Thursday, March 29, 2012

Contageous Play

This morning as I was working on setting up a provocation in our elephant area, I realized that while I was setting up the area I was also really playing!  I have always known that a big part of the reason I have the materials in my room is that they are things that I love and enjoy playing with, just as much as the children.  It's partially my love and joy in the objects that fill our space that infects their own curiosity and imagination.

Once I realized that I was indeed playing, I took a moment to look around at what everyone else was doing.   We had reached a flow for our morning where everyone was in a different area of the classroom, focusing on what they were doing and seemingly oblivious of what each other was doing.  W was at the light table, playing a game of warming up a baby in a box.  T was very seriously building a train track.  SC was putting 'seat belts' on him and his baby and GH was alternating between 'eagle watching' and bouncing off of any soft surface.
As soon as I started watching what the other were doing, they began doing the same thing.  T joined W at the projector and watched her before finding a fluid way of joining in what she was doing.  GH came over to SC and rubbed his back.  The play naturally shifted from focused individual activities, to joining together.  Some children moved on to another activity, while their focus play was taken over by another child.  Some worked together, finding a new avenue of play as the players changed.

Soon, everyone was gathered around the stairs, taking turns sliding down the slide or watching.  There was this sense of contentment as everyone came together after working on their own.  They were very careful of each other's body and space as they each had their own roles. T enjoyed watching through a transparent block as SC perfected his superman slide.  GH was the cheerleader, jumping and laughing around the play.

It's morning like this that exemplify the benefits of free play.  There were not expectations of the children.  We could have been going outside, but seeing this moment where everyone was focused in their play it was impossible to break it.   We respected each other's need subconsciously, but creating a space where our needs are met.  It felt as if this allowance of space and time and freedom spread once it was started and when it was time move on, our play grew together in a very satisfying and natural way.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Sharpies and Toddlers

We tried writing with permanent markers for the first time a few days ago.  It's been a while since I have introduced a new art medium so our first few times were spent exploring these new tools.  When introducing a new technique, medium or tool to the children we take time to get to know the parts and talk about what we notice. 
"These are permanent markers, " I tell the children, introducing them as if they were friends.  "They have special ink inside that makes a strong line.  We have to treat them extra specially and just use them on paper."  I hold up the pen so everyone can see.  "Here is the cap.  It pops off.  Put it on the back so we remember where it is.  You can hold the white part, here." I point to the middle then point to the felt tip, "This is where the ink comes out so try to not touch it."  I write a bit on the paper, moving the marker back and forth.
"Ok, now it's your turn!"  Everyone gets a marker and the first few minutes are just child and pen, opening and closing, figuring out the mechanics, the feel and the smooth plastic casing, and testing out the tip on a piece of dark blue paper.

"Look, dots!" GW says.  
"Don't touch it, just put the lid here!" warns SW
"It's a 'W'." says GH
"Mooon!" says T
"Mama!  Gamma Cacky!  Papa! Kai!" says SC

Our first exploration started out by the elephants joining us at the table.  We had been talking about the different parts of the elephants and I talked about the long, curved lines that make up their back, tusks, trunk and legs.  We took some time feeling each of the pachyderms before using the markers.  Then the elephant family made a home at the middle of the table while we drew.  

The next day we talked about all the different types of lines we could make by holding the marker at different angles or pressing light or hard.  Everyone was very interested in the bold lines that are unique to these markers.  Almost everyone used both sides of their paper.  
Adding this tool to our repertoire will enhance our observation of our world and find a new way to tell its stories.  By beginning our knowledge of this medium the boys are able to create a natural mastery, which can be later applied intentionally as they utilize their skill.

Monday, March 26, 2012


I've blogged before about basic trust in the child as an initiator. This is one of the main ideas behind the RIE approach, but it's definitely not the only one. Another focus of RIE is encouraging the freedom to explore and interact with other infants. This is something that has become more of a focus in the classroom lately. We have begun to lock eyes with one another more often, to smile at one another more often, and sometimes we even play with the same toy together. For instance, this morning at drop off AS knocked over our stacking tower and both she and LC began to explore the separate pieces of the tower together. 

There is a lot of importance in these interactions. It helps the children along their journey to become authentic individuals. Interaction fosters awareness, cooperation, attentiveness, and many more traits. The freedom to explore promotes confidence, curiosity, and self-directed behaviors. All of these traits help a child to have exactly what RIE strives to see: "an authentic sense of self and lays a foundation for secure relationships, enduring curiosity, and lasting self-confidence" (Resources for Infant Educarers).

The way that we interact together will change over time as we change, but the freedom we have to explore will remain consistent. At Tumbleweeds this freedom to explore is very ingrained in what we do. It's the backbone for how our classrooms are set up, how we approach the children, and how we build curriculum. Even at our preschool house there is still time that is very much want nothing time. Want nothing" time is just being- as I mentioned in a previous post. It's a time where you can be with a child without anything needing to happen. No diapers to be changed, no meals to be enjoyed, no where to go, no reason to do anything in particular. This time is important for children as it build confidence in themselves and helps them to feel noticed and seen by you or their caregiver.

For more on RIE please visit the RIE website at:

For one childcare provider's view on want nothing time please visit:

Sunday, March 25, 2012

A Glimpse of the Yard

Our yard is transformed in the rain and snow and wind that March has brought us.

Bikes are  ridden everywhere and everyone has their favorites.

Rain gear is all the fashion.  Staying dry and warm extends our time outside, giving us a chance to extend our explorations and focused play.
Then there is the puddles.  There is one especially satisfying one that has a thick layer of mud at the bottom.  It is perfect to drive a bike through or splash with a stick.  The mud around the edges are hard to to leave alone and grabbing and squeezing and feeling the ooze is completely satisfying.

There are moments alone.

And moments together.


Red cabbage Juice- Part 2

After our first day of experimenting with red cabbage juice and various substances the preschoolers wanted to choose new substances to mix with the cabbage juice. They were curious about what substances were acidic and which ones were basic. They made guesses as to what color the red cabbage juice would change to when various substances were mixed with it. 

Half of the preschoolers were outside, while the other half chose substances by looking in the bathroom and the kitchen.

These are the substances that we decided upon:
Mouth Wash
Dish Soap
Laundry Detergent
Toy and all around Disinfectant

As soon as all of the preschoolers gathered around the canvas on the ground, we had the preschoolers that had been outside guess what substances we chose. A few of the substances were passed around the circle so that each preschooler could get a closer look and smell them.

They quickly guessed the toothpaste and they also guessed the shampoo.

We were then ready to begin the experiment!

There were many guesses about what colors would appear in each jar when the cabbage juice was added to them.

What we ended up noticing is that most of the substances were fairly neutral. The disinfectant had the most extreme color change when mixed with the cabbage juice. It turned red, so we concluded that it is an "acid!" Most of the other ingredients were slightly basic.

Once we were finished adding red cabbage juice to each substance, the preschoolers wanted to do some more experimenting with mixing the various substances together. I added the substances, one at a time to the yogurt and cabbage juice mixture. We noticed that the mixture turned a lilac color, but unlike the day before, there were no bubbles, no fizz, no explosion of chemicals reacting together.
The preschoolers immediately remembered what substances caused the reaction the day before. A couple of them quickly exclaimed, "Add baking soda!"
 "Add lemon juice!"
 "Add vinegar!"
So, I went to get those three substances, and I added each substance, alternating between an acid and a base. This time, just like the day before, bubbles formed quickly, rising higher with each addition of vinegar, baking soda, and lemon juice.

We noticed the fizz that rose up out of the liquid was a light pink color, until more baking soda was added. The bubbles settled a bit back into the jar, changing to a light blue, which stemmed from the darker blue liquid at the bottom of the jar.

 Exploring through experimentation provides a new way for the preschoolers to learn about science and about various substances. Through experimenting with red cabbage juice and common household substances, we learned about pH, explored colors and color mixing, and discovered exciting chemical reactions. The preschoolers asked questions and proposed hypotheses, we tested those hypotheses, and made new hypotheses about different substances based on what we learned during the first experiment. We conducted a scientific experiment!

A few days later, we observed part of our experiment in action while doing something we love... baking!

While making homemade raisin bread, we noticed something happen when we added lemon juice to the rest of the already mixed ingredients... fizzy bubbles!

We remembered back to our experiment, talking about what was happening to the batter when the lemon juice was added. A couple of the preschoolers remembered that we added baking soda to the batter. They observed that the same chemical reaction we saw in our experiment was currently happening with our bread batter.


Science is in everything we do!!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Light and Shadows

This last week we have welcomed the new addition of an overhead projector into our classroom.  Though I have limited experience with using art as a free play or art medium, I have see the magic the occurs when the bright light is reflected onto the wall.

Something happens when light is used as a play surface or as something which children can manipulate.  The boys are fully interested in becoming masters over their world and were very excited when I first offered the projector.  I had closed all of the curtains and turned off the light then raised the arm on the machine.  The hum from the fan and the contrast between the light and dark areas created quite a stir.  Every afternoon we have experimented with what kinds of things we can do with materials we already use in our classroom.

Designs with different textures were created.  Patterns and color explorations.  They seemed especially interested in how things changed once placed on the top of the projector.  Small, round lids seemed to glow as the light passed partially through the plastic and jars and cups became like magic as the glass bent the light.

We tried out the transparent, colored blocks first and it took a bit of work from me to notice the correlation between what we put on the projector to what  appeared behind them on the wall.  Willa put a few blocks together and it became a train station.  Chairs were lined up along the wall by SW to make a train.  SC decided to see what would happen when one of our dollhouse figures was added and it's shadow was imposed on the train.  Everyone thought that was hilarious!

Another day our favorite brass elephant found it's home on the glass plate of the projector.  We worked on noticing the different shadows that can be cast by something on the projector.  The elephant didn't look like much when it was standing on it's feet, but laying on its side made a large elephant shadow on the wall!  Everyone enjoyed pointing out the different body parts that we had been talking about earlier.  Tusks and trunks are especially interesting to us, especially in the ways that elephants use them as communication tools.  They also pointed out the other parts of the elephant's body spontaneously, and seemed more motivated by having the large shadow on the wall.  Soon everyone was stomp dancing in the light next to and with the elephant.

The projector has added an element to our play and has enhanced our current interests and spurred new ideas.  I look forward to seeing how they will use light and shadow in the future as we continue our exploration of this new medium