The Importance of Dough

dough

Dough is one of the quintessential tools of play for an early childhood educator.  It is useful for children from very young ages and it came be offered to all, right through to school-aged children.  It has sensory applications, as children experiment with the texture of the dough.  It can be therapeutic in nature, providing practise of fine-motor skills (prodding, poking, stretching, twisting), that are so important for later pencil-control.  It is also the best medium to practise cutting with scissors.  It also allows for creative expression, as children create eggs, nests, crocodiles, biscuits or pizzas. Leading on from that point, it is a great material to encourage social play as the children work together to make sausage rolls and doughnuts to sell at their bakery. 

Here’s the link to a really good website to give some ideas for your dough play at home: http://artfulparent.com/2012/02/39-ideas-for-playing-with-playdough.html

Uncooked Playdough
2 cups plain flour
4 tablespoons cream of tartar
2 tablespoons cooking oil
1 cup cooking salt
2 cups boiling water (with colour added)
Mix all ingredients together until dough forms.  Knead until smooth, adding flour if needed.  

Sand Playdough
4 cups clean sand
3 cups plain flour
¼ cup oil
1 cup water (with colour added) 
Mix all ingredients together until dough forms.  Knead until smooth, adding flour if needed.  

More great dough recipes can be found on this useful website: http://fun.familyeducation.com/sculpting/recipes/37040.html

Sustainability and Preschool Children

‘It will be a wasteland if we don’t recycle’—Sustainability and intentional teaching in early childhood

  

‘It will be a wasteland if we don’t recycle,’ stated a four-year-old child in a recent preschool study (Edwards & Cutter-Mackenzie, 2011), as he carefully searched for the triangle on the bottom of a plastic bottle and sorted it into the recycling bin. ‘It’s got a triangle five, woohoo!’ he exclaimed.

Young children in many early childhood settings around the world are demonstrating awareness of their impact on the environment and ways to minimise it. A five-year-old in Ireland reportedly explained to an international research group that sustainability means ‘to save the world for later’ (OMEP Congress, Sweden, 2010), yet many adults still grapple with sustainability terms and practices and whether we should be teaching this sort of content to young children (Cutter-Mackenzie & Edwards, 2006).

As we near the end of the United Nations Decade for Sustainability 2005–14, it is encouraging to note the marked increase in sustainability initiatives within the early childhood profession on a local, national and global scale. Long-time advocate for early childhood education for sustainability, Sue Elliott, appeals for early childhood practitioners to incorporate children’s learning towards sustainable living as an ‘essential element of early childhood teaching’ (Elliott, 2010, p. 34). In an earlier publication, Elliott and Davis (2004) declared that early childhood educators have a ‘powerful window of opportunity … to play an active and significant role’ (p. 4) in assisting young children and families to understand sustainability issues, concepts and practices.

To investigate this further, researchers Edwards and Cutter-Mackenzie (2011) implemented a study through an Australian Research Council Discovery Grant, working with a number of early childhood educators and children using different modes of teaching and learning about sustainability concepts.

For the purpose of the study, this teacher decided to set up a recycling experience for children, sorting items for the recycling bin, the rubbish bin or the worm farm bucket. The children were offered this activity three times. First, they had a ‘modelled play’ scenario, where the teacher demonstrated how to recycle, including looking for triangles under the plastic objects, using the tongs and investigating the laminated triangle chart. The following time, the children were given ‘an open-ended play’ experience with the same rubbish materials, but with the teacher standing aside to allow the children to problem solve. The third time was in a ‘purposeful play’ mode—connected with ideas about intentional teaching—with more interaction and discussion between the teacher and the children, and more resources on hand to explore concepts further.

The children were filmed during all of these experiences, and then filmed again while watching themselves on video (each time with child and parental consent), with the researchers asking the children what they thought they were doing whilst recycling. It was intriguing to hear the children talk about how they considered they were ‘working’ when they were recycling, whereas playing was ‘running around and doing stuff’. The children enjoyed the different modes of teaching and learning, for example, ‘when [the teacher] taught them how to do it’ as well as just ‘doing it on their own’.

At the conclusion of the study, the teacher said she was surprised with the amount of interest and intense engagement the children displayed in these recycling sessions. She said she felt as if she and the children were ‘on a mission’ to complete the recycling project. This was further reinforced by the children commenting that they were not ‘playing but working’ on a meaningful ‘important job’. The teacher also felt increased confidence in how to approach science and sustainability in her teaching, and planned to continue with this method of combining open-ended and modelled teacher activity to form purposeful play. Purposeful play helped her to have conversations with children that supported intentional teaching about sustainable concepts in practice. She was especially encouraged by the positive reaction of both the children and their families in this recycling trial. For example, parents said, ‘It’s part of life and it’s really important for children to learn that’.

This study of how to approach teaching and learning about sustainability through different modes of play highlights how capable young children are in understanding complex concepts (Edwards & Cutter-Mackenzie, 2011). Thinking about intentional teaching and sustainability might mean considering the importance and value children might attach to what they see as work and play. It also might involve thinking about how different types of play and teacher engagement can be blended to support children’s learning in this area.

Excerpt from www.earlychildhoodaustralia.org.au/our-publications/every-child-magazine/every-child-index/every-child-vol-18-3-2012/sustainability-intentional-teaching-early-childhood-free-article/

Mud Month

International Mud Month happens in June and is a global movement which aims to encourage children and early childhood professionals to celebrate nature by getting outdoors to play in glorious gooey mud.

According to the World Forum for Early Childhood Care and Education an ever increasing number of children and early childhood providers participate in International Mud Month each year and use the day as an opportunity to get down and dirty in one of nature's finest toys.

International Mud Day traces its origins to the 2009 World Forum for Early Childhood Care and Education in Belfast, where two members of the Nature Action Collaborative for Children, Gillian McAuliffe from Western Australia and Bishnu Bhatta from Nepal discussed the challenges children faced when playing in mud in each other's context.

Gillian reflected on the lack of mud in dry Perth and also the reluctance of the culture to 'get dirty.' Bishnu on the other hand had lots of mud but many children did not have enough clothes to be able to get them dirty or soap to wash them.

On her return to Australia, Gillian who is the Director of Teaching and Learning at Bold Park Community School, told this story to a group of seven and eight year olds. The Bold Park children decided they could send clothes to the children in Nepal so that they could play in the mud.

Since then the two groups have celebrated a very special bond and played in the mud together, although in different countries.

Fast forward to 2015 and International Mud Day has grown into International Mud Month to enable more early childhood services to participate and to offer a greater number of children the opportunity to connect with nature through the sensory experience of playing with mud.

Given that International Mud Month happens in Winter in Australia there is usually plenty of mud around which makes it easy to schedule outdoor activities, but indoor activities could include creating a mud kitchen, mud paintings and mud sculpture. The most important thing is to advise the parents in your service so they dress their child in old clothes.

In addition to enhancing a child's bond with the outside world, muddy play offers children many learning opportunities including creativity and the opportunity to practice their fine motor skills. Children can be scientists, chefs, engineers, gardeners and artists when working in the non-judgmental medium of mud and an added bonus is that it is free!

For more information on International Mud Month:
http://www.worldforumfoundation.org/mud-day-for-nepal/

 

For a whole stack of wonderful muddy ideas simply plug early childhood and muddy play into Google and you receive a wealth of inspiration.

Getting Healthy

healthy

We have recently started our Fundamental Movement Sessions each day. If this is new to you, it is related to the “Munch & Move” Program.  “Munch & Move is NSW Health initiative that supports the healthy development of children birth to 5 years by promoting physical activity, healthy eating and reduced small screen time (e.g. watching TV or DVDs, playing on computers and small hand-held games devices).” https://www.healthykids.nsw.gov.au/campaigns-programs/about-munch-move.aspx

There are five key messages from this program:

  • Choose water as a drink
  • Eat more fruit and vegetables
  • Choose healthier snacks
  • Get active each day
  • Turn off the television and computer and get active

Within our Fundamental Movement Sessions, we are focusing on getting active with the children, whilst exposing them to the fundamental movement skills.  These skills are mentioned in the PDHPE curriculum across the Primary School years: “students need to master certain fundamental movement skills if they are to enjoy the wide range of physical activities, sports and recreational pursuits offered in our communities”.  

We are aware that planning for physical activity at the Preschool needs to be made up of both structured (i.e. intentionally taught) physical activity and unstructured, spontaneous activity.  In addition, we as active role models, educators can encourage children to participate in physical activity. 

Fundamental Movement Skills are categorised as locomotor, stability and manipulative:

Locomotor skills are movements that transport the body from one place to another – running, jumping, galloping, leaping, hopping and side-sliding.

Manipulative skills are movements that involve giving/receiving force to/from object – catching, underarm rolling, dribbling, striking, kicking and throwing.

Stability skills are movements where the body remains in place, but moves around its horizontal and vertical axis – balancing, stretching and twisting.

These daily sessions involve warm up and cool down exercises, as well as breaking into teams to move around the planned activities, attempting at least two each day.  Aside from the benefits to physical development, these sessions are great fun!

Anzac Biscuits

At the beginning of the term, with the knowledge that Anzac Day was coming up, we decided to have a display in the outdoor environment.  We had some army clothes, a ration pack & some books about Anzac Day.  This is a very difficult topic to cover with young children, but Anzac biscuits are an easy starting point.  Many children joined with me to make the mixture, adding each ingredient in turn.  The children rolled each biscuit &, after baking them, we enjoyed them after lunch.  Here’s our recipe:

PREP TIME: 20min
COOKING TIME: 20min
INGREDIENTS LIST: 9 ITEMS
LEVEL OF DIFFICULTY: EASY
MAKES: 26 biscuits

Ingredients

  • 150g (1 cup) plain flour
  •  90g (1 cup) rolled oats (see Notes)
  • 85g (1 cup) desiccated coconut
  • 100g (1/2 cup, firmly packed) brown sugar
  • 55g (1/4 cup) caster sugar
  • 125g butter
  • 2 tablespoons golden syrup
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

Method

  1.  Preheat oven to 160°C. Line 2 baking trays with non-stick baking paper.
  2. Combine flour, oats, coconut and combined sugar in a large bowl.
  3. Stir the butter, golden syrup and water in a small saucepan over medium heat until the butter melts and the mixture is smooth. Stir in the bicarbonate of soda. Add to the oat mixture and stir until well combined.
  4. Roll level tablespoonfuls of the oat mixture into balls and place, about 5cm apart, on the prepared trays. Flatten until about 1cm thick. Bake, swapping trays halfway through cooking, for 15 minutes or until light golden. Set aside for 10 minutes to cool slightly before transferring to wire racks to cool completely.

Notes:

Shopping tip:
Make sure you buy whole rolled oats - if you use instant oats, the mixture will spread too much and your biscuits will be flat.

Make them your way:
Soft and chewy: Omit the brown sugar and increase the caster sugar to 155g (3/4 cup).
Dark and crunchy: Omit caster sugar. Increase the brown sugar to 155g (3/4 cup, firmly packed). Bake for 18 minutes.
Thin and crispy: Omit the caster sugar. Increase the brown sugar to 200g (1 cup). Reduce the flour to 115g (3/4 cup).

http://www.taste.com.au/recipes/32957/anzac+biscuits

Separation Anxiety

Considering that we are still in the first half of the year, I thought we would start by talking about settling your child into preschool and how the first few weeks of preschool can sometimes be a difficult period.  It’s difficult for the Preschooler, the family (especially the one dropping off) and us, as the educators at Preschool. We all feel terrible when a child is upset about coming to Preschool or when they get upset on arrival.  However separation anxiety is a natural process for any child.

It is normal for children to sometimes feel anxious or insecure when separated from their parents or other important caregivers. Usually, such separation anxiety fades as they grow up and become more confident. http://www.anxietybc.com/parent/separation.php

Once we have come to terms with the fact that separation anxiety is a normal part of early childhood development, next we need a plan to cope with it.  Communication between families and educators is an important part of an action plan.  Our educators have a vast amount of experience in helping children to settle in the preschool setting, please talk to us about your concerns and we will work together to think of some strategies that work for you and your child.  Helpful strategies include:

  • A transitional object – teddy, favourite book or a special blanket
  • Displaying a photo of your family in the sign-in area
  • Talking about Preschool in a positive way at home, raising it as a point of discussion frequently throughout the week
  • Reward system to reinforce ‘tear-free starts’
  • Creating a visual schedule
  • Sharing a social story about ‘happy arrivals’
  • Building relationships with educators

An important part of addressing separation anxiety is about building resilience in your child – encourage your child to believe that they are safe at Preschool and that educators are there to help.  Building resilience also relies on the child having a belief in self & his/her own ability to cope. 

In attachment theory, we talk about the fact that we all need someone bigger, stronger, wiser and kind to help us through a difficult time.  We are here for you and your child to be that someone!

Early Childhood Australia has a very helpful article on separation anxiety, with links to factsheets & other sites. Check it out: http://www.earlychildhoodaustralia.org.au/parent-resources/separation-anxiety/

We would love to hear stories of how your child is settling into preschool and any tips/ideas you found useful in supporting your child.