teaching to learn, means learning to teach

Posts tagged ‘building’

What’s it like at your place?

My internet connection is having all sorts of dramas at the moment and I am incredibly frustrated by the inability to post up photo stories! So you’ll just have to believe me when I say that I was incredibly proud of the connection I was able to make with this child and so happy that his Mum was able to see that! As a family new to child care, she has many worries of her own, by following up on a conversation with this activity, I hope that alleviated just one of her concerns!

It all started after Mum left and we were having a cuddle whilst discussing what activities we had available in the yard.

My young man and I talked about what he would like to do and he replied ‘I want to make a machine that turns water into food’.

And there it was. My own kids movie watching had paid off. I knew this was a movie reference and was able to ask questions that could confirm this and extend our discussion.

“what sort of food?”

“Cheeeeez Buurger”

“what does it look like?”

“It has a circle on the top and one on the bottom. A place for water to go in and a bzzzzzzz for the cheeeeezbuuurger”

“What do we need to make it?”

“First we need Yellow Paper!”

(sooo lucky that I happened to have yellow paper amongst the colours I’d put out that day!”

I quickly took notes on what was needed then drew a basic picture of the machine as he’d described it.

By now other children were becoming interested in this conversation and we went together to collect collage items so that we could all invent something.

Masking tape, scissors and glue, paper for planning and we had a class of inventors!

My man and I worked on how to connect things together as we created ‘a machine that can turn water into food!’ Facing challenges of height, balance, fit and shapes we managed pretty well to identify everything’s needs and abilities!

I even made him a ‘cheeseburger’ out of cardboard and carpet off-cuts – which he declared ‘Yum’ 🙂

So as I reflect on this connection between home, family and child I feel positive and validated. Watching movies can create positive interactions with those around us, develop thinking skills, help clarify concepts and create opportunities for creative play!

After all, it’s not every day that you can say it’s “cloudy with a chance of meatballs!”


And stories to tell…


If I told you this month we were doing an accelerated literacy program that involves the children creating a forest,

Working with coloured glue and paint to make some very special trees,

decorating a house with lollipops and assorted junk foods,

planning, drawing and following maps,

Would you have guessed we were reading, retelling and acting out the story of Hansel and Gretel?

So much fun to be had when we break away from literacy = ABC!

Shhh, don’t tell! But sometimes, working in Childcare is REALLY fun!


One of the things that every good boss should tell you, is that you really need to look after yourself. Some days at work can be stressful and demanding, but when they’re not, ENJOY them! Stepping back and letting yourself play in the now is as rewarding for the kids as it is for us.

I could see the kids in the sandpit were starting a game of burying their toes in the sandpit. Unfortunately, the recent rains had made the sand cold and it was closing in on the end of the afternoon – so I took the bullet for them 🙂

I offered myself up as the one to be buried, so that they could keep their shoes on and their bodies warmer. It took no time at all for them to grasp the game 🙂

You can see one die-hard fan of being buried on the left. There was no way that she wasn’t going to enjoy the sensation, so I let her. Together we became mermaids. Quite cold mermaids, packed in sand but happy none-the-less. You’ll also notice my toes poking out at the end. That’s because my friend in the stripy jumper wanted to be able to tickle my toes:) It was only when she offered to take off my hat and bury my hair that I had to start getting worried!

Although the insistence that I have large and perky ‘boobs’ had me worried that Disney may just be infiltrating our images too much! Then I remembered that just about every mermaid I’ve ever seen has been drawn in this buxom manner. Are there any older, wiser and saggier female mermaids out there? In The Little Mermaid 2 there  was an older mermaid. THey covered up her entire torso in a corset-like number and gave her perky boobs.

Between body image and some of the gyrating hips I see when we dance, I think it’s time to bring back in classics like the ‘shopping trolley’ and the ‘sprinkler’, cause heaven knows that my non-animated chest isn’t up for jumping about like Stephanie from Lazy Town!

Creativity and a stream of conciousness

People tell me I’m a pretty creative person. Is that because they see me with the kids telling stories or making up games? More often it’s because they see the products of my creativity. Whether that be an art activity with paints or felt pens, a construction of planks and A frames for an obstacle course or things grabbed from around the way to enable complex role-playing. As with most things in life, I’m pretty sure it’s the process of creating that opens gateways to learning. It’s being able to explore the attributes of items and assess their usefulness, their liabilities and their qualities for whatever we would like to see them become.

I love the internet because it opens so many minds to me – it’s like having the best arrangement of teachers in one room – with me there to absorb and retell their tales! But not everything in Childcare is about doing new things. Children learn so much from repeated activities, from being able to try techniques they learnt last time and can now extend upon or  to gaining satisfaction when they are able to complete activities with more precision and control. Practice makes perfect isn’t just a cliché!

Painting is an opportunity to master pre-writing control and connect our artistic and logical parts of the brain – among many other things!

As an art medium it is easy to apply and offers instant gratification.

As a learning tool, it has endless possibilities for application.

As a toy, it’s heaps of fun 🙂

There is a certain pride in being face painted. It might have something to do with all the sensory feedback that makes us relax or giggle, sit rock solid or twitch like a bunnies nose. Becoming a character or embodying the essence of a superhero/animal/fairy/magical creature/robot is a powerful feeling, having others recognise your play is also a great communication and self-esteem booster!

As much as we introduce animal names and sounds, letters, numbers and math concepts. We can’t forget that today’s children are raised in a world of multi media. Where at the touch of a button they can become immersed in a different world or click away at computer games as they chase dreams and fantasy. Although there are many personal debates over how much we should be including ‘marketed’ toys or games in childcare, I see how the connections some children make between a favourite TV show or movie Character can really bring their language to life and support friendships. So, I’m thinking it’s not all bad. This doesn’t mean I’m going to sit the kids down to a day of Yo Gabba Gabba or Sesame Street, but I’ll certainly celebrating their learning and investigation brought on by their personal involvement in their favourite shows!

As with all creative process’ there is an element of danger. Our words can hurt someone’s feelings, our painting can become messy and slippery, out what we need to learn is that with every element of danger, there is an equal and opposite role of responsibility. To wear protective gear, to behave in a way that won’t hurt anyone, to accept that it is often our own actions that lead us into getting hurt. From poor preparation to misreading our  aim or judgement. But without the opportunities to practice these skills, we can’t improve our techniques!

We will also have a hard time learning to manage our own pain.

Cause and effect or natural consequences, it’s often not the end of the world.

And you know what. Kids can deal with that, so why shouldn’t we let them? 🙂

Trash to treasure :)

Sometimes the simplest things can seem like genius! I’d picked up two large blackboard easels from the local cheap shop. I love them because they go right to the ground, so that even the littlest of kids will have a large drawing space.

I’m not so fond of them, because they don’t have locking sides and are prone to falling over as the kids lean on them.I had a quick look around and found that the tyres were too large and the buckets too small. The milk crate styled boxes not tapered enough and the pot planters didn’t offer enough surface area to stop the sliding. I’d almost given up when I looked at the old school chairs we use at our outdoor tables. Bingo!

Screws quickly removed and our easels are supported with no more incidents!

As much as this made the group of four kids drawing happy, it enticed a larger group of kids over who wanted a turn at using the screwdriver, dismantling the chairs and seeing what they looked like! In fact, the very first ‘legless chair’ was run into the sandpit and sat on, before I could think what to do with it!

Of course, this meant that taking apart two chairs was no longer enough! SO we continued removing screws and separating chairs until their were enough for all the kids who showed interest.

*we have heaps of these chairs from an old school sale*

The kids lined them up in front of the edge of our sandpit, facing out to the swings. Then repositioned them to sit on the edge, looking in. Finally they moved them into the sandpit so we could dig and build ‘without our bums getting wet!’ 🙂

But now I am left with extra bases from our chairs. We managed to use one for low level climbing (loving that they stand under 50 cms!)

But the more I think about it, the more I’m being led to try some table top pendulum painting!

Foam puzzle construction

I’m really sorry about this, but I can’t find the link that was the inspiration for today’s activity! One wonderful preschool teacher out there had chopped up bars of glycerine soap and used it as the building blocks for toothpick construction!Knowing that my kids would probably try to eat the soap, or rub it in their eyes or slip on it or all manner of other ‘exciting’ things, I decided to use my Eva floor mat/puzzles. These foam puzzles have had a life well lived. They’ve been puzzles, they’ve been floor mats, they’ve been stuck to the bathroom wall and rearranged multiple bath times over! They’ve been set on shelves for dolls to play with, chewed on, lost and stuck in cupboards. Now it’s time to move on.

So I started by getting the kids to pull out all the puzzle pieces, whilst I chopped in to the foam. I originally planned to cut it with a chefs knife, but quickly realised that the knife was just bouncing off its rubbery texture! It’s fairly easy to cut through. Just time-consuming.

The thing with scissors is that once they are out, everyone wants a turn! The foam proved to be a bit tricky to cut through for the kids, but small distances could be worked through!

Once we had an array of pieces I showed them how to push in the toothpicks, without holding the ends. It’s important to note that I purposely bought cheaper toothpicks, because I knew they’d be pointy at both ends. It did also mean that we had a few dodgy ones in our midst!

Assembly began as a fairly 2D affair.  Here you can see the back of our puzzle pieces, the numbers were there to help us sort and complete the puzzles as we packed up. now they just become part of the construction!

The projects soon gained 3D effects, as wings were added, stabilising pieces were put in to make them stand up and as we experimented with what we could do! Like any activity that has my daughter in it, something will eventually be made to be worn. First were the glasses, then she moved on to make Bunny Ears, which she used toothpicks to tuck into her head band for support!

I began creating a ‘thing’ out of the little pieces, and found myself thinking that it looked like a Christmas Tree. Not a whole lot, but just enough to start me off on a project to make one. But then Quinn stole my pieces and threw them like frisbees (or flying ninja stars – more likely these, as told by his maniacal laugh!). So you’ll just have to use your imagination when you look at my ‘inspiration’ piece!

After this was done, I had a whole new respect for the Dozers sugar-stick construction, in Fraggle Rock!

Super Foam-erator or Bubble Snakes


Ok, so it’s school holidays and I’m at home with my kids…but this activity is awesome for anyone who has their own, baby sits, cares for, works with or stumbles into random kid parties! The things I like best about it are the lack of funds needed to create it, the recycling element and that it uses FAR less bubble liquid than if I let my crew run around blowing traditional bubbles 🙂

For the record, I stole the idea from Betz White and her awesome blog

Step one. Cut the bases off some plastic drink bottles.

Rinse bottles and throw out lids (unless you have younger kids and then use pop tops

to minimise inhaling and maximise output)

Step two. Find an old tea towel to cut up, or recommission some washers/flannels.

The aim is that they fit around the base of the bottle (cut side) with more going up the sides.

Step three. Dampen material and attach pieces to bottles with rubber bands

(or in my case, hair ties)

Step four. Find a bowl, container or deep lid that’s about the same

size as your washer-covered end. Add a tiny amount of bubble solution.

Step five. Take it outside or to the bath tub and Blow!

And blow some more!

(this activity is so exciting, that my Autistic son came flying off his swing to join us!)

Actually, this activity was so exciting, I had to have a go!


With practice you can get long snakes, bubble towers and create patterns.

Or you could take the cue of my youngest and smoosh them all into the workspace,

before grabbing a frying pan and egg flip to capture them with!

Told you it was cool! Bet you really want to try it now!