Promoting Play Through Independent Activity Centers

by Katie Brazerol

Children benefit from choosing and freely exploring materials in interactive learning centers throughout your setting. Providing a space that encourages children to explore, interact with others, and use critical thinking skills without constant adult direction allows them to gain independence. Children can use independent activity centers during free play or as transition activities while waiting for others to finish a task.

Set Up the Centers

  • Include materials to support current concepts and topics of interest to the children.
  • Offer age-appropriate materials that can be used with minimal adult supervision.
  • Promote multiple learning domains. Rotate activities that focus on language/literacy, math, science, social studies, social/emotional well-being, physical development, and creative arts (music, art, and dramatic play).

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The Inclusion of STEM/STEAM in Preschool

by Katie Brazerol

In recent years there has been a push to include more science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) skills in education. As the trend has shown success, educators have recommended the application of STEM activities in early childhood as well. Incorporation of STEM activities will help children observe, analyze, and make predictions about things in their environment. They will learn to fulfill their natural curiosity and develop inquisitiveness about subjects and how things work. They will also strengthen math skills beyond shapes, colors, and counting, such as analyzing quantities, measuring, collecting data, and recording results.

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Teacher-Directed vs. Child-Directed Art

by Katie Brazerol

The child brings home a sheet and proudly shows it to her mom. Her mother looks at the sheet and sees…a mess. She murmurs something polite like, “That’s nice, Honey.” The artwork never makes it to the fridge because it doesn’t look like anything to showcase.

Teacher-directed vs. child-directed art has long been a hot topic in early childhood. Teachers and providers usually understand the importance of keeping art projects age-appropriate and child-focused, but many parents pressure them to offer crafts that are cute, theme-related, and showcase-worthy. Some teachers avoid all mass-produced crafts while others struggle with freestyle art because some children do not stay engaged long without specific instruction.

Let’s first address why art matters in early childhood: Continue reading

Fun with Fall Leaves

by Judy Mullican

fall-leavesDepending on where you live, the leaves may be changing colors or may be about to change soon. Even if you live in an area that does not experience fall color, leaves offer many opportunities for fun and learning! Some plants naturally produce leaves that are red, yellow, or orange all the time. Leaves also come in different shapes and sizes. Take your children outside to explore! (Caution: As always, be sure to explore safely. Check Know Your Plants or other sites to find out if any plants in your surroundings are poisonous or cause skin irritation.)

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Singing Through the Day

by Judy Mullican

Singing and Clapping During Circle TimeSongs and young children go together like cake and ice cream! I once asked a mother of young children if she thought her children were ready to learn a certain concept. She told me, “They can learn anything if you put it in a song.” There’s a lot of truth to that! Just think how easily children learn advertising jingles they hear only a few times!

There are many ways you can use songs to make your day go more smoothly. Here are a few ideas.

Welcome
Sing a song to welcome the children to your group. Including their names will personalize the song and make each child feel special. Here’s one to try.

Hello Friends!
Sung to “Good Night, Ladies”

Hello, (Emily)!
Hello, (Emily)!
Hello, (Emily)!
We’re glad you’re here today.
Hello, (Emily)!
Hello, (Emily)!
Hello, (Emily)!
Oh, won’t you come and play?

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Modeling Clay

Modeling-Clayby Katie Brazerol

The second theme in our September 2016 Fireflies® curriculum is Fasten Up. Manipulating fasteners can be tricky work for little hands! A great way to help children strengthen their fine motor muscles is to provide activities that involve folding, sculpting, and manipulating clay and dough. The activity below is featured on page 51 of the September curriculum guide. This recipe is for two to three children. Heating times may vary.

Caution: This activity should be supervised closely. Only an adult should use the stove and oven. Allow the dough to cool thoroughly before allowing the children to manipulate it.

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