Saturday, December 24, 2011

Happy Holidays!

I wanted to write a quick post to wish everyone a merry Christmas! I haven’t posted on this blog in a while and I’m sorry about that. Things have gotten in the way, but I’m hoping to start regularly posting again in the new year. I will be starting school again and a new job so I will have lots of things to post about.

For now, I hope everyone has a fun and happy holiday however they choose to celebrate it. For a fun photo, my cat Mellow is dressed up as Santa and he wishes everyone a merry Christmas too. Even though he doesn’t enjoy his Santa costume.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Weekly Favorites for Halloween 2011

Here are my favorite links that I've seen this year for Halloween. I hope you enjoy them.

Toddler Sensory Activity: Slimy Eyes
A neat sensory sun catcher.

We made paper plate pumpkin pies in preschool
A simple pumpkin themed art activity.

Exploring pumpkin seeds in the preschool classroom
Art, math, sensorial and play with pumpkin seeds.

The Colored Ghosts
A cute ghost story activity.

Golden Shimmer Cloud Dough
This isn't a Halloween activity, but I wanted to include it anyway. It's a sparkley version of cloud dough.

Glow Water
How to make water that glows.

Glow Dough
A glowing version of no cook play-dough.

Hammer Time Pumpkin Style
Hammering pumpkins!

Glow Bottle
A Halloween version of a discovery bottle.

Marble Spider Web and Handprint Spiders
A neat spider themed art activity.

Pumpkin Activities
A list of pumpkin themed activities.

I Spy Magnet Bottles
Here's another activity that isn't related to Halloween, but I thought it was a neat idea.

Halloween Sensory Box
A spooky sensory tub.

Colored & Glittered Pasta Pumpkins for Halloween
A creative pumpkin art activity.


Have a happy and safe Halloween!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Assignment: Early Childhood Trends Final Entry

Three consequences of learning about the international early childhood field are:
1. I have gained an understanding of the early childhood field in other countries. Looking at how the early childhood education system works in other countries has helped me see things that don’t work in this country and need to be changed. On the other hand, there are things that already work well. I learned that most of us working in the early childhood field have the same concerns no matter where we live. We are all concerned about the well-being of children, we want adequate compensation and want to create and provide quality programs and services to children and families.
2. I have networked with professionals who are knowledgeable about the field and can continue to be a great resource in the future. Throughout this course, I have found other blogs which share things about the early childhood field in other parts of the world and they share tons of interesting and creative activities and ideas for the classroom.
3. My contacts believe in a play based approach. Kierna from Northern Ireland spends most of her time outside with the children. By talking to her, I have learned more about outdoor preschools and their benefits.
Here's a video with information about an outdoor preschool in Norway.
Click here. to see it.

The second half of this video from North Walsham Infant School & Nursery - The Creative & Forest School shows how they spend their time outdoors.
Click here to see it.
Here's a short clip of a forest preschool in the Pacific Northwest. I was surprised to find a program like this here in the US.

I think one important goal for the field is that early childhood teachers get recognized and appropriately compensated for the work that we do.

One goal for collegial relations related to the early childhood field is that more early childhood studies programs become available and to improve the quality of programs that currently exist.

I want to thank my international contacts for being so helpful and willing to share information with me.
I will be taking a break from the program until January so I may not be in classes with some of you again, but hopefully I will. Any of you can feel free to contact me through the blog. I wish all of you good luck and success in the future.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Assignment: International Contacts Week 7

For the blog entry this week, I have not heard from Sherry from Australia, but I have gotten information from Kierna from Northern Ireland.
Here are her answers to the questions below.

1. What issues regarding quality and early childhood professionals are being discussed
where you live and work?
“At present there is a big debate as to whether qualified teachers are needed
in nursery classes. This is all about finances as it is would obviously be much cheaper to just have assistants who would be paid much less than teachers but be expected to do the same job. There are some teachers in nursery who are early years specialists & it is very hard to ensure that anyone who is teaching this age group has some sort of specialized training. In some cases children as young as 3 are being taken to whole school assemblies, eating meals in the main school with the rest of the primary children or doing time-table P.E (games) rather than having a holistic outdoor play experience. Assistants are not as well trained as they used to be - it used to take 2 years full time study, now you can be qualified in 6 months & there is too much paper work & not enough hands on experience.
I live in N. Ireland, it is part of the UK but we have our own parliament & education minister & a different system than the other parts of the UK. I work in a nursery class attached to a primary school, the children at the school are aged from 3 to 11.”

2. What opportunities and/or requirements for professional development exist?
“At present any professional development undertaken has to be funded by the individual e.g. any further studies have to be done at night, part-time & paid for by yourself. 1 module of a masters costs around £400 & you need 9 to gain a masters! There are lots of privately run conferences & courses & some funding is available from the teaching council. Most nursery teachers network among themselves, sharing ideas & good practice. At present the internet provides the best opportunities for PD - my practice has been greatly enriched by blogging & swapping ideas with colleagues around the world.”

3. What are some of your professional goals?
“I want to provide the best outdoor learning experiences for the children in my class, I want to become known for my outdoor approach. I believe that it is my role to be an advocate for all the young children who come into my class. I want to ensure they have the best experience in their year in my class.

4.. What are some of your professional hopes, dreams, and challenges?
I would love to eventually open an outdoor kindergarten. The biggest challenge for nursery teachers is to make sure that they are valued and
recognized by not only their colleagues but all parents, politicians and the wider community.”

What I’ve learned is that many parts of the early childhood systems in other countries are very similar to ours. Early childhood professionals are struggling to be valued and recognized for their work. In most cases, we need to fund our own studies or professional development opportunities. There are also concerns about what is developmentally appropriate. Children around the world do not get to play as much and are forced into learning they aren’t ready for at younger and younger ages. We also have similar concerns with budgeting and paying quality teachers what they deserve.
Talking to Sherry and Kierna throughout this course has been informative. I’ve learned a lot about the early childhood systems in Australia and Northern Ireland. Thank you Sherry and Kierna for your help with these blog assignments.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Fall Favorites for October 16, 2011

The last few Sundays, I’ve been busy writing papers for class so I haven’t been able to post what I’ve found for the week. Here are some fall favorites I’ve found during this past month. I really hope I can get back to blogging regularly soon. I will be taking a break from school starting November 1st and won’t start school again until January. I am looking forward to it. I hope you enjoy the links.

Fun with Puffy Paint and Cupcakes in Preschool
A fun cupcake themed art activity.

Porridge Oats Playdough
A neat play-dough idea I had never seen before. It's perfect to go with the Goldilocks story.

Watermelon Play-dough
Another neat recipe for play-dough.

Glow Dough
Play-dough that glows!

Pumpkin Pie Play-dough
A great idea for a fall or Halloween theme.

Ghost in a Jar
A simple Halloween craft and decoration.

Halloween Globes
Another easy to make Halloween decoration.

Jack-O-Lantern Cups
A fun Halloween snack.

DIY Texture Magnets
A great way for kids to compare textures.

Autumn sensory tub with squirrels
An autumn themed sensory tub.

Preschool Pizza Box Games
Some creative uses for pizza boxes. They are great for math and fine motor skills.

Messy Play Snakes and Jelly
A great idea for sensory play.

Window Art
A creative art activity from Play at Home Mom.

The Pumpkin Process
A great post that shows how the process is more important than the product.

Beaded Pumpkin Jack O’ Lantern Ornaments
Cute ornaments for Halloween.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Assignment Sharing Web Resources Week 6

The first link I explored was called, Resource Themes this brought me to a page with links to topics such as school readiness, Being, Belonging and Becoming: The Early Years Learning Framework, Sustainability, global warming and climate change, Baby and toddler sleeping etc. I clicked on the school readiness tab. This brought me more links to outside resources. Here is a link to books and fact sheets about school readiness. I also found a journal article about a group of children from Singapore and their experience transitioning to school. The study compared experiences of students from Europe, Australia and Singapore. The results showed that, “Regardless of where the studies were undertaken, the majority of the children in Primary One or first grade reported being happy in school. Most were concerned about various routes to survival, such as finding their way in the large school buildings and grounds, knowing the school rules, making friends, and pleasing teachers and parents."

I also found links to an initiative called, Kids Matter Early childhood.
Their mission statement is "KidsMatter Early Childhood is a national early childhood mental health promotion, prevention and early intervention initiative specifically developed for early childhood services, including preschools and long day care. It involves the people who have a significant influence on young children’s lives parents, carers, families and early childhood professionals, along with a range of community and health professionals – in making a positive difference to young children’s mental health and wellbeing."

There are four components.
Component 1 is building a sense of community to promote feelings of belonging and connectedness between children, families and staff.
Component 2 is developing children’s social and emotional skills.
"Social and emotional development involves developing the ability to recognize and manage emotions, show care and concern for others, make responsible decisions, establish positive relationships, and handle challenging situations effectively."
Component 3 is working with parents and carers.
Component 4 is helping children who are experiencing mental health difficulties.

I did not find any further information about the topics of access, availability and affordability. I think the KidsMatter initiative is extremely important. There should be more organizations like this. It is important to intervene early when it comes to mental health issues because it has an impact on everything in that child’s life. Mental health issues can affect school performance, friendships, family relationships and future employment. In order to have the most productive members of society, we have to get them on the right track early. Too often, children’s mental health issues get misdiagnosed or completely overlooked. I feel this issue is just as if not more important as school readiness or developing early learning standards.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Last Day

Yesterday was my last day volunteering with the infants and toddlers. I spent part of the morning with the infants. I played with Baby L and Baby C. They’ve grown so much. They are both walking and Baby C even says some words. She always says hi to everyone when they walk in. At one point, she picked up one of those soft rings and brought it over to me. Crawling Baby thought it was funny when I put it on his head so I did the same thing to Baby L. Baby L and Baby C laughed. When she’d try to steady the ring on Baby L’s head, it would always fall off. After it fell, it’d role across the room. Baby L chased after it laughing and then brought it back to me to do over again. Then we played a game of peak-a-boo with me sitting behind a shelf which they had fun with, but I had to stop when they started throwing toys on the other side where Baby E was laying. One of the toys actually hit her, but she didn’t cry.

When they brought the babies outside, there wasn’t anything for me to do so I went into the toddler room for a while. I saw Crawling Baby for the first time since his transition. Well, he’s not a crawling baby at all anymore. He’s been walking for a while now and last week was his first full week in the toddler room. He seemed happy mostly playing by himself. Sometimes he’d try to get involved in what the other kids were doing, but since he’s so young, it doesn’t work. He either doesn’t understand what they are doing or they don’t want him to play. Most of the toddlers are ready for preschool so they are ahead of him. He thought it was neat to hold a bucket up to his face and talk into it. I think he liked the echo. Another toddler who I’ll call M came over and they started sharing the bucket. M is older than Crawling Baby and he talks a lot more, but he seems to like spending time with him. Crawling Baby and I walked around the room a few times and I brought out the bubbles which they all loved.

I also saw D. She has changed so much as well. She has small conversations now. When I first met her, she didn’t say any words. When she realized I was there, she ran over to give me a hug. Every few minutes while I was there, she came over and wanted to be picked up. She reaches her arms up and says, “Up up.” The problem is that she’s really heavy and when I want to put her down, she doesn’t want to get down. That happened recently when her grandmother was late picking her up and she wanted me to carry her around the whole time. She has a funny personality. She’s nice, but has an attitude too. I’ll miss her.

It was unusual, but the babies slept for most of the afternoon. When Baby C woke up, I spent some time with her, but then Little Guy and Baby E woke up. They both like to be held, but we got Baby E settled down on the floor. Little Guy really wanted to be held so I held him for a while and then put him in the squishy seat next to Baby E. He was okay for a while, but wanted to be held again. For the rest of the time, I sat holding Little Guy and watching Baby E talk to her toys. There was one toy she was trying to grab. When she couldn’t reach it, she would make a fussing sound like she was frustrated, but when she was able to grab a toy, she’d start laughing. Little Guy smiled while watching Baby E too. When I left, they were all playing and happy.

It was my last day with the babies because it looks like I’ll be taking a job with them maybe next month. I’m not sure of the details, but it’s with one of their preschool rooms. Only a couple toddlers were ready to move up so they haven’t opened the room yet. Now there will be enough kids so they offered me a job in that room. The good thing is I will already know some of the kids. I will miss the infants and toddlers though, but sometimes, I can stop in to see them on my breaks and who knows. Maybe I’ll get to work with this age group again in the future.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Assignment: Excellence and Inequity

Some of the issues surrounding excellence in Australia are the new standards they have put into place. One of them is national
Curriculum framework.

One issue this framework focuses on is the importance of play. Educators must promote learning through play. Activities must be child oriented and initiated, but there is still intentional teaching.
Australia now has something called universal access which states that all children must have fifteen hours of preschool per week. My contact told me it used to be ten hours.
Australia's government has implemented National Quality Standards which are divided into seven areas that contribute to the quality of early childhood education and care. These areas have been identified by research and are:
1.Educational program and practice
2.Children’s health and safety
3.Physical environment
4.Staffing arrangements (including the number of staff looking after children)
5.Relationships with children
6.Collaborative partnerships with families and communities
7.Leadership and service management
This means that for the first time there will be consistency all across Australia in the Early Childhood sector.

Many of the issues of inequity in Australia are similar to the US. For example, there is the issue of low wages for early childhood educators and a high turn over rate. An article called, Crisis in Childcare Industry explains the situation. “Attending Saturday's crisis summit, Ballina Childcare worker Lisa Cheal said she can barely afford to pay her own car rego, but still buys supplies for the young children in her care. "I live week by week on the wages of a childcare worker," she said. Ms Cheal estimates she's spent $850 out of her own pocket this year for basic supplies such as craft materials, books and cushions for her young class and most childcare workers do the same. "I've been working with children for 15 years, and my family is always telling me to leave," Ms Cheal said. "They can't understand why I stay. I'm studying for my early childhood teaching degree, and if I did leave for a primary school I'd get $60,000 - but I love the infants,” she said. "It's a constant emotional battle.”” Click here to read more.
There is also an achievement gap between students from higher and lower income families. This article, written in 2007 describes the achievement gap and the reasons behind it. Australia has made some changes in their educational system since this article was written. With their recent implementation of quality standards across Australia, the achievement gap may decrease.

In the UK, there is an organization called the British Association for Early Childhood Education which is similar to NAEYC. Participation with them is voluntary, but they provide support, advice and information on best practice for everyone concerned with the education and care of young children. This organization represents England, Scotland, Whales and Northern Ireland.
One project I learned about which helps one disadvantaged group in Northern Ireland is The Toy Box Project which helps The Travellers. They are one of the most disadvantaged groups in Northern Ireland. “Travellers are a distinct ethnic group within Irish society. Their lifestyle and culture, based on a nomadic tradition, sets them apart from the settled population.” A support worker goes to travellers homes with a toy box full of toys, art supplies, books and natural materials. The support worker encourages children to learn through play, builds positive relationships with each family, supports parents in enrolling their children in preschool and helps parents build confidence to engage positively with preschools to support their child’s education. This project was created to reduce inequality and to increase enrolment in early childhood programs and primary school.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Assignment Sharing Web Resources #2

The website that I’ve been looking at is Early Childhood Australia. This week, I took a look at their Everyday Learning series. They had topics ranging from play, friendships, dealing with anger to going green. These articles are meant for parents or anyone who cares for children. However, you have to pay for the articles. Next, I explored the link called Child Development, Family, Health, and Education Research. which brought me to a list of topics and ages. I clicked on infants to see what was available and then clicked on play. This brought me to a list of websites sharing articles about the importance of play. I will bookmark this page for future reference.

The next link I clicked on was called supporting best practice. This led to more lists of topics and fact sheets from other websites. Some useful links are babies, Toddlers, early childhood practices, Diversity and inclusion, and assessment and evaluation.

I didn’t come across anything I thought was controversial. Many of their standards for quality care are similar to ours here in the US. I found an article under the link, "Every Child Magazine" called Cultural competence - ensuring individuality is integral to equity, fairness and
social justice.

Australia has recently implemented universal quality standards. This approach is partly an economic investment, but this article expresses the importance of individual children and families and respecting their strengths and diverse backgrounds. “In finalizing the logistics of National Quality Framework implementation (and what
a major initiative and achievement!) we must keep ‘deep understandings’ about children, development and learning in the early years at the top of our ‘to do’ lists. Regulations, rating and results are important, but at the core of quality programs are children and their relations with others.” I thought this quote and the full article were interesting because our discussions were about the perspectives of economists and politicians and the unintended consequences of looking at early childhood programs as strictly a financial investment.

Other than implementing universal standards, I did not find any other information about trends that are different from the US. In both countries early childhood professionals care about high quality, inclusion and diversity, ending the cycle of poverty, professional development, inequality etc. This website has many resources, but a lot of them are for members only or you have to buy individual articles. I wish more of the resources were free, but there are still some links I haven’t explored. The resources I was able to view show a commitment to the well-being of young children.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Teaching Youngsters to Share

Dan Gilbert from Primrose Schools expressed interest in guest posting on my blog. This article is the first of several that he'd like me to share with my readers.

Train Youngsters to Share:
Using Beginning Instruction on Collaboration

Submitted by Dan Gilbert on behalf of Primrose Schools. For over 25 years, they have helped individuals achieve higher levels of success by providing them with an AdvancED® accredited, early child care services and education. Through an accelerated Balanced Learning® curriculum, Primrose Schools students are exposed to a widely diverse range of subject matter giving them a much greater opportunity to develop mentally, physically and socially. Dan has written a number of articles on topics varying from bilingual learning to teaching the importance of volunteering.
People who learn to cooperate as a child experience better chances for success later in life. Making a friend or working in a group setting as an adult comes naturally to those who learned this fundamental skill as a child. The willingness to share comes from the interactions a child has with a parent or a caregiver. Children especially start picking up on sharing and cooperation before age four, says Dr. Mary Zurn (Dr. Z), vice president of education for Primrose Schools. Primrose offers a safe, nurturing preschool environment for children to play, learn and grow. By following role models in play and playing with other children their own age, children can learn to take turns and share before they enter school.

“Cooperation and sharing are key character traits that teach children how to get along with others,” said Dr. Z. Collaboration skills do not come with instinct; they are learned. Success in our world comes more often than not to team players. Children who have mastered these abilities find they can enjoy relationships characterized by respect and congeniality. People are called upon to share every day, so those who learn to be generous, to care for others and to cooperate display the good character that makes good citizens.

Examples in Cooperation: Parents teach their children before anyone else, so they should make sure that they demonstrate a proper example of sharing and cooperation for them to follow. By helping others and working respectfully with other, parents send a signal telling children that these are desirable traits. Parents can reinforce cooperation by asking them to help out with the cleaning in exchange for sharing some fun time together afterwards.

Goals Families Achieve Together: Families are great units to use for the development of sharing and collaboration in youth. By choosing an activity and assigning each family member a role, children can learn how people who work together can achieve more than they can separately. When they see it’s fun to combine efforts, they will develop a habit that lasts a lifetime.

Cook to Cooperate: Preparing a meal makes a great educational environment for a child. They can see that they play a meaningful role in the effort and take pride once the meal is on the table. A Story called Stone Soup illustrates the positive role cooking can have in developing team values.

Reading Books: Parents can choose books that illustrate cooperative attitudes such as the story called Little Red Hen. These stories open opportunities for parents to extol the virtues and benefits of working together.

Musical Lessons: Another great way to teach children these crucial values of cooperation and sharing is to listen to music. After playing a clip from a band, children can help identify all the distinct instruments and sounds they hear. The independent contribution of each musician combines to make a symphony.

After learning about bands, parents can join with children to create a rudimentary band where each person plays a role in creating music. Just for fun, record the final rendition on video or audio and play it back. The masterpiece will live on for years as part of family lore.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Floor Time

This morning, I spent some time with Baby E, the youngest baby. In my opinion, she spends too much time in the swing so when I’m there, I like to hold her or give her some time on the floor. Last week, we put her and Little Guy on the floor side by side. They enjoyed looking at each other and their reflections in the mirror. Today, I held Baby E for a while, but decided to give her some floor time. She was hesitant and cried for a few minutes. When she calmed down, she started kicking her legs and reaching up with her arms.

I noticed that she was playing with her pacifier so I brought her a set of keys to play with as well. She reached for them, but didn’t try to take them from me. To get her more interested in the keys, I moved them from one side of her to another and I noticed she was tracking my movements. I offered her the keys again and this time, she held on to them. When she dropped them, I made up a little game where I put the keys on her belly and asked her how they got there. This made her smile and laugh. Sometimes she’d move the keys and sometimes she wouldn’t, but she found it entertaining. Another thing I did was lay on the big ball and role over to her. She liked when I’d end up above her on the big ball. I’d reach down to touch her feet or hand and she’d usually laugh. Infants at her age need a lot of face to face interaction.

Next, I gave her some time to play on her own. She continued to play with her pacifier and the keys, look around the room, coo to herself and kick her feet around. She spent about forty-five minutes on the floor until she got tired. It’s important for infants to have floor time every day not only for interactions with those around them, but for their healthy development and their own free exploration. I’ll end with a post written by janet Lansbury called Set Me Free - Unrestricted Babies (And Equipment. She explains the importance of giving babies opportunities for free movement.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Assignment: International Perspectives Part 2

I’ve divided this assignment up into two posts since there was so much information. Click here to see part 1.

I asked my contacts about the issues of poverty and cultural diversity in their countries. Sherry told me that in Australia, generally four year old kinder is funded for low income families especially those who are receiving government assistance. For children who are at risk or from aboriginal backgrounds have three year kinder funded as well. In Northern Ireland, children are entitled to one year of free preschool either in a nursery class like Kierna’s or in a play group. The nursery class has one qualified teacher and one assistant where the play group may have one leader with a degree and two assistants with nursery training. Children go five days per week and the hours range from 2.5 to 5. Children who are socially disadvantaged get priority for places and then children get in by their birthdates. In Kierna’s class, out of 26 places, six or seven are usually for low income children. These children also get their lunches provided. For younger children who need day care, low income parents can get vouchers to offset the cost. The UK also has a program called, Sure Start that works with low income families. One of their programs is called, “Time to be Me” which teaches children play skills and the parents stay in the classroom with them one day per week. Kierna said she noticed that the children who attend this program are ahead. They already know simple rhymes and songs when they get to her classroom.

As for cultural diversity, it is still relatively new to Northern Ireland. Recently, there have been a lot of migrant workers from Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Portugal. About 10% of children in Kierna’s program speak English as a second language. Funding is available to help these children when they reach age four and are in formal schooling, but not when they are in Kierna’s class. They have a teacher who will work with them in small groups to teach them words and phrases in English.

Sherry and Donna in Australia have had similar experiences. They have worked with very few children from other countries or cultures. When they did work with children from other cultures, they’d play simple games to get the child involve and invite parents to observe the program. Some of the preschools they’ve visited are more diverse. They’ve seen things like welcome notice boards in different languages, display boards that the families have contributed to explaining their customs, also dolls, toys, books, materials, musical instruments, posters, props from all around the world, cooking and games from other countries, and so on. Sherry found a video to a hello song. This is similar to songs they’ve used to expose children to different languages and to make children who speak different languages to feel welcome.

Assignment International Perspectives

One of my contacts, Sherry is from Australia and one thing she told me was that the biggest change in early childhood education is the implementation of a national curriculum framework called The Early Years Learning Framework for Australia which they haven’t had until recently. Read about it here.

It specifically states that children should be taught through play. “The principles of early childhood pedagogy underpin practice. Educators draw on a rich repertoire of pedagogical practices to promote children’s learning by (amongst eight other points) planning and implementing through play.” (EYLF, 2009, p.14)
This means that the activities should be child oriented and initiated, not
teacher directed.
Sherry stated, “Another issue in Australia is that the Federal Government has legislated that every child in the year before they attend school must have access to 15 hours of preschool per week (it is called Universal Access). As up until now children have had 10 hours, it is a big change to staffing, programming and timetabling.
Also the Government is bringing in the National Quality Standard which is divided into seven areas that contribute to the quality of early childhood education and care. These areas have been identified by research and are:
1.Educational program and practice
2.Children’s health and safety
3.Physical environment
4.Staffing arrangements (including the number of staff looking after children)
5.Relationships with children
6.Collaborative partnerships with families and communities
7.Leadership and service management
For the first time there will be consistency all across Australia in the Early Childhood sector.”

My contact Kierna from Northern Ireland also gave me an overview of their educational system.
She blogged about it here.
She said one difference between Northern Ireland and the US is that children start compulsory schooling at the age of four instead of five. They call it Primary 1 and she mentioned that it has become less formal over the years. Children now have more play based experiences, but they are still learning to read and write at a very young age. Kierna teaches in a nursery program for children ages three and four. It is not compulsory like Primary 1, but it is free. Kierna said that nursery teachers have to have a teaching qualification which allows them to teach children of any age in elementary school. She gives her class a lot of outdoor time and play based experiences. However, that is not the norm in Northern Ireland. There are classes that do not go out everyday or even have a good outdoor space. Kierna’s practice has been the most influenced by her experiences in Norway.
She discusses her experiences in European settings here.
She told me that the French and Polish settings were generally more formal and that she prefers the Scandinavian models.
Click here for part 2.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Weekly Favorites for September 18, 2011

This list is a little short. I've been sick this week and not tweeting or looking at the blogs as much. Here are some of the great ideas I found. Enjoy...

Homemade Fairy Dust
A fun activity that was apart of a very creative fairy birthday party.

Bubble Wrap Prints
Another twist on bubble wrap printing.

Reused CD Snail
Use those old CD's to make this cute craft.

3D Autumn Art
Art for the fall using natural materials.

Ice Eggs
A fun activity for a summer day or for an ice theme.

A Bottle Full of Spring
The author of this post is in Australia where it's spring right now. She has linked up to some neat spring activities.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Assignment: Sharing Web Resources

The organization I chose to learn more about is Early Childhood Australia.
Here is their mission statement.
“Early Childhood Australia will advocate to ensure quality, social justice and equity
in all issues relating to the education and care of children from birth to eight
Their values are The rights of children, leadership, excellence, respect, courage, honesty, openness, collaboration, diversity, justice and social inclusion of children.
Their newsletter is called ECA Web Watch. The first issue they discuss on their September issue is child protection week. More than 30000 children are neglected or abused every year in Australia. The newsletter discusses how communities, organizations, adults and children are doing their part to protect children from abuse and neglect. They have created programs for this purpose.

Play a part program
Aimed at children aged 0–8, their families and communities, the Play a part program is a local community engagement strategy that aims to prevent child abuse and neglect through the creation of child-friendly communities.

All children being safe program
Aimed at preschool and early primary children aged 4–6, the All children being safe program
uses non-threatening ways to help young children feel strong and stay safe in their communities, and to make people aware of support services available in their local communities.

Another issue that caught my attention was an article called, “For Full-time Fathers The Pressure is On.”

This article looks at how the lifestyles of Australian fathers have changed in recent decades.
Various research programs and studies reveal that on average, Australian fathers
are working more, spending more time with their children and helping with domestic
chores—and the pressure to ‘do it all’ is starting to show.

The newsletter offers a resource sheet which discusses Closing the gap in outcomes between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. This requires a focus on early intervention/education of Indigenous young children (from birth), their families and communities. I mentioned this because it relates to culture and diversity which is the topic this week.

Monday, September 12, 2011

The Tube

Here’s a simple activity that our toddlers love. We’ve found some long cardboard tubes. They are a little longer than wrapping paper tubes, but twice as wide. I’m sorry I don’t have any pictures. We had one teacher sitting holding one end of the tube and the other end was slanted down to the floor. It looked like a ramp. Then the toddlers rolled balls down the tube and chased them across the room.

One toddler wanted to see what would happen if we held the tube straight forward with someone at each end. One person to put the ball in and the other to catch it. We found out that it the ball still would role down the tube. Next, he wanted to see what would happen if he held the tube closer to his face. He’d laugh whenever someone dropped a ball in the tube. One little girl experimented with putting a dish at the bottom of the slanted tube. The balls would role down, but the toddlers couldn’t see them. A couple of them weren’t sure where the balls were going so we asked them to peak inside the dish. They laughed when they discovered that the balls stayed in the dish.

The new teacher has several of these tubes and she’d like to add them to the gross motor room. She wants to mount them to the wall at different angles so that the children can experiment with the balls moving in different angles and directions. She also wants to try tennis balls with the tubes so that Crawling Baby can use them. The small ones that we are using now can be a choking hazard for him. He spent some time in the toddler room today and he was very interested in the tubes and balls, but didn’t understand the rules of our game. At one point, he wanted to drag the tube away. I wanted to see how he’d use the tube, but the other teacher brought it back to the group to continue the game.
I have a feeling that the children will do lots of experimenting with these tubes and that we can use them for a variety of activities.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Weekly Favorites For September 11, 2011

I couldn't post my usual list today without saying anything about September 11th. I remember where I was when I heard the news back in 2001. We had just sat down at our desks for English class when our teacher told us that the two towers of the World Trade Center had been hit. As the morning went on, we heard about the Pentagon and the plane crash in Pennsylvania. I remember walking past the library at different parts of the day and it was unusually full with all the TV's on. I'm sorry for the families who have been affected by this tragedy and the innocent lives that were lost. It's unfortunate that people have so much hatred, but people here in our country really came together to help each other that day. I think that's what we should remember from that day is how people helped each other and stuck together.

Read September 11 tributes here and here.

Apple Pie Play-dough
A fall themed play-dough activity.

Bouncing Bubbles
How to make bubbles that don't pop.

Bubble Mountains on Aluminum Foil
A neat science activity with bubbles.

Stress Ball Balloons
A great way to discuss emotions.

Discovery Bottles
Discovery bottles filled with some interesting objects.

Pretend, Create & Learn with Play-dough
Links to many play-dough activities.

Cinnamon autumn playdough: leaf prints

How to Make an Apple Pie and see the World
A variety of apple activities.

Water Bottle Collages
An extremely simple activity.

5 Minute Fairy Wands

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Assignment: Establishing Professional Contacts & Expanding Resources

To find professional contacts outside the US, I contacted a couple of the bloggers that I follow. My first contact is Kierna from Northern Ireland. She has been a nursery teacher for over ten years and has been involved with Comenius projects which has allowed her to visit schools in Poland, Italy, Norway, Sweden and France. She writes a blog called Learning for Life. Much of her blog focuses on the importance of exploring nature and outdoor play.
My second contacts are Sherry and Donna who have taught together in Melbourne Australia for many years. They have a blog/website called Irresistible Ideas for play based learning. they share many inspiring and creative ideas for classrooms and write about their visits to other area preschools. I have received E-mails from them both and now I’m trying to figure out what to ask them first. Does anyone have ideas for what kinds of questions to ask?

The website I chose for part two of the blog assignment is Early Childhood Australia. I looked at a few of the other resources and this one seemed the most interesting to me. I chose this website because it has a variety of links and information to explore. I also subscribed to their newsletters.

I’d like to thank my two contacts for being willing to help. I appreciate them taking the time out of their busy days to answer my questions. I’m looking forward to learning new information from my contacts and through the website.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Ten Activities to do with Infants

Here are ten activities that we regularly do with the infants.

1. Books:
Books are great for children of any age. Reading exposes infants to language, pictures in the books expose them to things they don’t normally see and having books around can spark an interest in reading. The infants enjoy looking at books themselves or when we read to them. Reading to babies has so many benefits, but to keep this post short, I won’t go into them all here.

2. Bubbles:
Bubbles are great for younger infants to track. Older infants can work on their fine and gross motor skills while popping or moving around trying to catch the bubbles.

3. Coloring:
We introduce our older infants to fat crayons. They will put them in their mouths, but we sit with them to show them what they are supposed to do with crayons. Some of them like making marks on the paper and others don’t care for it, but it’s apart of exposing them to creative arts.

4. Exercise ball:
Those of you who read the blog know I use the exercise ball a lot with the babies. I use it to rock them to sleep, bounce, play games etc. The ball can be comforting or a way to help older infants with gross motor skills depending on the activity.

5. Mirror exploration:
We have a variety of mirrors around the room accessible to our younger and older infants. Today, I sat in front of a mirror with Baby E and Little Guy; our two youngest infants. They’re too young to realize it’s their own image, but they were fascinated. I set up a mirror for Baby E on the floor and she liked watching herself move.

6. Music:
We’ll sing songs or put on music for them. Music exposes children to language and gets them to move around. Our oldest infant who has moved up to the toddler room loved to dance. I don’t usually do the singing, but I like to help the babies move to the music.

7. Sand box:
We have a sand box on the infant playground that the babies love. It’s filled with buckets, shovels, trucks and other sand toys. The babies usually just explore the toys, but some of them start dumping the sand in and out of buckets. They will eat some of the dirt, but that’s something we’ve all done as children. Most of our infants spend most of their outside time in the sand.

8. Shaving cream:
We allow the older infants to play with shaving cream. Sometimes we try to contain it by giving them a tray, but other times, it gets spread across the table. The babies enjoy squishing and spreading it around. Occasionally, we add paint for color or to make paintings. We do watch the infants closely so they won’t put too much in their mouths.

9. Walks:
We take the babies on walks as much as possible. Walks allow babies to get fresh air, hear and see different sights and sounds and learn new words as we describe what’s around us. Walks are also soothing for many babies.

10. Water play:
For water play, we put water in a small tub and let one or two babies play at a time. We’ve used water by itself for splashing and exploring. We’ve also added objects to the water such as fish or ducks. There are lots of possibilities for water play. If there’s a puddle on the playground, the older infants can explore it. The best thing about this activity is that it’s fun!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Weekly Favorites for September 4, 2011

Here are my favorites for the week. I've included a few posts from last week which I couldn't post last Sunday due to the storm. We lost power for most of the day. Anyway, I hope you enjoy the links. Have a great holiday tomorrow for those of you who have a long weekend!

Clay Pockets
A history lesson combined with a neat craft.

Easy to Make Instruments
A collection of links for how to make various instruments.

Art and Sensory Recipes
A variety of recipes for art, sensory and general messy play.

Goodnight Moon Sensory Bin
The story of Goodnight Moon put into a creative sensory tub.

Painted Sea Shell Magnets oceans
A neat ocean themed craft.

Beach Memories Kids Craft
A way to keep those beach memories.

Making Story Stones in Preschool
A neat way to help kids tell stories.

Homemade Moon Sand That Evil Stuff
A simple recipe for moon sand.

Water Bead Sensory
Some great ideas using water beads.

Glowy Nightlight
A glow in the dark craft.

Celebrating the ABC's of Teaching Preschool and You
A post to celebrate the 20000 members who have joined Deborah Teachpreschool on Facebook. This post shares many great ideas from a variety of bloggers.

Teaching Babies Language and Much Much More While they Play
An informative post on ways to teach babies language in an effective and age appropriate way.

Baby Washing
A new spin on a common preschool activity.

Crayon Melting
Creating art using crayons, wax paper and the sun.

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