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!
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.
M is for Math
At Alpha’s Discovery Kids we understand the importance of educating children using a wholistic approach. Math is a key component of our STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) program which is the second pillar in the Four Pillars of Learning curriculum.
Math plays a major role in a child’s development and helps children makes sense of the world around them. Children between the age of one to five years old are beginning to explore patterns and shapes, compare sizes and count objects.
Building numeracy skills is one of the first things you will do with your child. Many children learn to count from 1-10 by the age of 3 years old. There are so many opportunities to count with children daily. You can count the cars on the road or the plates at the table or blocks in a tower. The key is to incorporate counting with everyday objects in a hands-on way so that it makes sense to a child and they can visually see the objects being counted. Once they have the concept down, you can start to introduce the actual written numbers so they can associate the concept with the actual number.
Using number concepts and skills to explore their surroundings will enable them to problem solve in the future. It helps them to develop confidence in their ability to think things through and develop a process that makes sense to them.
Problem solving skills can be a difficult concept for many children. Supporting this process without doing it for them can support growth and development. It can assist with a sense of accomplishment. Helping children to create connections to discover various relationships. (e.g. characteristics, size, colour, shapes)
Measurements can include ordering and comparing objects to figure out time, weight, length and graphing. I love to use measurement to teach so many math concepts. Here’s a simple activity you can do with measurement. Take out a measuring tape and measure your hand and your child’s hand. Compare the size of your hand to your child’s and look at the number (size) of your hand vs. your child’s hand. This will help your child to understand bigger numbers and smaller numbers. You can also count the numbers of the measuring tape. You can continue this activity with your feet and other body parts as well as your whole self. It’s a great way to teach numeracy and comparisons of numbers.
Classification can be turned into a fun game that allows children to make like items. You can provide them with a blue, red and black basket. Then lay out multiple objects in the same colours. Ask the children to sort them into their proper baskets by matching the colours.
When you stop and think about it, math is used in many every day tasks performed by young children. Anything they do can be counted and documented.
As you can see, Math does not have to be difficult! It can be fun and easy! To find out more about our Four Pillars of Learning curriculum, click here.
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.
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
Leading up to the days prior to re-opening daycare following the pandemic closure, we all had so many questions and fears of the unknown. As educators, we want to do our best to create an environment that keeps children physically safe and healthy. Parents may have question too because although they may trust their educators and caregivers, the situation is new to all of us. But the question remains for all, how do we provide a safe environment according to the guidelines without creating an institutional feel within the classroom?
What does engagement look like now?
Educators and parents often share many common goals when it comes to children. We all want and strive for their overall health, safety, and well-being both at homes and at school. Considering the pandemic, more emphasis has been placed on physical health for obvious reasons. But now that we have some experience implementing these new health guidelines, we have also gained some confidence to provide a broader sense of well being for each child that extends beyond just the physical well-being.
After months of being house bound with limited interactions with friends, family and the community, children have now returned to daycare. For many children, this may be the only place they go other than their home. This means that the time spent with educators and peers becomes even more precious. These social interactions are critical to the child’s emotional well-being.
Responsive Educators and Peer Interactions
How do we create a warm and inviting environment for children? Firstly, the presence of a sensitive and responsive educator is the most important part. Secondly, the social interactions between peers play a pivotal role in the child’s environment and their own social development. Children can interact with each other throughout the day within a space that has a limited number of children and that allows for physical distancing during higher risk times (such as sleeping and eating times). Children—especially young children—need quality time with their educators and other peers.
We create a safe physical and emotional environment by following routines. Routines are so important to a child’s well being. This is something that most children lacked during their time at home during quarantine. Knowing what comes next creates a sense of ease and familiarity each day and this helps to build a child’s confidence.
Creative Approaches to Engagement
Creative approaches to staying connected are important while remaining cautious and safe. A sure-fire recipe for happiness is keeping children engaged. Children need ample time to engage in play and other joyful learning experiences such as exercise, mindfulness, and regular routines for sleeping and eating. It is essential to both children’s emotional and physical well-being.
Verbal and Non-verbal Communication
As educators, we find moments to use powerful words to acknowledge children. These words can convey affection, compassion, and encouragement. We also use eye contact, smiles, hand gestures, signals, and other forms of non-verbal communications to stay connected with the children.
What we know is that creating a sense of belonging, engagement, well-being, and expression creates a foundation for learning.
Early Childhood Educators – THE Most Important Job in the World
I was once told that being an Early Childhood Educator was THE most important job in the world. I must agree, especially after so many years of seeing the rewards of my hard work. The relationships and bonds you build with the children and families are long lasting and they create an impact for the family and the educator alike. These relationship are often what inspires educators to continue in their chosen field because they feel rewarded and valued. However, this a bold statement to some and not all agree..
It is widely known that Early Childhood Educators are often viewed as “babysitters” and their expertise and knowledge is often undervalued in society. As we engage with children during this pandemic reopening period, I want to remind educators how valuable they are not only to the children and families, but to society in general.
Our Early Childhood Educators put a lot of thought, effort, and genuine passion into their children’s education and well-being each day. This not only has a direct effect on the family but also impacts the economy as well. By simply having child care allows families to work and sustain themselves and their families. Statistics show that parents with a solid support system and quality child care consistently reflect higher levels of productivity in the workplace. During this pandemic, the issue of child care has become paramount as parents and government begin to realize how important it is to a well functioning economy. So perhaps maybe its not as bold of a statement after all?
Studies conducted by Dr. Fraser Mustard, who established the institute of human development, head-start programs and spearheaded the Ontario early years programs, have changed the world or at least changed a few minds. I was fortunate to be able to see him speak in 1999 and was profoundly moved by his research and body of work. Many of his studies helped gain the financial backing and convince government that early childhood intervention and education was crucial to the economy.
He conducted a study that followed two groups of children over a 27-year period. One group had early childhood interventions, parent supports and educational opportunities starting at birth. The other group had less opportunity, advantages, and resources such as early childhood education. This research indicated that the first group not only achieved higher levels of success in their academics, but showed to be in long term committed relationships, and were self sufficient with established careers in their adulthood. The second group showed lower levels of success across the board as well as having significant drains on the economy and social systems.
The 1999 statistics showed that for every dollar directed towards early childhood development resulted in nine dollars saved in tax dollars for public welfare, health care, rehabilitation, and correctional institutional costs.
As you can see, the benefits of the services provided by Early Childhood Educators far exceeds just meeting the basic needs of a child, these educators are changing the world, one child at a time!
For more information about our programs and services click here.