What are the Sensory Systems - Part Seven

Auditory – What we hear

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Auditory input refers to both what we hear and how we listen, and is physiologically connected with the vestibular sense. In addition to various types of recorded and live music, here are some ways kids and adults can get calming and organising auditory input.

Get outside and listen

Go to the beach or sit still and listen to the rain, thunder, and so on. If you hear birds singing, try to identify what direction a given bird is calling from.

Listen to natural sound recordings

There are many recordings of rain falling, ocean waves, bird songs, and so on. Sometimes natural sound recordings also feature light instrumentation with flutes, keyboards, etc. Some children and adults find they sleep better if they play such music.

Play a listening game

Sit with children very quietly and try to identify the sounds you hear (traffic, the hum of the refrigerator, a door shutting, etc.) and where it’s coming from. It might also help to lay in a shady spot on the grass outdoors to help children focus on the noises.

Find calming, focusing music

Listen to music specially engineered to promote calm, focus, energy, or creativity. Keep in mind, of course, that musical preference is highly idiosyncratic, so this will take some experimentation. The music you love may distress another child, while the music they find so soothing may drive you up the wall.

Encourage musicianship

Provide your child with a musical instrument and encourage them to play and experiment with the different noises they can make. Children love learning about new instruments and this is the perfect opportunity to provide hands on experiences.

Give children some control

For a child with auditory sensitivity, predicting and controlling sounds can be very helpful. Encourage the child to turn on the vacuum cleaner, help the child pop the balloons after a birthday party, anticipating the noise. Try recordings that desensitise children to everyday sounds such as flushing toilets, thunder, barking dogs, alarms, and other sounds many kids find distressing.

Create pleasant sounds

Get a white noise machine, tabletop rocks-and-water fountain, or incorporate an aquarium into your classroom.

Enjoy creating your own auditory learning environment,

Sarah

 

What are the Sensory Systems - Part Five

 
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Olfactory – What we smell

Olfactory input (sense of smell) comes through the nose and goes straight to the most primitive, emotional part of the brain. So if a child is upset by something being stinky, it’s no wonder. Certain odours can stimulate, calm, or send them into sensory overload.

Ideas to use in your classroom or home...

Smell things! 

Explore scents with each child to find ones that work best to meet your goal (to soothe them or to wake them up). Everyone has different preferences, but vanilla, lavender and rose scents are generally calming. Peppermint and citrus are usually alerting. Let’s say a child needs help staying calm and loves vanilla. You can use high-quality vanilla soap and bath oils in water play or at bath time, vanilla candles or essential oils in at rest time or bedtime, and vanilla body lotion. Avoid synthetic scents.

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Scent play

Play a smelling game with each child. Have them close their eyes or wear a blindfold and try to identify smells such as citrus fruit, flowers, coffee grounds, spices such as cinnamon, and so on.

As always, there are so many ideas you can search for online if you want to continue your research.

Enjoy! Sarah

 

What are the Sensory Systems - Part Four

 
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Vision – What we see

Visual input can often be overstimulating for a child with sensory issues. Think about ways you can simplify the visual field at home or school for a calming, organising effect. Alternately, if the child seems “tuned out” and doesn’t respond easily to visual stimulation, add brightly coloured objects to encourage visual attention. For example, a child who has trouble getting aroused for play may be attracted by a brightly painted box filled with toys in appealing colours. A child who seem unable to watch a ball as it rolls may be able to watch it if the ball lights up or makes noise as it moves.

Avoid excess visuals

Hide clutter in bins or boxes or behind curtains or doors—a simple, solid-colour curtain hung over a bookshelf instantly reduces visual clutter. In rooms where the child spends a lot of time, try to use solid coloured rugs instead of patterned ones. Solid-coloured walls in neutral or soft colours are less stimulating than patterned wallpaper in bold colours.

Consider your seating arrangements

If a child is finding it hard to focus during group time, position the child at the front of a classroom where there is less distraction. They may also need to sit away from the window to avoid the allure of the outdoors. Some children do best sitting in the back of the room so they can monitor what other kids are doing without constantly turning around. Work with the educators in the room and an OT to see which seat placement works best.

Be colour-sensitive

When setting up learning experiences, keep in mind that some children may be overwhelmed by too many colours. Keep it simple. For example, it might be best to have a hessian table cloth, rather than a patterned table cloth. Avoid equipment, clothes, towels, etc., in colours that a child may find distressing.


Want more ideas?

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This is an amazing resource Sensory Processing: The Visual System where a Paediatric occupational therapist has shared their ideas on the visual system.

There are SO many ideas once you start using Pinterest, or Google images to search "visual sensory experiences for preschool children". You will find SO many ways you can incorporate sensory stimulation for vision into your classroom.

Get creative and enjoy!

Sarah

 

What are the Sensory Systems - Part Three

 

Proprioception – Sense of where the body is when it is not looking

Proprioception is how your body knows what position it is in. It is the sense that enables us to know where the different parts of our body are, how they are moving, and how much strength our muscles need to use. Our muscles, joints and skin all contain sensory receptors that contribute to proprioceptive input. 

Just like we see through receptors called our eyes, with proprioception, we know where our body is because of receptors that run all through our muscles and joints.  Our vision is stimulated by bright lights or moving objects, and proprioception is stimulated by pressure to the receptors all throughout our body.  Anytime we squeeze through a tight space, hug someone, or jump up and down we are getting proprioceptive input. Walking up and down stairs, playing sport, and washing our hair are also examples of activities that rely heavily on proprioceptive input.

Proprioceptive input can also be obtained by lifting, pushing, and pulling heavy objects, including one’s own weight. A child can also stimulate the proprioceptive sense by engaging in activities that push joints together like pushing something heavy or pull joints apart like hanging from monkey bars.

Proprioceptive input also lets our body know if something unexpected happens. For example, if you’re walking over rocks and you can feel that you are standing on an unstable rock, your foot and ankle will send this information to your brain. Your body can respond by using its arms to balance, and your eyes will quickly find a new rock to stand on.

Proprioception is also closely related to the vestibular system, and together they help us to develop body awareness, inform our sense of posture and equilibrium (balance), and help us to stabilise our head and eyes whilst we are moving.

What happens when it isn’t working properly?
When our proprioceptive system isn’t interpreting input correctly and responding appropriately, it can impact our everyday activities. Being clumsy, bumping into objects, playing ‘rough’, or kicking/throwing a ball too hard can all be examples of the brain not processing proprioceptive input appropriately. Children with ASD and other developmental disorders can also have extra difficulties with processing proprioceptive information.


A child may especially benefit from proprioceptive activities if they fall into one of two categories:

Proprioceptive Seekers:

The first is seeking and is also the most common. Seeking means that a child is often trying to get more proprioceptive input. It’s like their bodies can’t get enough of it.  Sometimes children that love this type of input may be labelled as hyperactive.

Let’s gets specific though, children that are proprioceptive seekers may frequently:

  • Chew on everything
  • Hide in tight spots
  • Love heavy blankets
  • Play rough
  • Crash into things on purpose
  • Always try to jump on the couch or bed
  • Be described as very physical or “wild”
  • Over-step personal boundaries
  • Hold onto writing utensils tightly (often breaks pencil tips or bluntens textas)

Proprioceptive Low Registration Signs:

The second is called low registration, which is less common, but quite possible.  Low registration, or under-responsive, means that the sensory input, in this case from the proprioceptive system, isn’t registering. It’s like the brain has turned the switch off.  

Let’s look at some signs of low proprioceptive registration:

  • Clumsy
  • Generally low energy
  • May not want to get out of bed in the morning
  • Bumps into walls and objects, seeming not to notice them
  • Very high pain tolerance

If a child has several signs listed above, under either category, then activities that target proprioceptive input will be meeting their needs and encouraging their development completely.


Last few words...

Proprioceptive input tends to have a calming and organising effect on the body, particularly when feeling overstimulated or overwhelmed. Proprioception also helps us better balance (“modulate”) the sensory input coming in from the other sensory systems so we can more accurately respond to it (such as the loud noises we hear or the feelings of certain textures on our skin or in our mouth, for example).

Any activity which involves “heavy work” such as pushing or pulling provides input to the proprioceptive sensory system. When children participate in these types of activities, and in the specific amount of time and intensity their body needs, we often see them become more calm, organised in their behaviour, and able to follow through with daily activities such as getting dressed, participating in meal time, and following directions. For this reason, occupational therapy professionals often recommend heavy work activities as part of a child’s individualised sensory home program (often referred to as a “sensory diet“), in order to help prepare their bodies to be able to more fully participate in the things they want and need to be able to do on a daily basis (aka – their “occupations”).

Sarah

 

Our Tactile Sensory System

 

Tactile – Sense of touch

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The tactile sense detects light touch, deep pressure, texture, temperature, vibration, and pain. This includes both the skin covering your body and the skin lining the inside of your mouth. Oral tactile issues can contribute to picky eating and feeding difficulties.

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Ideas for learning experiences focused on tactile...

Food and drink

Encourage children to drink plain water or carbonated soda water to experience bubbles in their mouth (you can flavour it with a little mint or with lemon, lime, etc.).

Messy play with textures

Have children play with foamy soap or shaving cream, and add sand for extra texture. Introduce fingerpaint, play with glitter glue, mix cookie dough and cake batter, and so on. Encourage children to use the playground sandbox or create your own at home, filling a bin with dry beans and rice or other materials and small toys. Cover and store the bin for future use.

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Use child-friendly modelling material such as playdough or modelling clay. Never force a child who is unwilling to touch “yucky” substances. Let them use a paintbrush, stick, or even a toy for cautious exploration. Cling wrap can also be placed over paint so that there is no mess, however the child is still going through a tactile experience.

Role playing and Dressing up

Dress up in fun costumes to get used to the feel of unfamiliar clothing and accessories.

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Want to know more?

There is a great article by Royal Far West focusing on Tactile Seeking which is well worth the read if you are wanting more information.

Sarah

 

Sensory Systems - what are they and how do they affect children's behaviour?

 

The Sensory Systems

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The 7 Sensory Systems include:

• Vestibular – movement and balance sense
• Tactile – Sense of touch
• Proprioception – Sense of where the body is when not looking
• Vision – What we see
• Olfactory – What we smell
• Gustatory – What we taste
• Auditory – What we hear

Part One - Vestibular System

Vestibular – movement and balance sense

Children who seek vestibular (movement-based) input cannot get enough spinning, swinging, sliding, and rolling. Vestibular input is the sense of movement that is centred in the inner ear. Any type of movement will stimulate the vestibular receptors, but spinning, swinging, and hanging upside down provide the most intense, longest lasting input.

It is normal for children to seek out vestibular experiences as part of their natural development. Just because a child wants to swing a lot doesn’t mean he or she has sensory processing disorder! However, there are some children who truly require INTENSE amounts of vestibular input, to the point that they might compromise their own safety in order to get it.

Sensory input can help stimulate children to feel less sluggish. It can also soothe an “overloaded system” and help children feel more organised in their own bodies and in space. That’s where these great products come into play. 

5 items you will love in your classroom or home...

JUMPING, BOUNCING, AND BALANCING

1. Mini trampoline with a handle

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3. Balance board

A challenge for the vestibular system, which is closely tied to our sense of balance. (This balance board is a bargain from Kmart).

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SPINNING

4. Scooter board

You can get inspired for how to use your scooter board at The Inspired Treehouse.

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SWINGING

5. Swing set

The back-and-forth nature of this type of swing can calm those who are vestibular seekers. Some children need 5 minutes. Others need 20 minutes or more.

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Want to know more?

There's a great article on the Grow On Children's Occupational Therapy website, which explains in detail the Vestibular System in their Sensory series. They describe what behaviours demonstrate children who are under-registering vestibular input, or are overly sensitive to vestibular input. The article even goes into what it looks like if a child falls into both categories.

Sarah

 

Setting up your classroom Part Three - creating a clutter free environment

 

Does this look familiar?

Clutter...

  • Takes time away from teaching and engaging with the children to constantly clean up and fuss
  • Decreases our ability to focus and may restrict creative thinking and play
  • Produces sensory overload
  • Increased stress in the environment has a negative impact on a child’s ability to learn

Marie Kondo's book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organising, is brilliant!

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"Clutter is a failure to return things to where they belong," Marie Kondo

Marie is a firm believer that decluttering your home or work environment will have a positive effect on all aspects of your life.

Rid Yourself of the Joyless

The first rule of Kondo's KonMari method is to discard. Marie Kondo suggests that you take each item in hand and ask, "Does this spark joy?" If it does, keep it. If not, thank it for supporting you in your career and then dispose of it promptly.  You will be amazed at how much extra space you will create in your learning environment!

  • Remember: do not transfer your discarded items on others. Whenever you ask someone if they would like something you want to discard, they feel obliged to take it. It might make you feel better to believe that it will be used, but all you are doing is transferring the burden of an object onto someone else. 
  • Create a personal digital "feel good" file - Once you make it to the sentimental items in your room, consider how each item is best honoured. If it's truly something precious to you, how should you display it so that it gets the recognition it deserves? Alternatively, you can start taking pictures of these notes and cards and keep a file on your computer. This not only saves valuable space in your drawers, yet it makes it easy to search for an item if you want a little pick-me-up.
  • Add joy - Add things in your classroom that make it a more joyful place to be. So far, this article has focused on getting rid of things in your classroom, but it's also acceptable to add things in that bring you and the children joy. Actually, that is the entire point of the book. You should get rid of things that are weighing you down, causing you guilt, or taking your focus away so that you can highlight and appreciate the things that bring you joy.

 

Tackle Clutter by Category

The KonMari method requires you to sort your possessions by category, not by location. So, for example, tackle books first, then displays, then paperwork, then electronics. You will be amazed at just how much equipment is broken or in need of repair that is just not worth keeping.

Teachers are natural hoarders, and I am no exception. Maybe when you've tried decluttering in the past, you have mental blocks like "What if I need this one day?" "I could make so and so craft with this!" "This cost too much money to throw away!" and so forth.  This is where The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up excels. The way Kondo explains how the Japanese view objects really hit home for me and allowed me to change my views on decluttering. 

  • Start with non-sentimental items. Don't go straight for student artworks, work samples or books. You have to build up your decluttering muscles before tackling sentimental items.
  • Do one cupboard or drawer at a time. Take EVERYTHING out. This part is very important. Kondo advocates making a huge pile on the floor of every.single.thing you own in that category. For instance, you might have books in the storeroom and the book corner, make sure you gather all the items in that category before you start discarding! 
  • Once you have decluttered, it's time to put things back in an orderly way. Your mind will see a clean slate and will automatically not want to clutter it back up by filling it with junk. This is also where your budget will thank you, as you will begin to think long and hard before making any purchases.
  • It's totally up to you what sort of organising containers you invest in. Kondo advises not to be frugal with things if they truly bring you happiness, so if pretty containers are your thing, go for it! You can simply group things according to their use.
  • While the classroom is, indeed, one room, it would be easy to fall into the habit of cleaning "spaces." The educator's space. The storeroom space. The book corner space. The art space. The problem with cleaning by room or space is that you start shuffling things around, from one space to the next. This isn't decluttering. Instead, you need to focus on one category - art supplies, for instance - and do that one category only for the entire room.

You won’t believe how good it will feel to finally be rid of the items that don’t bring your early learning culture joy anymore. You may find you don’t even need to replace anything. Early learning services have always had smaller budgets than they have wish lists, but holding onto things you don't regularly use has a way of being a burden each year as we revisit what to do with that cupboard or space.

 

Find Storage Solutions that will Work for your Space

When using the KonMari method, you have to designate a spot for everything. After you use something, put it back in its designated spot. Everything is exactly where it's supposed to be. Marie Kondo says to store items of the same type in the same place and not to scatter storage space. 

  • Organise office supplies and stationery - The KonMari method is to find small, attractive boxes to store items in drawers and on shelves. This gives everything a home and keeps the items easily accessible.
  • Manage large items like furniture and electronic equipment - Make sure all furniture is safe and clean before finding a storage space for it.

 

Make Tidying a Special Event, Not a Daily Chore

I know the year has already begun, but maybe there's a staff development day coming up. You can't do a massive decluttering a little bit at a time, or with a spare half hour here and there. You have to commit, save this knowledge and plan a time when you have a day together to create a special event, maybe have a shared lunch to look forward to.

Everyone should get to feel good about a tidy, clean new learning environment. Why not invite children, teachers, and families to come in and KonMari your early learning environment together? Modelling how to declutter and be respectful of your belongings is good practice for everyone. I have also found that by using the KonMari method and getting rid of all the clutter and chaos helped me focus on the important things I am supposed to be working on and enjoying.

Happy decluttering!

Sarah

 

Setting up your classroom Part Two - creating a sensory smart classroom

 
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The layout of your environment will affect how children play and learn. Small spaces allow for quiet, small group play and individual play. Large, open spaces encourage large muscle, loud play.

With Sensory/Arousal in mind:

  1. Try to plan activities that incorporate as many sensory components as possible. For example, finger paint on textured surfaces. Consider having a “treasure box” with a variety of sensory toys. You can send a child to pick a sensory toy that helps them calm and become centred/organised. For example, fill the box with stress balls, fidget toys, chewies, body brush, etc…
  2. For children who need to calm, use deep pressure such as pressure with your hands to his/her shoulders. Another great way to calm is to give a child heavy resistive work to do, for example, carry heavy books to the table, push/pull a heavy cart. Make a “bean bag snake” using a long sports sock and dried beans. The over-aroused child can put it on his shoulders or lap to help calm during circle time or at a table.
  3. For children who need increased arousal, have them do a few jumping jacks, wall push ups etc… or use light touch from your finger tips or a feather to awaken their senses. 
  4. For children who touch other peers during circle time, consider sitting them against a wall or bookshelf for extra grounding and trunk support or give them a fidget toy to hold. Touching others can be an indication that the child needs tactile input to his hands. You can brush the child’s hands, have the child play with playdough/other resistive mediums, play hand clapping games, crawling or wheelbarrow walking.
  5. You can begin all table activities with a little “chair exercise” program that allows all the children to get their state of arousal at the same level. For example, prior to commencing a maths task. Sing a song with the children that wakes up the arms, legs, stretches etc…
  6. Outdoor activities are an all around wonderful sensory experience.

Here’s a few more tips:

Classroom Organisation:

  • Set up your classroom in learning centres and make sure you have a quiet area where kids can calm and regroup if needed when class get too loud. Make sure the quiet area has lots of book, heavy blankets, pillows. Bean bags, earphones.
  • Provide fidget toys such as tactile balls, “stress” balls. During circle time. Keep the children that have a harder time keeping still next to you or make sure you give them something to hold like a puppet. Or give them a fidget toy to hold on to or even a weighted lap pad.
  • Use visual schedules at the beginning of the day that “maps” out the children’s routine. This helps children transition more easily from one activity to the next and can keep them more organised. Make sure your schedule allows for movement breaks as well as table activities.
  • For a child who has difficulty transitioning from one activity to the next, allow him/her to hold on to an object that they like (aka.  A transitioning object) This helps them “keep it together” during the transition. You can also assign a task to the child such as “helper” (for example, he/she holds the cards you will be using and brings them to circle time). Use songs to help children transition such as “Clean up…clean up…”

Where can I find sensory resources?

Providing sensory experiences in a comfortable, accommodating environment can offer infants and toddlers lots of new, exciting, and beneficial opportunities. Taking into consideration children’s individual needs can really make them feel at ease and allow them to follow their interests!

Sarah

 

Setting up your classroom Part One - achieving a language rich environment

 
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What is a language rich early childhood learning environment?

 

  • It sounds like conversation and play and singing and reading and interacting and true listening.
  • It looks like a space where learners and educators are interacting in all these activities in a positive, nurturing way.
  • It feels like a place where children grow in confidence as their early adventures with speech are encouraged, respected and supported.
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A language rich environment is one in which children are surrounded by talking, singing, and reading and have many opportunities throughout their day, across all learning experiences, to communicate with others and engage in back-and-forth conversations.

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A rich language environment is important to children’s early learning, and can have strong effects on early language, vocabulary, reading, and math skills, as well as on children’s social-emotional development.


 4 indicators that demonstrate a strong language environment:

  1. Responsiveness: Does the educator respond when the child addresses them? Do they respond by getting down on the child's level, positively with a smile and encourage the conversation?
  2. Attention: Does the educator have the attention of the children? Are they talking about things the children are interested in?
  3.  Reading: Is the room filled with written materials and books? Does each educator regularly read to the children?
  4. Expansions: Is the educator asking questions and building on the children’s talk?

When setting up your classroom this year, I encourage you to take a moment as a team to look around and see if you have created your ideal language rich environment. If you have, what an amazing opportunity for the children in your care to be able to enjoy that space!

Sarah

 

Children's Book Review - The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog!

 
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Are you looking for a great book to read with children over the holidays? We've done the hard work for you!

 

Title: The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog!

Author: Mo Willems

Suitable Age Group: 3 - 5 years

ISBN: 1844285456

Date Released: 06 Mar 2006

Binding: Paperback

Pages: 40 pages

Summary:

A special guest features in this book, a very clever little duckling who has not tasted a hot dog before. The duckling enters the scene, just as the pigeon is salivating over the hot dog he has just found. Will he manage to outsmart the Pigeon and get his share of the hot dog? Oh, yes...

This book comes highly recommended from my 4 year old nephew George, who finds the pigeon character very amusing. The hilarious tone of the book is set up by the illustrations, also cleverly created by Mo Willems. The writing lends itself to an animated response when reading this story aloud. There are scenes where the pigeon is exasperated with the duckling, this page particularly is a lot of fun to read.

This book is a follow on from the popular “Don’t let the pigeon drive the bus!” 


 

What have theories got to do with it?

 
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There is a fantastic article which I think we should all revisit from National Quality Standards Professional Learning Program written back in 2012.

This article can be accessed at What have theories got to do with it?

These newsletters are not at all overwhelming, they are a great little summary of information to read through on a lunch break, or through your programming time.

If you're feeling extra nerdy and want to seek further information, there are always helpful links at the end of the article to assist.

Sarah

 

4 ways to extend conversations by asking great questions...

 
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ASKING QUESTIONS

Asking stimulating and developmentally appropriate questions can help boost the language environment. Below are four strategies for extending conversations with questions.

1. Ask children about what they are doing.

  •  What are you working on today?
  • You are working very hard, tell me about your project.
  • What are your plans for those resources?

2. Ask children to provide explanations.

  • Why do you think that happened?
  • How can I help you solve this problem?
  • How did you do that?

3. Ask children to make predictions.

  • What do you think will happen next?
  • What else could we use this container for?
  • What would you do if that were you?

4. Ask children to connect learning to their own lives.

  • What does this remind you of?
  • These blocks are blue – what blue objects do you have in your home?
  • The girl in the story loved her pet rabbit. Do you have any pets? Tell me about them.

For children with limited language, giving them a choice can help them respond more easily to questions. For example, “did you use crayons or textas to draw that picture?”

Keep high expectations for all children and gradually increase the complexity of your questions as children progress in their development.

Sarah

 

3 tips for authentic observation photos

 

1. Get down on the child's level

This might sound so basic that you skim over it, but there are so many observations out there where educators stand over the child's play and take the photo. This results in an odd angle and the photo you end up with doesn't capture the child's emotions. The child could be so excited by the dinosaur they have just created out of playdough, however the educator has captured the table and the top of the child's head. Oops!

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2. Be super stealth... 

One of the keys to capturing an authentic moment is to be quiet and hidden in the background, therefore making the photo as natural as possible. Capturing the child when they are engaged in play can be tricky, however, if you are respectful of their play and quietly move towards the group or individual, you should be able to capture a photo where they are still fully engaged in the experience. It will interrupt a child's focus on their task if you are loudly hovering over their play or even worse, ask the child to stop for a photo. Ahh!

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3. Lastly, remember that not all observations require a photo.  

There will be observations where a work sample will be more authentic than a quick photo. Or where, as an educator, you were either be engaged in the play, or watching the child play and do not want to interrupt their play by taking a photo. A description of their play is perfect for this type of observation, including language such as conversations where you can. If the play continues over the next few days, there might be another opportunity for a photo which you can later add to your reflections and observation.

I hope these quick tips will be super helpful to keep in mind next time you are documenting a child's learning.

Sarah

 

What is a "thick" conversation?

 
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I'm so glad you finally asked!

Children benefit from “thick” conversations. Thick conversations are characterised by giving children many chances to speak and communicate, asking open-ended questions, encouraging them to think and imagine, and having many back-and-forth exchanges.

Here are four key strategies to engage children in thick conversations in English or in their home language:

1. Encourage back-and-forth exchanges.

  • Tune into children’s interests and experiences and talk about them.
  • Take turns communicating and provide time for children to respond.
  • Show that you are interested in what they are doing and listening to what they say.

2. Extend children’s language.

  • Expand on children’s words or their attempts at words by adding a little more. For example, if the child says “ball”, you can say “the blue ball is bouncing!”
  • Add new vocabulary words to the ones children are already using when talking to them. For example, if a child says "that cloud is big", you might be able to introduce the word "enormous" such as "and this cloud is enormous".
  • When appropriate, it might be helpful to repeat a child's language using correct grammar to model how to arrange their words.

3. Invite children to talk about what they are doing.

  • Comment on what children are doing.
  • Ask children questions about what they are doing, what they did before, and what they plan to do next.
  • Encourage children to make comparisons and consider other possibilities. For example, "I can see you are using the small yellow shovel, what would happen if you used the big blue spade to shovel that sand?"

4. Encourage higher-level thinking.

  • Help children make connections between what is happening in the classroom and what is happening in their home or community.
  • Explain your thinking process.
  • Introduce new concepts or ideas. Make suggestions during play such as "what do you think would happen if we..."

 Source: Tips for preschool teachers

Source: Tips for preschool teachers


I encourage you to start off this year introducing the term "thick conversation" into your everyday language. Aiming to help extend on each child's vocabulary throughout your conversations during their play.

Sarah

 

4 benefits of outdoor play during winter...

 

Anyone who takes children outside regularly sees the enjoyment, and sense of wonder and excitement that is generated when children actively engage with their environment.

Even though it may be cold outside, here are 4 main benefits of heading outdoors during winter.

1. Breathe in fresh air

Not all children have easy access to natural spaces outside, with many families living in built-up urban areas without a backyard. So make the most of your spacious playgrounds, it might be the only chance some children get that day to enjoy the outdoor environment.

It’s no secret that most parents blame winter air as the cause for colds and the flu. Although the viruses that cause flu and colds are more common in the winter months, the circulated air in closed environments (school, childcare) are the main cause of your child getting sick. All of the bacteria, dirt, and other germs simply get recycled through the air vents over and over. The more time you spend inside, the more you are exposed. Nothing is more refreshing than that first deep breath of cold, winter air before starting hours of fun outdoor play.

2. Amazing sensory experiences

Wind blowing the leaves through the grass, tree branches swaying, clouds moving in the sky...

The changing nature of the outdoors makes it an incredibly stimulating and multi-sensory place to play. This is important as babies and young children learn and gain experience through all their senses.

Playing and learning outside also helps children to understand and respect nature, the environment and the interdependence of humans, animals, plants, and life cycles.

3. Boost immune system and promote physical activity

Playing outside allows children an escape from indoor germs and bacteria. This will not only be good for the healthy bunch; the children who are unwell benefit from the fresh air as well. Just make sure they are properly bundled up and moving around to capture and generate warmth. Being outside more often also allows each child to develop a stronger autoimmune system and a resistance to allergies. 

Just because it’s cold outside doesn’t mean children have lost their energy or desire to play. In fact, many health programs suggest that outdoor winter play gives children an opportunity for a change of environment, a balance in play and routine, and large muscle activities which aid gross-motor development.

4. Opportunities for risk taking

For many children, playing outdoors at their early years setting may be the only opportunity they have to play safely and freely while they learn to assess risk and develop the skills to manage new situations. 

The outdoor environment offers space and therefore is particularly important to those children who learn best through active movement. Very young children learn predominately through their sensory and physical experiences which supports brain development and the creation of neural networks.

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So rug up and enjoy the outdoors this winter!

Sarah Cameron

 

Winter play ideas for outdoors

 

Activities for Cold Days

  • Go on a nest hunt. With all the leaves off the trees, nests are much easier for children to spot. Look high and low for bird nests.
  • Search for and collect the colours of winter. These can be used indoors at the art or sensory tables.
  • Build forts and cubby houses!
  • Decorate bare trees with paper snowflakes, coloured balloons, streamers, wind chimes.
  • Plant bulbs indoors – hyacinths.
 Sourced from amumwithalessonaplan.com

Sourced from amumwithalessonaplan.com

Activities for Rainy Days

  • Put on gumboots and splash in puddles. Encourage children to look at their reflection in the puddle.
  • Bring paintbrushes outside and use the water from the puddles to paint on the fences and paths.
  • Talk about how water flows: down gutters, along creek beds, down hills, down to where puddles form.
  • Bring out plastic tubes for water flow experiments – what else can travel down the tubes?
  • Incorporate water play into the sandpit.

 Activities for Snowy Days

  • Catch snowflakes on black construction paper and use a magnifying glass to get a good look at them. 
  • Catch snowflakes on your tongue. Ask: How many can you catch?, or What does it feel like when it melts?
  • Identify each child's footprints in the snow (stand in a row and then have everyone take a few steps).
  • Use sand play toys, such as buckets, shovels and trucks, to shape the snow, just as you would sand.

Layer up and get outdoors to enjoy the fresh air!

Sarah Cameron