Friday, February 19, 2016

Fly the Play Flag

And never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined that we would have to defend children’s right to play.  Nancy Carlsson-Paige 

You and me both Nancy Carlsson-Paige.  

And yet with every passing year we see the push down effect of academic learning and structured programs, heralding the reduction of choice and uninterrupted play in early childhood programs.

If we are to defend the place of play in our early childhood programs, we need to be really, really effective at describing play in action and explaining its value for children’s learning.

If we are to defend the place of play in our early childhood programs, we need to be knowledgeable about how to maximise children's learning through play.   And to share this with families, confidently and often.  

If we are to defend the place of play in our early childhood programs, we need to use this knowledge to document and assess children's learning, and to be very intentional in creating learning environments where children's play can flourish.   And to share this with families confidently, and often.

Parents only want the best for their child.  So let's do our best to show parents that the best for their child is a childhood filled with play, in environments carefully planned and respectfully prepared by supportive and responsive educators who are good at what they do.

Talk about play.  Write about it, describe it, document it, give specific examples about the benefits of play, share the play greats of early childhood.  Support your educators in becoming confident and informed professionals who can stand firm in their knowledge and beliefs, and be proudly accountable for their practice.

Marinate families in the benefits of play.  

Be the voice, go forth and fly the play flag!


Sunday, February 14, 2016

Art - process not product

Always one to guarantee a robust discussion amongst early childhood educators, that thorny old issue of art versus product driven craft has been buzzing around the interwebs again.

Let's ask one of the grand masters of early childhood, Lev Vygotsky what he has to say on the matter.

We have a rich history of early childhood pioneers and theorists who, along with researchers in early childhood and related fields have combined to draw us a clear road map for best practice.   

That map doesn't have detours and side trips for product orientated or teacher directed art and craft experiences.  

Vygotsky didn't say that process was more important than product except when you find something fun or cute on Pinterest that would be perfect for Valentine's Day.   

Magda Gerber said that good quality wasn't enough for children in child care - we need to do even better than that, and I agree.   Children deserve educators who aim for best practice in all they do, and that includes the experiences that we provide.

As early childhood educators we also have a responsibility to our profession to be as professional as we can be. That means making intentional teaching decisions that are informed by what we know about how children learn and develop.  

You won't damage children by going off on these side trips of paper plate fish or hand print creations , but you won't be giving them the best quality experience either.  Nor will you be the best professional you can be.

Let's step away from cookie cutter craft, and offer children daily opportunities to create in a myriad of ways, with quality materials.

Let's make Vygotsky - and those who went before and came after - proud.  

What might process orientated art look like?  Here are some readings that will point you in that direction - 

Art is not a Receipt for Child Care - Lisa Murphy
Creative Play in Art and Craft - Gowrie
How Process Art Experiences Support Preschoolers - NAEYC

Monday, February 8, 2016

Nothing is more Important than the Relationship

Relationships in toddler and infant early childhood settings matter.

More than matter.  Relationships are crucial for children's well-being and learning, not just now but in the future.  So why when I look at curriculum plans for nursery and toddler rooms do I struggle to find any mention of relationships amongst the colour recognition, farm animals, numbers and Under the Sea themes?

Do we still lack confidence in sharing what we know to be important?

Do we struggle to find a way to record our planning cycle for infants and toddlers in a way that is meaningful and effective, and not just a watered down version of the preschool curriculum??

  • My challenge to you is to challenge yourself to write about young children's relationships - with self, with others, with their learning environment, with the natural world.

  • My challenge to you is to learn as much as you can about how young children learn and develop, so that you can confidently share it.  So that you can see the little moments for what they are - the big moments. So you can gather a rich record of your discoveries and wonderings about each child.  Educational approaches such as Magda Gerber's Educaring approach; brain research; attachment theory - become an expert and then shout it to the rooftops.

  • My challenge to you is to throw away the box system of planning that just beckons you to fill it with busy work, and experiment with new ways of planning that follow the needs of your primary care group of children.  Keep going until you find something that works for you (Hint - there is no magic template!)

Make relationships so central that when you walk into the room you can see it, read about it, feel it, understand it, hear it.  Put the relationships back where they belong - at the very heart of your curriculum.

Please feel free to copy and print the image in this post to display for families - it might make a great starting point for discussion, or a springboard for your pedagogical documentation.  

Or build on it with quotes and snippets of educational research and theory.  Illustrate it with photographic examples from your own room, of different times of the day.  Or pop it up in your team room to prompt documentation about relationships.

How do relationships guide your curriculum decision making?