Sarah's Family Daycare

Where It All Starts With Nurturing Relationships

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Welcome to my blog at Sarah's Family Daycare.  I enjoy exploring the early childhood literature and enhancing my abilities to support children's learning and development.  It is my hope that my articles will help you in your parenting journey or your child care endeavour.  I look forward to hearing your comments, questions and feedback.


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Thank Goodness, I Didn't Interrupt!

Posted on 9 October, 2018 at 20:10 Comments comments (1)


I saw this photo on Facebook last week and I felt quite validated, because I often stand back silently observing the children dawdle and meander while we are outside. I sometimes feel as though I should do something to add value or extend their learning or to keep going. So, I appreciated the reminder that there is always value in their play even if we can't see it.


So, this morning when I was waiting for one of my littles, 18 mos old, to catch up and then he started "dawdling" again, I almost interrupted him to get going but I stopped and observed.


I then discovered he had actually found part of a milkweed seed and he was following it as it floated silently through the air!




Thank goodness, I didn't interupt!



Daily Adventures: Freezing Rain, Reading & Painting

Posted on 6 January, 2017 at 18:25 Comments comments (1)


After the Christmas holidays, this week felt relaxed and easy flowing as we settles back into the daily and weekly rhythm. Following are some highlights and what I was focussing on this week.


We explored at the entrance into the greenbelt after the freezing rain. The kids were fascinated by the branches hanging down and the broken branches. We stayed in the open area for only ten to fifteen minutes. Then we came back to the house and played in the front yard until it is time to come in. Some of the little ones played in the snow and some of them ``helped` me shovel the walkway.



This week the little one`s were quite enthusiastic about Dr. Suess's ABC and singing the alphabet song together. The rhyming helps develop their phonological awareness and of course all the letters in the book help with letter recognition. Building upon their interest, I hope to extend their learning by introducing another alphabet book, Chicka Chicka Boom Boom. I also have some cut-out letters to provide during creative crafting that builds on their interest and increasing ability with the glue sticks that I started giving them before the holidays.


I had fun alongside their painting this week. When they are painting, I am hoping to provide an opportunity for so much more than fine motor skills. I am trying to build on both the toddler's desire to explore movement and the consequences of their actions with their paintbrush and paint (cognitive). I am also hoping to provide a more complex opportunity to engage and develop the preschoolers observation and representation skills (cognitive).


I read once that the rationale for teaching colours was to develop their observation skills, but there is a much greater opportunity for observation when moving beyond the standardized colours.  There is even more opportunity for observation when allowing to find out for themselves what happens when they mix colours together. 




I have tried painting with the colours in a glass jar, but I noticed it was challenging for them to mix and challenging to really observe what was happening with the colours. I decided to mimic an artist's palette, so I put the paint on a plate. Not only did this provide more opportunity to use the colours in different ways, either individually or by mixing, but it also provided more opportunities to observe the colours blending and changing. I am hoping to increase the complexity of the colour mixing and maintain their interest, by moving beyond the secondary colours and learning how to create tertiary colours next.



Using ELECT (2007), this activity provides an opportunity to develop all but two aspects of their observation skills:

 

  • visually attending to things in their environment
  • focusing their observations on details
  • increasing the time they spend observing
  • naming and describing the things that they have observed

 

 


The two skills that are missed, I just don't think can be provided for during painting: using all senses to gather information while observing and using specialized sources and books as a means of extending their observations.


And of course, painting provides an opportunity to learn about the science of colour theory and artistic expression. Self-expression, i.e. expressing our ideas, thoughts and feelings, is the cognitive skill behind art. In ELECT (2007) this is an indicator of the cognitive skill, representation: beginning to use art media and tools to express their ideas, feelings and experiences.




I figure this approach will also be adaptable when I have older infants or younger toddlers in my care because it will allow them to paint with their fingers or a brush. And as a bonus, I found it easier to prevent wasting paint as I add more in small amounts only as needed. And finally, with less paint, it makes a mess I can live with, if they dump it :P



 

Get Outside & Co-Discover

Posted on 12 October, 2016 at 21:35 Comments comments (0)

This morning was fun! And the best part was that getting outside, exploring and discovering is exactly what the Ministry of Education is expecting of child care programs. In How Learning Happens: Ontario's Pedagogy for the Early Years, the Ministry sets out expectations and goals for child care programs. One of the intentions of How Learning Happens described on page 15 is to "help educators become researchers and co-learners with children, parents, caregivers, and colleagues – learning about children, with children, and from children."


Co-learning is about learning with children, but I still find that idea makes it feel like work. Instead, I much prefer and find it much more enjoyable and natural, to think about the idea of co-discovering or engaging in discovery alongside the children.


The Ministry continues on page 15 of How Learning Happens to describe how they expect child care programs to "provide environments and experiences to engage children in active, creative, and meaningful exploration, play, and inquiry." And, I'm sorry, but indoor environments cannot, they just cannot, replace the complexity of the natural environment with the continuous changes of texture, colour, sound and feeling throughout the seasons, not to mention the diversity of meaningful opportunities for discovering the natural world around us.


And wow, this morning was full of discovering, engaging and learning! Check out the photos!


First, we discovered one of the trees near the wetland almost chewed through by a beaver. I wonder when we will discover it completely cut off and perhaps moved by the beavers?


Then, we went to the bridge where the fall colours are emerging and the sun and the breeze felt warm on the face. The kids have been discovering milkweed pods. Have you ever opened a milkweed pod? I haven't. It turns out there is a beautiful array of seeds when you open the pod and the seeds are attached to these incredibly soft strands (I don't even know what they are called), to help the seeds be carried by the wind.


This is exactly where I could come in as a co-learner and researcher with the kids and look up the names of all of these parts of the seed pods, so when they open a milkweed pod next time, instead of saying wow, "that" is so soft, I can actually have the correct name. I could also look on youtube to see if I could find videos showing milkweed seeds be carried by the wind or a video showing how monarch butterflies use the milkweed in the summer. Or even better, next summer we could observe the milkweed in the field along the trail to see if we can discover any monarch butterflies or other species using the milkweed or simply observe the milkweed throughout its life cycle from spring until fall.


And the discoveries didn't stop there! Then the Canada Geese started flying right over our heads, 4, 6 and a dozen or more at a time, low in the sky so we could make out the details of their colouring. We could almost feel them as they passed overhead and we watched how they do this twist and turn with their wings and their body before they dove down for a landing in the pond. It was so cool! When we arrived at the bridge there were only a dozen or two of geese in the pond and when we left, I think I can fairly say that there were a hundred or more. And the continuous chorus of their calls filled the air around us. Ok, so awesome! It's too bad I don't have a better camera on my phone, but I did my best to get a photo so you can see what I mean.


 

I did get a video of what happened and you can watch it. Just a warning though, turn your volume down first, because as you can tell I am a bit excited about this, and the volume of my voice is a bit much at one point. Also, I'm disappointed that I accidently filmed it sideways but we already know that I am here to care for your child and support their learning and development and am not a videographer. That being said, the video still captures our experience this morning very well!



- I'm having technical difficulties, I will post the video as soon I figure it out -


"So, get outside, get into nature and make your own discoveries!"

- Dinosaur Train -

 

Learning to Write with Block Crayons

Posted on 20 December, 2015 at 20:40 Comments comments (0)

The early years provides the foundation for being successful in school and in life. I have also seen the early years referred to as the developmental years, which I like, because it makes it clear that the emphasis in the early years is on development goals and not academic goals.  One developmental goal in the early years, is developing pre-writing abilities or skills.  When these skills are adequately developed a chid will then be able to hold a pencil and write using a tripod grasp.  


To enable children to form a tripod grasp on a pencil between four and seven years of age, they first need to adequately develop the different abilities or skills.  During a workshop on pre-writing skills, the Ontario Parent Resource Centre stated that encouraging “proper” pencil grasp before these abilities are adequately developed often will lead to children developing unusual grasps or even discourage children’s interest in drawing and/or writing. So it seems that the best way to help our young children in the developmental years learn to write effectively (later on), is to focus on developing the pre-writing abilities.


When watching children use markers or crayons, it seems that there is less opportunity to develop these pre-writing abilities as it goes directly at requiring a certain grasp, which could result in them developing the wrong grasp. Waldorf early childhood programs have an alternative to stick crayons and markers, the block crayon.

After watching tutorials about using block crayons and reading about them, block crayons look like they will provide an opportunity to develop the pre-writing abilities more effectively and hopefully will provide a better foundation for the little ones in my daycare to form a proper tripod grasp later on. These are the pre-writing abilities:


1) To hold something in your hands while using your fingers ( e.g. sort items into a container using a pincer grasp)

The block crayon is held in the fingers and hands and any edge or surface of the block may be used. Markers or stick crayons, for the most part, only provide one surface to draw with.

 

2) To use different amounts of pressure (e.g. use tweezers to pick up objects without denting them)

The block crayons are made of beeswax and appear to provide a greater range of contrast depending on the amount of pressure applied compared to regular wax crayons. Also, when too much pressure is applied to traditional stick crayons they break. The number of online posts and tutorials with suggestions for how to use broken pieces of crayons are a testament to have frequently this happens. Online reviews for block crayons suggest that bock crayons are quite unlikely to break and often can last many years.

 

Markers provide almost no opportunity to experiment with different amounts of pressure. Whether you press firmly or softly, the mark on the page is the same.

 

3) To have general hand development, including the arches of the hands (e.g. roll a ball of playdough in the hands or roll a set of dice)

Markers and stick crayons are intended to be held in only one manner and do not provide an opportunity for using the palm of the hand. Block crayons do provide the opportunity to use the palm of the hand for drawing.

 

4) To develop wrist strength and ability (e.g. use a roller to flatten playdough)

I am not entirely sure if block crayons provide a greater range of motion in the wrist then with stick crayons or markers, but it is at least comparable.

 

5) To have hand strength (e.g. string beads) and to develop the ability to manipulate objects with the finger tips (e.g. open jars or containers)

Again, markers and stick crayons are intended to be held in only one manner and do not provide different edges or surfaces for drawing. Block crayons, on the other hand, can be held and manipulated with the finger tips to change surfaces or edges for drawing.


For more information on the pre-writing abilities, you can download the resource From Scribbling to Writing: A Guide to Fine Motor Development from the OPRC.


Also, I have observed the toddlers in my care, when presented with different colours to choose become pre-occupied with making choices e.g. changing colours. I am hoping that with more  edges to use for drawing, they can assert their desire to make choices through exploration of the different drawing effects that the block crayons make. And in turn, if their focus is on the drawing and the different effects they can make with colour, hopefully that will that result in a richer and more meaningful art experience overall.


If you are interested in giving block crayons a try, I had a very positive customer experience shopping with Maple Rose, a Canadian supplier of materials used in waldorf early childhood programs and schools.  And as you probably are guessing right now, they are more expensive then typical wax crayons, definitely. At the same time, they are made from beeswax, a natural material, and they typically last much longer then stick crayons. Finally, if they are more effective for developing children`s pre-writing abilities and enhance children`s artistic experiences at the same time, then in my opinion, it is money well spent.  

 

Beyond Toys for your Toddler this Christmas

Posted on 29 November, 2015 at 17:00 Comments comments (0)


November has come and gone and for those of us who celebrate Christmas, the season for buying gifts is in full swing. If it is just something you want to buy, that’s great. But, what if you are wondering what should you buy? Probably every toy out there boasts claims for being educational and an invaluable asset to your child’s future success.


So what to do about toys? Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if you laugh out loud at what I am about to say because there are so many toys in my house, but seriously, I believe in many ways that toys are simply over-rated these days. Sure, kids love toys and they can be useful to support their learning and development at times, but they are not essential. In fact, in much of the early years literature, there is no discussion of toys. The discussion is about providing materials for children to engage in lively, intrinsically motivated, freely chosen play.


Here are a few articles that may be of interest to you and provide a different perspective on toys and what to buy your children this Christmas.


Deb Curtis, Kasondra L. Brown, Lorrie Baird, and Anne Marie Coughlin explore the enhanced learning abilities of very young children (under three years old) in “Lively Minds Minds at Play: Planning Environments and Materials That Support the Way Young Children Learn."  The article suggests materials, ideas and principles for providing materials that will engage and delight your toddler.


You can also look at different play materials that support school readiness. One aspect of school readiness is pre-writing skills. Despite popular belief, children do not master a tripod grasp by starting early. Instead, they develop the various muscles of the hands, wrists and forearms through play, thus enabling them to master the tripod grasp between four and seven years of age. Early Literacy Specialists from the Parent Resource Centre in Ottawa created a handout called “From Scribbling to Writing: A guide to Fine Motor Development For Professionals.” The handout provides a wide range of materials that you can readily and inexpensively include in your home, providing opportunities for your child to develop the ability to use a pencil effectively.


But let’s face it; we are all probably going to buy toys at Christmas this year, so which ones are high quality and the right ones to buy. Well, the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) interviewed two researchers to find what the resarch says about the impact of toys on play. Overall, the researchers advise that “basic is best” when it comes to toys and they recommend choosing the simple, classic toys that have stood the test of time.


And for buying toys, my preference is the preschool supply stores. I love the products at Wintergreen. The quality and selection of toys is pretty amazing! But, the cost can be too much for a small home daycare or family and the shipping can be expensive. So instead, I am starting to shop Scholar’s Choice. They have favourable shipping rates, including free shipping to their stores. And the early childhood stores have very cool toys and materials that support learning in all of the domains of development as well as the academic subjects.


Hopefully, this helps provide a new and different perspective on supporting your child's learning and development and I also hope it helps you find just what your child needs this Christmas!  

 


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