Planting a seed to inspire learning
Planting a seed is the simple act of setting a process into motion – both in a garden and in a classroom. As educators in the classrooms, we are always planting seeds to spark children’s curiosity, inquiry and discovery. With an emergent curriculum such as ours at Alpha’s Discovery Kids, students are empowered learners, and the teacher takes the journey along with her class.
In many cases, children spend a great deal of time in a childcare setting with limited experiences in the world, especially during a pandemic. Planning based on the children’s interests is not effective all on its own. That is why we introduce projects to expand on the child’s learning. As educators of young children, it is our responsibility to empower children and to make them a big part of their own learning. It is important to understand that it does not necessarily matter where the topic originates from, if the direction it takes from inception follows the lead of the children.
One of the ways we do this is by providing and introducing rich, developmentally appropriate materials and new topics and concepts that the children may not be exposed to yet. By providing engaging materials that encourage exploration and creativity, we can provide opportunities that are open¬-ended and through these experiences provoke further interests. The materials can be purposeful, intentional and project based without becoming teacher directed.
We are continually plantings seeds in the minds of the children to inspire curiosity with the goal of teaching the children something new. Our educators have gained confidence in knowing it will take form without direction. A seed cannot stay a seed forever once planted. When cared for with nourishing soil, rays of sunlight, and water, they change shape and start to become whatever it is they were meant to be. We apply similar parallels to our approach to child development and learning. Like all things that grow, plants, trees, flowers, we want them to flourish!
To find out more about our Four Pillars of Learning curriculum, click here.
DIY Sensory Bins – How to Make your Own Sensory Bin
Sensory bins are an amazing educational tool for children to learn about their world using their senses! Young children tend to gravitate toward sensory play as they tend to explore their world with their senses. The benefits of sensory play are numerous. Sensory play helps children to focus, helps them to feel calm and it develops many skills from cognitive to physical to social skills.
Recently, I saw that a local craft store was selling pre-made sensory bins for $25 but you can make your own for a lot less. At Alpha’s Discovery Kids Preschool and Daycare, we make individual sensory bins for each child and change the items in the bins almost every day. Here’s a step-by-step guide to making your own sensory bin.
To make your own sensory bin, you first need to know what it is! A sensory bin is a hands-on sensory experience for kids, in a contained area such as a storage container. It contains many different items that can be explored using your senses.
STEP 1: CHOOSE A CONTAINER
When choosing a container, consider your space and choose something that will fit in your space. The size of the bin will depend on the age of the child, but as a rule, try to find the biggest container that your child can manage. The child should be able to hold the bin and take it from a shelf independently. Plastic clear containers are best with a good lid that seals well. You don’t have to spend a lot on the container as you can usually find them at a dollar store for a few dollars.
STEP 2: CHOOSE THE FILLER
The sensory bin filler is the item that makes the sensory fun. Please note that you can change your filler often – but we recommend at least once per week to make it interesting for your child and keep it clean. Some examples of fillers are: water, sand, rocks, water beads, shredded paper, coloured Epsom salt, play dough, fake grass, fake snow, wooden beads and natural elements (leaves, twigs, soil, seeds). You can also choose food items such as beans, dry pasta and rice but we prefer not to use food items, to minimize food waste. Keep in mind your child’s age and ability when choosing a filler (including potential choking hazards) and ensure that play is always supervised by an adult.
STEP 3: ADD ITEMS
Once you have the filler, the next step is to add items that spark the child’s interest. One of the best parts of sensory bins is all the filling, dumping, pouring and transferring that takes place! When adding items, you are only limited by your own imagination – or your child’s if they choose their own items to add. The items you add will depend on what type of filler – for example, you will have different items if the filler is water vs. wooden beads. Here’s some ideas for items: sifter, sieve, smaller containers, watering can, shovel, buckets, animals, dinosaurs, cars, dolls, spoons, small bowls, rolling pin, cookie shape cutouts, etc. You can also choose a theme for your bin to focus the learning on a specific concept – such as bugs, oceans, or rainbows.
Step 4: HAVE FUN!
The best part of making sensory bins, is getting to enjoy them with your child! We encourage you to play and explore along side your child!
- Rhythm and Rhyme and Early Literacy
Most parents would agree that learning to read is essential for young children. But how do we teach our children to love reading? At Alpha’s Discovery Kids Preschool and Daycare, we think reading and writing are so important that we made Language and Literacy our first pillar of learning in our Four Pillars of Learning curriculum.
Some of our favourite books for toddlers and preschoolers are written by Dr. Seuss. There’s just something about all of those wacky characters, silly rhyming words and colourful familiar stories. It’s always so much fun to invite children into a whimsical place that they will likely want to visit often.
The stories are so simple but are so broadly appreciated by both adults and children. I began to think back to my very first time I read an entire book by myself. In the summer between Grade 1-2, my grandfather gave me a copy of “The Cat in the Hat”. I remember how much I enjoyed the story. I started to flip the pages and wanted to read it again and again, memorized it and began to read it out loud with confidence. Soon after I began playing rhyming games which led to more word exploration with synonyms, antonyms, and homonyms.
The Dr. Seuss books show us that language and literacy can be fun and silly. Many Dr. Seuss books are written with lot of rhythm and rhyming words. Rhythm and Rhyme can help us in many ways. The rhythmic flow can hold the interest of the reader and the audience.
What we especially like about Dr. Seuss books is that his stories are far more than just lovely little springy poems but more of an introduction to language and literacy development. The books offer a bouncy, heavily rhythmic sound which gives the reader and the listener a crash course in early linguistics.
Rhythm is a vital tool for infants to understand when phrases end and begin. It is their first step in learning language and helps them develop a motor pattern. In a similar fashion before you learn to play an instrument you must first develop an understanding of rhythm. In the same way, rhythm helps to teach both language and literacy.
If you would like to learn more about how we teach language and literacy skills and what you can do at home to develop these skills, click on our Youtube video.
Heart-centred yoga for kids
Valentine’s Day is almost here. It’s a great time to stop and think about what love means to each of us. When we ask the children what they love they often tell us “Mommy & Daddy ” and sometimes “cookies”. Another great way to honor Valentine’s Day is by opening our hearts through creative movement.
Although at this time of year, we often focus on loving others, self-love is also important. In fact, it’s often said that you can’t love anyone else until
you love yourself first. Self-love starts with taking care of our bodies, minds and spirits and being healthy.
At Alpha’s Discovery Kids, we are packing our student’s toolboxes with mindful awareness skills through our Four Pillars of Learning curriculum. Yoga poses are a great way to connect to our body, mind and spirit. WE LOVE YOGA and this adorable series of poses really make our hearts skip a beat.
Here’s a poster to assist you with your poses.
REMEMBER It’s called practice because it takes time to learn. As always don’t forget to BREATHE and be safe.
For more lovely kids’ yoga ideas, check out www.kidsyogastories.com
For more information about mindfulness check this out: https://inlpcenter.org/mindfulness-training-experience-the-benefits-in-your-life/
For more information about how we teach mindfulness with young children, check out our Youtube Video.
Imagination – Exercise your Creative Muscle
Imagination is so important – especially during this pandemic – given the many thing we can’t do and would like to do! At Alpha’s Discovery Kids Preschool and Daycare, we foster children’s’ natural curiosity and imagination.
Recently, we did an art/music activity which encouraged children to imagine. We played child-friendly Beatles music and of course the John Lennon song” Imagine”. The children were given oil pastels to trace the outline of the iconic John Lennon scribble face. This was a free and open process but also was a great fine motor activity as the children followed the lines of the original piece. Then, they used dry tissue to rub the paper and blend the colors. The effect was so simple and so beautiful!
One of our curious students asked about the singer John Lennon. The teacher explained that he was an artist who made music and tried to help people to see the world in a beautiful way. He sang about equality, kindness, and a world where there was peace and harmony. We talked about imagining the world to be a better place. We used this as an opportunity to reframe the pandemic through our imaginations. While some of us are simply counting the days until the pandemic to be over, others have chosen to try to imagine and dream of all the things they will do when the pandemic is finally behind us. It’s about using our imagination to look at the world in a positive way – even during a pandemic.
Children are used to looking at things for what they can be, instead of what they are at face value. A cardboard box can be a rocket ship, or a robot costume. We can learn a lot from how children think. As adults, when we experience criticism and feedback, we become less open to playful and creative thinking. And, in turn, we lose our creative freedom. Creativity is a skill you can learn. It is a muscle. The more you use it, the stronger it gets. This pandemic is the perfect opportunity to use that creative muscle and just imagine! It is often in times of constraints, that we become the most creative!
Try this activity with your child and have some fun!.
#1 Think of 2 things you did to survive during the Pandemic with the restrictions in place.
#2 IMAGINE what you will do when restrictions are lifted. There are no limits!
Click on our curriculum page to see more about how we foster curiosity and creativity through our Four Pillars of Learning.
Stuffed with Love – Plush Toy Activity and Food Drive
According to the 2020 Hunger report, food bank use was on the rise pre-COVID -19. With the onset of the pandemic, food banks experienced a surge in demand for food and necessities in communities across the country. As government supports and funding wind down, food bank use is now rapidly increasing. At Alpha Discovery Kids Preschool and Daycare, we understand that families of all tax brackets are struggling to catch up, stay ahead and even keep up. During this special time of year, we want to help, so we have joined “The Compass” in their efforts to gather food items that will be donated to those who really need a helping hand. The Compass is a Food bank and outreach centre located in Port Credit, ½ way between our Oakville and Mississauga centres. Their mission is to provide a place for people to come for help. They offer immediate assistance providing food and living necessities. In addition, they provide practical support, resources, and assistance to individuals with low incomes and or that are facing difficult times and challenges. We have coordinated an event called “Stuffed with Love” where our students will have an opportunity to build and stuff a plush toy called “build a perfect pet” on Dec 17th. We are able to offer these plush toys to our families for no cost thanks to the generous donation of Amber Dinda from Glen Abbey Decor. In addition, during the week of Dec 14-18th we have asked the families to help us stuff & fill something else…. A food donation box. We are accepting non-perishable food items and toiletries, basic needs for living, diapers, feminine products, and pet supplies. Each of our students will bring home a full-sized high-quality plush toy and customized T-shirt as part of the experience. Once they have completed building their “perfect pet” they will take it home with a personalized birth certificate. We are hoping to have a full box of donations from both our Oakville and Mississauga location to be delivered on Dec 21st to The Compass. We know that with all the closures and lockdowns, that these fun events are extra special and mean a lot to our families. It means a lot to us to fill our Alpha’s kids days with meaning and fun activities, but we also want to fill their hearts with opportunities to help others at the same time.
Unique Way to Celebrate Birthdays
Everyone wants to be remembered and cherished on the special day that they were born and young children are no exception.
The Montessori “Celebration of Life” is a lovely way to celebrate a child’s birthday in a daycare or school setting. Children love to hear about the journey from their birth to the present day. They want to hear stories, look at photos, and remember wonderful memories. They want to know how cherished they are, and how our life and world is better because they were born into a family and now
belong to our class/ group or school. The Montessori “Celebration of Life” is a wonderful way to celebrate birthdays at school, whether or not
you follow the Montessori philosophy.
Here’s how it works. For the preparation, the parents of the birthday child are asked to bring in a picture for each year of the child’s life starting
with a newborn photo. For example, if the child is 3 years old, 4 pictures are required – Newborn, 1st year, 2nd year and 3rd year.
All the children make a large circle around the sun that has been placed on the floor. Around the sun are each month of the year from January to December. The teacher then begins to describe the birthday child’s journey as she holds up the first picture. The teacher discusses the milestones and accomplishments that have been achieved over each 12 months for the birthday child. They then sing the song below as they hold a globe and slowly circulate it around the sun and stopping once their hand returns to the current month.
This is repeated for each year the birthday child has been on earth. This process places value on the child’s accomplishments and achievements as they have developed since birth.
(to the tune of The Farmer in the Dell):
The earth goes around the sun,
The earth goes around the sun,
The earth goes around the sun,
It takes 1 year to go around,
Another year is done
Then to complete the celebration the following can be sung to the birthday child (to the tune of Happy Birthday):
We celebrate your birth,
And your place on the Earth,
May the sun, moon, and stars,
Bring you peace where you are!
For more information click here.
National Child Day
November 20th of every year is a significant day for children in many countries of the world. It is National Child Day. This is a day that celebrates two historic events. The first being the signing of the United Nations (UN) Declaration of the Rights of the Child in 1959.
The second being the adoption of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1989. The combination of these two documents officially created, the UN Rights of the Child. By ratifying the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1991, Canada made a commitment to ensure that all children are treated with dignity and respect. This commitment includes the opportunity for children to have a voice, be protected from harm and be provided with their basic needs and every opportunity to reach their full potential.
Recently, we have been teaching the children about being thankful , grateful and honoring others with recent calendar events such as Thanksgiving and Remembrance day. We want to continue to instill these concepts further by extending our students understanding towards empathy and compassion for others through relatable topics. We will do this by discussing the things that make us comfortable and safe. Things like some time and a hug from a loved one, a warm blanket, cozy Pajamas and a nice bedtime story. Here’s a link with some great information about why reading with a child is important.
To celebrate National Child Day this year, we will have the children become active participants in this “Cuddle Up and Read” outreach project by:
• Children will decorate a donation box called “The Helping Hands Bin”.
• Children will place the donated items such as books, blankets and pajamas they have brought in and make a wish for themselves and for other children in need.
• We will celebrate our accomplishments by having a Pajama Party on November 19th
The items will be donated on National Child Day to the Kerr Street Mission. The items will be added to their Christmas Wonders and Beyond program where they provide, toys, gift cards and P.J’s to each participant in the program.
I would like to thank all our families and teachers for their participation and generosity in advance!
Let’s all cuddle up and read!
Halloween 2020 -The Spookiest one yet! TO TRICK-OR-TREAT OR NOT TO TRICK-OR-TREAT?
Holidays help us maintain our sense of rituals and ‘normalcy’ during a not-so normal time, but since March 2020, we have had to find new ways to celebrate holidays, traditions and spec ial occasions. Will blowing out birthday candles or bobbing for apples become a thing of the past? What about trick-or-treating?
As we approach Halloween 2020, there are diverse views on whether trick-or-treating should happen this year. Some argue that cancelling the holiday would be a major economic disruption to a billion-dollar industry in a time when the economy has suffered due to COVID-19. While others ascertain that there are serious risks to health and safety involved in the activity of trick-or-treating that could lead us toward another shut down. Whether you agree with those that want to cancel or not, why not make the best of Halloween 2020 with the spookiest Halloween yet! We will share some fun Halloween ideas for both those that want to trick-or-treat and those that don’t.
For those that want to trick-or-treat, here’s some ideas to enjoy it in a safer way:
- Have children wear masks and gloves and make it a part of their costume.
- Leave baskets of candy on a table in the driveway so kids don’t need to come to the door or ring your doorbell.
- Create individual bags of candy that are easy to hand out. Ensure all candies are have a wrapper.
- Avoid gathering in large groups for trick or treating. Instead, keep the group to 2-4 kids.
- Create a fun atmosphere by decorating the outside of your home.
- If you are still not comfortable going out to a stranger’s home, you can trick-or-treat by going to family or friends’ homes only.
For those that want to explore other Halloween activities:
- Pumpkin carving/decorating contest – involve the whole family to see who can make the scariest/funniest pumpkin.
- Make Halloween play dough. Check our Facebook page for a great pumpkin spice play dough recipe.
- Go on a Halloween candy scavenger hunt! Click on this link to print one. https://heyletsmakestuff.com/printable-halloween-candy-scavenger-hunt/
- Decorate spooky cupcakes with Halloween candy.
- Have a Halloween dance party in your own home.
- Make a Halloween obstacle course. Here’s a link for a great spider lair obstacle course. https://www.chickenbabies.com/2011/10/lair-of-spider-queen.html
- Make a magic potion. Mix ingredients and learn some science too!
- Pumpkin-theme activities. Stay tuned for our next blog with lots of pumpkin-themed activities and ideas.
- Halloween Games – Stay tuned to future blogs this month with more Halloween games and activities.
As you can see, there are lots of ways to make 2020 an amazing Halloween – even if you are not trick-or-treating! We will be enjoying these and many more activities at Alpha’s Discovery Kids Preschool and Daycare! Happy Halloween!
The Importance of the Written Word: Is writing a lost skill?
When was the last time you opened your mailbox to find a beautifully handwritten letter? Probably not in the last week, or even decade. Gone are the days when students had designated writing classes, in which they used workbooks with dotted lines to practise forming the perfect loops for Ls and Ys under the watchful eye of their teacher.
That might not be a good thing.
New research shows that dropping handwriting lessons from schools could negatively impact brain development in children.
In a digital age where we seem to only require keyboard and texting abilities, printing and cursive writing seem to have fallen by the wayside.
Many people might say, “So what’s wrong with that. Everybody types now anyway.”
Well, there is a report written in the New York Times that states that children not only learn to read more quickly when they learn to write by hand but they are also better able to generate ideas and retain information. Psychologists and neuroscientists have discovered a link between handwriting and broader educational development. They say it is far too soon to declare handwriting a relic of the past. New evidence suggests that the links between handwriting and broader educational development run deep. When we write, a unique neural circuit is automatically activated. It seems that this circuit is contributing in unique ways we did not realize.
It’s sparked much debate.
Some believe cursive writing is no longer a necessary skill and wastes valuable teaching time. There are others who believe it’s an essential part of childhood education and a needed skill as an adult.
The key problem is many teens and young adults in 2020 cannot sign their name…
You need to learn to crawl before you can walk !
At Alpha’s Discovery Kids, we believe that learning how to print and write is important. In fact, learning writing skills starts in our Toddler room with the Jolly Phonics program and progresses through our preschool and Kindergarten programs. In the Sr. Preschool-Kindergarten program we have introduced Progressive Printing cards as part of our curriculum.
While this topic has sparked debate, we have been sparking interest. We have incorporated some good old-fashioned printing practice into our emergent based program. We believe that the basic functional skills needed to write starts with a progressive approach to fine motor development and phonics.
Unlike those days when we were forced to sit and print or write letters repetitively, we have a different approach. We make it fun and instill a sense of pride and independence by giving the students the assistance they need to feel empowered to write words, starting with their own name.
We love to see the progression of the written word each day with all our children and build confidence in our students.
For more information about our program, visit our Curriculum page