Month: May 2011

The Chalk Spinner was our rainy day friend……

Ten rainy days in a row makes for some cranky two year olds……………until you pull out the chalk spinner! We had thoroughly exhausted every indoor gross motor, art, building and dramatic play activity we could think of, read about, or look up online.

The kids had never seen the spinner before and while I did leave a pile of chalk on the table, I resisted the urge to show them how to use it. toddlersI’ve really been trying to remember the article I read about “overteaching”. So within seconds they picked up the chalk and started drawing, which was really fun to watch but honestly, I was more interested in the potential personal space issues and turn-taking opportunities. Anyone who teaches toddlers know that sometimes they don’t like to be touching:)

As it turns out, they were so absorbed in drawing and making it spin that they didn’t seem to notice the close proximity of their friends and with plenty of chalk on hand, no one was complaining.

I also found it really interesting that they didn’t spin it back and forth but rather got it going in one direction and then kept it spinning the same way the entire time. And why wasn’t anyone poking their friends with chalk? Or drawing on their faces? I swear I didn’t say anything about not doing that. Over and over again I’m reminded that when actively engaged in something, kids and even big people, will probably behave. It’s when we get bored that bad choices are made:) So of course, some of the kids started to peel off after ten minutes or so but there were some die-hards that wanted to make sure it was thoroughly covered with their chalk color of choice.

I particularly enjoyed watching when they just hold the chalk on top and let the spinning motion do all the work – experimenting with and trusting that the motion will continue to deliver some effect. I think the concept of “Cause and Effect” might be the single most prevalent cognitive development in a Toddler classroom. But wait! A new use for the spinner comes after naptime! We had cleaned it off when they slept and left it on the table for them to use again. I will admit I had put the chalk away while they ate lunch so it wasn’t an option at the moment. But who knew the chalk spinner was also a transportation mode for dolls and cars?  Now we were experimenting with different directions of spinning, how fast we could make it go and keep the figures from falling off, how many could fit on at a time, which animals were more fun to spin. I thought it was fascinating that they tried the figures by themselves AND in a car – I bet they were wondering in those little minds if there was going to be a difference. Did they think the car would move on there?

And it’s 4:00 pm and it’s still raining!!! We’ve now had a couple dance parties – thank goodness for the local 80’s music station – no child or adult can resist getting their shake on to Dexys Midnight Runners “C’mon Eileen”. The spinner had been moved to the floor when we got the furniture out of the way (these kids need lots of space to boogy).  That’s when I see one of my small people park himself on it and basically tell me I need to get the “Sit and Spins” out of storage. Well, duh, I  would try to spin on this too if I saw it just sitting there. Everything you can climb on should spin, right? So in one day, one toy gets used in at least 3 very different ways – none of which I demonstrated ahead of time and frankly, I wouldn’t of thought of the chalk spinner as a transportation mode or a self-propelling instrument. Maybe it’s a drum next? Lesson of the day for me in my toddler class? LET THEM FIGURE OUT WHAT TO DO WITH IT – just sit back, watch and enjoy:)

Jeff Kagan concert was so fun!

As usual, Jeff and Paige were adorable and energetic in their Sunday 5/1 concert at the Boulder Bandshell. They have really become a huge part of the local music scene and my kids always want to go see them perform! Every concert is a lesson in how we can help conserve energy and appreciate the natural world we live in. Not only does the music get everyone up and moving and encourage exercise, but the lyrics are all educational and inspiring. My daughters singing about the different levels of the alpine or how photosynthesis works is so cool! Can’t wait until Monday night concerts start at Chatauqua!

Great article by Lisa Murphy aka “The OoeyGooey Lady”

This article is a fabulous resource for learning how to communicate with parents and validate the benefits of PLAY. As teachers, we need to “train” our parents to understand that saying “We used playdough today” means we strengthened our hand muscles, talked about colors, shapes, and how it feels squishy not hard; that when our friend tried to take it out of our hand, we were able to use our words and ask for it back without hitting or yelling.  Someday we may not have to explain this to the parents when they pick up at the end of the day but for now, it’s great practice for us too – reminding us teachers about all the critically important social, emotional, cognitive and physical skills we are teaching our kids when we play with them.

Knowing the answers

Curvy Board as Scale

Last week one of the 5 year olds at my school decided to use the Curvy Board as a scale today in an effort to weigh his little sister…………”I wonder how many bean bags it takes to make a Nina”:) As he delved into his rudimentary yet fascinating experiment, it reminded me of the unintended consequences of teaching the “proper” way to use items in the classroom.

Immediately I thought of an article I read about not “over-teaching” in the classroom. The article was written after two studies were conducted at MIT and Berkeley suggesting that by giving children the answers to a problem too quickly, teachers may be stifling creativity and problem solving skills. Here’s the link – please take a moment to read it and try stepping a back a bit the next time you’re in the classroom (or at home for that matter) …………