Thursday, May 31, 2012

Clay, Sunshine and the Yard


May has the perfect weather. We spend most of our waking hours at TIH outside, enjoying our changing yard.  The grass in the jungle is growing high and the flowers are blooming.  I moved a stage into the tallest area of the jungle and sat down, my presence enticing the boys into using this part of the yard.  Soon everyone was crawling through the tallest grass becoming tigers and making pathways.

Later we played with clay outside for the first time.  I brought over small chunks and a basket of flowers to see what would happen.  Clay has been our art medium of choice lately and there was much poking and pinching of the soft clay, before they began adding handfuls of rose petals and sticking tall grass and lavender flowers.

Then the preschoolers came to visit us!  The sun was shining and it was so nice to have the yard full of children.  The clay we had used that morning had hardened and so I added new fresh chunks as well as bowls of water.  The instant slickness that happens when adding clay and water encouraged  a clapping, splashing "splaterning" as KC and SC, the brothers, instantly coined it.  GW happily joined in the mix as G looked on, while adding things to the piece he was working on.

TS discovered how she could wrap the delicate petals around her piece of clay and we both took a moment to quietly feel the softness.  JH spent his time feeling the warm water and clay mix and GW banged his block on the table, mimicking how I collect clay and make blocks for the children to use.  Later other children used the clay and it has been so nice to have a stable area outside where some art provocation is always available.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

"Lightning was loud!"

As we were reading one our new favorite books, Dinosaurs Dinosaurs by Byron Barton today we came upon the page which featured a few dinosaurs experiencing a thunderstorm.  This was perfect, because our unique Oregon weather bestowed upon us two nights of thunder and lightning over our long weekend.  I pointed out the lightning bolt and said "Did any of you hear thunder this weekend?  Or maybe see lightning?"  Everyone looked at me with widening eyes.
"It was a loud rumbling outside!  The lightning" expained GW, hurrying to stand up and point out our window.
"Yes!  That was the thunder.  First the lightning came.  Then silence and loud heavy, rumbling thunder!  It was so exciting.  The sky was dark and it was SUCH a loud sound!" As I told the story I looked at everyone's eyes.  This was the first time when we remembered something together that had happened a few days ago and not at school.  T was looking especially nervous as SC talked about the loud.
We looked at the book again, and SC quickly grabbed it away. "Don't touch it!  Don't Touch IT!"  he warned.  GW reached for the book once it was on the floor again, a smile on his face and said "I'm eating the lightning!"  He held the book around his head, while SC tried to pull it free gain.  GH thought this was hillarious and jumped and danced around, "The lightning was loud!"
This story continued on with us through out our day.  We talked of doing a large scale painting of lightning outside after snack with a huge sheet of paper.  "We need red and blue and yellow paint, Briana.  And paintbrushes."
"Big!" T added.
"Small ones" SC and GH agreed.  We made our plan together while we ate, but it was quickly forgotten as we headed outside and there was chalk available.  Very quickly they got to work 'drawing lightning' on the asphalt.

The story of the lightning and thunder followed us the rest of the day, as one child would randomly remember the story, sparking a re-telling.  Moments like this follow us, though this one lasted through our whole day.  It felt good to work through this new thing that everyone experienced.

Monday, May 28, 2012

A Week of Water Play

During our hot week in Portland we enjoyed a week long exploration of water. Yes, I said it, water, in two different size tubs, with various plastic animals and other objects. What I observed was a constant curiosity, which was built on by adding new objects, increasing imaginative play, and testing properties through experimentation.

It began with water, dinosaurs, frogs, and other sea creatures. Then jewels were added.

AK- "Bee, look at the dinosaurs!"

Then pieces of wood were added, and the preschoolers began exploring the properties of the various objects and the water itself.
Does a 2x4 sink or float?


What happens when animals are placed on top of the wood?

 Why do some of the objects float and some of them sink?

TLC- "This is a raft. Look they're sailing!"

What happens when the water  is moved slowly... quickly?                                                          What are the animals made of?

AK- "The back is made of wood and the tail's made of plastic."

What happens when watercolor is added slowly to the water?

IO- "Wow, that's really blue!"

Why does water poured from a higher point make a bigger splash than water poured from a lower point?

SF- "Did you hear that Bee?" (Said as she poured water into the large tub of water)

 Provocations can be simple, yet can become complex through a child's imaginative play, where experimentation occurs and discoveries are made. Through four days of a consistent water play set up, the preschoolers were able to fully explore the properties of the water, the tubs, and the various objects.

They set up a "swim class," made "boats" and a "ship," gave "pillows" for the animals to rest on, and created many other scenarios within each tub of water. This is what provocations are all about... keeping it simple so that children can enjoy the process of creating what they imagine.

"The way a child discovers the world constantly replicates the way science began. You start to notice what's around you, and you get very curious about how things work. How things interrelate. It's as simple as seeing a bug that intrigues you. You want to know where it goes at night; who its friends are; what it eats."
-David Cronenberg

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Saturday, May 26, 2012

Supporting Natural Movement in Infancy

When children learn through their own discovery, they feel the joy of accomplishment, and they are able to feel the reward of their new skills in their own way. Allowing a child the freedom to move in their own way and when they are ready is the core of my interactions with infants. Children learn the most through their own discovery, and this is true since birth. When a child is born, they have instincts which they enlist to support their survival. These instincts never go away and instead become the driving force behind how they move, learn and grow.

When we give an infant the feeling of safety and the space to move freely they are able to discover the movements for themselves in their own way, building basic trust between child and caregiver and self-confidence. For a newborn infant laying on their back on the floor is the most natural position. It is from there that they use their muscles and self-motivation to roll, reach, twist, and explore their body's growing capabilities.
One way to support this discovery is by always laying an infant on their back when placing them on the floor. By doing this, you can give the child a chance to go through the entire range of motions it takes to get to their preferred position, whether it be rolling to their belly, pulling up or moving to a self supported sit. By allowing a child to naturally move to whatever position feels best, their movements build on each other, constantly refining at each step. This is why self-supported sitting is often one of the last things learned by an infant, as it takes a combination of many learned skills, gained through a series of movements.
These natural discoveries of movement are also supported by allowing the infant to do for themselves as much as possible. While it is true that an infant must rely on their caregiver for almost everything, even from birth there are movements which we can allow for them to figure out for themselves, while offering emotional support. This can look like noticing that your newborn is hungry and begins to root for a nipple. Instead of instantly offering the breast, by taking a pause, breathing and allowing that time and space for the infant to find it for themselves, we are supporting our trust that the infant is competent enough to discover the milk for themselves. We know that they are born with a need to survive, and when you take that moment, you can share the moment together. At first there can be much frustration, crying and struggling, but this is the infants way of processing the emotions that go along with learning something new. Soon, their new skills will create a child who is self assured and confident, and this confidence can extend in to all things. 

This moment can also be an awakening for caregivers as well. When you share that moment of discovery, you can feel the joy that the child feels each time they gain a finer mastery of a skill, or when they look at you with that look of pride as they do for themselves. It is a humbling experience, and teaches the adults the benefits of slowing down. Giving time and space as the caregiver of young children, is almost like giving a gift to the children we interact with. It allows them to show us their competence, while also building a self-confidence that is life long. Our role is to provide that safety which a child needs, so they are able to feel confident. When a child feels safe, they are able to fully explore those inborn needs that fuel their movement and curiosities.

Spring at the Infant House

T stirs rainwater with large silver spoons. 
A collection of found objects from the neighboring dumpster:knobs, table, sewing machine

Most loved trucks by Green Toys

Rainy Provocation

The apatosaurus surveys the  strawberries

Lots of Dinosaurs in the yard this year
A "bad guy family" who bikes together

Forgetting to clean up an art provocation mixed with heavy rain

Rose petals fallen on grass.  A favorite manipulative

Bean, pea, squash tee pee in progress.
Sunflower and Gourd volunteers, with planted carrots and corn and peas.

Ribbons and Bells on our front gate.  Very satisfying to crash into with bikes

Monday, May 21, 2012

How can we do it?

We discovered a wagon this morning.  Immediately  it attracted the attention and the boys said,
"Get in it?"  
"A new wagon!"  
"Can me use it?"
"It's heavy!  I'm pulling hard!"

There was much climbing, negotiating space, pushing, pulling.  It was immediately obvious that the trouble was that there was no handle.  "It broke" SC explained to everyone, showing the handle that we eventually found.  Someone had attached a rope to the front and various ways of pulling were tried.   It was very heavy, especially with someone inside, so often the riders were left abandoned.  Everyone took turns being the rider, pusher or puller as they worked on conquering this new toy.

At one point the wagon was really rolling.  SC was pulling T up the hill near the front of the yard.  It went up a bit then SC said, "That make me nervous."  And stopped.  GW quickly came over, "Me get in too!  Go for a ride with T!"  He worked for a while, talking to T and climbing on until he figured out the best way.   SC tried to pull again, but it was "too heavy."

All of this experimentation with each others space and navigating and controlling a large, awkward piece of equipment is right up their alley right now.  The big climbing and rolling draws them in and the challenge and awkwardness pushes them to use their burgeoning problem solving skills.  The biggest trouble with the wagon was that it couldn't be pulled in a straight line, so they quickly realized that pushing worked much better.