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Posted by on in Early Childhood

So much uneasiness and so many serious events in the news. Pondering it all took me to a different place. It just seemed to be a good time for a change of direction.

The focus always seems to be on what we can teach our youngest contingent. Let’s turn things around, shall we? What are some of the valuable things we can learn from them?

These aren’t new lessons, because when we were children, we had them down. Somehow, as we got older, busier… perhaps sidetracked, what came naturally to us as kids became unpracticed and sometimes as good as gone. Well, are these things still important now that we’re grownups? You betcha! So let’s be reminded.

princess

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Posted by on in Early Childhood

Early Childhood curriculum is fascinating to me. There are many ways to provide interesting and meaningful activities and learning to young children. This is compounded by the endless number of Early Childhood educators who have been inspired by one or several curricula, taken what works for their particular group of children, and made it their own.

The Reggio Emilia approach has always impressed me, partly because of its pure dedication to emergent curriculum and how it evokes joy in young children. There is amazing bi-directional support and intermingling between the school and the city that has created a powerful sense of community that is enviable. And then, the fascination is also partly me. Even from the beginning, I was a “loose parts” kind of teacher. I’ve found that turning children loose with “stuff” opens up some incredible learning in directions only they could have imagined.

Every one of my excursions became a treasure hunt for new sensory materials. My basement was stacked with totes and when I no longer taught preschool, I found it ever-so-hard to part with my “stash”… even though it was warmly adopted by several child care programs. (In my mind's eye, I can see many readers nodding right now with mutual understanding!)There are still 3 containers I couldn’t part with and occasionally my husband would ask why I still needed them, but he has stopped asking. Oh, they’re not collecting dust! My students at the college use them to explore ideas for activities and when my grandchildren visit, they beg for Grandma to get out her “magic boxes.”

totes

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Posted by on in Early Childhood

I guess my feelings about these children come from the fact that I had one. Referring to them as “strong-willed” sets one on the defensive right away. And, I’ve heard other terms that trigger the same reaction, including “stubborn,” obstinate,” and “headstrong.”

Instead, how about “determined” or “tenacious” or even “free-spirited”? These have a more positive ring and seem to more accurately describe this type of child. And let’s not forget, it’s not all bad. There are many positive outcomes and this child can be both challenging and just a whole lot of fun.

There are some things I’ve learned along the way that helped me get through the day with my own child, that I have used with children in my preschool classes, and have shared with my students. I have also found them valuable now with little Radley, my second, free-spirited grandson. The bottom line is to do your best to support this child for who he is and not try to change that.

Here’s what I know…

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Posted by on in Early Childhood

Sometimes, when in a room full of young children every day, it becomes easy to start comparing them with each other and focusing on the things some children don’t do as well as others. Or, the children start to appear as a group, as they interact with the environment. Seeing the unique, individuality of children becomes blurred. This is a road we don’t want to go down. Early childhood educators must stay focused on each child’s strengths and make a point to support them.

All children have natural inclinations and innate talents, but no child possesses the same ones They are all one of a kind- actually one of about 7.5 billion! If we refocus on each child’s strengths, we help children to be successful… not only for today but also throughout their lives.

Here are a few ways to change over to a new and improved mindset:

mother and child talking

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Posted by on in Early Childhood

Two weeks ago, I visited one of my student teachers in a room of young three’s. I noticed one of the activities on a table was tracing their printed names on strips of paper with pencils. During most of my hour there, I also noticed that only two of the thirteen children chose this activity, despite one of the teachers manning the table and repeatedly asking who wanted to join in this “fun activity.”

The two children who did come over showed considerable awkwardness getting control over the unwieldy long pencils in order to trace the letters. I called my student over to join my observation. Here was a great example of trying to skip some crucial steps towards a goal, which usually never works very well. And, when a child struggles with an activity, he will generally tend to avoid it in the future.

The hand and finger muscles of these young children are still pretty weak. Before they can successfully manipulate a pencil (or even a marker), they need some work using their whole hand and pincer grip. It’s kind of like learning to crawl before walking.

So, we still want them to practice making marks on paper, but not with long, skinny objects. What, then? Well, chubby crayons can be the answer here. But not a whole 4” chubby crayon. These should be chubby crayons with their jackets peeled off… broken into three pieces. My student immediate asked, “Why so small?” Good question!

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