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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in preschoolers

Posted by on in Early Childhood

CanWE Talk

When I was teaching preschool, I was often asked by parents how to get some information out of their children about their day. Most of the time, when asked, “What did you do today?” parents would get one of two answers: “I played” or “Nothing.”

And, no matter how much they pumped for more information, the well was dry. My response would be, then, “You need to change the way you ask them.”

Getting a preschooler to recall his day requires knowing a little bit about where he is cognitively. There are several areas of his thinking that are developing at this time. His recognition memory is really quite good, meaning if he has some visual cues, he can remember and talk about something that has happened recently. I say recently, because his working or short-term memory is a bit limited at this point and usually only events that are striking or personally meaningful will be kept for a longer term. This extended, “autobiographical memory” is why he can remember every detail and tell everyone he meets about what happened the day Mommy backed into the garage door… but remembers very little about what happened in school today.

talking boy

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Posted by on in Early Childhood


Facebook is awash with fantastic memes about the necessity of play in early childhood. I adore seeing them. I also feel some anxiousness because I have noticed that, in a play-based program, five- year old children aren't playing like five-year old children anymore. More of them are playing like three's and four's than I used to see. This has made me anxious and uncomfortable, and grasping for explanations.

While I was looking for an article about Vygotsky for the Infant and Toddler course I teach for my community college, I found this article about play and self-regulation. Self-regulation is the fancy, early childhood development term for self-control. Self-regulation skills are developmental. You wouldn't expect to see a two-year old play by planning the role she would take with another two, then verbalizing what she wanted to do, consulting with her friend. You laugh, if you know two's! They just go in there and do what they do. Self-regulation is a complex of skills that children develop. An infant develops the skill of self-soothing. She is managing her feelings--something she couldn't do at birth. A two can be taught about feelings and how to identify them so that they gradually (some teachers might say hopefully) learn to identify them on their own and, as their verbal skills mature, express them. Adults facilitate this process and work to give the child choices that validate her feelings and problem-solving abilities. This is partly how self-regulation develops.

The authors that sparked my thinking articulate that Vygotsky and his students noticed fours and fives maturing through imaginary play. That play developed increasingly complex interactions, and that these interactions motivated children to inhibit impulsiveness in order to continue to play with their friends. They validated my observations by writing that today's play studies show children are playing at a less mature level than they once did. Imaginary play does not develop. It becomes repetitive, stereotyped, and stunted. The authors speculate briefly that perhaps academic preschool and kindergarten, with their narrowly focused curricula, have created this phenomenon, but their focus is on assessing play, not coming up with theories about how it has degenerated into more primitive skills.

Years ago, there were justifiable concerns that videos of movies reduced children's play to verbatim retellings, with no variation. Many of my colleagues have noticed this. Ninja Turtles can only do what Ninja Turtles do. Ad nauseum. Disney "princesses" can only do what they do in movies. Frozen--Oy!--Frozen characters are cast in the stone of their plot. A girl asked me to be Elsa, recently. I playfully asked her, "Who's Elsa?" She walked away. I didn't know the plot. Could media be the culprit?

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Posted by on in Early Childhood


There are many Early Childhood programs that outright ban superhero play. It’s just too risky, noisy, and difficult to control. End of conversation.

But, should it really be the end of the conversation? Are there elements of superhero play that are truly valuable and therefore need to be included as part of the preschool experience?

Research indicates that play is a significant vehicle for development. It is through play that children experiment with behaviors and roles, explore differences between right and wrong, and use their creativity. Play also provides opportunities for physical activity and learning more complex skills like conflict resolution and controlling impulses.

From my own experience as a teacher (and a parent of three boys), some children have a clear need to play superheroes. I believe this type of rough and tumble play can support a child’s healthy development in several domains. It involves running, chasing, playful wrestling, planning, creating, and trying out leadership skills. Usually, there is also a good deal of negotiating between children taking place.

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Posted by on in Early Childhood


What do you do to bring music outside in your preschool or child care program? I mean, if you don't have donors flooding you with money?

The photo above is of a hammock-style xylophone made by a father at my last center. He made it out of old bed slats. It is a great example of "upcycling", a new word for an old concept. You rescue forlorn old items, making them into something new and exciting. This cool musical instrument can also be made with new wood by following this "recipe" (my word for anything you make from scratch, instruments included). I have seen young children stand and play one of these beauties for twenty minutes or more. The sound is like this amazing forest xylophone, only not quite as well-tuned. 

drummers 10

Another way to upcycle unused or discarded "junk" is to turn dry wall buckets into drums. These can be kept outdoors and set up for drumming any time. No beaters? Children pick up sticks all the time. We tell them not to run with them, but now we can tell them what they can do with them instead! I have seen Pre-K boys interrupt a chase game of Ninja Turtles to drum out their abundant energies. What better way to channel that vibrant, wild spirit? 

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Posted by on in Early Childhood

When preschool children display poor behavior, we often try to figure out the cause so we can support better social skills. But this can be frustrating. Some children are consistently misbehaving, while others have sporadic episodes and meltdowns. I’ve found that by taking some time to observe, I can usually pin the behavior on one of six common culprits. Contrary to what it appears, the child isn’t deliberately trying to be hurtful or annoying, but instead may be...

kid talking

1. Testing the rules of a parent or caregiver. They are trying to figure out how the world works and are trying to see where the limits are, or if they exist at all. It is frustrating for adults but normal for a child to behave this way. They naturally seek boundaries, because that is what provides them with security, predictability, and balance.

Frame chair boy jumping

2. Trying to figure out the expectations in different places There are bound to be different rules at home, at school, at Grandma’s, at the neighbor's. They may feel uncomfortable until they learn what is expected where. It’s best to express rules in positive terms, so children know what it is they can do, rather than dwelling on what they can’t.

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