COUNTRY FUN

~ early education care ~ where our play supports our learning

May 24, 2017
by countryfun
Comments Off on Rhubarb is Here!

Rhubarb is Here!

For many, when they hear “learning”, they think structured lessons. All the “learning” occurring in the everyday activities of our children is so often overlooked. For me, being able to combine gardening and baking together offers multiple opportunities to be taking advantage of “learning” from an everyday activity.

Here’s a quick look at some of the “Learning” I see happening when I’m in the kitchen with children:

  • Demonstrates increasing capacity to follow rules and routines
  • Develops and communicates a growing awareness of self as having certain abilities, characteristics, preferences, and rights
  • Interacts with one or more children
  • Expresses an eagerness to participate in and learn about a widening range of topics, ideas, and tasks
  • Applies prior experiences, senses, and knowledge to new learning situations
  • Uses basic personal hygiene practices and understands that those practices help to maintain good health
  • Matches a number of objects with written numeral
  • Counting
  • Understands that numbers have multiple uses
  • Identifies problems and proposes ways to solve them
  • Observes, describes and investigates changes in materials and cause and effect relationships
  • Demonstrates the knowledge and skills needed to perform particular jobs and tasks
  • Identifies tools and technology used at home, school and work
  • Knows and discusses where some products come from

To start any cooking together, we talk safety, cleanliness and then gather the supplies needed (includes tools, recipe and ingredients). We then discuss things like: how to sit/stand so all could be involved; how to count as we measure (not until pouring or adding to mix); and review the different tools for purpose of usage. The real engagement happens once we actually start baking.

As each item is added to the bowl/pan we: looked at it’s texture; smell and/or taste; talk about where or how it grows; color; shape; past experiences with; etc. As we continue we discuss the changes as each new item is added – why changed, how changed, etc.

Whenever possible the children pour, mix, et. as we work through the recipe. Turns are taken with awareness of the different abilities for participation.

All done prepping and into the oven, then everyone helps with clean-up putting everything back where it should be.

Every group I have had here loves time in the kitchen!

With the garden starting to provide a harvest we will be spending even more time in the kitchen. Right now a good bit will be working with the rhubarb harvest.

The bed is lush and producing way more than I can use this year, even with canning, so if anyone would like some for home use please let me know. I’m happy to share.

Rhubarb is an excellent source of many vitamins like C, K, A and B-complex. It is high in dietary fiber and is a good source of calcium.  Rhubarb is low in sodium and saturated fat. To get the best nutrition from rhubarb, it is suggested that it be baked or stewed for a long period of time.

Besides using Rhubarb for sauces and jams think quick breads and muffins. Also a healthy side dish when cooked with apples and oranges sprinkling with cinnamon and/or ginger. This is a nice change up with pancakes or waffles.

 

Tomorrow I’ll post a couple of separate posts of recipes we are baking up with the 2017 rhubarb harvest.

 

January 5, 2017
by countryfun
Comments Off on Listening Is Important and Needs to be Taught

Listening Is Important and Needs to be Taught

We teach our children so many other skills, but do we really think about teaching them to listen?

The art of listening is something children will use throughout their entire lives and while it usually takes a back seat to learning how to talk, walk, ABC’s… it really is just as important a skill. Maybe even more important.

So how does one go about teaching “listening”?

Believe it or not there are many simple and fun ways to teaching listening skills. Think “PLAY”, the natural way children learn. When participating in any of the activities below be sure to comment on “what a good listener” they are. That the connection that draws a child’s attention to listening as a skill that’s a positive in them learning. That’s the teaching.

  1. Play games like, “Simon Says,” or “I Spy”. Play “Clue” games that involve following clues/directions to find a hidden (or in our case lost) object. We also like to play “Who says…….” – make an animal sound and have them label it. If your good make other sounds like a truck backing up, popcorn popping, ….
  2. Sing favorite songs together. Then when singing it again (which we all know children love to do) change up some of the important words. See if they notice and point out your “mistakes.” Do this a few times and you’ll find them always watching for you to “make mistakes” again. They might even start making their own “mistakes” for you to catch.
  3. Talk about sounds. When talking with your child about the ordinary things that are happen during their day be sure to ask them about the things you both are hearing. For example- talk about the sounds you hear as you are outside like birds, airplanes, traffic.
  4. Ask those “predictor” questions. When reading books aloud asking questions about what they think will happen next. At the end of the story, question them about events in the story to see how well they were listening. No “yes” or “no” questions, we want information shared. This activity works better for children as they are getting closer to preschool age. They need some base of language to follow through on clearly answering the questions. Do not let this stop you from asking right from the start. Every engagement is an opportunity to support your child’s learning.

We can teach listening skills through fun or play activities, but it’s just as important that we model good listening when we are with our children.

  1. Be at eye level. We know it’s easier to talk to someone when you are on the same level. Our children deserve that also. Getting down to their level makes that connection and it’s more likely they will focus and listen to you. If it’s hard to kneel down, adapt – pick them up, sit in chairs. What’s most important is that you’re eye to eye, or on a similar level.
  2. Use a normal (volume) voice speaking at a steady pace, in a language your child can understand. Please with toddlers, don’t dumb down your language (baby talk). First they understands more than you realize and second we want them to hear rich expanded language. If they do not hear it how are they to learn it?
  3. Say it once and give them so time to respond by words or action. Saying it over and over means they don’t need to listen the first time, and that is not a behavior pattern we want to set in place or encourage. Try it again using different words, making sure your directions aren’t too wordy, and really are appropriate for the developmental level of the child. If your child continues not to respond after you have adapted, this time repeat the directions and then gently show them the way or how to follow your directions.
  4. Keep your word. If you tell a child that they must eat a good meal or they can’t have dessert, stick to it. Developing a reason to listen is part of one’s listening skills, so it’s important that children know you mean it and will consistently follow through.
  5. Control your yelling. It’s often better to drop your voice tone or whisper to get a child’s attention. When they are ignoring you, it’s tempting to yell to get them to do what you want. However, if you yell too much, they are just learning to tune you out, or just see this speaking as normal. Save your loud voice for times when you really need it, like if you notice your toddler is about to run out into the street.
  6. Listen to your child.  This seems like such common sense, but so often we do not truly listen to them. Remember good role models are needed in developing good listening skills. The other benefit of listening to your child is supporting the development of their personal sense of self-worth.
  7. Repeat what you hear them saying. Take the opportunity to expand by adding a descriptive word. This not only works on listening skills, but increases their vocabulary.

Listening is also more than just “listen” and “follow the directions” or “respond”. Listening is really how we communicate. No matter the age we need to be having real conversations with our children. Talk with them, not at them. Really listen to them and show them that you are, through your responses. These conversations with you, help them learn about the flow of conversations. Even with an infant these conversations, which as usually “silly”, are encouraging listening skill development while making those important personal connections.

 

June 22, 2016
by countryfun
Comments Off on Control in Picking Up

Control in Picking Up

What is control? What is the value of having said “control”?

I originally posted on this in 2011, but find it’s a good topic to repost on. When working with young children I think it’s always good practice to reflect on what we expect and the why. That’s easier to do on planning activities, but what about “clean-up”.

Reflecting on what could I have done differently in planning activities for the day I think about the interactions between the children and myself, what materials were being used, time spent on activities, questions asked, expanded learning opportunities, and where it all fits with development. I questioned if they would have benefited by bringing in other materials? Maybe more controlled movement activities? More quiet play?…. Where I believe that children learn best through their own directed play, did I honored what they were requesting?

These questions have been my guide for years. However, one night as I’m thinking things through while picking up the play space I started thinking down another avenue. Toys were scattered around everywhere. In picking up I caught myself reorganizing even what they had picked up before leaving. I stopped myself.

Why was I reorganizing these toys?

They were in baskets and off the floor, what value was there to being in baskets sorted into like items? What was important here – picked up as I asked or in the “right” basket as I defined “right”?

I want the children here to develop responsibility on all levels and part of that is taking care of the toys and materials used during our days. I provide ways and places for this organization to occur that I think make sense, are easy to use and kid friendly. Do I also need it organized like I would? The answer is no.

What I realized then and continue to believe is that it’s important that they picked up, but they do not care that they are mixed together. So who is it that cares if the musical instruments are in with the kitchen tools? I realized I don’t. All those times I reorganized those baskets – no more. The toys will be played with tomorrow, mixed together in a totally different way by happy involved children. That is what is important to me.

I think this response gives control where it needs to be. I want a clean, safe space with children taking responsibility. They will follow through on that – just picking up and placing in the closest basket, because more isn’t important to them at this developmental stage.

These are the types of questions we need to ask ourselves when interacting with young children as teachers and parents. What is the purpose of our requests of them – pick up, wear certain clothes, follow rules, etc.? Our answers will all be different. Through raising my own children and over 28 years in child care I have often said “pick your battles”. Children need to have opportunities to “control” their environment and personal choices. How can I offer these opportunities?

No more sorting of the general toy baskets for me, but playdough will not be allowed in the table drawers. It does need to be put away in it’s lidded containers. 🙂

May 16, 2016
by countryfun
Comments Off on It’s Rhubarb Time!

It’s Rhubarb Time!

We’re back in the garden! Harvesting from the rhubarb bed has started. That means lots of kitchen time with the children here. We’re using some of our favorite recipes which you can find in postings on Countryfun is Cooking. Just search “rhubarb”.

This morning we made the Rhubarb Muffins to have for our afternoon snack.  A quick, easy and tasty recipe that also freezes well.

I enjoy being in the kitchen with the children. So many learning opportunities and there is usually something unexpected. Let’s start with Reading – idea of written directions in a recipe, names on ingredient containers, alphabet identification

Team work – gathering of materials, positioning to watch and help, working with peers and adult

Language – ingredients, tools, techniques, questions raised and answers provided

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Math, science and social studies –  measuring ingredients and counting. We also compare measuring tools and talk fractions. Smell for vinegar and vanilla. Taste brown sugar.

Where do eggs come from? Love getting the store as an answer:) More discussion on eggs coming from chickens with the farmer bringing to the store. Even better answer of “Ducks!”

More science as oil and milk blend. Then brown sugar dissolving in liquid. Flour going from dry to wet as we mix ingredients together and finally the baking. More math when we set oven temp and time the baking.

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Did you notice we used 3 different sized spoons in today’s baking? One of the children did. Thankfully he commented on the difference size handles, so I could take advantage of the observation for more learning. So of course we had a closer comparison of the 3 spoons for bowl size, handle length and a discussion on why they worked better for the reasons used for today. Largest for mixing. Middle for scooping dough for muffins. Smallest for scraping dough off scooping spoon.

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Last counting for this morning equaled 24. The recipe made 2 dozen muffins loaded with rhubarb – one very healthy and underused early spring vegetable.

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March 21, 2016
by countryfun
Comments Off on Exploring Usage of Seesaw: The Learning Journal

Exploring Usage of Seesaw: The Learning Journal

I have been using technology tools for years in documenting the learning that occurs here. With new apps and programs being developed this usage has continued to evolve.

Screen Shot 2016-03-21 at 1.18.59 PMI have just recently been introduced to Seesaw: The Learning Journal a student driven digital portfolio. I didn’t initially explore this app very far because I saw it as student driven and I wasn’t sure how it could be used with my young group. Lucky for me as part of pulling together a workshop for other providers about e-Portfolios I was connected with an early grades teacher who uses Seesaw with her group. From First hand knowledge she was able to explain that yes the students have an ownership, but the teacher also can easily post. The other part is that parent have direct access to their child’s acct. Loved seeing that this app would involve teacher documentation, student direct engagement in their learning and parent involvement.

So…………

  • I have set up an account for our class.
  • The classroom QRS is posted!
  • I’m watching tutorial videos to get as good a handle on how I can efficiently use this within our space, especially in teaching the children to take responsibility for documenting the learning that’s important to them.
  • I’ve started documenting and posting to student accounts.
  • Once I get a few more posts up and organize the student accounts, I’ll be sending home the invite to parents/guardians to access their child’s portfolio.

 

Believing that the connection with families is very important to a child’s development, being able to find alternative ways for this engagement to happen is important to me. With Seesaw families will be notified of updates to their child’s Seesaw journal. They will not have to remember to periodically check into the current e-Portfolios.

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Knowing the connection that has currently been built through Country Fun’s social media platforms, I expect Seesaw’s immediate, visual updates to actually get viewed by parents.  This will allow for more informed discussion with both me as teacher and their child.

So………..

Parents be on the lookout for that invite to Seesaw………thinking within the week.

October 15, 2015
by countryfun
Comments Off on Combining Our Movement Sticks and Books

Combining Our Movement Sticks and Books

With young children we know it is of benefit to have activities that will support them in getting their bodies moving and they need to be read to daily. There are a good number of books that have a movement component to them that allow for creative expansion activities.

Here are my go to books that have a movement component to them:

  • Wriggly Pig by Jon Blake
  • Tumble Bumble by Felicia Bond
  • Silly Sally by Audrey Wood
  • Clap Your Hands by Lorinda Bryan Cauley
  • Shake My Sillies Out by Raffi

Activities can be as simple as acting out the characters’ movements to using something like our Movement Sticks. These also make a great 5-10 minute movement activity that helps break up more structured activities, works for transition time and just for the fun of doing.

The Movement Sticks are simple and low cost. Take colored jumbo craft sticks and glue movement idea strips to them.

You can pre-make or have the children provide the movement ideas and help to glue up the sticks. You could also write them out, but I’ve found printed out and glued, last longer. Ideas can also be added as favorite actions change with the group.

Following are the movement ideas from our sticks:

  • pretend hula hooping
  • walk backwards
  • jump backwards
  • frog jumps
  • wiggle worm
  • highest leap
  • helicopters
  • jump sideways
  • ants in your pants
  • walk sideways
  • twisting toe touch
  • hop one foot then other
  • silly walk
  • jumping jacks
  • tree in a stormy wind
  • giant steps
  • head, shoulders, knees, toes
  • jump in a circle
  • two foot jumps
  • pretend on balance beam
  • pretend to pedal a bike
  • egg rock and roll
  • side stretches
  • jack in the box
  • run in place
  • tree in a breeze
  • dance
  • pretend climbing stairs
  • leg swing right, then left
  • pretend bowling
  • hop like a rabbit
  • touch your toes

For a printable list click this link.

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