Saturday, June 27, 2015

Toddler Negotiations

Two toddlers are playing together with a set of blocks.  At first, they are both working with their own pieces. Then one child reaches over and grabs one block away from the other.  The child who had the blog screams and begins to cry.  This is a wonderful opportunity to practice negotiating skills.

Remain Calm
While both children are having strong emotional reactions to the toy grabbing that just happened, the best gift we can give to the children is to remain calm.  By providing a calm space, their emotions are the forefront.  Watch for a moment to see what reaction the children might have.  In some cases, the toy grabbing works.  Sometimes, this is the most difficult for our adult rationalization of fairness.  For toddlers this is less the case, and often each party simply continues with what they were doing.  If there is a strong feeling of wanting to keep a toy, calmly hold it between the two children.

Say What Is True
"You both really wanted the toy!  First you grabbed it, then they held tightly."  When you focus on what is happening with a calm, even tone, the children's attention is on the facts.  

Model Language
"When they are touching it they are using it."  For toddlers the idea of physical touch meaning possession is a simple, concrete idea.  
"Can I have it?"  Invite a child to hold their hand out, palm up, and ask this question.  The important part is to wait for an answer.  Sometimes, a child needs an prompt that they can say Yes or No.  By inviting an exchange between children, they learn that what the feel and say or want or need matters.  This idea can continue through many topics and will evolve as their communication skills grow.  We are introducing the basic concepts of listening, waiting for an answer and responding
"I'm using it." When a child wants to keep a toy they are using, they can say this phrase.  It tells the other child that it is not available.  They can try to find a way to get the toy in a safe way. 

Toddlers will find every way that they can to practice these concepts.  They are searching to find ways to orient to the world around them, and they are curious if things are true and the same in various situations.  This means that the more consistent we follow this model, the more normalcy they will experience.  When a toddler experiences order, they feel safe, respected and trusted, which allows for them to feel free to be creative, explore and imagine. 

Friday, June 26, 2015

Physics at the Infant House

On a sunny afternoon this past week, I observed several of the children spontaneously revisiting some experimenting we've done in the past with a long, black tube and various small objects that can fit inside.  Earlier that day, a couple of the children had worked to drag the tube out onto the pavement before moving on to other activities.  After our picnic, I noticed LC and LT collecting small cars and racing over to the tube, which LC propped up on a few steps.

"I will hold it at the top and you can hold it at the bottom." LC

"I wanna put it in!" LT says as she races over to the end LC is holding up with her tiny car at the ready.  They agree to help each other hold the tube as LC places the car inside.

AJ notices their work and immediately stands at the other end of the tube: "It's comin' out! Comin' out!" she shouts gleefully as she receives the car on the other end.  The children negotiate turn-taking so that all three of them are able to fulfill each of the roles in their experiment -- holding the tube, putting the car in, and waiting for the car at the other end.  When LT runs to go get the car she put in, she makes sure to collect everyone else's cars too, and brings them back to the group to pass them out.

Their experimentation happily continues, filled with negotiating, excitement, encouragement, and observations.  They alternate holding the tube just a little bit off the ground and sometimes as far as they can reach off the ground.  Sometimes the tube slides down the steps and lays flat on the pavement.  They notice that this doesn't seem to work for getting the car to come out the other end.  They quickly readjust the tube so that it's at an incline.

"This is a little slide that..."  LC

"It's comin' out! Oh... I can't see it!" AJ

"I'm gonna put this in after I raise it!" LC

"Put it from the bottom!" LT

At this point, LP and MH have finished eating in the backyard and make their way over to the steps where the work is taking place.  "What you guys doin'?" LP asks, and moves close to the tube to observe.  MH and LP sometimes touch the tube, and eventually each of them collect a car for themselves.  "I want a turn!" MH exclaims.  He moves to the high end of the tube.  LC and LT initially protest, as they are in the middle of dropping a car in already.  MH pauses to let them finish and then reiterates his request.  Everyone makes space for MH to try.  LP continues to observe.

Eventually the children who initially started this work move on to the exciting water play happening across the pavement.  LP takes the opportunity to investigate the tube more closely.  She picks it up from either end, rolls it a bit, and eventually puts a car through.  She pauses for a moment before picking up a piece of chalk and attempting to put that through.  It takes some work of raising the tube as high as she can, but it comes out!  LP smiles quietly and then asks me where the watering can is.  We search the yard and find it.  LP brings it to the big tub of water and fills it up before heading back to the tube, which is being held by another child so one end is off the ground.  LP walks up to the high end and pours water through the tube before moving on.

I felt so much joy as I observed the children that afternoon.  With no intervention from me, they calmly and clearly negotiated roles and turns during an exciting series of experiments they devised completely of their own accord.  They cheered each other on, suggested alternatives when it wasn't working as they'd anticipated, and made sure that everyone had access to the materials they needed.  When others joined, they felt confident asking for a turn or observing, each as they saw fit.  When the tube was totally available, LP expanded on the work she had observed by introducing new materials, clearly satisfied by having the chance to explore this activity with plenty of space.

This is one of the many beautiful moments of free play that we are so fortunate to observe everyday at the Infant House.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Workshop Begins

In the workshop we have been working on deconstructing an electronic keyboard and CD player.  It takes a great amount of focus and slow movements to align screwdrivers and screws and figure out how each piece can be taken off.
One of the best parts of this work has been the parts.  They have become integral parts in our imaginative.  The buttons from the keyboard have been money, candy, or keys.  Plastic parts of the keyboard have become eyeglasses and rocket ships.  The children collaborate to find new ways to put the pieces together in new ways as play evolves. 
What began as an investigation in the way things work, has become an impetus that has enhanced our storytelling and curiousity about the world around us.  Our questions wondering about the deconstruction:
"I wonder where this piece came from?"
"Why does the screw hold the pieces together?"
"Will we ever be able to get this apart?"
Have become imaginative explorations and storylines:
"Wait!  You need to come over here and be the rocket driver with me.  When this long piece goes up, then it is the computer which can fly the rocket ship."
"I am counting how many moneys I need before I buy more ice cream: one, five, six, nine, ten."
"Someday, once I am really good at being a screwdriver, I can maybe work on a car."

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Problem Solving through Brainstorming

Outside today V and H discovered a pit used in our sand box had become stuck in another pot! While still in the sand box, they turned the pot over and tried to shake it out. It wouldn't budge. Then they found a stick and hit the pot. Still it remained steadfastly intact. They glared at the pot for a moment then shouted, "We need to fix this!"
H immediately had an idea about how to proceed, "We need somewhere to work!" V agreed and they begun collecting materials from around the yard. They set up shop by our bamboo bush- placing sticks around to partition off space. 

V looked at H, "We need tools!" Again they set off around the yard. They collected a spoon, an ice cream scoop, and a few smaller sticks. With tools in hand they descended upon their task again. 
They worked for a while and talked as they worked. What if we tried this tool? What if we turned it upside down? Can we pull it out? What happens if we use this stick? What if we hit it on the stage? They also tried simply telling the pot to get out.

They didn't succeed in separating the pots before it was time to head back inside but it didn't matter. Their work was about brainstorming ways to fix the problem. Not once did they stop or ask for help. Whenever I approached them they simply updated me on what hadn't worked so far. They were perfectly content to think, to wonder, to investigate... To problem solve with every fiber of their being.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Ice is Water!

We are experiencing a hot spell during the beginning of June this year.  During these 90 degree days, we get the experience the changing state of materials that we know well.  Today we are playing with water and small bowls of ice.

When AK first saw me bring out the small bowls he pointed and said, "Wah-wah!"
We agreed that it is water, but it feels a bit different.

"Cold! Ooh!" Said G, as he picked up the slippery chunk with his hands and the bowl.

T worked hard to pick up the chunk near him, but it kept moving and sliding just as he got his fingers around it.

J enjoyed splashing in the larger tub of water that I also provided, and was surprised when he pulled up on the edge and the tub dumped onto his body!  At first he was unsure, then happily splashed in the cool water.

The children continued to explore the different textures and temperatures of the air outside, the cold ice and the cool water.  By offering these opportunities the children now have a deeper understanding of temperature, water and ice!  What a fun way to keep cool on a hot, sunny day.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Giving Trust and Taking Risks

One of the RIE basic principles is to create an environment for children that is safe, challenging, and nurturing.  As the children of Cohort 7+9 continue to gain confidence and ability in their two-year-old toddler bodies, I have been thinking a lot about the physical challenges they seek out and create for themselves.
Recently, the rope swings that hang down from our giant tree in our yard have become a huge source of interest.  For months, when we took the ropes down they were used for big, unpredictable games of pass.  We watched older siblings come out into the yard and swing on them.  We have been feeling the physical weight of the rope in our hands - coming to understand its character and what it can do.  

Then, one day a few weeks ago, AJ approached the rope, grabbed it up high, and jumped, lifting her knees up high.  She looked at Elizabeth and me with pride and joy and came running over to describe what had happened, "I hold on tight and pick my knees up and WHEE!"  AJ ran back to the rope swing and swung, again and again, all the while smiling with pride and accomplishment.  Soon, she was gathering her friends from around the yard, showing them what she could do and giving them tips on how they, too, could join in the magic.

A rope swing is a good example of the physical confidence and joy of movement that can come when we trust children to construct their own challenges in their own way.  AJ was ready for that kind of challenge.  She had researched by feeling the rope swing, by watching other children swing, and by feeling her own strength in other activities.  She had a clear idea about what she wanted to try, and while lifting her legs up and swinging must have still taken a leap of faith, at that point she had had the time to assess the challenge and her own abilities, and she had an understanding of the risk she was taking.

Dew Drops: Observing Nature

It rained this weekend. It felt refreshing to see how the rain changed our yard as we explored outside. Plants had seen such growth! Flowers seemed extra perky. The grass was just a tad more green. Oh... And there were dew drops.

As a child I loved dew drops. I would collect the rain that pooled on petals and leaves in jars and keep them on my shelf- dating the jar by the day I collected it. At Tumbleweed I often have the chance to share this love with the children. Today as CE and I discussed the rain fall and the changes in our garden, I noticed the dew drops on the smoke tree near us.

Melinda: Oh! Look at our smoke tree. Do you notice anything?
CE: Hey! The rain is on these leaves!
Melinda: I like to call those dew drops. Sometimes overnight water condenses and makes them. Other times rain catches on a petal or a leaf! I love how they look like bubbles.
CE: Oh, Melinda. The fairies made those!

We were both quiet as we studied the dew drops. Then CE asked, "Can we search for more?" I exuberantly agreed and we began looking to see where other drops had formed. We found them on the hula hoops ("You can see the colors through them! They are so colorful!"), on our bamboo ("These ones fall off if we shake it!"), and in so many other places. Before long, our duo had attracted a few other children and I silently slipped away as CE explained to the new recruits, "You see those water drops? Melinda calls them dew drops. She says it's the rain but I know it's the fairies."

I watched closely as each child took tieks touching the dew drops and asking CE questions. What happens if we poke it? What do they taste like? Can dew drops turn back into rain? Why can we see through it?

Giant Leaps Forward - through lots of tiny steps

Cohort 8 has been growing and changing a ton through the winter and spring seasons.  We are coming up on summer with a huge range of new skills and abilities.  One of the ways we have changed a bunch is our mealtimes together.  Here's a look at how we have grown.

Nourishment through milk

Our time with a floor table - just as everyone is mastering sitting up, crawling over, trying foods.


Using dishes - cups and bowls


Our new table with box chairs - as some become walkers, we embrace the challenge of getting into a chair and, sometimes, just climbing in for fun!


And serving ourselves out of the serving bowl - learning how to take just one or two and even using spoon to pour in tasty foods.

This process - from bottle to solids to table eating - developed over time with lots of tiny steps forward (and backwards and sideways).  As we were in and out of the daily routine, I didn't really notice how far we've come until one day when I find myself asking if they want more, waiting for a reply (which comes in some fashion), and passing the bowl for them to serve themselves.  It clicks.  We have grown, we have changed, and we are still moving forward on this journey, with lots of tiny steps ahead.
I can't wait to see what comes next...