What’s Going On in the World of Early Childhood?

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Early childhood education can be somewhat of a mystery, especially since many people don’t think of it as “education” until children reach elementary school.  Early childhood begins at birth and typically goes all the way until children are age eight or entering the third grade.

Unfortunately, early childhood today is changing more and more in our technologically advanced age.  Education consultant, Rae Pica, has seen several of these changes occurring throughout her years of service since the 1980s.  In her article published in Community Playthings, she lists three things that seem to be recurring areas in need of improvement in early childhood education:

  1. More children are unable to cross the mid-line of the body.
  2. Children don’t know how to play anymore.
  3. Children have no fine motor control.

More children are unable to cross the mid-line of the body.  

Amidst the busy lives of parents all over the world, babies are spending less and less time on their tummies, which is vital in the development of muscles needed to crawl and perform cross-lateral movements.  What parents need to remember is that the body and mind work together.  Children need to practice moving in a variety of ways to gain confidence in their skills.  Pica writes, “what impacts the body’s development impacts the brain’s development, and the sooner we acknowledge that, the better off our children will be.”

Children don’t know how to play anymore. 

Almost every animal on our planet plays at some point or another in their lives.  Play is necessary to learn the skills that are needed to become successful adults.  Educators are reporting that children are simply imitating on-screen characters or are just standing around during free-play time because they are at a loss as to what to do.  With the rise in technology, children are exposed to much more media, thus diminishing the need for imaginative play.  As early childhood educators, it is vital that we facilitate play and give children the time, space and materials to foster imaginative play.

Children have no fine motor control.

This, again, goes back to technology.  Children aren’t getting the same opportunities to utilize crayons, scissors, and other utensils as much as they are given a tablet or digital device to keep them occupied.  Children are also not developing and using large muscles which relates to the development of the small muscles such as those in the hands and fingers.  If large muscles are not developed, it becomes very difficult for small muscles to progress as well.  Children must have the strength and endurance in large muscles in order to begin using fine motor control skills (Buttfield, 2017).  This need stresses the importance of play and practice with a variety of materials and utensils.

Early childhood education is one of the most important times in a child’s life.  Giving them ample opportunities and experiences with open-ended manipulatives can help overcome the above challenges.  For more information on open-ended activities and ideas, check out https://www.communityplaythings.com/resources.

Resources:

Buttfield, J. (2017, April 12). Big muscles make a big difference to fine motor skills. [Blog].  Retrieved from https://childdevelopment.com.au/blog/big-muscles-make-big-difference-fine-motor-skills/.

Education and Child Development Experts – About Rae Pica http://www.raepica.com/education-consultant-rae/.

Pica, R. (2018).  The state of early childhood: Three things that have changed since I became an early childhood consultant.  Community Playthings.  Retrieved from http://www.communityplaythings.com/resources/articles/2018/the-state-of-early-childhood.

SARAH ROBERTS, EXTENSION EDUCATOR | THE LEARNING CHILD

Peer Reviewed by Jaci Foged, Extension Educator, The Learning Child, Linda Reddish, Extension Educator, The Learning Child, and Leslie Crandall, Extension Educator, The Learning Child

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Laugh Out Loud – Developing Humor in Children

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Something special happens when people laugh together over something genuinely funny and not hurtful to anyone. It’s like a magic, creating the feelings of safety and belonging to a group. It’s important to remember that humor isn’t a science. Humor is intuitive and spontaneous. You can’t really teach people to be funny in an appropriate way. Nor can you train them to laugh on cue. But you can prepare the ground, plant the seeds, and provide opportunities. It is possible to create the kind an environment in which healthy humor has a chance to grow.

Humor appreciation does not appear to have a genetic basis (Martin, 1998) but because the humor response does seem to be an in-born social phenomenon (Chapman, 1973, and 1979) there is evidence that humor can be encouraged and taught. Carson et al. (1986) discuss humor as a function of learned communicative abilities. Positive reinforcement of humor increases its use (Ziv, 1981b – cit. by Nevo et al., 1998).

Humor is really just another form of communication. It’s part of our communication skills set. Children need to be allowed and encouraged to be funny, in his or her own way. Laughter can unite groups. Laughter not only creates a shared experience in the moment, but it also creates a memory to recollect and laugh at over and over.

Humor as children grow

It’s never too early to start developing a child’s sense of humor. Babies’ smiles and laughs are so delightful that we often do this intuitively — smiling, or tickling them many times a day just to hear a chuckle. Babies don’t really understand humor, but they do know when you’re smiling and happy. When you make funny noises or faces and then laugh or smile, the baby is likely to sense your joy and imitate you. He or she is also highly responsive to physical stimuli, like tickling.

Sometime between 9 and 15 months, babies know enough about the world to understand that when you quack like a duck, she’s /he’s doing something unexpected — and that it’s funny.

Toddlers appreciate physical humor especially the kind with an element of surprise (like peek-a-boo). One of the best ways to do this is to spend time every day being receptive to the many opportunities each child gives you to smile or laugh.  As children develop language skills, they’ll find rhymes and nonsense words funny and this continues into the preschool years.

As preschooler explore their world they are more likely to find humor in a picture with something out of whack like a car with square wheels, a pig wearing sunglasses than a joke or pun. Incongruity between pictures and sounds (a horse that says moo) is also funny. As they become more aware of bodily functions, preschoolers often start delighting in bathroom humor. Preschoolers have difficulty determining when using bathroom humor is appropriate, so you might set guidelines for your classroom.

Kindergarteners find basic wordplay, exaggeration, and slapstick funny. They have discovered the pleasure of telling simple jokes especially knock knock…, it is fun to be the one who knows the punchline! Jokes are repeated over and over.  Older grade-schoolers have a better grasp of what words mean and are able to play with them — they like puns, riddles, and other forms of wordplay.  Also, be game enough to laugh so the jokes don’t fall flat.

It’s important to keep encouraging humor development as children grow. When you’re playful and humorous with a child, delighting in silliness and laughter, you help him or her develop a playful and humorous attitude about life. Be spontaneous, playful, and aware of what each child finds funny at different ages.

Tips for teachers

Add humor to your curriculum by starting with a “Funny Day.” By creating a day focusing on humor and you can build on that days experience to build humor into your daily curriculum.  Invite everyone to dress in funny costumes to begin the humor day.  Create a humor-rich environment. Surround the children with funny pictures on the wall, and funny books — for toddlers and preschoolers these include picture books or nonsense rhymes; older kids will love joke books and comics. Also check YouTube for out funny songs, rhymes and finger plays you can teach the children. Create funny games and large motor skills. In your art center have children draw or paint funny pictures of their pets.

The teacher should be the humor model and set the tone for day. One of the best things you can do to develop each child’s sense of humor is to use your own. Tell jokes and stories. Laugh out loud! Take each child’s humor seriously. Encourage the child’s attempts at humor, whether it’s reading (potentially unfunny) jokes from a book or drawing “funny” pictures. Praise your child for trying to be funny.

The more you incorporate humor into your classroom the easier it will be to use.  Make humor a part of your day-to-day interactions with each child and encourage them to share funny observations or reactions.

 

Children’s Books that introduce humor

 Llama Llama Zippity-Zoom by Anna Dewdney

Ernest, the Moose Who Doesn’t Fit by Catherine Rayner

Amazing Cows: Udder Absurdity for Children by Sandra Boynton

Take Me Out of the Bathtub and Other Silly Dilly Songs by Alan Katz

The Adventures of Nanny Piggins by RA Spratt, Dan Santat

Zany and Brainy Good Clean Jokes for Kids by Bob Phillips

 

Resources:

Encouraging Your Child’s Sense of Humor https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/child-humor.html

How to Lighten things up and Laugh more as a Family by Monica Swanson  http://monicaswanson.com/laughter-makes-a-family-better/

3 Reasons to Laugh Together as a Family,   http://forthefamily.org/3-reasons-laugh-together-family/

What’s So Funny? Jan 20, 2010, Jenny Schroede,  http://www.boundless.org/relationships/2010/whats-so-funny

Encouraging Your Child’s Sense of Humor   http://kidshealth.org/en/parents/child-humor.html

Healthy Family Humor, https://www.focusonthefamily.com/

Ages & Stages: Don’t Forget to Laugh! The importance of Humor https://www.scholastic.com/…/ages-stages-dont-forget-laugh-importance-humor/

Humor as a Key to Child Development, Lawrence Kutner, https://psychcentral.com/lib/humor-as-a-key-to-child-development/

Laughter Is Serious Business!  Marie Hartwell-Walker,   https://psychcentral.com/lib/laughter-is-serious-business/

How Children Develop a Sense of Humor May2, 2017, https://psychcentral.com/lib/laughter-is-serious-business2017/

PLAY DEVELOPMENT FROM INFANCY THROUGH LATE CHILDHOOD, http://theconversation.com/how-children-develop-a-sense-of-humour-77028

How children can get jokes from the age of two (but they are only as funny as their parents) http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2346271/How-children-jokes-age-funny-parents.html#ixzz56N5Mg8BL

LEE SHERRY, EXTENSION EDUCATOR | THE LEARNING CHILD

Peer Reviewed by Lynn DeVries, Extension Educator, The Learning Child and Sarah Roberts, Extension Educator, The Learning Child

Make sure to follow The Learning Child on social media for more research-based early childhood education resources!

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How Dramatic Play Supports Children’s Development

 

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Dramatic play happens when children take on a role and act out a play, a story or act in a video.  When children engage in dramatic play it helps them build social skills, makes them more aware of emotions, and encourages problem solving. As children play and interact in dramatic play, they practice skills in the following areas:

  • Social/emotional: working with others to successfully act out most stories or plays helps children learn to get along with one another to keep the play going
  • Physical: using large and small muscles to put on costumes, manipulate props, and practice eye-hand coordination
  • Cognitive: thinking up and acting out a story requires cognitive ability, organizing and expressing ideas, paying attention to how other people see the world,  and finding creative solutions to challenges
  • Language: asking and answering questions, using language related to a role they are playing, for example, “Did you find everything you were looking for today in our store?”, early literacy and writing skills

Dramatic play is most effective when children come up with the story and decide how it should be acted out.  Adults can help children use the following skills as they act out their plays:

  • Role play: pretending to be someone else
  • Use of props: using objects to expand and enhance pretend play
  • Make-believe: copying the actions of persons from various settings (e.g., waiter, doctor)
  • In-depth play: spending an extended amount of time playing out a theme or idea in dramatic play
  • Interaction: playing cooperatively with others and exchanging ideas about roles and other details
  • Verbal communication: using language skills to act out roles and negotiate play details

adults support dramatic play

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Adults can also help children engage in more complex and extended dramatic play using the following ideas:

  • Model pretend play: Use books, songs, or stories to engage children in using their imagination, such as having children climb a tree, swing on a vine like a monkey, or crawl through a tunnel. Have the children suggest what happens next.
  • Observe children’s play: Pay attention to who is playing, the language being used, and the roles they are acting out. Observing may also give you new ideas for props and dramatic play themes of interest.
  • Participate as a supporting character: If children don’t seem to know what to do next, consider entering their play as a supporting character to give them ideas. If the area is a restaurant, you could sit down at a table and say, “Will someone please take my order?”

Source: eXtension.org

Leanne Manning, EXTENSION EDUCATOR | THE LEARNING CHILD

Peer Reviewed by Sarah Roberts, Extension Educator, The Learning Child and Lisa Poppe, Extension Educator, The Learning Child

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Keeping Children Active

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According to the State of Obesity, Nebraska ranks 5th in the nation for childhood overweight and obesity in children ages 2-4.  Yikes!  Nebraska also has the 13th highest adult obesity rate in the nation.

I recently read the book What If Everybody Understood Child Development?  By Rae Pica.  The book is broken down into 3 parts with a total of 29 easy to read essays which reference real-life stories shared by teachers and parents.  At the end of each essay, Rae provides the reader with ideas for what teachers can do as well as where teachers (and other adults) can go to for more information on the topic.

Part two of the book is all about understanding the mind/body connection.  Rae discusses what the research says about active learning, how important physical fitness is to children’s health and development and why we should push our schools to review the research on recess and active play breaks for children.

Benefits of physical activity:

  • reduces the risk of dying prematurely
  • reduces the risk of developing diabetes
  • reduces feelings of depression and anxiety
  • helps control weight
  • increases the body’s infection-fighting white blood cells and germ fighting antibodies
  • helps build and maintain healthy bones, muscles and joints.

Based on research, it is clear that we need to keep our children and youth (and the adults too) more active.  Fit Activity For Kids, What’s Your Name? is a developmentally appropriate active activity for adults to play with the children.  To play, the player picks out the letters of their name, and then do the physical activity that goes with each letter.  You might be wondering what would your child be learning during this activity.  Literacy (Letter recognition), turn taking (social emotional), physical activity (healthy bodies, balance, core strength), and more!

Are you looking for new, creative ways to keep your children active and happy?   Visit The Learning Child on Pinterest at  https://www.pinterest.com/unlextensiontlc/.

JACI FOGED, EXTENSION EDUCATOR | THE LEARNING CHILD

Peer Reviewed by Lisa Poppe, Extension Educator, The Learning Child and Lynn DeVries, Extension Educator, The Learning Child

Make sure to follow The Learning Child on social media for more research-based early childhood education resources!

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Code-a-pillar! Where Development Comes into Play

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Preschool teachers, imagine turning your room into an obstacle course and preschoolers working together for 45 minutes problem solving and programming.

The Code-a-pillar inspires little learners to be big thinkers by encouraging preschoolers to arrange and rearrange the easy-to-connect segments. This learning toy helps children to learn that the arrows indicate different directions. This is a perfect time to introduce the difference between right from left by using the color-coordinated segments that hook together with USB ports. Every time a child changes or rearranges the segments the child is working on learning directions, how to problem solve, planning and sequencing and critical thinking.

Teaching preschoolers about coding and the binary system foster curiosity, experimentation and problem-solving. Allowing the children to become engineers and robots all at once allows a child to work in a fantasy world while learning. The binary system has only two numbers so preschoolers can learn and be successful almost immediately. The number 1 stands for stepping forward and 0 stands for turning right. While one preschooler writes his code on the whiteboard, another preschooler follows the directions given through the coding. The children learn very fast that they can navigate the entire room using only the two codes.

Bringing the preschooler’s attention back to the Code-a-pillar is very easy. Their little brains are ready to arrange and rearrange the segments to get their Code-a-pillar to a particular place in the classroom. They soon realize adjustments (problem-solving) are needed so they can navigate around the tables and chairs in the classroom.

Once the preschoolers understand what a sequence is or program a path, the sky’s the limit. Thinking as they figure out how to get the Code-a-pillar to go wherever they want.

Coding is an excellent way to supports children’s curiosity and develop children’s inquiry skills by asking children to brainstorm solutions, or use open-ended questions like: How did you get that caterpillar to move?

Using open ended questions encourages children to listen, reflect, and then respond back how they made decisions or describe the actions they took to reach a specific goal.  This is an important scientific skill to learn and develop because it will allow children at an early age to practice using the scientific method! (Predict, Collect Data, Describe, and Reach a Conclusion, then… TRY AGAIN!)

As an early childhood educator, and interested in learning more strategies and specific ways to increase children’s scientific knowledge, please join us for an Early Learning Guidelines training on the Science Domain.  For more information visit: Fall 2017 ELG Classes

Image Source: Linda Reddish

RUTH VONDERHOE, EXTENSION EDUCATOR | THE LEARNING CHILD

Peer Reviewed by Sarah Paulos, Extension Educator, The Learning Child and Linda Reddish, Extension Educator, The Learning Child

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Playful Learning

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According to Dr. Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, Department of Psychology, Temple University, humans learn best when they are active and engaged. Playful learning works and it is one of the areas in which families engage in active, engaged, meaningful, and socially interactive learning where humans can grow important skills in and out of school. Dr. Hirsh-Pasek distinguishes the difference between free play and guided play as free play being when the child both initiates and directs the play whereas with guided play the adult initiates play and the child directs it.

An example of guided play would be a children’s museum where the exhibits are designed by adults and children come and play as they wish with the exhibits. In guided play the adult plans the play environment and plays with children. The adult also asks stimulating open-ended questions that build upon the discovery found in play. And adults also suggest ways to explore materials that children may not think of. Research shows that guided play can advance young children’s skills in: reading, language, mathematics, spatial learning, executive function, and social emotionally.

Hirsch-Pasek shared some ideas of how a community can be involved in guided play and park-based learning. She talked about the Ultimate Block Party they held in NYC’s Central Park where Legos were available for building all types of structures, 28 science experiment stations were set up for such discoveries as pouring and measuring water, and where they played the largest game of Simon Says which enhances executive function. She referenced Parkolopy which was currently being developed and will be a life-sized game board where participants move themselves through the game. Players roll life-sized die that have regular faces on them and faces expressed as fractions. And she told of Urban Think Scape where benches at bus stops had turning puzzles behind them and other benches that acted as scales lowering themselves as more people sat upon them. Another idea was that of using multi-colored street lights with cranks on them that allowed children to turn the light to whatever color they wanted and other street lights that had a moveable shadow-pattern that children could manipulate and see the show upon the ground as they turned the cranks on the light poles.

Dr. Hirsch-Pasek closed her presentation with a paraphrased quote from Carla Rinadi, President of Reggio Children, which reads, “It is unclear how play and learning were ever divorced from one another. They are like the wings of a butterfly—one play and one learning and without both the butterfly will never take flight.”

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LEANNE MANNING, EXTENSION EDUCATOR | THE LEARNING CHILD

Peer Reviewed by Lynn DeVries, Extension Educator, The Learning Child

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Get Back to Nature!

After 70 degree temps earlier this month, I was snowed in at home due to ice and white out conditions.  That’s nature in Nebraska.  We could think of all kinds of reasons to be negative about the weather, but I say, “Let it Snow!”  I remember as a child the many fond memories of playing in the snow with my family, and it was something to look forward to each winter season.  Sledding, making snowmen and snow forts and exploring the different types of snow (such as the kind that easily packs together for building versus the light and dryer type of snow) allows children to connect with nature and the outdoors, while at the same time building their sense of creativity, problem solving, motor skills, and social emotional development.

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Last month I delivered a program to childcare center directors where we focused on spaces to learn and grow and the importance of designing outdoor spaces for children in our care to experience nature.  No matter what season it is, research indicates that children who have opportunities to experience their natural environments have the ability sustain concentration, delay gratification, and cope with stressors in their lives.  Research done in the Netherlands demonstrated the distance one lives from the nearest green space and the prevalence of many major illnesses including Anxiety disorder and depression in children under age 12. According to Louise Chawla, Professor of Planning and Urban Design from the University of Colorado, “Adults in many studies report that memories of a special place in nature experience in their childhood gives them a pool of calm on which they can draw in difficult times.”

When designing spaces for children, I advise childcare providers to include a balance of natural spaces and play equipment. Include areas with small trees, and perhaps a water feature and patches of soil to explore as well as to garden in. Play equipment that is safe for children can be interspersed within the outdoor space and the natural additions of plants and pathways can create natural barriers to define the purpose of these areas.  Check out Benefits of Connecting Children with Nature for some great before and after outdoor spaces designs in childcare settings as well as a detailed explanation to the many benefits of natural environments.

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Bringing the outdoors in to the classroom or center is also essential in early childhood curriculum. Consider the many classroom centers and the possible items from nature that could inspire and challenge children’s exploration.  Classrooms can add sticks and rocks or tree cookies to the building area, or introduce seeds and leaves to the science center.  Could these items be used in the art area? If you have small group experiences, you might explore the seeds inside of a pomegranate or pumpkin.   NAEYC shows how early childhood settings can introduce nature in the classrooms and allow children to take the lead in exploring these materials by Connecting Young Children With Nature .

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Children spend a good majority of their time in childcare, and therefore it is essential that we include natural outdoor learning environments and experiences to enhance their overall growth in development in all domains.

What are you doing in your childcare home or center to Get Back to Nature?

LYNN DEVRIES, EXTENSION EDUCATION | THE LEARNING CHILD

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Screen Time: Create Your Family Plan

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“Mom, in the old days did you have T.V?” The “old days” often come up in conversations with my 7 and 11-year-old daughters. Of course I had television growing up, but it was more difficult to access in my childhood! When I was growing up we had two televisions. One in our living room, a 19-inch dial activated television and another 27-inch (that was big back then you know) in our family room which could be operated using a remote. We lived in the country near a small town in western Nebraska where you could get 2.5 channels, (one was always fuzzy so that one only counts for half). We didn’t have access to the internet or a computer with a modem until I was 10 years old and the internet was quite a bit slower and less reliable back then.

Screen time wasn’t something that needed to be discussed. We looked up information in Encyclopedias. We called people on a telephone, which was attached to the wall by a cord. We wrote letters using paper and pen. We played games with the whole family on boards and with cards. We watch T.V. on Friday nights (TGIF) and woke up early Saturday morning for 6:30 am cartoons which ended by noon. Children played outdoors in all types of weather and didn’t come home until dark.

Its 2017 and my daughter doesn’t even have a “real” science book that she can bring home to study with. Instead, we have a sheet of paper with a log-in for a website. This means she spends time looking at a computer screen when she could be reading a book. She spends time asking Siri what an igneous rock is rather than looking it up in a dictionary. What does all of this mean for us in 2017? This past October, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) released new recommendations and resources for families regarding screen time. Screen time includes activities done in front of a screen, such as using an app on your phone or watching music videos on a tablet.

Infant and toddler’s brains are growing at an exceptional rate during the first two years of life. It is important for these children to have positive social interactions with the people caring for them. Therefore, the AAP recommends children younger than 18 months participate with screens only for video chatting. For children 18 months to 24 months only high quality programming (such as PBS or Sesame Street) is suggested. It is vitally important for an adult to be with the infant during the video chat and while watching the program to help them better understand what they are seeing and hearing. Research shows that unstructured playtime is more valuable for a young child’s developing brain than electronic media. Young children are more likely to remember doing an activity than watching an activity be done. Children ages 2 to 5 years should be limited to 1 hour of screen time per day. Again, the programs watched should be of high-quality, and be viewed with parents. For children 6 years and older, screen time should not interfere with time spent doing other activities. Sleep, physical activities, and mealtimes should be of top priority. Studies show a relationship between television viewing and young children being overweight. Caring For Our Children states that children 3-5 years who watch 2 or more hours of television per day have an increased risk of being overweight.

What does this mean for adults? It means that we need to be good role models for our children. Put the phone down and play with your child when they are at the park. Make it a rule to turn off the T.V. during meal times. Silence phones and charge them outside of your child’s bedroom at night.

To help families navigate the evolving digital world, the AAP has developed a guide for creating a family plan for screen time and media use. The plan is broken up into 9 areas: screen free zones, screen free times, device curfews, choose & diversify your media, balancing on-line and off-line time, manners matter, digital citizenship, safety first and sleep & exercise. There are examples and suggestions pre-populated and areas to write in personal guidelines. Create your own family plan by going to http://www.healthychildren.org. Delight in the company of your family, and treasure every moment.

Additional Resources:

Nebraska Extension NebGuide “Brain Development and Learning in the Primary Years” (G2198)

“The Importance of Outdoor Experiences in the Primary Years” (G2202) 

Nebraska Extension NebGuide “Enjoyable Time Together: A Journey of Happy Memories” (G1882)

Nebraska Extension’s The Learning Child Blog “Family Game Nights, a Win-Win for Everyone”

JACI FOGED, EXTENSION EDUCATOR | THE LEARNING CHILD

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Brain Dance: Encouraging Children’s Natural Explorations through Movement

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Research tells us that from birth to age six there is important learning happening. During this early learning period, children show us many ways that they naturally and competently explore their world and approach learning. One important way children explore and learn about their world is through physical movement.

Movement is a way for children to express themselves, particularly if they have not yet fully developed verbal language. As educators, we need to not only support movement as a learning tool, but embrace it. This may mean letting go of some old ideas, such as the idea that sitting still all the time is a good way to learn.

As Janet Eilber, Advisor for Arts Education in the News, states, “Early learning is all experiential … We learn to move through and communicate with the world by using the basic elements of creativity: curiosity, observation, experimentation, translation, communication. No wonder ‘sitting still and being quiet’ is so difficult and discouraging for many young learners. We are being asked to abandon approaches to learning with which we have had great success.”

Children enjoy activities that involve the senses and movement; they are natural explorations and they are fun! As a result, children are more attentive and engaged, which can heighten the learning experience at hand. In addition, physical activity simply makes children feel good. Feeling good helps children with learning, self-confidence, and an overall positive outlook. Support children’s complex developmental skills by rethinking your day’s activities to include more plans for physical movement and dance, such as the following 5 tips:

  1. Use dance and movement for transition times – Dance like a ballerina to the bathroom, dance like slithering snakes to the coat cubby, etc.
  2. Use movements to tell a story –When telling stories, use physical actions and encourage the children to act out the story with you.
  3. Provide meaningful chores for children that include dance-like movements -sweep the floor, take out the garbage, weed the gardens, and of course, clean up the toys.
  4. Sound out the dance – Move with things that make sound, such as Velcro bands of bells attached to wrists and ankles (uses multi-sensory actions) or shaker-type instruments. Try taping flat, metal lids (recycled from juice cans, etc.) to the bottom of shoes for fun tap dance sounds.
  5. Dance and draw – Twirl streamers to make shapes and letters. Show drawings and pictures of shapes for children to look at first and then make with their bodies.

Source: Penn State University Better Kid Care

LEANNE MANNING, EXTENSION EDUCATION | THE LEARNING CHILD

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Connect with Your Children This Holiday Season

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Many of us are looking for new ways to connect with our children during the holidays. If you would like to create some holiday rituals, especially for kids, here are some suggestions:

Help kids put on a holiday play, talent show, or puppet show.

Pick a well-known play or movie and assign roles in unconventional ways.

Take them caroling.

This community-building activity is particularly enjoyable when friends and relatives are visiting so that the group of children is large. Make multiple copies of song sheets!

Make kolaches, chocolates, a gingerbread house, or other treats.

Help your children prepare gift boxes for the homeless or local shelter (filled with items like food, treats, and personal care items). This can be done jointly with a few families and is a gentle way to teach kids to appreciate their own good fortune and instill the values of community service and kindness to others.

Bake easy dough ornaments, either freeform or using cookie cutters.

Basic recipe: 2 cups all-purpose flour, 1 cup salt, 1 cup water. Visit a local farm, artisan bakery, or craft shop to teach kids how food and handicrafts are made. Stamp recycled paper with a cut potato dipped in paint. This can be used as gift wrap.

Get out in nature.

Plant a tree, pick up trash by a stream, or go on a hike, go sledding, bring a nature book to identify plants and birds.

Give a present to the birds.

Make a birdfeeder out of a plastic bottle, milk carton, jug, or coffee can. Together you can look up the bird species that visit and learn to recognize them. Source: Center for a New American Dream (www.newdream.org)

Leanne Manning, Extension Educator | The Learning Child

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