teaching to learn, means learning to teach

Posts tagged ‘individual needs’

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 😛


Elephants. What’s not to love?

It never ceases to amaze me that children are so eager to learn! In every interaction, every experience, every routine task and every moment of chilled calm or frenzied playing, there is so much going on that you can’t help but hope that the kids we share our time with won’t ever forget the joy of learning and searching.

I spent a few weeks in the Babies Room recently. This meant I was privy to some of the most joyous leaps of development, as well as an integral part of following up on their interests. I found that the sensory seekers – you know the ones who love to climb over their friends or push at them – could be redirected easier into appropriate play after a quick ‘toss in the air’ game. Setting all those needs for physical connections and movement into adult interactions has been fun! I’d generally follow this up with games of ‘Row, Row, Row your Boat’ or Peek-a-boo if there were a few rowdy ones 🙂

The quiet ones were seeking their connections through the toy phones, or sharing eye contact before offering a hand to play with. Building trust in the bond we’d share, getting their permission to move in before laying on my tummy in their space and sharing their toys. As with any age group, the boisterous ones would try to join in with my play, effectively locking out the more gentle of play. It takes talent to hold a gentle conversation whilst throwing balls or building towers out of our zone, so that the interactions can remain and be encouraged.

I found that all the babies we have are loving sitting in laps or mini group times to look at books. This pleases me greatly! I hope they continue to find joy in the written word, that their imaginations can be allowed to run wild and that their connections to their life and all that it encompasses will be better understood, because of a love of books.

I found a rather large book with bright illustrations that the babies loved, so of course I read it repeatedly 🙂 The whole thing could be sung jauntily to hold their interest longer too, so we added the song to our music grouptimes!

“One elephant went out to play,

Upon a spider’s web one day.

He thought it was such tremendous fun,

That he invited another elephant to come!”

You can see where this is going yeah? 🙂  So lots of re-reading, lots of singing, lots of elephant noises and lots of fun! What better way to extend on this interest, than by putting up a display of elephants  on to a woolen spiders web and sharing the words on the wall, so that the parents could see what we’ve been doing, feeding their need to know that their children are safe, cared for and that positive thought is being put into their child’s development.

And you know what? Educators Connecting, Children’s Learning and Parental Confidence aside….it was Fun! 🙂

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!”

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!

when you thought I wasn’t looking

There is a lovely poem out there, with many adaptations all over the Internet, called “When you thought I wasn’t looking” by author unknown.

When you thought I wasn’t looking,
I saw you hang my first painting on the refrigerator,
and I wanted to paint another one.

When you thought I wasn’t looking,
I saw you feed a stray cat,
and I thought it was good to be kind to animals.

When you thought I wasn’t looking,
I saw you make my favourite cake for me,
and I knew that little things are special things.

When you thought I wasn’t looking,
I heard you say a prayer,
and I believed that there was a God to talk to.

When you thought I wasn’t looking,
I felt you kiss me goodnight,
and I felt loved.

When you thought I wasn’t looking,
I saw tears come from your eyes,
and I learned that sometimes things hurt,
but it’s alright to cry.

When you thought I wasn’t looking,
I saw that you cared,
and I wanted to be everything that I could be.

When you thought I wasn’t looking,
I looked….
and I wanted to say thanks for all the things
I saw when you thought I wasn’t looking.

It popped into my head today because I was able to catch some fantastic moments of pure joy, experimentation and learning 🙂

I love seeing children continue on with something after I’ve left. This young man was trying to use the baseball bat on small balls and hitting more ground than ball. So I quickly grabbed a planter pot and a larger ball to create a larger area to aim for and a more ergonomic height. He picked up what steps he needed to do to return the ball and off he went 🙂 It’s wonderful to see children continuing on with something they love.

I soon noticed our climbing frame the happy home of our small balls, with no one in sight.

The mystery was resolved when a few boys trotted over from the tossing game with the last of the balls in their scoops. These scoops came out of a board game that had lost many of its pieces and had to be tossed. I couldn’t bear to throw them out and wasn’t really sure where they belonged, so put them into our home corner. Turns out the kids know how to connect the different areas together quite successfully without me 😉

The music pole has being seeing visits from a variety of kids who tend to treat it fairly well. Today this young man took it upon himself to extend his interest in the xylophone keys into creating a drum beat on a pile of plastic stepping-stones.

The next time I looked he’d set up a whole drum kit and was gaining interest from some peers. ‘Twas music for my ears and eyes.

I just realised this post has all boys in it! Considering the class is at least two-thirds girls, I better keep an  eye on how my little ladies are going about things!

Bill and Ted were gurus of their time :)

We all try to make sense of  our world. I come home each day to hear the stories that my kids bring home from school, whether that be about friends, teachers, tests or things that they’ve encountered. My partner fills me in on all the world news he’s gathered from the internet for the day, then helps me to break it down into manageable chunks of information that we can possibly connect like pieces of a puzzle.

At school, I’m seeing the same thought processes being acted out as the kids play and run and chase and get up to giddy kiddy fun.

Like just how are we meant to chase the ‘Australian Dream’ if the world economy if floating around, falling and popping or flying over our heads, like bubbles on a breeze?

What efforts can we make each day to clean up our environment and ensure we aren’t adding to the mess? What subjects are we sweeping under the rug? What news items are being swept away from our visions and understanding?

If we make silly faces and the wind changes direction, will our faces really be stuck like that forever?

So many conspiracy theories of our recent past have risen to a level of general assumption that they’re the truth. Some conspiracy theories have proven themselves to be valid (like JFK’s assassination) while others are still awaiting scientific evidence to back them up (faked moon landings anyone?) When did we stop looking for answers to opinions instead of just accepting every piece of information the media that we read, watch or hear?

With each turned page this child’s interest was reignited. It wasn’t a story or an informational book about colour and numbers. It was a book of puzzle and game boards. He spent his time tracing pathways and matching steps, following patterns and coming to conclusions.

Years ago the first group of people started working on electronic toys, computers and machines that could interact with us. Today their groundbreaking inventions and mind-boggling systematic thinking styles have been surpassed by the newest apps on phones, upgrades for computers and expecting things to work at the touch of a button (or screen!). I hope that there are still people out there that understand the creative systems behind computers and their ilk, because I for one am not among them. Seeing the intense interest in patterns gives me hope that there will be further understanding and positive development and recycling in the next stage of our computer age.

Sturdy balance boards are like people sized scales. How can we make this go in the direction we want o? How hard will we crash if one side hops off quickly? Can one person walk the length without upsetting the other two? Can one person work this alone?

Life is a series of checks and balances. We all experience fantastic highs and lows that have us curled up in beds with tears streaming down our faces. Many things offer us our strong foundations; family, friends, faith, social groups, self esteem and belonging to the world around us. We can rely too heavily on others for our own happiness, be too ready to pass the blame or dismiss responsibility for events, actions or consequences. Sometimes we need help to bridge gaps and reach goals, other times it’s important to reach goals by ourselves. Sure it’s hard work, but the result can be exhilarating!

From a large box of blocks that  make animals, cars, buildings and more, this selection of blue wheels meant something to him. I’m not sure why he chose blue, or only wheels, but I know that the process and the sorting and the counting made both him and me happy.

And you know that’s what I want for people everywhere. I want people to feel the freedom to make a choice and not be ridiculed for it. I want everyone to feel a sense of satisfaction from their actions. I would love to see people enjoy their collections of teapots, bells, stamps, stones, shoes or magnets without guilty associations. I would love for everyone to have a moment of quiet contemplation to tally up their deeds for the day and hold them close to their hearts.

word cues

For the last 5 or so years I’ve been using a really effective strategy for conflict resolution. We’ve used it in all age groups with appropriate levels of success. The basic thought behind it is that each child has the right to play with the toys they are using, as well as the social commitment to sharing. We also wanted to promote clear, independent and non aggressive conflict resolution word cues.

Gone are the days when educators would say “use your words” – which words? what will they do? Now the children who want a turn of the toy ask “can I be next?” (or just “be next?” for the younger children) to which the other child responds with “in two minutes”. Now we all know that kids usually can’t tell time, but they certainly get the idea of mine now and yours later. They now have the power in the relationship, something that ‘sharing’ often takes away as toys are taken from them. Individual children might give the toy over straight away, others need a time reminder “1 more minute till it’s Timmy’s turn on the bike!” while others will need to be guided into activities to wait out the time, so the other child is free to play without feeling the need to protect their possession from a ‘stalker’.

It’s a bit of an intense process at first. Explaining it with puppets at group time, constantly reiterating it during play, but it takes hold. The kids KNOW what to say and they KNOW what’s expected of them. No more “Use your Words” and more time for playing!