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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Scaffolding: One Way to Individualize Instruction

by Debbie Keiser

What happens when a child is not ready for a skill he experiences in the classroom? In most situations, the teacher provides assistance, perhaps by modeling, giving hints, or directly teaching the skill. This is called scaffolding. Many states are revising their standards for birth to five with increasingly difficult indicators to be mastered. Providers using state standards as a basis for creating lesson plans are challenged to find ways to scaffold these skills so children are adequately prepared for kindergarten. More and more pressure is falling on teachers to make sure children are meeting these stringent guidelines.

When a teacher scaffolds learning, she considers the current skill level of the child and uses different instructional techniques with him to help him progress toward understanding and independently performing the skill. Scaffolding shifts the responsibility of learning from the teacher to the child, with the teacher providing ongoing diagnosis and adjustment to related activities. Here are a few simple scaffolding strategies you can use with your children right away.

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Meeting Standards Using Themes

by Judy Mullican

More and more states are now publishing standards for early childhood programs. These lists are often long and may look intimidating! But when you dig deeper, most often you will find that the standards just put into words the good practices that you have been using for years.

Depending on where you live, your state standards may cover a few basic learning domains or a long list of domains, subdomains, goals, and indicators. Using themes can make it easier for you to plan activities that will address all areas of learning. Themes also help you build connections from one learning domain to another. High-interest themes can also promote excitement about learning and inspire both care givers and children to express creativity and joy!

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Build Those Fine Motor Skills!

by Katie Brazerol

Educators know how important fine motor skills are—fine motor strength provides a foundation for cutting and writing skills. However, it can sometimes be challenging to offer fresh, new activities that keep children engaged. Designate an area of the room as your “Hand Exercise” spot. Provide items for games that strengthen fine motor muscles, such as these ideas listed below. Encourage children to visit the area in between activities or during free play. Switch out the materials often to reignite interest.

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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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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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