Month: July 2011

Sharing is so last year…..

Why is it that we adults use the word “share” so much with our young children? We aren’t even very good at it ourselves! The concept is so much more appropriate for the corporate world of Wall Street with its shareholders (no pun intended). The actual definition of share is as follows: noun. a part or portion that belongs or is allotted to an individual. Does that even remotely sound fun, fair or something we can reasonably expect a young child to do?? At our little preschool here in Boulder, CO, we have attempted to eliminate the word entirely and replace it with the concept of “Turn-Taking”. Turn-taking is something we can all understand and embrace – not only is it logistically easier in so many respects, but also speaks to a child’s notion of “what’s fair” so much more accurately. And let’s face it every kid in the world is focused on, thinking about and worried about what’s FAIR all the time! So here we were on our little patio the other day, using every conceivable piece of pipe, every funnel, bucket and shovel in an attempt to make a modern-age, water transporting, flux capacitor.

Now looking at these pictures, it may seem like we have plenty of equipment to work with here. Well, yes we do have a pretty inexhaustible supply of random stuff to move water through (thanks to Kodo Kids). BUT, with this particular invention, 100% child created, there were only 1 or 2 points at which to pour the water into. Aha! Trouble ensues, right? Sticks and stones start being thrown, party invitations cancelled, best friendship offers rescinded. Had we insisted they “share” this crucially important water pouring job, all of the above melee may have occurred. But as I mentioned above, we have stricken the S word from our vocabulary.

I mean, realistically, how could we expect multiple 4-year olds to “share” the job of holding the pipe and pouring the water? That’s totally a 1 kid job!! But turn-taking? Yes! that’s completely manageable, both physically and conceptually! We can even time them (a subject for another blog on another day – fascinates me that I can get a child to do almost anything if I tell them I’ll time them). We’ve also gotten into the habit here at Acorn of letting the kids choose how we establish turn rotations – maybe it’s Sarah’s birthday today so she goes first, or since Tommy’s the oldest he picks who’s turn it is next…………..

Either way, the turns were rotating smoothly, the birthday party list intact, friendships saved, and sure enough we also discovered water flows mostly downward, but with some increased pressure can be made to go up! Nothing cooler than discovering that! Except getting a completely fair number of turns to pour into the pipe.

Race to Nowhere

I recently came across an article about the fascinating documentary “Race to Nowhere” about burned out students caught in a pressure cooker educational system. The documentary addresses the concerns that the heavy load of homework and too much structure during the day have on today’s children; suggesting that in fact they do little to raise achievement and also negatively affect the quality of family time. I thought it was an important issue that affects all our children in the future, and is closely aligned with our play-based philosophy here at Kodo Kids.

Being a preschool teacher for a play-based school here in Boulder, I have the fortunate ability to engage my class in as much free play time as I can fit into an eight hour day. My group of 12 children and I can spend all day involved in social-emotional development, cognitive and physical activities like yoga, running, climbing, soccer, or just simply being active outside.  My own daughter, now 8, was accustomed to the flexibility in the daily schedule our little preschool offered, and we both took for granted the emphasis placed on free play activities. While I understand the need for a bit more structure in the elementary schools, the minimal amount of time allowed for both free play and recess is a glaring issue for me and my daughter as well. Picking her up after a 7 hour day at school, I would discover my 5 year old child’s brain was exhausted and her body was desperate for a physical release of any kind. It made for some truly stressful evenings, until I realized I had to devote the immediate hours after school to just being outside and letting her exert all her pent-up energy.

Just this past February, lawmakers for the state of Colorado gave initial approval to requiring 30 minutes a day of physical activity at elementary schools. It’s certainly a step in the right direction, as Colorado is the only state in the country that does not currently require some form of physical education at any grade level. However, in my opinion, 30 minutes is still not nearly enough time. My daughter has mentioned to me countless times since she entered elementary school 3 years ago, “Mommy, my brain just thinks so much better after I run around for awhile”.

For more information on the “Race to Nowhere” visit www.racetonowhere.com or check out the NYTimes article entitled “Anti-Homework Rebels Gain a New Recruit” from June 16th, 2011.

The Emergence of Dramatic Play – Right on Time in the Toddler Room

After 3 years in the Pre-k classroom, I’ve had the best time in the Toddler room this year! It has completely revived my enthusiasm for teaching and I’ve had so much fun watching these little ones discover the art of dramatic play. It’s uncanny how their imaginations dream up “trips to Rockies games”, “car rides to the grocery store” and as seen here, “submarine voyages” all right on cue at about 2 1/2 years of age. My staff and I have spent the past year watching them engage first in parallel play, then slowly begin to interact and actually play with each other, all leading up to the recent explosion in group dynamics with very complex plots of trips to the beach:)

We were having yet another rainy afternoon and the wooden tubes were calling us. Interestingly enough the kids were immediately drawn to the tube that I turned upside down far more than the tubes that were upright and “rockable”. As I observe them more closely these days, climbing on top of something outweighs any other activity offered. Someone should do a study on that!

However, we did have the occasional choice to rock in the tube and pretend to be a stuntman………….but as I mentioned, the clear preference of the group was to climb aboard the big tube with shouts of “Everyone get on the boat!” and one take-charge toddler declaring “I’m driving”.

As we always do in times of free play (which is most of our day), my assistants and I do a lot of watching, listening, and making sure all kids are alive and present in the room. So when I say they broke out into choruses of “Row, Row Your Boat” all on their own, I’m being completely truthful! There was definitely a little confusion at the beginning as to which mode of transportation they were on but ultimately, the oldest and most vocal put her foot down and a submarine trip it was.

“We’re on a train! We’re on an airplane! We’re going to take off! We’re on a flamingo boat and submarine! Probly goin’ to the beach and Suzy, you’re comin’ with us”

(all of that came out just as fast as it reads and I think in one breath – how do small people talk without breathing?)

Even though I’ve read a million articles about how dramatic play begins at this age, it’s still fascinating to watch it  spontaneously emerge. An object starts to be used for other purposes like bananas as phones, and wooden tubes as flamingo submarines and the kids start to imitate or imagine events as if they’ve been doing that all their little lives. There were so many other social-emotional developments going on this afternoon- taking turns, teaching younger friends how to accomplish the elusive balancing skill, counting to 3 in unison as they jumped off……………

My favorite quote of the day: “Balancing is just putting your arms out ’til you fall” (which is pretty much exactly true, right?!)

So after our trip to the beach, yet another use for the tube was discovered and if you’ve ever read “The Lorax” by Dr. Seuss, you’re familiar with the incredibly cool “Whispermaphone” concept. It just never gets old to yell your friends’ name into the end of a tube, be upside down and get your name yelled back to you:)

Of course there’s ALWAYS the kid that’s primarily concerned with safety………

Honestly though, if you’re not the one driving, who knows what could happen to the submarine or what dangers could be waiting for you at Flamingo Beach?