Sharing & Fairness- Big Concepts for Small Children

Should we always insist that children share their toys, space and time with everyone in every moment? Should we limit experiences for the whole class because one or two children are not interested? Should we tell children that they ALWAYS have to let everyone play their games?

I think not.

Saying things like, ‘Use your words!” or “You can’t say you can’t play!” roll very easily off the adult’s tongue, but what are these catchy phrases REALLY teaching our children? As adults do we ALWAYS include everyone when we plan dinner parties or movie nights? Do we ALWAYS share our favorite new shoes with anyone who asks, or let our neighbors borrow our favorite car? I don’t think so. And in not sharing our things as adults does it make us ‘bad, mean’ people? No. Because we ‘work for what we have,’ and ‘we value our belongings.’ But don’t children work hard every day to understand the world around them? Don’t they value their their special toys too? Why then do we insist that our children constantly share everything and include everyone? There are ways to teach young children that sharing, inclusion and being respectful to other humans are important practices. There are ways to encourage these behaviors without constantly forcing children to include EVERYONE and share EVERYTHING.

 

 

We need to remember that children are NOT little adults- so we can not expect them to behave as such. We can not just walk up to arguing children and say things like, ‘Use your words!” then walk away with no explanation as to what it MEANS to ‘use’ those words. We can not expect young children to know how to ‘use their words’ if we do not first TEACH them those words, and in turn how to express themselves and their feelings verbally.

A child’s brain is not developed to understand the concept of ‘sharing’ until around age 5 or 6. That is well in to Preschool, and even Kindergarten. Young children will ‘share’ their toys because teachers or adults tell them to, not because they understand that it actually feels good to share with their friends, and that “If I share my toys, my friends will share with me.” (Our brains are not developed to understand concepts like cause and effect until we are in our early twenties!!) I believe that when a child does share it is important to make a BIG deal about it. By saying things like, “Thank you so much for sharing that toy, I can see that your friend feels so happy that you shared, how do you feel when you share?” we can put that seed of understanding into a child’s mind- ‘When I share my friend feels happy, when my friend feels happy I feel happy.” I’m not saying you have to throw a part every time a 2 year old passes a doll to another child, but it IS important to make note of these milestones if we want to encourage these types of behaviors.

 

 

There is a BIG difference between not sharing and being disrespectful. If a child is engaged in play by themselves, or with a small group of children forcing them to let another child, or children play (because “You can’t say you can’t play!” ) might disrupt their developmental learning through that play. Playtime is such an important part of learning for young children, if we, as adults, are telling children that they ALWAYS need to make their games something that can include EVERYONE we are limiting their individuality and growth, as well as the building of their friendships. We need to remember the importance of alone time and small group play. If one or two children are positively engaged in a game and a third comes along kicking and screaming that they can not join I would suggest helping the third child find another game to play.Redirection works!!

In a different scenario two children may be playing a game and intentionally excluding other children- this is where the difference between ‘not sharing’ and ‘being disrespectful’ comes in. In these types of scenarios I believe it is important for an adult to step in and discuss why it is not okay to intentionally exclude. By explaining to young children how it feels to be excluded, “I know I feel sad when I get left out, how do YOU feel when you get left out?”  we can validate their feelings and the feelings of their friends.

Children are NOT little adults, but they are geniuses. They can understand empathy if we show it to them. Respect is learned, disrespect, unfortunately, is also learned. If children learn that they can get away with excluding others and pushing other children around when they are young they may become more and more socially aggressive when they get older. Bullying has become such a huge problem, if we can teach young children to care for their own feelings and the feelings of their friend’s maybe we can erase those aggressive behaviors later on.

 

 
It is equally important to teach children about fairness in a way that will relate to the larger world. I believe that ‘fairness’ needs to mean that everyone gets what they NEED rather than everyone getting the exact same thing. Some children need to sit on your lap in order to focus during story time, others can sit by themselves. Some children might need an adult to rub their back at rest time so that they can get the sleep they need in order to grow, others can lay down and fall asleep on their own.Some children will be engaged in a wood block building project, others will have no interest and may be able to engage through a different sort of project.

I had a wonderful teacher once who put it this way- “If you have a child who needs to use an inhaler in order to breathe you would not give every child an inhaler to make it ‘fair.’ You would explain to the class that that child needs extra help to breath, so they use an inhaler.”

 

 

Think about this for a moment- as adults we decide when to wake up, what to eat, what to wear, where to work (for the most part), who to be friends with, who to date, where to live, what car to drive- the list goes on. What do young children get to decide for themselves? And when we take away their toy and force them to ‘share’ it with another child is it teaching them that sharing feels good, or is it teaching them that yet again they have no control over their lives? Our job as Early Childhood Educators is to meet the needs of our children in order to empower them to meet their own needs. We need to make sure that our lessons about ‘sharing’ and ‘fairness’ are exactly that- empowering. Through that empowerment we can teach children that they should share because it makes them happy, and not simply because the adults told them to.

Create a Unique Bowl Using Old Buttons

Got a lot of old buttons laying around the house? I sure did. So I decided to make a fantastic button bowl using a balloon and glue- I know it sounds crazy but stick with me here! Turn those piles, bags, drawers  (I had a lot of buttons too, no judgement) full of old buttons into something beautiful and functional.

These bowls are easy to make and the supplies are very cheap. Button bowls would be a fun craft to make with your kids on a rainy day, or as a one-of-a-kind gift for that someone who has it all.🙂

 

 

What you will need:

flat buttons of desired colors and sizes (I have found that smaller buttons tend to stick better)

balloons

white glue- Elmer’s white glue works well, or Tacky glue, anything that dries clear

large paint brush

scissors

news paper

cup or can to balance balloon on while it dries (see photos)

patience

 

 

1. Blow up a balloon to the desired size you want your bowl to be and place it knot side down into a cup, can or jar that you don’t mind getting a little glue on

 

2. Cover half of the balloon with glue using a paintbrush (or your finger, works for me). You might have to alternate holding the balloon by the knot for a few minutes then setting it knot-side-down in your jar in order for the glue to have an even coat and not drip off.

3. Let the glue dry completely forming a layer of rubber-like protection between the balloon and your layer of buttons

 

4. After this first layer is completely dry, apply a second coat of glue using your brush (or finger) starting at the top of the balloon and working your way down toward the knot. Attach buttons to this layer as close together as you can fit them.

5. Continue adding the second layer of glue and attaching buttons until your half a balloon is covered with beautiful buttons.

6. Once all the desired buttons are attached turn your button covered balloon upside down in your cup so that the knot is in the air and the buttons are balanced on the lip of the cup- this is to keep your buttons from sliding down the balloon while they dry.

 

7. Let the layer of glue and buttons dry completely- usually requires about 4 or 5 hours.

 

8. Once the second layer of glue and buttons is completely dry, coat the buttons over again with a third layer of glue.

9. Allow this third layer of glue to dry completely- I usually let it sit overnight- and if desired you can apply a fourth layer of glue to strengthen your bowl even more.

 

10. When your bowl is entirely dry use a scissor and cut the knot on the balloon to slowly let the air out. Sometimes glue will drip down, just peel it back and use the scissor to snip any unwanted glue bits away from the button edge.

 

11. Admire your hard work and patience!

These bowls are a lot of fun to make and each one comes out unique! It is important to note that these bowls are NOT WATER RESISTANT, unless you choose to use a water resistant form of glue. They are for decorative purposes only and should not be used for food (unless, of course,  the food is decorative as well).

Here are a few other button bowls I have made using this technique:

Get Your Hands On The Alphabet- Tactile Letter Learning

Learning to read and write is a pretty big deal. Think about it, children learn not only how to identify letters by sight, sound and shape they also learn to string those sounds and shapes together to create words. Those moments when a child learns to write their name, or reads their first few words are some of the most wonderful moments to witness.

But what about those children who struggle with differentiating one letter shape from another? Or those who have trouble processing information when a teacher simply hands them an alphabet worksheet to copy? (Worksheets DO NOT WORK. Just say NO to worksheets!!!) I had one five year old student who was having trouble remembering which letter was which, so we worked together and came up with this fun tactile letters game where we use our five senses to explore the alphabet.

What you will need:

dry erase board

dry erase markers

eraser

floor space or a large table

tactile alphabet cards (I found these in the Scholastic book order!)

Sensory learning activities give children a full circle of experiences rather than the one-sided experience of simply tracing over a dotted-line shape of a letter. I would suggest avoiding any activities where young children are tracing pre made letters or shapes because it entirely limits their individuality and if they trace the dots ‘wrong’ automatically makes them feel that they have failed. As adults we each have our own unique hand writing style, we need to let our children have their own hand writing style as well.

Because each child is an individual they will each have their own pace when learning about letters. There is no ‘right’ age when a child should know their letters. Some children begin to comprehend letters at age two, others not until they are four or five. Making sure your child, or children are developmentally ready for an activity like this is very important.

This activity gives kids a chance to use more than one method of learning so that they can create more in depth cognitive connections to their letters.

Auditory/Listening Skills- singing the Alphabet Song, responding to questions like, “Which letter comes next after ‘G’?, rhythm of repetition in questions

Tactile/Feeling Skills- picking up the letter cards, feeling the texture of each picture, writing each letter and then erasing it, placing alphabet cards in order alphabetically, practice holding marker

Cognitive Skills-practice holding marker, beginning of understanding that lines when connected make shapes and letters, connection between tactile pictures on cards and objects that begin with corresponding letters- ‘A’ for ‘Alligator’ and what does the alligator feel like?

Early Math Skills- counting the lines of each letter, beginning to understand that lines when combined make specific shapes, sorting and categorizing letters as they are placed in order, rhythm of singing Alphabet Song

Before beginning this game have your child pick out a different color dry erase marker for them and one for you. Explain that you need their help to figure out what order the letters of the alphabet go in, and that you would like to play a new game with them.

Throughout the game ask questions like, “Can you help me find out which letter comes next?” Or, “We found ‘A’ ‘B’ ‘C’, but I wonder what comes next, can we sing the Alphabet Song together to find out?”

I think it is important to focus on Uppercase letters at first, and once those are mastered then begin with Lowercase. Children can feel overwhelmed when given too many objects to take in at once and this can stress their brains out so much that rather than taking in the information around them, their brains will shut down and close out new information.

1. Lay out the tactile alphabet cards on the floor or table, out of alphabetical order

2. Ask the child to sing the Alphabet Song with you one time through, then ask them, “Which letter is the very first in the alphabet?” If they have trouble figuring out the first letter of the alphabet have them sing the Alphabet Song again and ask them to listen for the very first letter they hear in the song- focusing on auditory learning.

Once the letter ‘A’ is decided upon use the white board and slowly write out an uppercase ‘A’ one line at a time, I usually say, “The letter ‘A’ has three lines.” And count them out while I write them.

Have your child practice writing their own letter ‘A’ next and count the lines along with them.

Once both letter ‘A’s are written ask your child to find the letter ‘A’ card in the pile- using the ‘A’s you have written on the white board to compare. When the letter card is found you can say things like, “A’ for ‘Alligator’, and how does the alligator feel?”

3. Continue with this method for each letter, having your child sing the Alphabet Song, write out the letter in question counting the lines and describing the shapes (letter ‘P’ has a straight line down and one bump at top, letter ‘D’ has a straight line down and a BIG belly etc. ), have them practice writing and search for and feel the letter card.

Have your child place the cards they have found in alphabetical order separate from the unsorted cards.

I played this game twice a week for 30minutes with a child in my class who was having trouble recognizing and sequencing letters. After three weeks this child could make it to letter ‘H’ – singing the Alphabet Song, practicing writing and then finding each letter and placing it in order-without help. I would say that the hands-on Alphabet Game is a success!

Take a Look Through Your Children’s Eyes- Photographs by 3-5 year olds

When I was a kid my brother, sister and I got to build with real (metal!) tools, use the same kitchen supplies our parents used to ‘bake’ and get our hands in REAL clay (for pottery, not play dough- which is also awesomely fun) and we all still have all 10 fingers and both eyes. I believe that children should be allowed to have experiences using real materials whenever possible, instead of plastic tools why not a wood and metal set? Instead of pretend plastic food why not real fruit and veggies?

Experiences with real materials will give children such strong early connections to those materials that they may grow up learning how to COOK and SEW rather than how to ‘pretend’ how to cook and sew. Pretend play is fantastically important to brain development as well, but we need to get away from this ‘hands off’ approach to early childhood experiences. The more hands-on we allow our children to be the smarter they will be. I’m not saying, “Throw some matches and a hand saw in the play room and let them have at it!” What I mean is that children can learn how to use materials adults deem ‘off limits’ in a safe, responsible way if we TEACH them how.

For this project I took my small digital camera and put it in the hands of my students. Before letting them run off with the camera and bury it in the sandbox (only happened once) I went over a few rules-

1. Wear the lanyard string around your wrist like a bracelet.

2. No running, climbing, bike riding during your camera turn.

3. MOST IMPORTANTLY- If you would like a turn ask your friend for a turn in 5 minutes.Without grabbing and pushing.

**It is really important to place the value of these rules on the child’s safety rather than on the safety of the camera itself. Rule #2 is set in place not so the camera doesn’t get broken, but so that the child does not fall down and get hurt while running and looking through the lense. No child should ever be made to feel that a 3×5 inch plastic box is more important to you than their physical well being. I would suggest getting a service plan on your camera- I used mine after camera accidents only two times in the three years we did this project. And it was free!

By putting the camera in the children’s hands it not only empowers them and lets them know that their point of view is important to us but also gives us, as adults, a chance to see the world through their eyes.

All of these amazing photos were taken by 3 to 5 year olds, none of them have been altered in any way. Take a look-

by Riley, age 4

by Jolie, age 4

by Ryan, age 5

by James, age 5

by Sophia, age 4

by Madison, age 4

by Chloe, age 4

by Olivia, age 5

by Tiana, age 3

by Chloe, age 4

by Skye, age 5

by Jolie, age 5

by Bryce, age 5- “Its a letter ‘A’!” he observed🙂

by Olivia, age 5

my portrait, by Gabriel, age 3- could not have a planned a better photo🙂

The bottom line is, children are amazing. They can do anything and everything if we only give them the opportunity let them try.

Create Your Own Watercolor Photo Bookmarks

I discovered the design for these bookmarks by accident one day while sorting through old photos where I had cut someone out of a garden scene and thought, “Hmm, if only there were some way to USE all these fragments of old photos…” Then I came across some ‘Make Your Own Bookmark’ kits at Michaels Craft Store (Heaven) and one plus one made two. Instead of using the kit I bought it, took it apart and used their bookmark as a stencil to make my own- now you can do it too! These watercolor photo bookmarks are a lot of fun to design and make a wonderful personalized gift🙂

What you will need:

watercolor paints and painting supplies (brushes, containers, etc)

bristol paper or watercolor paper

pencil

photos

x-acto knife

ruler

scissors

ribbon

hole puncher

glue

1. Make your bookmark stencil ( use a heavy paper or cardboard to lengthen stencil life):

The measurements for this stencil are 12 inches by 1.5 inches, with two triangle notches at 6inches where the bookmark will be folded. The window for the photo is 4 inches from the bottom, with .25 inches on both sides and 1.5 inches on top where a hole will be punched for ribbon.

2. Trace your stencil on the back of bristol or watercolor paper you wish to paint on- make sure you trace them close together to not waste paper🙂

3. Get ready to paint! I choose watercolors for these bookmarks because the colors are so vibrant and it is a lot of fun to experiment with textures. Try using different techniques like wetting the paper a little before applying paint to make more blended look, or splattering a different color over wet paint to create a tie-dye effect. Go crazy! Have fun!

4. When paint is dry cut out bookmark strips following the lines you traced before painting.

5. Use an x-acto knife to cut out windows for photos and fold bookmarks in half at 6 inch line

6. Now it is time to select your photos!I lean toward nature photos, but faces would be lovely as well🙂

Photo measurements are 3.5 cm by 5 cm

7. To attach photos into bookmarks put a small amount of glue around the edge of the photo square and center it in the photo window. When photo is dry fold bookmark in half and glue insides together. I usually press the bookmarks under a stack of books while they dry to keep them nice and flat

8. When your beautiful bookmarks are dry you can use a hole puncher to punch a hole above the photo window and tie a little ribbon on for a finishing touch.

Grab your favorite book and keep your pages in style!🙂

Make Your Friends Eat Dirt- They’ll Love It!

We all have fond memories of mixing dirt, water, grass, the occasional unlucky bugs and making mud pies in the yard as kids- here is an easy way to make an edible version that your friends will love. I mean, i’m sure we have all eaten our share of dirt whether by choice or by force, these cupcakes will leave you asking for more!

 

What you will need:

 

chocolate cupcake mix (boxed or from scratch, can’t descriminate against cake)

chocolate frosting

gummy worms

Oreo cookies

cupcake pan

cupcake wrappers

 

check out these cute grass themed wrappers I found at JoAnn Fabrics!

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1. Bake cupcakes and let cool

2. While cupcakes are cooling put Oreos in a ziplock and smash them up (for a dozen cupcakes I used about 15 Oreos)

3. Pour smashed Oreos into a bowl and stir in two or three generous spoonfulls of chocolate frosting

4. Frost cooled cupcakes with chocolate frosting and scoop a spoonfull of Oreo crumb&frosting mix on top of each

5. Add gummy worms on top of cookie dirt and serve your friends some mud pies!

 

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This recipe can also be used on a cake rather than cupcakes- get crazy creative with it and don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty, CHOCOLATE dirty!

 

12 Great Ways to Make Regular-Old Stamping More Fun

Using stamp pads is an easy, (sort of) mess-free activity that children of all ages can do. But how much sensory stimulation do kids get from sticking a generic rubber heart shape in an ink pad and smashing it on a paper a few times? Not much. Here are 12 cheap and easy ways to pump-up your regular old stamp pads- by using things from around the house, yard and classroom.

1. Bubble Wrap- a personal favorite. Bubble wrap makes great detailed textured prints using both the ‘bubble’ side and the ‘back’ side. It is easy to manipulate, easy to wash, most often free and fun to pop when you finish stamping🙂 I recently had the kids use bubble wrap to make texture for an underwater scene and it came out perfect!

2. Corks- using both the round ends and rolling the cork on its side create fantastic texture. Corks are free (after you drink the wine!) and using them for stamping is a fun and easy way to recycle while making great, hands-on art.

3. Plastic animals- grab some plastic animals with different shaped foot prints and stamp away! The animals are super easy to wash, easy for small hands to hold and can be tied in to a lesson about nature, wildlife and animals.

4. Sponges- using dry sponges in ink pads is really easy, and a little less messy than using something like water colors or poster paint. Cutting the sponges into shapes is also fun, and using a sponge stamp print for a back ground on a larger progect is a great way to bring hands-on art into every project.

5. Tooth brushes- I know, crazy, right? But tooth brushes really make some very interesting patterns when using stamps. Using the bristle you can get some great grass or fabric texture, and some tooth brushes have ‘tongue scrapers’ on the back that create really nice stamp prints as well.

6. Leaves- real and artificial. The leaves shown are plastic and had some glitter on them (fancy, I know) so the stamp prints ended up with a little added sparkle. Real leaves make a wonderful nature stamping project, the children can collect leaves of different shapes and sizes and experiment with different printing techniques. A great (easy!!) way to bring nature into the classroom!

7. Rubber bands- another way to use something that is just laying around the home or classroom! Kids LOVE rubber bands, if there were three tables set up with various cool toys and art activities they would pick the manky rubber band that holds the easel together over all else. Why not have an activity that LETS them play with rubber bands? Here is one way to do that- it comes out looking pretty interesting!

8. Plastic forks- I discovered this one y accident, but it turned out to be a happy one! Using the back side of a fork to make a print turns out pretty interesting. I can see using this as grass for a garden scene, or teeth for a big monster. The opportunities are endless!

9. Toy cars&trucks- children LOVE playing with cars. Using a car with plastic wheels (easier to wash) and rolling it in a stamp then onto paper is a fun way to get kids who might not otherwise be interested in art to use their hands for a project. It is also fun to cover a table with butches paper and set our shallow trays of poster paint for kids to roll cars and trucks in, this way they can use a larger area and get more of a sensory rich experience from. Try it out!

10. Plastic reptiles- similar to using plastic animals to create fun tracks, using plastic reptiles is a great way to create texture with toys already in the classroom. The snake is definitely a new favorite of mine!

11. Buttons- take some old buttons and glue them onto a cork (so they are easier to hold). Buttons come in all different shapes and patterns and really make amazing stamps. Make sure to grab buttons that have a relatively flat surface or it will be challenging to stamp with them.

12. Textured home decor samples- another awesome way to use something free to make something fun! I used some plastic ‘bubble’ tile samples to make a stamp and came out with a nice delicate print. Great for adding texture to any project!

Take a look around the house, classroom, yard and see what other sorts of things might make a good stamp- again, the opportunities are endless!

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