THE HAPPINESS COLLAGE

Representing Our Joyful Feelings

Preschoolers have been participating in an ongoing discussion about our feelings. We’ve been working on discovering how emotions feel in our bodies and recognizing those physical reactions to emotional stimuli. Preschoolers have been discussing how to recognize emotions in the faces and body language of our friends and reading the emotional energy of classmates. 

We’ve seen some amazing growth in social-emotional language and peer-to-peer interactions as preschoolers continue to explore their emotions. This growth is consistently reinforced and affirmed for children as teachers respond to conflict by naming the emotion they notice in children. Teachers often ask children to confirm that emotion, and in doing so, the child must stop to check-in with their body and their emotional state. They may restate the same feeling the teacher pondered or assign the emotion a different name or degree (angry may become sad/upset or really angry). 

Preschoolers got to explore a specific emotion, happiness, through the Happiness Collage project, which was started in early December and wrapped up in January, 2022. Through this project, children had the opportunity to explore magazines and cut out items that “sparked joy” for them. Teachers encouraged children to view the photographs and illustrations within the magazines and ask themselves what they liked and what made them feel good to look at it. Once preschoolers identified a clipping that met that criteria, they cut out that bit and added it to their personal envelope. Once they had plenty of happy, little clippings, we began the process of laying out their clippings on their matboards and arranging the clippings to show off each one. They also laid out the letters for their names and started gluing everything down. 

Teachers noted the rationale behind each clipping to share with viewers like you. It was really lovely to hear their thinking behind each clipping and document how each choice was made. Some clips were more meaningful to the child than others, but each reflected a genuine thought and spark of joy. You may read the children’s direct quotes explaining each clipping next to their collage. 

OLD TODDLER TAKE HOME CANVASES

Here you see a line up of our take home canvases that are sent home to families at the beginning of every month. We created this opportunity for families to be engaged in the classroom to establish the connection in support of every child’s development.  When families get this firsthand experience with their children, it encourages them to see the impact and power they have when taking an active role in their child’s education.  It also shows the respect that families have towards the work they are doing with their teachers, solidifying the connection between home and school. The children have really enjoyed taking the special bags home each month, with a new tool and color to explore on their canvases. We hang them in the classroom and admire them daily, sparking conversations about the process at home to paint them – some families choose to let their other children join, while others take a more independent approach – either is welcome.

Each time the canvas is sent home a new color jar of tempera paint and tool for them to use to paint with gets sent, these tools have included: traditional brushes, sponges, toothbrushes, paper towel tubes, q-tips, as well as some natural found objects – pine cones, tree bark, pine needle bundles; each time creating a new experience and creative outcome. This activity is more about the process than the product, however, it sure is fun to see them all lined up together when they come back to school!

HOLLOW BLOCK BUILDING

Blocks are not just fun for kids to play with but can also help them in many ways!  Block play stimulates learning in all domains of development, intellectual, physical, and social-emotional and language.  This helps children in so many ways: improving their hand and finger strength, strengthening core through heavy lifting, developing creative skills, learning about balance, geometry and gravity through blocks. Depending on the size of the blocks, children can use blocks to sit on, stack several high, and climb on top of.  Children learn the feeling of being powerful, lifting the blocks above their heads, stacking them higher than themselves. Blocks have given us the opportunity to use our bodies by lifting heavy blocks, making pathways, building forts, bridges and structures such as houses and trains.  Children are beginning to create scripts and expand their language with blocks. 

BABIES PAINTING ON CANVAS

The soothing process of painting is often what is interesting to young children. The pleasant feeling of painting over and over using their senses to explore color, process and outcomes.  Painting can provide children with vast amounts of learning, this may be developing their fine motor pincer grip or big body movements when crawling or walking on the canvas. 

OUR PROCESS: We offer a large canvas so children can have full range of motion when exploring paint on the surfaces. We also offer small individual canvases.  Painting does not have to be about sitting at the table with a paintbrush and paint, we try to be creative and offer it to children in different ways.  We lay a large plastic sheet on the floor along with a drop cloth and place the canvas on top. Children will freely enjoy rolling around on the canvas making those all important marks. Painting is very much a tactile sensory experience, for some children getting messy can be distressing, so we follow their lead in making the decisions of whether to touch and explore.  When introducing the canvases we put them on the floor for children to explore as they are comfortable, as they get older we offer the small canvas on the table so that children can be in an upright position and have the opportunity to be more intentional about their marks. We have also started to offer objects for children to explore while painting, such as cars, balls and large hand brushes.  The change in the canvases over time can be seen as the children become familiar with the painting experience by adding colors and creating more marks. 

COLLAGE FACES MADE BY PRESCHOOLERS

Preschoolers searched through magazine clippings to find eyes, ears, noses, mouths and more to create unique faces. The children practiced how to properly hold and manipulate their scissors while cutting out the entirety of a shape.  They identified facial features in photos from the magazines that their face still needed. They had to think about what was still missing from the oval and children with more independent skills were able to use extra time to find more detailed facial features like eyebrows and hair or even accessories. Once they’d completed the collaging aspect, some children chose to add details like skin tones or jewelry with markers. 

We have been thinking about facial features all year and noticing the importance of movement and placement in recognizing emotions. Additionally, they are actively exploring representations of their own skin tone, as well as the tones of others people’s skin. 

TRANSFORMATION: CANVAS COMING TO LIFE

Painting experiences have provided the opportunity for communication with one other while working on shared projects and exploring common interests.  The soothing process of painting is often what is interesting to young children. The pleasant feeling of painting over and over, using a large canvas to have a full range of motion. We provide a variety of brushes and tools to experiment with while following the interests of the group.  Keeping the play invitations open ended encourages children to exchange ideas, consider solutions and develop shared meanings through collaboration.  It allows children to enter into imaginative worlds, to be creative and to engage in playful thinking.  Here you will see a progression of the canvas over time, the children adding new colors and making new marks along the way! 

The children added tape and then gold tempera paint over it to create this effect!
After adding some vibrant blue paint, the children added some sand with glitter!

OUR SECOND CANVAS WITH DIFFERENT COLOR VARIETY!

BABIES GROSS MOTOR EXPLORATION

Physical development, also commonly known as motor development, refers to the growth of a young child’s body and ability to move, balance and effect change in their environments with their bodies. Motor development can be further divided into gross motor, generally meaning big body movements, and fine motor, referring to finger and hand manipulations. Motor development is known to be a cornerstone of child’s health and well-being, but did you know? It can also support other areas of development as well. We know that play is the vehicle through which children learn and babies use their bodies foremost in play, whether it is shaking a rattle or showing off a yoga pose. The best way to support physical development in young children is to provide plenty of opportunities to move, crawl, dance, and jump! In the BCS Infant room we continually offer opportunities to explore new ways to move and balance. We also take time to revisit and practice what the children are already familiar with.

Some of the ways we have supported physical development in the infant room include:
 Big Ball Play
 Climbing and exploring on the ramps, stumps, big blocks and pickler climber
 Yoga
 Jumping, Jumping, Jumping!
 Dancing!

EXPLORING TINY LIVING CREATURES & THE IMPORTANCE OF A GENTLE TOUCH

When children have opportunities to interact with wildlife, a whole new world of wonder can open up. There is so much information out there that shows children who are supported in their love for animals tend to generalize that love to other living things.  When children are encouraged to care for animals, they tend to be more sensitive and caring toward other people as well.  By providing children with the opportunity to observe and care for wildlife, you are helping nurture those feelings of connection and empathy of ALL living things. 

One form of wildlife widely and easily accessible are bugs, insects and worms. There are also several learning moments when exploring these. As we all know, children are not aware of their power.  This means that often children simply don’t expect to kill the creatures when they step on them, and children can be quite upset to learn that it has died.  This is a great moment to educate children on how their bodies impact others around them.  As educators, we bring in the language of “gentle” or “careful” to encourage the appropriate touch or lack of when exploring tiny living things. 

As we do with all other life situations it is important for you to allow children to observe and share their discoveries.  Encourage their questions and conversations.  By giving children a moment to explore wildlife, they are learning the importance of the world around them.  It takes the focus off from themselves, even if just for a moment.  Exploring tiny living things requires nothing more than curiosity and willingness to engage and observe. 

“I find a bug” – 3 year old notices a pill bug on a nearby piece of driftwood and watches as it moves
“It’s a worm!” – 1 1/2 year old investigates a worm found in the garden
“Look me so gentle” – 3 year old lets an ant crawl on their hand
These two children have a conversation about how it feels in their hands “gooey and slimy”
“No bite me. It tickles, fuzzy hair” – 3 year old describes this tent caterpillar
This child was turning over stumps in our loose parts area on our playground and found this pill bug “Oh look at him, he is so wiggly!”

GARDENING WITH TODDLERS

As the weather has quickly turned to Spring/Summer we have started to plant seeds and plant starts outside on our playground. So many great skills and investigations have been made and we continue to make new discoveries every day!  Through garden play, children acquire and improve crucial skills, have fun, and develop self-confidence all the while enjoying nature.  A garden can be an interactive way for children that engages all of their senses, involving all the senses feeds both curiosity and passion in toddlers and thus, the love for gardening.  

But what are the skills children learn from nature and how does gardening help a child’s development?  Children learn reliability and responsibility when it comes to taking care of plants day after day.  Getting children involved in gardening allows them to experience plant care and nourish a responsible, consistent and positive attitude towards hard work. Helping kids get into the habit of caring for seeds and plants they have sown can instill a great sense of responsibility. 

We will continue to expand our garden, especially at the BCS Archibald Garden plot, where there are many more opportunities for unearthing new learnings!  

EXPLORATION OF SKIN TONES

Aside

Objectives:

  • Children will explore various skin tones.
  • Children recognize and build understanding of the diversity of skin tone at BCS in their communities and the world.
  • Children understand what determines an individual’s skin tone and the roles of melanin
  • Children understand that skin is simply a covering for our bodies. It does not provide other information about an individual and does not impact an individual’s rights.

Vocabulary:

  • Skin tone – What is it? We all have a skin tone, there is variation. Skin is the covering of our bodies. You can’t tell what a person is like, thinks, feels, or enjoys by their skin tone.
  • Melanin (pigment in the skin) – We talk about how our skin color is determined by how active and excited the melanin in our skin – the more active melanin is the darker the skin, eyes, hair, or freckles. Skin tone does not determine value.

“We have different skins, see… different colors” – 3 year old

At the Burlington Children’s Space we use skin tone art mediums (crayons, markers paint and colored pencils) so children can accurately represent skin tone in their work. Children have access to the photos of their family and the families of their friends. We work hard to provide representation of the ethnicity and diversity of skin tones in the classroom in age-appropriate children’s books.

We also provide representation in dolls and miniature dramatic play people. Dramatic play is a great way to spark conversations about what is alike or different about the represented ‘toy’. These talks make it easier for children to simplify their play without comparing themselves – a simpler comparison between two objects. This starting place for conversations leads to so many discoveries about themselves and others around them.

“We take care of all of the babies!” 3 year old

We painted wooden peg people for the block area in our classroom. The children choose which color they wanted to paint their person. Such great conversations were happening while painting these figures.

“How come they are all different?” 3 year old

These are lasting conversations that are so meaningful for children to understand that we are all different but in so many ways the same; that what we see on the outside is only one piece of what makes up each person.

“This one like you” 2 year old

“My skin darker than you skin” 2 year old

“Chocolate skin!” 2 1/2 year old

We have introduced magnetic face boards to help spark further conversations about skin tone variations, while also including the work on emotions, facial awareness and features. Toddlers are little people with big emotions. Play gives children a chance to explore and express their emotions and also practice managing them. Offering opportunities to explore emotions in a positive and engaging way supports self-regulation and teaches them to express their own feelings.

“him has a hairy nose” 2 year old

This guy mad!” 2 year old

“This person has curly hair” 3 year old