  • They tell me the need to go while OUTSIDE and hold it until we come inside to go (early potty training we have the potty chair outside, but only the first week or two)
  • No accidents for 5 consecutive days 
Click image for link to print
After meeting all the criteria, we have a ceremony and the child gets their certificate and a king-size candy bar, to be doled out as seen fit by the parents. I have to do it on day 5, because accidents WILL happen in the first few months and I want to celebrate the initial accomplishment. The children in my care get few sweets, and this is a major accomplishment, so they get a major prize. 

Always remember: unless there is a major physical or emotional issue, 
every child is potty trained by 5. 

Good Websites:

Tags: preschool, daycare, childcare, potty training, potty training certificate, potty training steps, toddlers, toddler, potty chair, toilet topper, easy potty training, stress free potty training

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Truth Tuesday #4 - Say Cheese

Truth Tuesday is blog posts regarding my 
Murphy's Laws of childcare.

#4 The day you serve blueberries for breakfast and spaghetti for lunch, have a messy painting activity, and the children play all afternoon in the mud pie kitchen, is the day a parent will call to say they are picking up early because they have family portraits at 4:00. "So sorry I forgot to tell you! I don't have time to run by the house for different clothes, hope she didn't get messy today." I stare at the little bundle of grubbiness, the one with grass in the hair and a scratch on the cheek... "You might want to reschedule."

This has happened more than once. Really, it never fails on the day parents schedule pictures.
Tags:  preschool, pre-k, kindergarten, childcare, daycare, homeschool, teaching

Friday, March 9, 2012

Dr. Seuss One Fish Two Fish Art

I came across THIS POST via Pinterest for Dr. Seuss week. I thought it was cute, but the teacher-added facial features and words made it TOO teacher-aided for me.  I really don't like to see my hand on any of their arts and crafts if at all possible. Also, plopping down a hand in paint and onto paper isn't much of a learning experience.

So, I changed it up a little.

We still did a red fish handprint, but the children, even the younger ones, painted their own hand. They decided which hand they painted. Following directions, the red fish had to be placed on the left side of the paper, half way down. The children had to show me where that was before putting their hands down. The little ones I pointed to the area after asking them and letting them think on it.

And we did a blue fish.

Rather than me drawing on the facial features, we used finger prints for the eyes. The children chose which finger to use, colored it themselves, and placed it.

Then I gave them word strips that they colored, trying to stay in the lines.

Click on image for link to print.

For older children I would have had them cut the strips out themselves, but these children are not scissor proficient yet, and time wise we just couldn't do teacher-assisted today.

ONE FISH and TWO FISH they got to color with any colors they chose. RED FISH and BLUE FISH they had to choose an appropriate color to use.

Then they glued on their strips. Independently. The one year olds got a little circling of the finger by me to show general placement area. If they put the words on upside down, I removed the strip and asked the child to do it again.

 I would have liked to do the fishbowl cut out like in the original idea post, but I wasn't sure how big they would turn out and how much room we would need for the words, which needed to be large enough to color.

I think they turned out great.

 This was done by a 3 1/2 year old.
 This was done by a 22 month old.

Following directions, the number one component of this, especially as most of our arts and crafts are open ended/free expression rather than this more structured activity
Color recognition
Language/Literacy spelling and vocabulary, sight words one/two/red/blue
Fine motor, lots with the painting of the hands and coloring, careful placement so as not to smear, paste skills and cutting if they were older
Math numbers, number words, logic/reasoning
Creative expression, not much but they did have some choices and decisions to make
Sensory with the paint on the hands and marker on the fingers, along with the glue that got on the hands as well.
Tags: art, craft, preschool, homeschool, pre-k, prek, childcare, daycare, Dr. Seuss, handprint, colors, coloring, paint, painting, printable

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Loose Parts Play

I have always been concerned about centers that have one main climbing structure and a few trikes to ride on a concrete slab as the extent of their outdoor play area. I've been on some of these playgrounds, watching the children aimlessly wandering around, and often misbehaving and messing with each other just for something new to do. This has been the case at some very expensive and some very highly respected centers. 

It made me sad for the children.

I have tried to let my students really be kids here. We turned over a board in the yard the other day and they were poking sticks at the slugs and watching spiders and rolly-pollies. We dig for worms and play with them, race them, measure them, etc.

They get muddy. Sometimes...REALLY muddy...

But I think there is a lot more that I can do to make their outdoor time more stimulating and creative and I'm working on that this year. They will probably get a lot dirtier this summer . 

One of the things I am really interested in is the concept of Loose Parts Play. Basically, loose parts play is children taking items and making them into whatever they want. It increases their creativity, problem solving, social dynamics and language as they negotiate what an item will represent, logic and reasoning skills, etc. 

Loose parts have been around in our playground since the beginning. This plastic pedestal was in the garden holding a statue until I began doing childcare. The children decided it had better uses...

It's something to think about for home, as well. A's father was telling me how she just loves their broken barstool they were going to throw away that lays on the floor. It becomes her Barney bus and she plays in there for a long time, even though her room is full of toys. Imagination is a wonderful thing, and when a child has that ownership in play, it's much more powerful than doing what they are suppose to do with a specific toy that does a specific thing.

Proponents of loose parts play think a good playground should strongly resemble a junk yard. It should provide endless opportunities for children's creative expression, exploration and architectural wonderment. 

I purchased several pans and lids from Salvation Army to create a banging wall, however, once I got them here, I reconsidered attaching them. For instance, if I place those pans and lids onto a banging wall for music, I am basically telling the children what they are for and how to use them. They are for music, they stay attached to this fence and you bang on them to make music. It is a teacher-down direction. 

However, by placing them in the playground and just leaving them there, within one day they were used as restaurant servers, baby beds for rocks, hats for the toddlers, they slid down the slides, served as stools for a few bottoms.  

They were also banged against several things to make different sounds, the lids were banged together as cymbals, they served as scoops in the sandbox, and much more. If I would have created a banging wall, they would have each banged on it a few times and been done with it. With the items kept as loose parts, the play potential is endless, and still actually served the initial intention...making music. 

I also had bought a small wooden bucket. It obviously didn't last long. I found it the next afternoon in pieces on the playground. I thought about picking it up, but was busy taking pics. A few minutes later, I saw H looking over the pieces and trying to put them back together. Then she arranged them in a line and used the pieces as scoops. 

A little while later, she had found the bottom somewhere and brought it to show me. "Circle, Miss Connie, I have a circle!"
"Why yes you do, darling."  

The beauty of loose parts.

B and H also used the lids and pans for some sequencing. 
Challenge: how can you tell if one is smaller than the other? B came up with a solution.

A couple days later I noticed the children playing on one of the basketball goals, in true loose parts play glory. 

G is 22 months, H is 2 1/2...

I WASN'T thinking, as many do, that this is tearing up valuable equipment, or that they should be taught respect for items. I was thinking of my over all goal for these children: to turn them into thinkers, explorers and avid learners. That can not be accomplished by pigeon holing behavior into "right" and "wrong," and being TOLD how to behave. They must be allowed the freedom necessary to EXPERIENCE...everything and anything possible.

I saw very young children experiencing cause and effect, taking turns, using language to convey meaning to one another, experimenting with different movements and evaluating the resulting causation, learning that different movements and forces produced different results in the equipment and in one another. I saw them trying to control the situation and how they responded if they couldn't. Earlier H pointed out to me that there was a square window in the bottom and looked through it at me. Applied knowledge and observation. They also walk the center line as a balance beam. It has a slight incline, so it's wonderful for that.

The basketball goal may not last long with so much learning going on, but learning is the real goal, not baskets. 

Tags: outdoors, outdoor play, outdoor environment, outdoor learning, loose parts, loose parts play, childcare, daycare, preschool, prek, pre-k, parenting

Truth Tuesday #3 - Box is Best

Truth Tuesday is blog posts regarding my 
Murphy's Laws of childcare.

#3 No matter how much money you spend on toys and materials, no matter how much time you spend carefully crafting manipulatives and indoor/outdoor centers, an empty cardboard box or random stick will ALWAYS be the most interesting item in a child's space.
Tags:  preschool, pre-k, kindergarten, childcare, daycare, homeschool, teaching