Topics in Early Childhood Education

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Air to Breathe

It has been a cold and snowy winter so far here in Utah. The older I get, the more I dislike cold weather. The other day when it was 7 degrees overnight, I went out the next morning to break a hole in the ice of our pond. We keep a pump going, but I like to make sure there is an oxygen outlet for the fish and turtles deep in the water. It always amazes me how they survive the cold winter, but they seem to adjust fine as long as there is oxygen.

I have had the opportunity to work with at-risk children routinely throughout the years and I have always viewed school much like that oxygen outlet. For some children, school can be a safe environment in an unsafe and unstable world. The classroom can provide support for a child who does not always feel supported in life. School can also provide challenges and opportunities to think that may not be encouraged outside the classroom. When a teacher creates an inviting and supportive classroom, it can be a haven for a child until the harsh winter begins to subside. Good teachers make sure there is a hole in the pond when it is 7 degrees by:

-Maintaining a strong positive relationship with the child

-Providing comfortable and effective routines that help the child feel secure

-Routinely reinforce social and emotional skills that help children grow friendships and feel part of the group

-Giving extra support to children who seem to struggle with compliance and obedience.

I wish that every child felt love, acceptance and support in every aspect of his/her life. Unfortunately, that is not the norm for many children. Until that time, we all must continue to break a hole in the ice for the children who surround us. Especially when the outside world is lurking with icy fingers and a temperature of 7 degrees.


Monday, January 03, 2011

Making Music

During the holidays, I had the opportunity to be in California with all six of my grandchildren. After a rousing Wii music game, three of my granddaughters picked up the ukulele and some costumes, then proceeded to serenade the rest of us. One of the adults present called out, "That sounds just awful." Maybe it did, but the effort impressed me. Here were three girls who were not afraid to take a chance and exhibited great planning strategies. We know how critical it is to teach children thinking skills and to take a chance. Sir Ken Robinson, an expert on creativity, says, "If they don't know, they will have a go." Children are natural risk takers, but adults often shut down their comfort level for taking risks. This has great impact on thinking skills and creativity. To encourage taking risks and developing thinking skills, adults should:

1. Allow the "awful music," realizing that the process the child developed is what should be encouraged, not shut down. Don't worry about the product.

2. Look for toys and materials that need a process of development. Instead of a coloring book (no thinking there), provide construction paper, scissors and glue (endless process). The end product doesn't really matter.

3. Encourage an atmosphere of taking risks. Recently, a child I know filled the sink with water and started floating her shoe in the water. I applaud her mother who did not get upset and yell, "What are you doing?" She simply asked calmly, "So, what are you doing with your shoe." Her daughter said, "Seeing if my shoe can float." "What did you find out?" asked her mom. After a great discussion they cleaned the mess and dried the shoe.

4. Do projects together. Routinely do projects with the child and allow him to suggest many of the procedures. Even if you know it may not 'work.' Trial and error is great for thinking. A wonderful resource book for doing projects is, "The Complete Book of Activities, Games, Stories, etc." by Pam Schiller and Jackie Silberg.

My granddaughters can serenade me anytime. It was music to my ears as I was thrilled they created a band. The right notes can come later!