Toddler Yoga & Mindfulness

Throughout this year the children have been provided the opportunity to explore choices that support them in investigating their feelings and understanding emotions in a healthy and safe way. These choices include, yet are not limited to, the self-care space, yoga, and visuals/books.

Identifying and regulating one’s emotions is something we continue to practice throughout the entirety of our lives so why wouldn’t we start now!? The self-care space in our room is an accessible area for one child to use as a time to take space and restart. Within this space there are a variety of tools for children to use as they work towards self-regulation. We are consistently altering the available tools to give children the choice to explore. Exploration of these tools provides the children with an understanding of what helps them personally get back to where they need to be emotionally.

The exploration of yoga benefits the children’s development of body awareness, concentration, and relaxation. Like adult yoga, children oversee their own practice whether that means physically doing the poses, looking at yoga pictures, joining in with the group, or choosing to do the movements on their own.

There are many visuals in and around the classroom that support the children in identifying and understanding why they are feeling the way they do.

Multi-Block Building with Old Toddlers

This collaborative building experience uses a variety of several different types of blocks. Children and teachers build together creating a single structure. The structure evolves and is always changing as new blocks are added, making it quite funky and requiring flexibility in its construction and design.

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The building can be done simultaneously with several individuals navigating around the structure or as a turn taking exercise.

Multi-Block Build promotes team and group ownership as the builders problem solve block placement (different types of blocks have varying attributes affecting balance and stack ability) and what to do if we accidentally knock over part of the structure.  Everyone enjoys the process and expresses support of follow builders and pride in the work.

 

Engaging Families in the Classroom

We have been inviting families in to the young toddler classroom to share their passions and interests with us (this includes parents and siblings). We put a sign-up sheet at the entrance of our classroom. Allowing space and time to be very open-ended, while encouraging families to come whenever they feel comfortable. We made it a priority to encourage families to come regardless of our routine or curriculum plans.

Some families have requested specific explorations while others asked to join an investigation that we do in our classroom to get a better feel for ongoing curriculum. Just to list a few shared experiences – block building with an architect, drawing with a parent who loves art, cooking with a foody, reading with siblings, band-aids with a nurse.

 

It is our hope that with these opportunities, families feel a better home-school connection. It is a value of our classroom that families and children are feeling supported and always feel welcome. Continuing to encourage and develop these relationships shows children that their families are valued here at BCS!

Dramatic Play

Throughout the year the toddlers have been exploring the kitchen area. Several different items to manipulate and handle have been offered to the children to further explore their love of cooking, stacking, shaking, whisking, opening & closing containers and pretending to eat. Some of the items being offered are pinecones, spoons, pom-poms, spice containers, gourds, bowls, whisks, cups, felt food and baskets. The children’s perceptions of the items being offered in this space has also transformed the children’s play. This sheer willingness to accept ideas of others is captivating.

The imaginations of the children have transformed peer interactions and encouraged opportunities for engaging with the whole group. As one child enters the space often other children will offer to join. The opportunity for peers working together in a small space has supported exchanges for sharing popular items which children always seem to yearn for.

How does offering real cooking experience affect the children’s scripts?
Do the imaginary items share properties with what they replace?

In this same area of the classroom the teachers have included baby dolls which offer a whole new experience to incorporate the children’s exploration with their own bodies. The children have been feeding, bathing, clothing, singing and talking to the babies. As children do this, they become more familiar with what is appropriate behavior towards their peers. The children have been imitating behaviors of the adults in their lives as they interact with their babies. For example, the children have been shushing the baby to sleep, rocking the baby, feeding the baby in the kitchen, using band-aids for ‘boo boos’ or wrapping the baby in a blanket.

 

The Power of Self Love

This week I had to transfer all of our work on “Self-Love and Self-Observation”
into a bigger binder. That is a good sign. The children have genuinely latched onto the
concept I hoped to drive home: it is important to know what we are capable of and just as important to love ourselves for it. Also, as always, the children led me down some
unexpected avenues. It turns out our extensive work on learning to love ourselves has led us to love each other more, too.

One of my favorite art projects to begin each year with is self-portraiture. It is an
introductory project that helps preschoolers see themselves as a unique individual within a larger community. This is especially important for children as they enter school and a group care setting. Children start to develop an identity during their earliest years and a positive and accurate self-image is crucial for having positive self-esteem in the future. I encourage the children to be as objective or “scientific” as they can while they do their self-portrait. For example, I instruct them to look into the mirror and try to find colors that accurately match what they observe. Of course, some students still draw themselves with pink hair or a butterfly face tattoo, but it’s a start. And on a more practical level, self-portraits introduce children to my personal style and philosophy for guiding art-based curriculum. I acquaint children with a number of special art materials (permanent skin tone markers, sharpies, skin tone graphite pencils and multiracial crayons) in an intimate small group setting.

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The children are welcome to use these art supplies freely during our more focused
groups. In my experience, providing children with fresh, beautiful art supplies in a quiet
setting helps them produce meaningful art. After familiarizing children with the process of self-observations through self-portraiture, we began our next project. An elementary school teacher, Wendy Ewald, created a project called “The Best Part of Me,” which I adapted for a preschool classroom. In this project the children took the next step in self-awareness. Not only did they need to objectively know what their bodies can do, but subjectively know what they loved most about their bodies. Once again, the children made astute observations about themselves and expressed their observations through poetry. This is no small feat for three, four and five year olds. The children were thoughtful, positive and witty while choosing and writing about the best part of themselves. Our daily practice of positive self talk and writing in our “Self-Love” binder had paid off in abundance. At this point, I personally started to think about how we could bring this love and positivity outside each individual. I foresaw the possible downside to our singular focus on the self. Would I be encouraging these children to be self-centered? To not notice each other’s strengths? To not care about each other? So part of our “Best Part of Me” challenge was to let a friend photograph their “best part.” During the photography process, the children asked each other questions about how they wanted the final photograph to look and often gave advice on how best to showcase their body part.

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The collaboration and positivity made me sigh in relief. I had not yet created tiny
self-absorbed humans. On the contrary, I discovered that this group of children cares
deeply for each other and truly does notice the special things about each other. That is the juicy stuff that keeps me teaching; that is empathy. Unfortunately, humans are not born with empathy. It is something that begins to develop around preschool age and it does not always come easily. But this group of children does not shy away from a good challenge, so I put their care for each other to the test one more time. I assigned each child a peer to observe and draw. We used the same artistic process as our self-portraits: careful observation, objective and non-judgmental language followed by detailed drawings. We spent focused time in small groups, matching each other’s skin tone, eye color and hair color to the color palettes I made from our relevant art supplies.

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We participated in collaborative discussions when there were disagreements or
questions about colors. We celebrated the fact that some of us had the same colors. We
celebrated when we did not. These small groups were completely void of judgment and
full of empathy, love and kindness. We are not perfect. But if we take time to look back at how far we have come, it is truly an extraordinary sight. I honestly believe that building positive self-esteem now will be an indispensable asset to these children later on. I believe they will be the next generation of change makers and positive leaders in our world. It has become clear that loving ourselves unconditionally frees up a lot of brainpower to love each other, too. I wish I had realized this a lot sooner, but it is never too late to start practicing. This love is clear in the portraits children drew of their friends, each labeled with their friend’s name painstakingly written with care.

 

Curriculum and writing by Natalie Stroud in the Green Preschool

Literacy – Young Toddlers

Reading books with the children has been a significant part of building our classroom community. While some children like to be read to, others like to enjoy the autonomy of browsing a favorite book independently. This is a wonderful experience in our classroom that introduces words and topics which children are interested in. During this shared experience the children are sustaining engagement over a common item while enriching their language. Books invite children to explore by looking, touching, and pointing while at the same time making personal connections.

These are some of the questions that we as teachers have been thinking about while creating meaningful curriculum for the children:

How do the different types of books change the children’s engagement?
How do children initiate reading a book with a peer?
How do children choose a favorite book? Through personal connections with the content? With being read to?

Canvas Painting – Babies

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As a class we enjoy engaging with media that leaves a mark. One of the sensory options that we have offered to children is painting.  Through this experience the children have been able to maintain freedom in making their own discoveries and creating new learning opportunities. As teachers, we have strived to provide meaningful opportunities for every participant.

Some children like to have a full-body experience using all of their senses, others take on a slower approach, while some prefer to observe others engaging in the activity. This is why we offer several approaches for children to allow for discovery making and whole body engagement while at the same time responding to the needs of the individual.

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This child sits on the canvas looking around at the wet blobs of paint. He puts both hands out in front of himself and gets on all fours. He stands up cautiously and slips on the paint falling onto his bottom. He tries again, this time successfully standing up with a great big smile. He takes a step forward onto the paint and slips, but catches himself. He swivels his body, continuing to be very careful not to fall. Another peer, grinning with a face full of paint, lays on his belly just outside of the canvas. He watches his peer very intently with each step he takes. The child continues to walk back-and-forth on the canvas creating footprints and smear marks.

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Small group activities provide meaningful opportunities for children to communicate with one another leading to the development of diverse communication skills.  Using gestures and sounds to communication with one another. This is a very exciting time to spend with the children as everyone responds differently. Children encourage, observe and learn from one another furthering their artistic development.