Sunday, November 11, 2012

Pouring: A Look at Fostering Independence

At Tumbleweeds one of our favorite questions is "How are we fostering independence within our classroom?" We think about how we can foster independence in your child from the moment they arrive to the moment they leave. Perhaps it's having a strong connection and bond with your child so they feel safe to explore. Maybe it's allowing your child to test our their ideas and give them ownership over their own learning. It could be through allowing them to help another child. It also happens during mealtime. Mealtime offers us Tumbleweed teachers a wealth of opportunities to explore and work on fostering independence. The child may have the chance to sit at the table, serve themselves, self-feed, decide when they are done eating or want more, clean up their own area, and many other seemingly small tasks that aid in fostering independence. One such act is pouring from the pitcher into their own glass. Cohort 5 has been working hard to master this particular act over the past few weeks!

Moving towards independently pouring first begins at a very young age. In the infant classroom children are bottle fed. When they have the desire and strength to hold the bottle on their own, they may be encouraged to do so. Once a child sits up on their own we will feed them at a small table with a plate and cup. If there is more than one child sitting up and ready for the table we all sit together for mealtimes if the childrens' schedules allow for this (ie they are all eating at the same time). When we pour into the cup we try to make sure to model the technique that we want the children to one day use for themselves: one hand on the handle and the other supporting the pitcher.

Once all the children are eating two snacks and one meal together we move to a bigger table that accommodates all of us and the teacher begins eating with the children to model serving, pouring, and portion control. The teacher may often talk aloud about their own thoughts and activities at mealtime. This shows the children when the teacher is full, when they want more food, and the actions they take in response to these wants and needs. At this time children are encouraged to begin serving themselves. When children begin to pour is often a personal decision for each teacher. For me, this time came when the children began to show interest as I poured for them. They would all watch carefully as I moved the pitcher to the table. Each child looked on with great curiosity as I poured the first cup of water or milk and didn't take their eyes off the pitcher until the last cup was poured. In my classroom, this meant that we were ready to begin pouring on our own.

In the picture above IS is working on pouring into his cup. I stand behind him and hold on to the pitcher with him- one hand on the handle and the other supporting the weight of the pitcher so the milk does not come rushing out. I relax my grip so he can feel the weight of the pitcher for himself and the tricky balance of getting the milk to come out at just the right speed.

Here HH is pouring into his small mug. Today I let my grip relax quite a bit with HH. He only needs a small amount of help to balance as the pitcher is not very full. Another important mantra here at Tumbleweeds is that we only help as much as is needed. I am mindful of this when I help to pour HH's milk and let him do as much as he feels comfortable with today.

Each child is at a different stop on their journey to self pouring. This is also part of how Tumbleweeds fosters independence. We focus on each child's individual needs and abilities rather than expecting them to master something as a group all at once. We are able to do this effectively due to the relationship we build with each child. When your work with a child is built on the bond you have with them, fostering independence becomes a journey for both you and the child.

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