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Posted by on in Early Childhood

Adults interrupt young children in a fraught struggle over a toy, by ordering “share”. The child drops the toy in tears and frustration, having learned that if you have something, you have to “share”? (AKA give up) Jacky Howell had an example in one of her trainings: Walking up to a woman, she looked into the other woman’s purse, saw her wallet, and said, “Share!”. It brought forth paroxysms of laughter among early childhood educators, not to mention parents. Point taken! When a very young child is absorbed in play, constructing with blocks, or racing a car along the carpet, an abrupt interruption of that child’s play, I believe, communicates disrespect for a child’s focused attention.

One of the key objectives of education is teaching children to be intentional in their learning process. If a child is playing with something, focusing on making it do something to the point of tuning out everyone else, imagine how startled and frustrated that child is if, out of the blue, another child grabs the toy, and adults order, “Share!”. What an adult has taught is that a child has no right to use his or her nascent negotiation skills for a few more minutes with the toys: No making some kind of trade, or coming up with any other solution to the problem. The child is learning nothing but anger, guilt, and a desire for revenge. You will see the revenge eventually, if you observe what happens later!

It doesn’t have to be this way.

You could be teaching negotiating skills, and respect for another’s desires. The Virginia Foundation Blocks for Early Learning give a thorough set of developmental objectives for fours, which can be modified for younger children. Standards such as “Initiate and sustain interactions with other children”, “demonstrate respectful and polite vocabulary”, and “begin to recognize and respond to the needs, rights, and emotions of others” are excellent objectives for both teachers and parents.

During my time in the ECE field, it has been my great pleasure to observe children working (the work of children is play, remember) on developing skills through their use of toys, especially what we call manipulatives. These are any toys that can be used in different ways to create a larger whole. Manipulatives include such objects as blocks, or found objects integrated with toys and blocks. This process develops over time, if adults allow lots of play time for these skills to develop. Children need negotiating skills to “share” these toys, because it is the nature of human life to need to learn to work together.

Teaching these negotiating skills is part and parcel of both teaching and parenting. As preschoolers grow, they need adults to have respect for their developing maturity.  Commanding “share” ignores the truth of a child’s  willingness to resolve a conflict in another way. They don't want to fight. They'd prefer another approach.  Amid the flurry of feelings that erupt in an argument, a child needs a way into verbal negotiation. Saying, “use your words” is not enough. If they had the words, wouldn’t they be using them? You can give them words they can use, tools for life! Using such sentences as, “When will you be finished with that toy?” “Can I trade you this toy for that toy”?” What are you doing? Can I help?", are some sentences you can teach. I’ve found this last one to be have an amazing effect. Most children will easily open up to another child, sharing their toys as they explain to the other child the ideas that they are pursuing. Helping children to verbalize their meanings, intentions and expectations nurtures budding language skills.

There are many kindergarten readiness checklists where “sharing” and “taking turns” are among the skills listed. How about changing these to, “negotiating solutions to conflict in play”? This would be more useful as a tool in school, and in life, then ordering adult-mandated solutions.

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Posted by on in What If?

Without a doubt, the photo at the beginning of this post would probably evoke a clenched-teeth, inward sucking of air by many parents. Risky play always does. But, in all fairness, it needs to be discussed, examined, and justified. This is especially important since it can help develop a child’s self-confidence, resilience, executive functioning, and even risk-management skills. And, believe it or not, engaging in risky play can actually reduce the risk of injuries, rather than increase it.

Children need the opportunity to figure things out for themselves- to determine their own comfort levels and what they are capable of doing. This, in turn, allows them to develop risk- management skills. Risky play does not mean the play is unsupervised. It simply means the role of adults involves facilitating and supporting how children want to play without over-guiding. We can provide the environment for play… and then get out of the way.

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Play that does the most good requires both physical and psychological space. It requires wide open physical space and psychologically, the child needs to feel the freedom to try things on his own.

In risky play, children experience doses of fear and then practice adapting their behavior to manage it and overcome it. So, according to the emotional regulation theory, play, among other things, assists children in learning to overcome their fears. Then, when they encounter real-life dangers, they will be less likely to give up, become overly fearful, or question their confidence.

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Posted by on in General

Moving Day, Saturday June 8, 2019. Boxes and Teachers wearing Jeans, what a combo. 

Let me say this, about that.

Should Teachers wear jeans every day? Hmmm. Hot topic. Never thought much about it.

I never knew this is such a big topic for teachers. I read a great We Are Teachers article by Kristy Louden on June 6, 2019, posted by 'We Are Teachers' on Twitter. "Teachers Should Be Allowed to Wear Jeans Every Day & Here's Why". I thought it was an interesting read, so I shared it. That tweet now, as I conclude my thoughts, has nearly 65,000 impressions (hits), (update, Sunday morning, 84,000 impressions) so I am honored and grateful to have the opportunity to write for us.

The common thread for me, my takeaway goes right back to school culture, and likely, Maslow, basic needs, personal self-care needs being met. Perhaps we can go no further than to recognize a whole lot of teachers want to self-determine what they wear to school every day to perform at their best. Perhaps this whole discussion is really all about teacher autonomy and need for trust in our professionalism and decision making, I'm really not sure.

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Posted by on in Literacy

Springing Into Summer, Memorial Day Weekend, 2019. Now this is a summer reading fest for kids!

Summer Reading Fest For Kids

Are you ready for the best ever summer reading staycation? Afterall, reading is the best adventure imaginable, don't you agree?

I recently read a Scholastic survey figure that really shook me to the core. If true, twenty percent of kids surveyed said they didn't plan to read a single book this summer. Oh, no! I'm not sure which age group, but it probably doesn't matter. Why so many kids, when there is so much great reading material available? I really don't get it. 

 What does matter is that we continue encouraging love of reading, from birth throughout life, long past toddler time. We do this, first and foremost by modeling our love of reading.

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Posted by on in Early Childhood

 

A rainy Saturday afternoon in Eugene, Memorial Day weekend 2019. Family reflection. 

If you are a preschool, kindergarten teacher, aide, parent, grandparent, everybody, this blog is for you! 

Never did I think I would round out my teaching career in preschool, but I did. The kids taught me so much, a world of hand washing, bandaids, bugs, snails, glitter and a lot of books. Childhood is a precious time, what's the rush?

What if we had some barometers of what a ready kiddo might ideally need to know, be ready to do, to be successful in first big time school experience? Behavior to look for? Attitudes and skills to hope for.

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