Thursday, October 26, 2017

Keeping Play in Balance

This fall I'm reading Purposeful Play by Mraz, Porcelli, and Tyler. 

Chapter 2 - Balanced Play: How It Makes Kids' Lives Better

"For children, play is the furnace in which much of their brain development is forged."

This chapter covered a lot of material that I was already familiar with. What I like about this book is that it covers topics succinctly and pulls ideas from different sources in an easily understandable way. The authors cover different types of play and different stages of play - and while I have read about these types of ideas before, I enjoyed reading the treatment of them in this book. Let's look at some of those ideas.

As discussed in other books, the authors stress that play can be just about anything. Different individuals - children and adults - will see different things as play. What it comes down to is the motivation behind the activity. Was the activity self-chosen? Is the activity enjoyable (to the individual)? Can the activity be adapted at the will of the individual? If it fits these types of characteristics, the activity is play for the child or adult.

There are different kinds of play - and a child should have a balance of the different kinds. Kids explore different kinds of concepts and develop in different ways through fantasy/imaginative play, constructive play, games with rules, and rough-and-tumble play. (Check out more about different kinds of play, according to Peter Gray and David Elkind.) 

I really liked the different stages of play. This discussion made my think about the play continuum in terms of what is the child doing in relation to other children. 
  • Unoccupied behavior - watching others when something catches his interest but otherwise unengaged
  • Onlooker - deliberately watching others' play and perhaps asking questions about it
  • Solitary play - playing alone and totally absorbed in what he's doing; no interaction with others
  • Parallel play - playing with same materials as another child but doing his own play; may talk about what he's doing with others
  • Associative play - playing with others with same materials or in same activity; talk together about what they are doing but no planning; playing together but not working together
  • Cooperative play - playing together on common activity/project, forgoing individual goals for the group's goal
Seeing play as a continuum between individual action and group action is a new insight for me. And makes a lot of sense.

Here are three key quotes from this chapter that I want to remember:
  1. "There is often such a desire in schools to focus on what children need next that we forget what children need now." (I've said something I naturally agree!)
  2. "In all stages of play, children are refining what it means to create, innovate, explore, and develop into incredible human beings." (Play is key to development in all areas.)
  3. "Play allows children the means and the method to learn and adapt to a changing world." (Play is the natural way that children learn about the world.)

Monday, October 23, 2017

Negative Space Collages

Negative Space Collages (Brick by Brick)

This activity is one we did in Vacation Bible School. The theme was a space theme so our exploration was similarly themed. But the "space" in this title doesn't refer to that theme but the space in the paper.

We cut moon shaped holes in paper. This space should be shaped in whatever way you choose. It could reflect another theme or just be a random shape...even just a wavy hole. Cut clear contact plastic to the appropriate size and cover the hole. 

Negative Space Collages (Brick by Brick)

Provide paper shapes for the children to place on the sticky paper. We had stars--some were cut from sparkly paper and some from just plain white paper. Children arranged stars as they chose in the opening on the paper.

Our children enjoyed exploring this different type of collage. Some covered the space fully while others arranged a few stars and were satisfied with the work.

Negative Space Collages (Brick by Brick)

When a child completed his collage, we placed another piece of clear sticky paper over the opening, sealing in the stars and covering all sticky areas.

We cut our shapes with scissors, freehand. But using a die cut machine or other cutter would speed up the preparation.

Negative Space Collages (Brick by Brick)

Try this different type of collage, mixing up the hole shapes and the paper that is used to fill it in.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Inspiration from the Blogosphere: Making Marks on the Page

Preschoolers are interested in writing. They see adults writing things and are intrigued by these marks on the page. They play with writing, drawing lines and squiggles. They draw pictures to show their own ideas and what they are thinking. And, in addition, all those play experiences that develop their fine motor skills help prepare their hands and fingers for writing.

Below are some inspirations related to writing and pre-writing. Remember play = writing!

Best DIY Easel Ever (Teach Preschool)
One of the ways that preschoolers love to make marks on the page is through painting. Deborah at Teach Preschool has a great DIY easel. Since I love repurposing things, I really liked this idea. And four kids can paint at once. If you don't have space for  free-standing easel (or don't even have one), try this great idea from Deborah.

We have painted with feathers.

Sensory Writing Tray (Pre-K Pages)
I love to use writing trays. This post is a great look at the basics of a writing tray. You can use colored sand or salt, add scents (like lavender) to increase the sensory experience, provide cards with letters or shapes to copy, or just allow kids to explore with writing in the tray. In addition to using fingers, we've added watercolor brushes to write with. Kids can use the brush end or the handle end to write.

Make Your Own Book (Sunny Day Family)
Some of my kids have loved making their own books. (Some of them just love using the stapler!) We usually just have blank paper, the stapler, and writing items. But Laura has created some templates for book pages. I like the "official" look of these pages and some budding authors would love to use these as a guide for writing and drawing their own books.

Sometimes we have blank books in the writing center.

 Dry Erase Board Mazes (No Time for Flash Cards)
I stumbled upon this older post and immediately was intrigued. First of all, more repurposing with the CD cases. (I have some lying around.) I love the working on a maze and easily erasing a misstep along the way. And I thought it would be fun to take turns drawing a maze - on a dry erase board - and asking a friend to solve it. In either case, kids would be practicing making marks in a more controlled way. (And, if you don't have CD cases, use frames with clear glass or even a sheet protector clipped to a clipboard.)

Fluffy Pumpkin Spice Slime (Teaching Mama)
Building those small muscles of the hand and fingers is a great pre-writing activity. Anything that allows manipulation and squeezing and using the fingers can build fine motor skills. Angela posted this recipe for fun smelling slime and I really want to make some.

We have made and used galaxy slime!

Pom Pom Grab and Drop (Busy Toddler)
Moving thing with tongs is another great fine motor activity. Susie posted this activity...and I immediately began thinking about what other things we could move with tongs. Maybe my foam cubes or wide collection of plastic lids? Maybe magnet letters? Of course, pom-poms are great, too.

Dollar Store Writing Center (Pre-K Pages)
And check out this post I wrote for Vanessa and Pre-K Pages. You can create a writing center for your kids with items from a dollar store. Mix and match the items you'd like to have for your center. And encourage kids to make marks on a page...playing with writing. (More about our writing center.)

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Deepest Thinking

Deepest Thinking quote (Brick by Brick)

I love talking with preschoolers. They make me think. They make me see things in different ways. They make me laugh. They encourage me to look at the world and enjoy it.