It's hard to believe that we're almost at the end of another school year! We know that you'll find this special issue of Early Childhood Today to be a "must have" as you prepare for the more relaxed summer months ahead.
We've organized this activities issue into five separate categories that include: Paint and Paper, Sand and Water, Boxes and Blocks, Nature, and Balls and Hoops. Why did we choose these specific materials?
Paint and paper encourage artistic expression while helping children build creative-thinking skills.
Sand and water invite experimentation while helping children build observation skills and explore the scientific method.
Boxes and blocks build problem-solving and structural skills while helping children explore spatial relationships.
Natural materials invite investigation of the outdoor environment while enhancing children's observation and critical-thinking skills.
Balls and hoops build kinesthetic skills while helping children explore important concepts such as cause and effect.
Using the Issue
Each category begins with an introduction that includes:
- A "Getting Started" section that helps teachers introduce the featured material to children and describes how these materials build important skills.
- A "Using the Activities" section with ideas and suggestions for expanding and enhancing the activities.
- A "Making Observations" box to help teachers understand what to look for as children work with the different materials in order to expand their thinking.
- A "Conversations and Questions" section that offers ideas for just the right questions to ask that will excite and inspire children's thinking about the activities and materials.
- Ideas for concepts teachers can explore and skills they can build with the featured materials.
ALL of the great activities you'll find in this issue-combined with a relaxed time schedule and adequate space-help create the perfect environment for children to use higher-order thinking skills. While they "play," they are actually building the essential process skills of observation, prediction, experimentation, analysis, synthesis, induction, deduction, and problem solving! These are the building blocks of thinking that all curricula build on.
The Teacher's Role
The following steps can be used as guidelines for teachers as children participate in each of the activities:
- Introduce the activity.
- Present and talk about the materials.
- Organize small groups for exploring the activities.
- Observe children participating in the activities.
- Ask the questions and introduce the conversation starters that are offered in the introductory sections.
- Help children review what they have experienced.
When enjoying the activities during the summer months, also keep the following in mind:
- Leave activities out for much longer times than you would during the year. Invite children to help you plan and monitor the activities.
- Be EXTRA flexible with activities and schedules.
- Acknowledge children's efforts to solve problems and create understanding. Help them recognize the great thinking they are doing when they play!
- Notice the teachable moment when new material needs to be added or changed to expand the learning.
Teacher- vs. Child- Initiated Activities
As you review the activities, you'll notice an interesting blend of teacher-initiated and child-initiated activities. Both types have benefits: Teacher-initiated activities introduce an idea, material, or process, but also take advantage of the opportunity to stand back and allow children to work independently. Child-initiated activities inspire children to take their own interests and ways of approaching something and apply them to a material or activity. An optimum program creates a balance by providing both types of activities-which you'll find in abundance in this issue!
SAYING FAREWELL TO FAMILIES
Whether children and their families are moving on to another room or leaving your program altogether, these suggestions can help you celebrate the year and say goodbye to families:
Hold a family picnic. Invite families to a potluck picnic, either on your own grounds or at a local park. Ask individuals to sign up to bring something to eat or drink, to provide blankets to sit on, or to be in charge of outdoor activities designed for the entire family.
Take a field trip. Organize an outing to a nature center or children's museum and invite parents and other family members to come.
Encourage families to make "yearbooks." Invite family members to help children gather drawings and photographs taken throughout the year. Suggest that they also take additional photos to capture this time. Then invite each child to write or dictate his or her feelings about the pictures. Make one of your own, too, and then hold a special booksharing get-together.
Invite families to a recognition day. Children can receive "We're glad we came" certificates for being in the program, and family members can receive flowers and/or certificates. Offer a summer activity guide for families. Provide a list of free or inexpensive activities to do and places to go during the summer months.
Talk about and visit schools in your area. Set up a time when you can go with family members to visit their child's new school and teacher.
With all this moving about inside and out, it's important to be conscious of safety issues. To protect children in your outdoor play space, do the following every day:
- Move debris such as broken glass, can lids, trash, sharp rocks, and animal droppings from the area.
- Sweep away standing water on the ground and in equipment. Water should not collect under or near equipment, especially under slides and swings, where puddles can form and cause falls or wet shoes and clothing.
- Replace any surfacing material such as wood chips or pea gravel that has been scattered. Loose-fill material should be 12 inches deep under and around equipment.
At least monthly, inspect for:
- Damaged surfacing material
- Broken, bent, or warped equipment surfaces
- Drainage problems
- Open tubes or pipes that need to be capped
- Sharp parts or edges
- Worn swing chains and S-hooks or loose nuts and bolts
- Squeaky parts that are in need of lubrication
- Rotting wood or splinters
- Rust or peeling paint
- Tripping hazards such as tree roots or large rocks
Before you head for the playground or your outdoor play space, pack a few first-aid supplies. The following items will help you treat most minor injuries:
- Adhesive strip bandages
- Cold pack
- Sealed packages of cleansing wipes
- Clean Both
- Bee-sting kit
Use sunscreen liberally. Consult with families about their sun-care routine. Ask what SPF they use with their children and if they have any allergies.
Go to a discount store and buy baseball caps or visors. Each child can decorate her own and use it throughout the summer for extra sun protection.
On a hot day, an actively playing child over the age of 3 should stop every 15-20 minutes and drink around six to eight ounces of water. A few sips at the fountain are not enough. Keep chilled water bottles (marked with names) available throughout the day. If possible, set pitchers of ice water and disposable cups in different areas outside and inside. Establish a "water monitor" job for children who are in charge of keeping the pitcher filled.