Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Rules, Rules, and Fewer Rules!

It is that time of year when many programs are in transition; new children are enrolling, some are moving to a different classroom, it is the beginning of a new school year. This is a great time to re-visit your classroom rules to see if they are working for both you and the children in your program.

The following are some general guidelines for rule-setting:
  • Your rules should be limited to a few of the most important ones.
  • The rules need to make sense to the children.
  • Rules should be stated in positive terms (Be safe, walk inside).
  • Rules should be short and easily repeated.
  • Rules need to be appropriate for the ages and stages of the children in the group.
  • Teach each rule to staff, children and families.
Whatever rules you decide are important, the children should be part of the process of setting those rules.  For example, you might choose three simple rules such as:

1. Take good care of yourself. 
2. Take good care of others.
3. Take good care of our school or classroom.

As part of your circle time or your morning meeting time, you can discuss each of the rules and find out what it means to each child.  “Taking care of yourself” might mean stay safe, walk inside, or hold the handrail.

“Taking good care of others” might mean using soft touches, or talking softly while inside.

And “taking good care of our classroom” can mean be careful with our toys or color only on the paper.

The children will come up with a lot of great ideas, and you can help them see how they fit under each of the simple rules. Then you can use the consistent language of the rules for each situation. “James, take care of yourself; sit on the swing.”

You will know your rules are working, when you do not have to continually remind the children about following them.

Written by: Barb Vigil, Early Childhood Specialist
Adapted from Child Care Plus+

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Sunny Summer Fun!

The lazy days of summer are here, and we know you’re always looking for new ideas to keep the children cool and occupied during these warm weather months. You can find an abundance of activities, themes, and inspiration online. Here are a few things we recently found:

Invisible Beach Drawings

Give children white crayons and a large sheet of manila paper. Encourage children to draw beach or ocean themed artwork with the crayon then paint over the drawings using blue, green, and brown watercolors to create water and sand. This is a great way to use up those white crayons nobody wants to use, and the manila paper lets the white show just enough that children can see what they are drawing and be amazed at how the drawings show up under the water color.

Pass the Ice Cube

This game is played just like Hot Potato, except you use an ice cube! Try playing outdoors on a hot summer day. Have the children sit in a circle then instruct them to pass an ice cube around the circle while you play music. See who has the ice cube when the music stops, or see how many times you can pass it before it melts away.

Kool-aid Painting

Sprinkle unsweetened powdered drink mix in a variety of flavors on sheets of paper, then give the children ice cubes to move over the paper. The ice will melt, dissolving the drink mix and creating colorful designs. Plus it smells delicious! Be sure to wear smocks or old clothes, because it might stain.

Beachy Dramatic Play

Create a fun beach or swimming pool theme for your dramatic play area. Add beach towels, empty bottles of sunscreen, goggles, blow up toys, sunglasses, and big floppy hats.

Summer Quiet Place

For a fun, summery quiet space where children can read a book, calm down, or just be alone, set up a small plastic pool in the classroom. Try setting it up first as a cutting practice area, and provide scraps of blue and green construction or tissue paper. Let the children cut or tear the paper into little pieces, reminding them to keep the “water” in the swimming pool. Once the paper is shredded, use it as a sensory area where children can dig through the paper shreds using shovels, scoops, or their hands. In a few days, empty the pool and put in some beach towels and swim rings, and let children snuggle up with a book or soft toy.

Chalk Time

We’ve all given children sidewalk chalk to create with on warm days. You may have even had children “paint” the sidewalk with water and a large paintbrush on hot days. But have you ever combined the two? Dipping chalk in water before using it makes the colors more vibrant. Or let children draw with the chalk, then “erase” with the water. Try encouraging children to draw roads with the chalk then use toy cars on the roads.

Cool Sensory Play

Use your sensory table, or empty plastic tubs to explore ice cubes. Simply put the cubes in the tubs and provide your usual water play props. Or add to the experience by dropping food coloring in the ice cube trays before you freeze them. Children will enjoy watching the colors mix as the ice melts. You can also provide shakers of table salt, and show the children how the salt melts the ice. See if you can get the cubes to stick together using the salt!

Ball Painting

Hang a large piece of paper (or try an old, light colored sheet) on your fence outside. Give the children paper plates with some paint and a variety of soft, small balls. Have them dip the ball in the paint, then throw the ball at the canvas. Try nerf balls, koosh balls, golf balls, or whiffle balls and see what patterns the different balls make. Do this on a hot day, and let the kids wear swimsuits then run through sprinklers to wash off any paint.