teaching to learn, means learning to teach

Posts tagged ‘instant gratification’

Awash in a sea of colour

I love it when the sun shines but doesn’t make us sweat. I love seeing ideas shared between workers. I love seeing smiles on kids faces as they see us valuing their product.

Years ago the centre I was at was going through accreditation and one of the complaints she had, was that we weren’t “respecting the children’s art” enough. Her case in point was that one wall had all the children’s art mounted on different sized pieces of paper and put up in a wobbly line. As opposed to mounted identically and presented straight. Just to be clear. This is not what I am talking about. I’m thinking about how often the children will ask me to take a photo of them, their artwork, their building or a favourite toy. How this new generation recognises that photos are a keepsake, often more so than the art they take home.

I know I try to get the art we do for displays to go up straight away, to show the kids it’s theirs and it’s fantastic and it’s here. If it’s artwork to go home, I want it in their bags as soon as possible to show their families. But it’s not often we get to create the display as the children create the art. Which is why I love fence painting 🙂

I still fully believe in the value of the process, the learning that comes from exploration and repeated use of new or familiar mediums. The up-scaling of skills as kids begin to form pictures or differentiate between colours, spaces and techniques.

These lovely large papers are free from any architects office, it’s printed on one side with building plans (fun for colouring in or map making) can completely blank on the other. We are lucky enough to get rolls and rolls of it from a family at the centre, but I have been known to approach nearby architects to rummage through their paper waste 🙂

As the paintings are declared ‘done’ they are left on the wall to dry and be admired, owned and attached to. They create a gallery of communication in a sea of colour. They make us aware of our own abilities and open us up to ideas from our peers.

In fact, it prompted the idea that we should do this activity in the days leading up to our end of year party so that the parents have something to focus on and our children have something to show off and we have something to ‘prove our worth’ – plus it just looks really pretty 🙂


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!

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!

Instant coffee has a lot to answer for!

Look, here’s the thing that’s been bugging me a bit lately. I’m seeing kids (my own included) looking for quick fixes and getting frustrated at their inability to do something, finish something or get something. We can instantly create fantastic cakes from packets, change channels quicker than we can make up our minds, we can buy clothes and electronic goods for cheaper prices than fixing things or making them ourselves. SOciety throws away so much packaging, wasted produce and perfectly good stuff, without even thinking about how quickly we’ve become accustomed to short-term gains. Heck, if I don’t want to make dinner I can go down the shops and buy it, or buy ready-made dinners from the supermarkets so tat I don’t have to do all the ‘hard work’.  But I’m not here to rage against the machine, I just want to level out the playing field with experiences that really count, for the kids that I care for.

But sometimes I have trouble with waiting too….

I purposely introduced my 8-year-old daughter to layby, so that she can feel the build up and wait for something she *thinks* she really wants. As we all know, Christmas gifts can sometimes be wished for so eagerly and when they get them, be superseded by something entirely different.

*my daughter the mermaid*

The work that’s been going into redeveloping play concepts in my yard and room have had me enthused and patting myself on the back. However, in creating play areas that I want to see being used for real learning through play, I’ve forgotten that it often takes time for the children to adapt to that. That sometimes new toys are used in old ways, before old toys can be used in new ways.

*these last two photos are of my kids and not at all school related 🙂

but they are kinda related to this post!*

So today, I was fabulously surprise to extend on an observation of one of my co-workers. She’d noticed one boy throwing a ball at our ‘limbo rungs’ and then knocking it down with a baseball bat. SHe had been watching this relatively harmless play incase it led to more destructive play or wilder, more dangerous swings and come to the conclusion that he was playing cricket! He was role-playing at knocking the wickets down. I was pretty darn impressed, knowing that if she hadn’t been watching his role play may have been misconstrued as destructive play.

Still the play was drawing attention and getting a little bit wild. So I quickly grabbed a basket so that he would have something to aim the balls into and my fabulous co-worker figured out how to balance the basket using the limbo rungs for support 🙂

We adjusted the height a few times to get it at a slightly challenging level for throwing, but still low enough that the whole thing wouldn’t tip over when they went to retrieve their balls.

We added rings to create a boundary that made the throws larger, and not just dropping them into the basket. WE found some little plastic nets in home corner that acted like lacrosse sticks. Overall, the games were well-played and visitors were welcomed in.

Now I know I have to get working on more  ‘project’ based activities; seeing the plants grow, developing  artworks by layers, working together to create stories and the like. I know that the long-term rewards for teaching children patience and that it’s worth putting the extra effort in to reap what you sow. But sometimes, a little instant gratification can be a nice reward!