Sunday, April 28, 2013

Snack outside? Yes please!

The time of year for blue skies, sun screen, and a lack of coats is finally here. We've been spending more and more of our day outside lately and this week even had the chance to eat outside!

We continued our work with measuring and mixing by making muffins. We each took turns adding the ingredients and stirring. Everyone was very excited about the main ingredient: yoghurt!!!!

Then we poured them into the muffin tin and popped them in the oven. Waiting for them to bake required a lot of patience so we had a circle to pass the time.

Once they were done we got our snack bucket ready. Muffins? Check! Water? Check! Towels? Check! Glasses? Check! We got ourselves ready, too, then headed outside. Everyone enjoyed the warm weather... And about two muffins each.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Face Painting with Mud

Yesterday while I was talking to a parent at the end of the day, I turned to see a group of preschoolers putting mud on their faces with sticks. My first thought was, "Oh no, it's the end of the day and they are going to get mud all over their bodies." But then, I looked closer and noticed how meticulous they were being with the sticks and mud. So after checking in with the group about it, I became a curious observer of this process occurring in the warmth of the afternoon sun.

I noticed as the preschoolers took small sticks and held them as they would typically hold a paint brush. They dipped the sticks in a pot of mud and gently touched the end of the sticks to their faces, rubbing slowly and precisely, making patterns by memory.

I then watched as more Preschoolers walked over to the "face painting" area, but were unsure about how to put the mud on their faces. A couple of the preschoolers quickly stepped in with their mudded sticks and carefully spread the mud on their friend's faces.  

It was a joyous moment of togetherness and shared love for becoming someone else as the mud touched their faces.

They ran around the back yard together, moving under the tree to apply more mud. Once their mud faces were complete, they ran to the "Ice Cream Club House" to have a moment of celebration in their shared painted mud face love.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Upwards and Outwards

We are on the move over here in the front room at the Infant House.  Everyone is pulling up, freestanding, crawling and moving quickly! When parents arrive, they are approached with smiles and excited scooting, ending with a hug.  It feels so great to be under their own motivation and their growing strength and skill is constantly evolving.

As they are moving more, the children are starting to interact with each other in new ways too.  One child might pull up on the table to reach an object.  Reaching up with a hand, eyes focused on an object, then grasping the edge of the shelf and tucking knees under.  He works hard, pulling with arms then placing a foot flat on the floor and finally finding his balance and aligning his muscles to be up in a standing position, both hands on the shelf.  The position often relaxes into a belly lean or forearms down on the shelf, so that the child's hands can be available to manipulate an object they were trying to get to.  The thing I am noticing about my group of children, is that often they move into different positions to watch or interact with a friend.  It warms my heart to see this being the motivating factor for their movement.  It shows how close they are, that they are interested in the responses of their peers and that they feel comfortable interacting with these other people in their lives. 

The other day, soon after everyone began having confidence in pulling up to standing, I looked over and all three were standing at the same shelf.   E was looking out the window while Z and H watched each other.  Toys were handled and banged on the shelf.  At one point E lost his balance and plopped on to his bum.  He looked over at me with a touch of concern.  I smiled and nodded.  "You fell.  Would you like to try again?"  We held the eye contact until he smiled and reached for the shelf again.
I'm fascinated by how movement is bringing us even closer together as a group.  As we move, we are more aware of each other, more interested in what is happening, and more motivated and finding ways to be self-intitated learners.  

Building Community

At our last staff meeting we delved into a discussion about how to build communities and connect our two schools more and more. Community is important for all of us at Tumbleweed. One of our most important focuses is encouraging the children in our care to be active participants in their own communities. Why is community so important to us as individuals, though? I've talked a little in previous posts about how all of us have an intrinsic desire for community. We want to feel that we are a part of something larger than ourselves. Seeing how we effect the community we are in and how our contributions grow that community gives us not only personal satisfaction but hope, contentedness, and a sense of great pride. Each individual of a community gains so much when it thrives even just a little.

With the importance of community embraced, how can we build our communities? How can we make them stronger and able to withstand the all too often bumps that come from human interaction? I believe there are numerous ways, but during our staff meeting we came up with a few we felt were vital.

1. Physical Presence

There is nothing more important when building a relationship than presence. Physical presence is especially valuable as it really encourages you to be focused and in the moment with those you are with. There is also something about physical presence that reaches beyond words, attention, or anything else. Simply being with another person allows them to know you care. In our meeting we talked about how seeing each other more often made it easier to remember who we are and how we relate to one another. When building a new community, as we do when new infants join us at Tumbleweed, it helps us to get to know one another and build trust in those who are a part of our community. Presence is the most powerful component for building community for this reason: it is the catalyst to everything else.

2. Trust in Others

Physical presence alone won't build community. We also must trust those that are a part of our community. We have to trust that they see us clearly and value us regardless of any good or bad bump in the road that comes along. We have to know they understand us and want to help us grow and achieve. Without trust, community cannot exist. With the children, we build trust in many ways. We set clear limits and follow through as necessary. We provide a safe environment that allows children to lead the way. We are available and present when children need us, but take a step back when they need time to try on their own. All of this lets them know that they can trust us and that we trust them.

3. Belief in Ourselves

Along with trusting others, though, we must trust ourselves. We have to believe we are capable and active members within our community. We have to clearly see our role and feel confident that we can play our part. Without a trust in ourselves, the community suffers. We retreat from our community and suffer from the loss of something so integral to our own being. In our staff meeting we discussed how important it is to know ourselves well enough to see our own strengths and weaknesses. In the classroom we foster confidence in children by allowing them to fail and succeed outside of us. We encourage them to try when they are ready, give them room to fall, and help them to understand that failure is only temporary. All of this helps them to feel confident in trying and trying and trying again and again. It also helps them to find their own strengths and weaknesses. It aids them in knowing their own person well enough to believe in themselves.

4. Authentic Communication

Authentic communication was a big topic at our staff meeting! We talked a lot about how sometimes when we doubt ourselves it leads to a lack of trust in others. We begin to analyze and internalize everything that is said and every action that is took. We start to notice the negative rather than rejoice in the positive. To avoid this and to get back to where we long to be, authentic communication is key. We must separate our emotional reaction from our needs and express both clearly to those in our communities. Within the classroom we practice this daily. When a child falls they momentarily may doubt themselves and their abilities. They also may distrust us for even one second as they wonder why we would allow them to fall. This is a great time for what we call the "zen state". We breathe in deeply and narrate for the child: "Joan, I notice you fell. You were trying to climb down the steps backwards but your foot got stuck! Before you could move it you slipped down. I can see by your face that it was scary. You are crying and you feel so worried. When you are ready to get up, I'm available for a hug or to check in if that's what you need." We are clear about how the child feels and that we are available to meet their needs, but first we tell them what happened. In this way we honor the child's need for authenticity and a chance to decide for themselves how they want to react. 

More than anything, though, authenticity builds compassion by combining all three of the above elements (presence, trust, and belief). So while presence serves as a catalyst, authenticity is what ties our communities together. I would argue that there are a few more key elements of building a community, but I will save them for my next post. In the meantime, I'd love to hear what you feel is important in building community in the comments! 

Sunday, April 14, 2013

A Family Song

Lately the children have started to show an interest in other people and how they fit within groups outside of our classroom. First, the children spent a lot of time talking about those children who were not present one day. IS would come in and ask me for QM on days that QM didn't come to school. VR would wonder where WG was if he didn't show up at the same time as everyone else. We talked a lot about where our friends were when they weren't at school, including who they were with. This interest became more focused on moms and dads as often when our friends aren't at school that's exactly who they were with.

This interest led me to introduce A Family Song. It's a song I've used with previous cohorts who followed this same path of interest and it's something that this cohort has really enjoyed. They often ask for it when we have circle time now along with their other favorites (aka mostly "Row, Row, Row Your Boat"). The words for the song are as follows:

Jane's mom is Susan
and Jane's dad is John,
Jane's brother is Wally,
and that's Jane's family.

The song can include pets, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and whoever else is important to the child's family. Along with our new song we are working on making family books for each child in the classroom. Families will bring in pictures for each child and I will craft them into a book that is able to be used and handled by the children as any other book in the classroom. We've also introduced dolls, bags, and a doll house into our play! The children have enjoyed beginning to explore these new materials over the past week but next week will be the first week everything is in the classroom all at once. I look forward to seeing how they continue to expand on this interest!


Dandelions are a signal of the arrival of spring at the infant house.  We work hard to control their infiltration all spring and summer, yet they are one of my favorite natural manipulative for children of any age to use. 

We have a general rule at Tumbleweed of not picking, but we do harvest.  Often when we go outside now, I walk around the hard and harvest a bunch of dandelion.  There is something special about their golden blooms that makes me smile, and their vibrant color quickly attracts the children.  We have metal bowls and pans that I place them inside or next to.  My favorite is poking the stems through the holes in a metal pasta strainer.  When the older children come out they focus on this activity as well, but we enjoy just pulling them out, examining them closely and tasting the spring time treasures. 

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Sleep Routine

It's nap time in the front room.  "Time to sleep everyone, " I say in a quiet voice.  "I'm going to get the mats out and put the sheets on.  If you'd like to help you can come over here."  I move to where I stash our floor mats and lay them out in the same exact spot every day.  Then I move to their cubbies, pulling out a fitted sheet and blanket for each child.  Some children have special things they sleep with, so I gather those as well.
As I'm pulling the sheets over the mattresses I begin singing a song.  It is quiet and calm, repeated until I am finished.  I like to include the name of the children.  One of my favorites is Raffi's version of Goodnight Irene, using the childrens' names instead of Irene.  After 6 months of being together, the children are beginning to move towards the mats on their own now, some even laying their heads down as they recognize my repeated cues. 
Once everything is set up and the children either crawl or I place them on their mats, I say the same thing: "Good night.  Sweet dreams.  I'll see you when you wake up."  Then I start our nap music.  I sit within arm's reach of everyone.  Giving them just enough help, yet allowing them to use their own self soothing methods to fall asleep.  Some children want their arm on my leg as they are falling asleep, others do best if my back is towards them, and I have had children who could only fall asleep if I walked out of the room.  It has taken months of practicing this nap routine and learning what is unique about each child for us to get to this point. 
After everyone has fallen asleep I give them space, but make sure to return to be near after they have been asleep for 45 minutes.  The difference in sleeping in a group like us than at home, is if and when they pop their heads up to do a check in, they are easily pulled out of their sleep schedule because things at school are exciting, especially with a sleeping comrade nearby.  I offer just enough to help them sleep for as long as each child needs.  when they are ready, they may crawl off of their mat and play.  As soon as they are ready they can participate in putting their sheets and mats away.