Topics in Early Childhood Education

Sunday, August 29, 2010

A Ballerina Mouse

My granddaughter wanted to be a ballerina mouse for Halloween last fall. That theme carried over into her summer plans for a wonderful birthday. And why not? Why shouldn't children still have the opportunity to dream and pretend that life is full of wonderful surprises.

I worry sometimes that children are not encouraged to build an imagination and dream about possibilities. I was sharing with students recently how I used to hurry home from school to play in the hills around our small-town home. I remember making mud pies, building a tree house, playing with the dog and many other things. I didn't even consider watching television or going from one planned practice to another. It is wonderful that we have so many opportunities and options for children in 2010. However, I worry that imagination and creativity is in jeopardy. We need to make sure that children still are encouraged to explore and create their own adventures.

So, Audrey wanted to be a ballerina mouse. No one told her that there was no such thing or that she couldn't pull it off. She WAS a ballerina mouse. It was a great birthday. I wonder what she will come up with for Halloween this fall. It is sure to be good.


Monday, August 02, 2010

Developmentally Appropriate Fine Motor Skills

Wouldn't you know that I forgot the most important part of the discussion during my last entry about the triangular crayons. The most important part of that issue is not the crayon staying on the table, it is how the shape of the crayon will help young children develop fine motor skills.

During my 30+ years working in classrooms as a teacher and supervisor, I am continually reminded that we push young children into a corner with many activities that we plan and materials that we use. Early in my years of teaching kindergarten I re-discovered a monumental truth taught to me many years ago. Back in the 'olden days' my first grade teacher had it right. She insisted that we use large 'horse-leg' pencils during that first year of school (we didn't do much during the six-week summer preschool they called kindergarten back in the day). Mrs. Conklin seemed to know that our fine-motor skills were still in development. In keeping with that thinking as a teacher, I began using large-size crayons and pencils for the first half of the kindergarten year. Come January, I would slowly transition the children to standard-size instruments.

All I know is that my children consistently wrote, drew, painted and did everything better by the end of that school year. I felt it was one of my contributions to recognizing there are developmental stages to fine motor skills. Can young children write with regular pencils and crayons? Sure. But, I have observed children having difficulty with fine motor control. A child in that situation is encouraged practice. Perhaps instead of encouraging practice the adult should give the child more appropriate materials to use for her developmental level.

Now, these new triangular crayons and pencils can serve the same purpose. They give a slightly larger surface area and great angles for children to develop those skills.

Mrs. Conklin would be happy.