teaching to learn, means learning to teach

Posts tagged ‘gross motor skills’

A spot of Luck

Just yesterday, I considered getting stressed out as the children continued to climb up on tables, balancing and climbing down again. They happily spouted out “Look, I’ m on the stairs!” Which is when I *knew* I had to create a more challenging and varied climbing structure outside. I figure if I can give them the more semi-permanent areas they need, whilst making them safe and meeting all the National Quality Standards, then the children will know it’s there and hopefully stop using furniture to meet this need. The only trouble was, how could I incorporate this in our yard, without having to worry too much about the elements – as we’ve had some crazy hot days, big rains and now cool breezes, all in the space of a fortnight!

Then this morning, as I was taking my own children to school, I came across a house that had recently cut down one of their trees, into an assortment of logs! Oh Yay 🙂 Fitting as many into my bus as I felt safe carrying, I drove on to work with a smile on my face. There were many options for where these could go, how I could change them up in future to be more of a ‘table and chairs’ sort of play area, or use them for surrounding our planter boxes, but to start with, they needed to be ‘stairs’. Finding a space that I hate looking at (all cement and corrugated iron fencing) I moved the planter pots around and laid out stumps in alternating heights, with the larger ones supporting the smaller-thinner ones.

Getting my colleagues up to try out the balance and feel of it was easy. In fact Rae was up and walking along before I even asked 🙂 I took this as a good sign, if she couldn’t resist it, then the kids wouldn’t either! The first thing I realised was that this was a great opportunity to explain a little more about looking after our plants. Encouraging them to hold the trunks of our ‘trees’ and not the leaves.


On our first few runs, I knew the kids would All want to be on it, and took measures to ensure they had a path to follow, minimising the risk of pushing and falling through exuberant entries. Turned out to be a good thing too, as some of our balancers were speed demons, practically leaping from one log to the next, quickly finding their feet and trying out the various smaller, higher  steps. Whilst others took their time, supporting their steps with hand holds and careful motor planning.

Some children opted to take their shoes off, gaining a greater feedback from their footfalls and increasing balance. Others extended their leaps off the end (on to a mat) and over to the low platform. Effectively turning it into a stage where they could call out “TaDa” and take pride in their achievements, before starting all over again!

 As play time wore on, the numbers of kids dwindled. I am really excited to see where this leads us. Will we build Ob courses from the end of our stumps? Will the children use them for sitting and talking? What about spontaneous counting and size recognition? Kally has already suggested that we paint them…which is a definite possibility too 🙂 Let’s just hope that whatever they choose to do with it, the prescence of this roving stairwell means we’ll see less climbing on furniture! A girl can has to have hope you know 😛


Cooking with the Babies

Live and Learn right 🙂 We all make mistakes, plan an activity and then go ‘Uh Oh, I should have expected that!’ From not having enough towels or washing water after an exuberant finger painting activity, to not allowing the space for drying or displaying the fantastic large collage or art pieces!
I had a new one this week.

The Babies are making salt dough hand prints for end of year gifts. I was covering a shift in their room and asked to whip up a batch of the dough and see if I could get any hand prints done. 

No probs, thinks I! I can even get the babies involved with this!

A bit of pouring and mixing, they will probably try to taste it, but it’s all plain ingredients and Ok 🙂

I was truly impressed with the way the babies handled it, taking turns and eager to try for more!

What I didn’t plan on or think about was  Pavlov’s effect. Sitting the children at their regular eating table, offering ingredients to play with and then not prepping any food for afterwards! Oops. One hungry little batch of babies waiting for the immediate love of whatever they had just mixed! Big Oops!

A very quick snack of biscuits to tide us over as we sat among our floury mess and a big *headdesk* moment for me!

Of course babies appetites would be stimulated by the smells of cooking, of course their table means eating, how could I have missed this?

At least the activity went well, the presents were made, the babies were fed and smiles were all round!

Re-creating the freedom of my youth

Remember when we were kids and there would be random piles of bark, soil and rocks that were on the edges of building sites and we’d run up and over them. The feel of danger and achievement as the ground slipped away and you ascended higher. To reach the top and take a running leap or slide, just to start all over again.

So I recreated that feeling, albeit on a smaller scale, with tyres piled on top of each other, covered in sand, that was dug from a moat around our mountain.

The first child to find it was excited and pointing and yelling ‘Look! Look! A mountain!’

The brave ran and jumped up the mountain, finding their feet as they went,

often travelling so fast it was hard to catch a picture of their movements!

Others had to work harder to climb up, using their whole bodies to stabilise and move,

enjoying the challenge and ownership of the climb.

Before too long, the numbers grew and the children sorted themselves into a semblance of a line. This was their doing, you can see our ringleader at work, organising the masses into order so that everyone gets a turn 🙂

With every challenge there is more than one solution. Watching the children develop their risk taking skills and being part of a large group activity that focused on their abilities was wonderful. I loved that my presence there was just as a pace keeper. Which allowed them time to climb and celebrate before another child jumped in on their play. For the very essence of discovery is in repetition and development of concepts, of practice and persistence and that’s what makes me happy 🙂

Outdoor Classrooms

Our Centre is not one that can easily support indoor-outdoor play. We ensure a large amount of play time in both areas, but are just not equipped to fully supervise both areas, without putting too much pressure on staff, thereby losing quality interactions with our kids. It’s something we have learnt to work with and although we dream of the centres who can allow free flow between their indoor and outdoor learning environments, we rate the quality of our interactions and supervision higher than that wish.

Which is why I love coming across images like this on the computer 🙂

This shows me that the girls from the other room have valued their children’s interest in water play and have tried to encourage it in a positive way – especially during our colder months! You can see here the old boat run we have. Some of the rubber stoppers have worn away and it is prone to leaking. It has been used for ball runs and water play in summer months, where puddles abound and the kids can enjoy the cooling water on their feet.

The children are actively involved in getting the water moving, using scoops and watering cans to add more water to the track – which extends into the sandpit and disappears until the sand forms walls that push the water further down its waterway. The concepts of maths, science, environmental effects and sharing jobs and space would all have come into play. Not that they knew the words, but they certainly learnt the ideas!

More building and construction to continue the waters flow, working together towards a common goal – not an easy task as any teacher form a two-year old classroom will tell you! This activity was done over the school holidays, so the mix  of 3-4 year olds in with the 2 year olds probably helped with the sharing of ideas and building on the raw concepts. It’s a great activity, I wish I was there to share in the fun! But I’m so glad that this happened while I was away too 🙂 It just goes to show the quality of our team, the pride they take in creating play based learning experiences, and the love they have for our kids! Well done girls!

Get out the leads and I’ll follow!

Circles are cool! It’s one of the first shapes that kids can master. They’re great for drawing faces and figures, they create the base of many letters, they look pretty and help us enclose things. HAve you noted how children like to enclose things? Creating a space for themself to work on, putting all their toys into a bag, basket or pocket. Enclosing things links to a sense of ownership and appreciation. “It’s mine!” or “It’s mine, for now!”

When we spin in circles, we get dizzy. When we follow circles, we end up where we started. When we draw circles, we need to make the ends join.

These children were invited to help make circles. To mark their progress and join up the ends. Alternatively, they could walk around and around trying to make the circles join, but seeing that their progress fluctuates and try to alter their path to make ends meet.

We used hoops from the “Outdoor Twister” game, tying ribbon to them and tying that to side-walk chalk. The exercise would be better off being repeated with those little, wetsuit, icy pole covers you can buy from Coles (or make yourself from old stubby holders) as they would give more support to the chalk, meaning less breakages.

However, it drew interest and experimentation in its short lived state. Preparation time was next to nothing and could easily be repeated and set up by the kids.

The end results were pretty and I’d love to try this with wet chalk or water paints 🙂

Also, the children showed me a new use for our rings! We’ve always loved our doggy role play around here and today bought in a new adventure, collars! I’ve been wary of the children tying things around their necks, but the hoops are a great size for fitting heads through and escaping from easily. They also won’t bend or tighten to a choking point and make both sides of the dog walking party aware of their limits!

Some dogs like to run and jump,

while others prefer to sit and behave:)

Either way, it’s nice to see the kids respecting the authority they have as the “owner” as well as being able to be led. No one likes a leash to be pulled on  or dragged somewhere. Having people listen to us and use their intuition on our motives and directions is wonderful. But most of all, we just want to get there together 🙂

Snakes in the Room!

We’ve been using these scooter board on flat ground for a while, but were limited to the cement areas as the carpet and astro turf really slowed them down. Once we added the ramp and a some teacher muscle, the kids immediately renewed their interest!

We’ve been enjoying the ramp and roll so I thought I’d take advantage of this interest and introduce some maths concepts into our play.

As the kid rolled down I marked their end point with chalk. They were so excited to see their names and places. Most of them repeated the roll, altering their hold or improving their grip to see where they ended up on the chart 🙂

We found that each child could change where they would finish, but not accurately predict whether they would end up from their body positions.

Oh, and after we’d finished it was really cute to see some of the other children move in with dustpan and brushes to try to clean off the chalk!

As a side note, introducing the Boa Constrictor song, that I mentioned yesterday, was hugely popular 🙂 The song and actions were picked up quickly. I realised that ‘middle’ was a foreign concept for them, as was a ‘boa constrictor’! So I stopped what I was doing and started again. This time with a feather boa from the dress up box. Slinking it in front of and on top of the kids like a snake.

Then for the safety lesson. Talking about how this type of snake wraps itself around the animal’s neck to stop them breathing. This is constriction and why we don’t wrap things around our friends, or our own, necks.

Then on to the fun part! Having our ‘boa constrictor’ nibble on our toes and all the way up to our heads 🙂

Because the kids were singing the song spontaneously during the day, I introduced a sleeve puppet snake and began a simpler, more interactive group time and chasey play.

When you ‘threaten’ the children with being ‘eaten’, it’s the giggles that let you know their sense of humour, imagination and cognitive skills are happily on track 🙂

When looking at maths, it’s best to just look around you

Welcome to July and our new program “Maths Concepts”  We already started with our tall paintings, which look great hanging from the wall with their towers still on 🙂

Especially the one that was lucky enough to have a ball roll over it during it’s weekend of drying time 🙂

Opening up our minds to height, weight, length and numerical concepts has allowed us to be quite free with play areas. It’s great to get down and build towers again as we explore directionality, balance and space.

So I put some paper up on the adjoining wall to trace and measure our blocks on. Besides exploring size concepts in a tangible way, I’m hoping this will also help with packing away safely, as they connect the shapes on the block trolley with where the blocks are meant to go!

As another exploratory area in the room, we’ve also added a gravity see saw. OK, I just made that name up, but it kinda works! Basically it’s two long tubes and the stand from a glass coffee table. I’ve filled the tubes with marbles and sealed them in (after a trial run without sealing them and having to chase marbles everywhere) with plastic cups and sticky tape. Adding some loopy screws and elastic has supported the tubes to stay in place and not be lifted up, which lowers their damage potential .

I’m hoping this in one of the areas that engages the kids and teaches them to look out for patterns – the marbles always come out in a different order. I’m hoping it teaches them to work together and express their explorations. I’m hoping this makes them question and think. But most of all I’m hoping it lasts and doesn’t break in the first week!