Archive for the ‘inspiration inspiration’ Category

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?”Β  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.

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 πŸ™‚

by Olivia, age 5

my portrait, by Gabriel, age 3- could not have a planned a better photo πŸ™‚

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 πŸ™‚

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 πŸ™‚

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 πŸ™‚

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! πŸ™‚

It’s never too late to get back to what you love

After graduating from Art School with a BFA in Fashion Design I took a yearΒ  or so off from making art. 4 long years of being told what to create and when too create it, going through not-so-constructive ‘constructive criticisms’ and realizing that a job in the Fashion world = years of self hatred, eating disorders and depression lead me to try another path.

I was hired in a Preschool as a TA shortly after this realization and re-discovered my passion to teach. I went back to school for Early Childhood Education and now teach full-time in a great little school in Western Mass. Finally, five years later,Β  I have found the happy medium- teach all day&craft all night- i’m finally able to balance my two biggest loves in a way that works. It’s never too late to get back into something you love, never.

Here are some of my early pieces:

(please forgive my not-so-amazing photo quality)

‘Octopus’s Garden’ was one of the first illustrations after my ‘hiatus’

“‘The only reason to ever look back is to count the flock that now follows you.”

“Sing louder still from within the cage, Your voice is the key that will always set you free.”

“Transform” gift for my sister πŸ™‚

“Full House”

Whooo doesn’t love some owls, seriously?

“Charging rhinos couldn’t keep me from you”Β  was the last piece I drew before leaving my home of 8 years in San Francisco and moving backΒ  to Western Mass.

Looking back now I guess it is kind of a metaphor for my travels, or it could be just another artistic outlet. Either way, it is great to be back in the art. One thing I have learned: Don’t let charging rhinos- or asshole bosses, or non-supportive peers, or past relationships, or yourself, or anyone- keep you away from what you love to do.