teaching to learn, means learning to teach

Posts tagged ‘role play’

A Treasure Trove of Connections!

As many people working in Long Day Care Centres will tell you, we love our sandpits. Unfortunately that also comes with the job of keeping the sand IN the sandpit. Not travelling around in buckets to be dumped down drains or poured on to the cement or carted around in trolleys or trucks, leaving little trails to be swept up by staff.

So when I saw an enormous pile of sand that had obviously been distributed there and then forgotten, it was off to fetch the dustpan and brush before it became a spread too large to clean up quickly. However, as often happens, I was waylaid by more important matters with children and parents. No drama really, that’s what I’m here for after all ๐Ÿ™‚

By the time I returned to the sand puddle, it no longer looked likeย  a discarded mess to be cleaned, but an important piece of art and communication.

So I stopped what I was going to do. And instead asked the children nearest to it, what had they been drawing.

“A treasure map!”

“You start here but have to go to the bridge and fight monsters”

“And use a boat!”

“You need a sword! *schwiiing*(sword being pulled out noise)”

“This is where you walk over the mountains”

“This is the treasure!”

“But more monsters and then you get the jewels”


My lovely Boy was eloquent and explanatory about their map. My beautiful girl was able to relate the whole thing back to “Playing Link on the computer with my brother”

What an important connection between home, care and friends had just happened here! And to think, if i was quicker at sweeping it all up, I would have missed such a fantastic opportunity to expand on this Treasure Map Role Play! So, Brooms away and off I went to collect paper, crayons and coffee tinted water.

As I came back with my arms full of art supplies, a decent sized group trailed after me like I was the Pied Piper ๐Ÿ™‚ Luckily, I’d figured this would happen, so had bought out lots to share!

We all sat around the sand map and let S and A explain the story again. Each child took a page and a crayon and began drawing their own treasure maps.

Knowing that coffee water could stain paper, but hoping not to make a bigger mess, we moved to the sandpit to finger paint on our maps. The first few to try were upset that some sand had gotten on to their art, but I excitedly explained that now their treasure maps looked like they had been buried for a long time! Soon, everyone was finger painting and then pouring sandย  on their pictures, followed by a shake and a display!

So I didn’t clean up the sand that day. But what I did do was far more important. So next time I see a random sand pile in the yard,I plan to stop, look and think ‘How was this important to someone today?’


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!

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 orย  to gaining satisfaction when they are able to complete activities with more precision and control. Practice makes perfect isn’t just a clichรฉ!

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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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 ourย  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? ๐Ÿ™‚

New Yam Festival!

Technically the New Yam Festival is on Saturday, but as with all great weekend occasions, we make them fit into our week day experiences ๐Ÿ™‚

We started with a group time that introduced Nigeria, as a country, what a Yam was – and how I didn’t have one but a sweet potato was like it – what the difference was between potatoes and sweet potatoes, how and why the Nigerian people celebrated the harvest of their yams, hen I made a mask/headdress like the ones they wear for the festival and parade.

It all got a bit crazy after that, as I fitted hats, another staff member added double-sided tape (for ease of decorating) and the children moved on to a table which had and arrangement of leaves, feathers, flower cutouts and insect cutouts.

Once done, we grabbed out instruments, chose our leader and ‘tail’ then prepared to entertain the younger kids with our parade ๐Ÿ™‚

Straight down our yard, making lots of noise – no doubt having the centrelink customers on the other side of the fence wondering what was going on ๐Ÿ™‚

Into the koala yard following the balance walk along the sandpit and around the obstacle course!

We had one teacher giving out sweets to the children as we returned, in high spirits to our outdoor group time area – getting to make so much noise and showing off our creations was an invigorating experience!

Our wonderful cook had gotten right into the theme and created two sweet potato dishes for us, one a roasted savoury number, the other a sweet concoction of melted marshmallow and boiled vegetable! The majority of children enjoyed both dishes, with some making their way up for seconds of their favourite dish ๐Ÿ™‚

Of course the best thing about wearing crowns in getting to keep wearing them during play! Interestingly, the boys wore them, while a few of the girls allocated characters to them, the two that stand out in my memory are a fairy and Princess Fiona (from Shrek)

The craziness of busy we felt as teachers was probably due to us normally having a fairly calm morning time that allows for small group play and individual interactions, so getting everyone together at once for art activities and big noise was definitely not normal for us! However, the children coped well with most able to self-regulate their hyper activity to move on to productive outdoor play.

In the late afternoon, I grabbed an African tambourine and donned the headdress then began a rousing game of chasey and hide ‘n’ seek, beating my Tambourine slowly as I crept along the yard, shaking out my headdress for emphasis on ‘looking’. As I approached the hiding places, I let the bells ring more and sped up the beat of the drum so that the kids had an aural sense of anticipation of being found. It was fun, it was exciting and it was hard work wearing that headdress – I might need to trim a layer in front of the eyes for more play on Monday!

Who wants an Ice Cream?

Anyone who has worked with me for any length of time, would have heard the holler of “Who wants an Ice Cream?” echoing around the yard ๐Ÿ™‚ I love getting involved with the kids role play, so when a castle is turned into a restaurant or someone sets up shop in a corner, I’ve found myself balancing most successful with personal comfort by engaging in ice-cream shop role play. Personally, I can’t follow-up on McDonald’s franchises opening up in our healthy eatingย  and learning environments, but will attend them until I can ask for a fancy dessert to redirect play ๐Ÿ™‚

When visiting ‘That’s not Garbage’ I came across these old thread cones and couldn’t resist them becoming part of our play!

Painting them with glue and filling the insides with fluffy white cotton balls was a great way to explore full and empty –

but was certainly the precursor to the real fun the kids wanted to have!

We drizzled more glue over the top, then sprinkled an array of glitter on for topping!

If only we’d thought of adding the paper covers to all the glue tables, it would have been a quicker clean up!
*as you can see, not everyone likes their cones to hold ice cream – and I’m cool with that :)*


Once all our glitter was spread, we moved on to the ‘lolly table’.

Realistically threading colourful foam beads on to small skewers, we called them lolly sticks,

fostering our imaginations.

With most children completing at least 2 ice creams and all the cones gone,

we used our beads to make necklaces and bracelets.

The photos look so calm and happy, but in all honesty it was a flurry of activity and the threading of bracelets was a fantastic way to calm the group.

Yay for intrinsic follow-up activities!


Ourย  ‘shop’ย  was visited by all, with everyone excited to take them home. Some were used in our outdoor Role Play area to continue the shop idea,

and I couldn’t have been more proud ๐Ÿ™‚

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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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 onย  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 ๐Ÿ™‚

With a snip over here and a snip over there…

I am officially on two weeks holiday, two weeks at home with my kids and my man ๐Ÿ™‚ I’ve slept for massive portions of the day, played lego, painted ponies, helped come up with story ideas and been able to hang out on the couch with my family.

However, before I left for my holidays, I assembled a heap of activities so that my kids at school could still have the input from teh Maths program that I’d originally set. I’m a bit of a control freak, I know!

Here is my reinterpretation of an activity I’d seen on another blog. They had hung reams of wool hung off of a hoop, placed over a large tray. The children were encouraged to cutย  it randomly into the tray. Seeing as I don’t have much in the way of table frames or ceiling beams to hang things down to kids level safely, I worked withwhat I have.

And what I have are paper plate and streamers ๐Ÿ™‚ (I did try the wool, tied through holes, but it really didn’t have the volume I wanted the kids to see)


Just a few strip held together with a staple, positioned around half the paper plate (which had it’s inner circle cut out for another activity ages ago) and we have hair! How better to experience long to short concepts than with a pretend hair cut!

This photo was taken as part of a practice run and I immediately saw that it wasn’t going to work for everyone. Scissors can be scary and it’s important to remember that when we give kids the power to use things safely the weight of acting responsibly can scare them too!

Instead I’ve planned for the children to draw faces that can be stuck to the plate, hidden by the hair. These will then be stuck to easel boards and the children can merrily chop away until their person appears ๐Ÿ™‚ I wish I could be there when they do this! It just looks like it’ll be a lot of fun!