COUNTRY FUN

~ early education care ~ where our play supports our learning

October 6, 2017
by countryfun
Comments Off on Fall Lessons continue……..

Fall Lessons continue……..

We’ve worked in Apples and Pumpkins through daily activities, stories, snacks and lunches, exploration boxes and just general conversations. Most of the interest is currently on seeds.

Tied seeds and apple work together to make a book that compressed the life cycle of an apple. Our life cycle was seed – blossom – fruit – harvest. This group has an understanding that plants grow from seeds planted in the ground. That plants need water and sunlight to grow. That the food grows from a flower. That the food has more seeds inside it and these will grow into the food they came from if planted.

To make the book we colored a large sheet of drawing paper using the colors of apples we had to explore.

   

This sheet was then folded to make our book. The children glued the pre-cut images into their books. I added words with our discussion on the images and apple cycle.

   Of course the books headed home.

Then our seeds exploration headed outside to gather different seeds. The Fall is actually a great time for this because it’s when plants and trees are loaded with seeds.

We brought the seeds inside to explore further. We had seeds from weeds, grasses, trees, herbs and a couple of the beans for drying that were not dry yet.

First we took the beans out of their pods and set up a growing experiment: glass jar, paper towels, water and beans. We’ll be checking to see if the beans sprout on the south facing windowsill.  

The rest of the seed heads were handled, checked with magnifying glasses, shaken in small tubes, smelled, hammered, blown …………..

 

Still checking maple pods to see if they contain seeds while outside at play. More acorns keep finding their way inside also.

September 17, 2017
by countryfun
Comments Off on Learning Happens from “Can I Help?”

Learning Happens from “Can I Help?”

I spent Saturday in the company of a diverse group of professionals and parents that are interested in where early childhood education is heading nationally, but especially in Maine. It was interesting to talk with a Montessori Preschool teacher, public school Pre-K teacher, center director and staff, parent ambassadors, College professor, and Head start teachers, about programs. A good amount of discussion was around structured curriculum with planned activities done on schedule, but wanting to be flexible to go where children lead. Research supports the importance of play in a child’s learning and the value of child directed activities. As teachers we also have options about how we approach our roles to support, encourage, challenge, and expand a child’s learning.

I shared how I’ve got unit/curriculum plans developed that work with the Maine Early Learning Developmental Standards, but I see the ultimate learning for young children as coming from involving them in normal daily life activities. Dramatic play is fine, but real life is best. Our dramatic play reinforces the learning experienced in the real activity. I think back to what I experienced as a child. I played outside, exploring my environment and my place in it, all the time. When inside I had free access to art/craft supplies, puzzles and books. Today, I take the experiences of my childhood and add in my teacher skills to reinforce the learning opportunities that occur just as part of our normal day. I do get to pull in some of those planned unit activities that are on file in the reinforcing and expanding.

I believe that children learn best through their play, guiding us in what they need, but they also benefit from having any learning opportunity expanded. It’s having that balance of leaving it up to them to guide and finding the opportunities to expand learning that is always the fun challenge for me.

Here’s the example I shared in the discussion:

I have always hung laundry out to dry in good weather. Not an activity many of today’s children are exposed to, as most families use the dryer today. Whenever we head out back to play and the children see a clothes basket at the clothesline they want to help me. I don’t think about that it will take longer, I immediately think about which child is asking to help and what learning can I support.

  • Do we count clothespins needed to hang clothes – 2 shirts means 4 clothespins, 2 for each item = 2+2 = 4, then it’s counting out the clothespins to me. For some it also means sorting clothespins to find matches, as I have 2 different kinds of clothespins and they want them to be the same. It doesn’t matter to me.
  • One helper always wants to practice clipping pins, so I make sure to hang pants up first. Pants they can reach the bottom of to clip to. There isn’t much better fine motor with some science thrown in than working clip clothespins.

 

  • We sort out socks, sort colors, etc.  I now also hang different types of clothes on different lines for even more sorting.
  • We talk about where you wear what. This leads to expanded story play with what we call the “Ooops” book (Blue Hat, Green Hat by Sandra Boynton which is a daily read within our space and can be retold easily). It’s fun to talk about wearing pants on our head,before I hang them. That always gets an “Ooops” and correction on where to wear them. You never know what will be worn where. Young children are creative and love “silly”.
  • Language expansion with color names, labeling body parts, and when a preschooler tells you the clothes are all “twisted” – expand that – what is meant, how are they, other descriptive words for “twisted”……
  • Science of why hang the clothes?, what dries them?, with it be fast today? – sun and wind
  • Counting the items – in total, by group, by color, on each line
  • Compare number of items hung on each line, why more or less
  • Weight of wet clothing

The children come and go with helping as they want and need. All this learning isn’t forced. It’s chosen by the child. It also includes teamwork, self-esteem, sense of responsibility, sense of accomplishment, self control and aware of abilities that are important developmentally for young learners.

My goal every day is to have this type of learning happening all day long.  A Head Start teacher stated she would so liketo be offering the same type of learning opportunities, but is required to have written plans that are done ahead. We actually did a bit of brainstorming to see if there might be ways to write out skills/standards met by everyday daily life activities that could be linked to on her plans, so she could move her program in this direction.

I appreciate that the families here understand how their young learners are being supported through including the children in what are normal life activities and expanding learning within those activities.

 

September 5, 2017
by countryfun
Comments Off on Monster Puppet, Sticks and Onion….. not Apples

Monster Puppet, Sticks and Onion….. not Apples

I have the Fall preschool unit on apples and pumpkins all ready to go, but right now the children have different ideas. Since I believe that children learn best when they have a strong interest the planned lessons will keep and we’ll follow their lead.

Go Away Big Green Monster has been a favorite book over the years and it is one being continually read on just now. One preschooler early this morning found an old green monster puppet I had made years past and wanted to make one themself. No problem… this “envelope” puppet style is very simple to make and I always have material for it on hand.

Take a sheet of construction paper, holding the long way, fold both ends in until just overlap. Glue the overlap. Take the top end and cut down both side about 1″. Then cut across just the paper that that has been overlapped. This will provide you with a flap you glue and fold over. You now have what I think of as an “envelope puppet”.

Following the construction of the green monster we cut out the needed facial features. Once glued in place the puppet was ready to use.

Then, it was all about a “stick” collection. Well, we have plenty of sticks, so all we needed was a box for collection. We’ll find ways to compare size, work with idea of shortest to longest, count, observe and describe. Thinking might be able to do a bit of crafting stick figures the next day or so ………

It’s also time to harvest the garden and a favorite vegetable for young children to harvest is the onion. Especially when the last weeding of the bed was missed. The onion bed is looking pretty green, so we needed to hunt for all the dried leaves. Once found it’s all about pulling the onions out. Pulling and pushing are important concepts for young children and having opportunities for these actions on a variety of levels is important.

harvesting onions from Country Fun Child Care on Vimeo.

Our onion harvest means lots of teamwork as we have lots of onions to clean, sort, count and prep for winter storage.

sorting onions from Country Fun Child Care on Vimeo.

……… So no apples or pumpkins today, but lots of learning right at the appropriate level for each child involved.

 

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. 🙂

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