Tuesday, 2 September 2014

story cards in the window

Yesterday a few of the children explored the leaf pegs that hold the storycards on the line by taking them apart... just about all of them... hmmm... they are now fixed, but it is getting me thinking, are the pegs the right way to go? Sometimes they are a bit fiddly to get onto the line... but at the same time it is offering great fine motor practice...

Today two children started their day by dumping all the cards onto the floor, so I explained that the cards were not really to be used that way and promptly started to pick up cards to help them tidy up... at the same time I started sorting out some of the fairy cards onto the window sill. The four children that were in the room at the time (all aged three) saw what I was doing and started to sort out fairy cards too, we started placing the fairy dwellings on the window itself. The children started to pick up cards and say "this is me when I am a fairy"... some of those cards being fairy cards, and some not, but did seem to have a magical feel about them...

They soon filled up the window...

What I noticed was that because these three year olds were focussing less on the motor skill of hanging up the card there was a lot more talking and rearranging of cards, which certainly has its benefits when wanting to have a dialogue about what does a fairy look like....


These cards are certainly getting the children talking...

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Do we age discriminate in Preschool?

I have been reflecting upon how we view children... and how the way we group children influences our expectations of them...

I have now been working at Filosofiska preschool for just over one and half years and I started with the group of the oldest children at the preschool... these children had access to a room where there were smaller parts and more challenging play which the rest of the children did not as they were all primarily one year olds that were turning two that year.

We now have three groups...
Himlen - 1-2 year olds
Molnet - 2-3 year olds
Vinden 3-5 year olds

The interesting thing is that the oldest child in our youngest group is actually older than the youngest child in my oldest group when I first started.
Of course back then the oldest children did not need push-chairs to get to the park, they were allowed to be around small parts, there was, in general a different expectation of what they could manage.


 So do we limit ourselves as teachers in how we think about children's competency by putting them in these groupings... and by limit I mean not just making children smaller than what they are, but also more capable of what they are...
 did that just turned 2 year old in the oldest group feel out of his/her depth, or did the child feel empowered by our expectations? Does a the same age child in the youngest group feel our expectations are too small?


I have no answers... I am merely reflecting on what I see at my work, and also at previous preschools - and also in families where the expectation on older siblings is often different from younger siblings.... even if we try to respond to children in a similar way...


How do we value age?
Do our values of age influence how the children view themselves and also how they view children who are younger or older than themselves? Does being older in a preschool have higher status?

I know that over the years in all of the prechools I have ever worked at the older children refer to the 1-2 year olds as babies... I keep reminding them that there are no babies in preschool, babies stay at home with their parents and they start as toddlers at preschool (we have generous parental leave here in Sweden, which means no preschool accepts a child under the age of 12 months, unless there are very special reasons). I try to communicate that these toddlers are children, just like themselves...

Do older children in preschool get more privileges? Are children being discriminated because of their age...?

I think this can be seen not just within the preschool but within society as a whole... Are things that children enjoy being given less status because there is age discrimination? Is play of less value in society because it is not a part of the adult world?
Of course this age discrimination works in many ways... how are the elderly viewed? With the same status as all adults?

How is the balance of power/status in your setting?
Why are schools given more attention than nursery/preschool settings? Why is it OK to have non-educated staff with the very youngest children in society but not with the older children in society? Why is it OK that teachers in schools get payed more than teachers in preschools... when they have had the same number of years training?

If we want the respect that we as ECE teachers deserve in society then we also need to really inspect how we view the age discrimination within the preschool... why is it that over the years you nearly always hear a slight moan when a teacher finds out that they will be working with the very youngest children... some teachers specify that they will/can not work with the 1-2 year olds. I know I have said this ... when my own children were in preschool I did not want to work with the very youngest because the risk of spreading childhood infections between my work children and my own children (and vice-versa) I felt was too great, and I made the decision that my chances of being at work was greater if I was working with an age range that had a developed immune system. Now my own children are in school, have developed immune systems of their own I can thoroughly enjoy the challenge of working with the very youngest... the children who learn soemthing with just about every look they take (how cool is that?).


So take a close look at your setting... how do the children view each other and their competencies... is age given status... by the children or the staff...?


Wednesday, 27 August 2014

A collection Of Outdoor spaces for learning and play...

Sat at home nursing a nasty cold and sore throat, looking at beautiful images of learning playspaces... and thought I would share a few of them with you...

A Mud kitchen at Fazelely Preschool... you can go there blog and check out how it was made... Fazeley Preschool, UK

There are several images of the natural classroom at A Child's Touch where they have kept the four elements... water, air, earth and fire as a central theme.

The outdoor space at Puzzles Family Daycare when they celebrated the International Fairy Tea Party last year... more images of Puzzles Family Daycare can be seen if you click to this image on their facebook page and then browse the page some more...



The playspace at Cowgate Under 5s can be seen on Creative Star Learning's blog with more images to be seen... and plenty other links to outdoor play and inspiration.


I have shared images of waterplay on my blog... click here to check it out


Playscapes has blogged about barefoot paths in New Zealand... I am a big believer in the sensory experience of outdoor surfaces... for barefeet and also for all our other senses too. I have written a post about Outdoor surfaces - you can read that here


Loose parts outside... and how do they connect to the inside. Play and learning  made visible on this post by Mid Pacific Institute


Tessa Rose Landscapes shares lots of before and after photos of how outdoor spaces can be designed to create a more natural feel.



Here is a link to a previous post I wrote on International outdoor playspaces - not so many photos but plenty of links...

A link to one of my posts about outdoor play in Sweden... some images of public playspaces and descriptions of some requirements/reflections for preschool playspace

And another post I wrote with links to outdoor playspaces... can be read here

Hope that keeps you going for a while...


Monday, 25 August 2014

The storycards in action

This afternoon I read the fairy book again to a few children and when I was finished they wanted more... instead of re-reading I got them to hang up the story cards so that I could read them a story from the cards they chose... they were happy to do this... then I took a step back and let the children get on with the cards...

They arranged the mat like a portal (so I was told... a word they have learnt from the fairy book, although one child isalready quite familiar with the word) - then they collected small piles of cards each and arranged themselves like a meeting to tell a story together.

They struggled here... there was lots of preparation and announcements that they were going to start, but I could not see their play starting as they were planning (even though it was all play)... so I noted that it might be an idea to sit in a circle and practice how to tell a story as a community, so they can apply that to their own play (the idea was there, but they seemed to lack the experience to put it into practice).

In the end they seemed to settle into pairs and looks through their stack of cards commenting, and creating a series of short stories.

One child started to line on cards on one of the long mirrors from Ikea... and this was soon copied by two other children, it alowed them to transport their story around the room.

In total there were 8 children ranging from 2-4 years of age... they spent just over 45 minutes in deep concentration playing with story ideas and trying to work out how to create stories together.

By observing the children I can be of better support as a teacher ... I know where I can best place my guidance so that their storyand language skills can grow together and individually.



It is also interesting to see which cards the children are taking... the card of Elsa from frozen is popular with one child... calling it "let it go" card, not knowing the characters name, but being familiar with the song. Others are exploring traditional Swedish stories like Pippi and Alfons and Bamse and others are exploring the images of houses and whether or not they would like to live there...

The majority of the time though was spent on sorting the piles of cards and trying to work out together the rules of the story telling game...

Saturday, 23 August 2014

...with an open heart

I was sitting reading this book with a small group of children... and one of the first things it tells you, if you want to see a fairy is "Open your eyes. Open your heart." and to listen.
One of the children asked me "How do you open your heart?"
I answered that I was not sure, and we wondered together the various possibilities of what it meant.

Yesterday we went to a new forest for us... legs are getting longer and stamina stronger, so we can walk further. This new forest has a different kind of calmness, an almost magical quality, especially when you think it is just a small forest in the middle of suburbia ... but there were differrent kinds of trees, each giving off its own atmosphere, especially when they were several together... there were fallen trees, the floor of the forest was covered in ferns and blueberries (sadly not many blueberries due to the hot dry summer... not that we should really complain about the gloriously warm summer).

There was time to look for fairies... which meant we found lots of other things... insects, seed filled spiderwebs, the wetness of the ferns as we walked through them, small openings that could be fairy doors...

We also listened... to the wind through the trees... what was it saying to us... the children could translate "welcome to the forest... come and play"...

I asked the child who had wondered about how to "open your heart" if she could think of a way of opening her heart to the forest... to be able to hear the forest... and this is what she did...


She listened to the forest... she told me she could hear it talking... she could hear the fairies... and they are apparently as excited about the International Fairy Tea Party as we are...

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Sleep and rest...

In a few months time I will have been blogging for two years... there are a few themes that have popped up regularly... one of them as been sleep and rest... this probably has a lot to do with my husband being a sleep researcher, it means I naturally notice this kind of research, and it also means I have proof-read his English in articles etc he has written, and picked up stuff, I have listened to him talk about sleep, and I have consulted him when it comes to rest for young children... since this is one of the areas that that both teachers and parents reflect a great deal on... to make things work... so the child can manage a whole day, so that they get a good night's sleep and getting that balance perfect so that day-napping does not interfere with night sleeping...

Sleep is without the shadow of a doubt the best medicine... learning REQUIRES sleep... as my husband says, the best way to learn is to sleep/repeat - and in the repetition there is refinement and deeper understanding, or the fundemental grasping of how something works... and if you think about it... when babies are learning ALL the time, they are also sleeping an awful lots of the day.

The links to what I have written about sleep are here...

Sleep Notes from John Axelsson - these are my notes from listening to my husband do a workshop for parents and teachers of preschoolers... I really wish he had more time and that he could visit all preschools.

Sleep and preschool part 1
Sleep and preschool part 2i
Sleep and preschool part 2ii

My husband has read and checked that all of these posts are factually correct... well at least at the time of posting them...

Sometimes I get concerned how nap/rest time is being replaced with a "resting activity". Mindfulness, yoga, massage... more activities that are lead by adults, less time for the children to work out for themselves how to wind down, how to listen to their inner voice, how to allow their body to relax. I want these children to be competent... but also competent at relaxing... the world is forever egttig busier and stressful... and as adults there seems little precious time to find downtime... I want these children to be able to wind down themselves in a few spare minutes that they get as adults, as teenagers, in school, at the weekend... and not be dependant on an adult as to how to relax by having to do an activity with others and having to listen to others and having to rest in a certain way... even if it is varied...

Learning to be comfortable with your inner self, to be comfortable doing nothing and letting your imagination run riot I feel will help children become creative...

In my post Does boredom give birth to creativity I reflect on the fact we give children far too little time to just be... so of course when they are so used to having their time filled, being entertained with activities pedagogical and fun, they are going to think having time to do nothing is BORING... but as I say to my children... if rest time is boring then you need a new daydream... rest is only as boring as you make it...

Some of my children have returned from summer and are having to re-learn how to rest... they spend the whole rest wondering when rest is over... so of course they have not rested... but I also know, that they need to get comfortable with day-dreaming again, of hearing their own imagination and enjoying the fact that they can be creative - sometimes we have collective dreams... we talk about what we are going to dream of... if we will meet on a beach, if we are going to build something together... and sometimes we will talk about it afterwards.

There is always a story CD on VERY low in the background... so you listen to hear it, or you can easily tune it out when you want to dream or reflect on the morning. When I lie with the children I often reflect on the morning - thinking about how the play could be further challenged, or how i could have phrased something differently... or what I am going to write in my blog - sometimes this half hour can be one of my most creative times of the day... sometimes I lie there and wonder what each child is thinking about... some lie with their eyes open, some with their eyes closed, some fall asleep, most just rest (2-5 years) - sometimes children fall asleep on just one day every month... their body taking what it needs...

The parents I work with have had the opportunity to listen to my husband talk about sleep last autumn, so there is an understanding about the importance of sleep and rest on their developing brains, and for their health... those who don't usually sleep nearly always fall asleep the day before their parents call us saying they are at home with fever or some other sickness... the body knows before we do, and it takes the rest when it is given the time to do so.

For me rest is a non-negotiable... children NEED it even if the children don't always like it at first... I mean what child wants to go to bed (and yes I know there are those that do have children who like going to bed - but I do believe they are a minority) - BUT as adults we know that children have to go to bed, for their health, to manage the day, for their development... so why is there so much doubt when it comes to rest? Why do so many teachers suddenly think that not all children need it anymore...

For children I guess learning is SLEEP/PLAY - and REST for those who are not napping... because even if they are not getting the full brain benefits of a nap, their bodies, when lying down and resting properly, are able to de-stress... which means learning is easier...
There is the research out there
  Monique K. LeBourgeois
is doing lots of research concerning young children... she is based in Boulder, Colorado, where my family and I have been this summer... my husband working at the same department as Monique during that time (6 weeks)
The effects of napping and not napping  this is a short article on one of her research areas... and shows that yes, a child might manage without a nap, but the continuous lack of naps (or rest for older children) can mean that their negative responses are being reinforced...

Children come to preschool here in Sweden, mostly because their parents work... so children have to follow their parents working hours... some are dropped off early and picked up late and expected not to nap so that they will go to bed early so that the parents can relax and also get to sleep... I belive the parents have the right to rest too...but is all of this for the child's best... well, no... to be honest it is not... but we all do the best we can. This is why I will maintain that REST is essential, even for the non-nappers... to be able to have the energy and stress levels to manage the day positively... to be re-enforcing positive attitudes not negative attitudes... to give these children the power to feel they can do anything.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

a little bit of magic...

I love getting the chance to sit down with my colleagues and talk about the what ifs, the what mays and the what coulds...

Ellen and I sat for almost 3 hours talking about the possibilities of this term based on our knowledge of the children... their interests and their needs from us and each other... and also to connect with our development areas as teachers this year...

Reflection and critical thinking about norms...

We have been looking at the structure of the week... how can we create more time for reflection, meaningful reflection, for the children, where they can see the purpose of this reflection... to really get them involved in thinking about what they have been doing  in order to work out how we will progress... that we do our reflection WITH the children MUCH more.

We now will have our reflection time together on Fridays instead of Mondays, where we, as teachers, can reflect on the week that has just been, looking at the needs of the children... later in the morning we will have a reflection time with the children where we use photos of the week to stimulate reflection on what we have learned and then plan together how we should continue the following week... of course some of the activities will come from us the teachers using our knowledge of the children to stimulate and challenge their play and to support their social, emotional and cognitive growth - but we really want the children to think up activities too... not just random things that they like but based on their reflections... Mondays are going to be children's "choice" day... where we can be in up to three groups - it also gives us the weekend to work out logistics if we need to. It feels very exciting... the children have challenged out power and that adults make so many decisions, we are certainly not going to relinquish our power of keeping them safe, but we are handing over more power of the content... but really that is wrongly phrased... because the children have always had that power, they have just not been aware of it... so I think what we are doing is making their power more VISIBLE.

All this talk of power is rather apt... as fairies and magic powers is where we are starting the year... re-asking a few of the questions we asked last year to see how the children are thinking now as we start the project... but we are digging deeper and the project is going to be less about what are fairies and more about using fairies and magic powers to explore themes such as rules, power, friendship etc...

This week has all been about coming together again... we are finally a full group, except for one of our poor friends who has broken our foot (we visited today to leave a feel better book we made) - next week we will start our magical explorations... the magical play has already got going...

fairy painting...