Monday, March 31, 2014

Preschool Tummy Time

I mentioned in an earlier that I would explain what I meant by "preschool tummy time". 

Several years ago while attending a conference, my co-workers and I were turned on to an idea for using "tummy time" with preschoolers.  The idea was for preschoolers to engage in activities while lying on their tummies in an effort to strengthen their upper body (arms, neck, shoulders) as well as fine motor control which would help prepare them physically for future writing.  I never looked into the science behind it because it made sense and it sounded like a fun idea.  

Back at our center, each teacher prepared an area of her classroom specifically for tummy time.  The teachers gathered suitable tummy time materials in individual baskets and added them to a shelf near her large group rug...small individual throw rugs were added for children to use if they chose a different area of the classroom as their space.  A small portion of each day was devoted to the children playing in this way.  It turned out that it was a great chance to get the kids engaged with different materials and activities in a low key manner. Think about is hard to get too rowdy when lying on one's tummy.  It made for a mellow time during the day.  They kids enjoyed these experiences and often requested "tummy time" which meant it kept us teachers on our toes finding appropriate materials to stock the

Here is a run down of some of the baskets to choose from:
  • Mr. Potato Head
  • Etch-a-Sketch (although hard to shake/erase while propped on one's elbows...a protective helmet might have been a good call with this basket)
  • Stationery, writing instruments, envelopes
  • Sorting baskets--kid's meal toys were perfect here
  • Small play sets--construction scene, doll house, dinosaurs, etc.
  • Coloring books, crayons, colored pencils
  • Puzzles
  • Games:  dominoes, tic-Tac-Toe, checkers, card games, memory
  • Lacing cards, dressing frames
  • Legos
  • Tray with play dough
  • Stencils for tracing
There are so many possibilities and possibly so many benefits!

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Some Thinking about Learning Centers

In the last week, I have been talking to two of my early childhood courses about using learning centers in EC classrooms.  I am a total believer in the power of learning through child initiated play I think one of the most important jobs of the early childhood professional is to plan the environment so that it works for the kids. To an outsider...the "play" centers in an EC classroom might not appear planned but they should and often do take much deliberation as to the choices of items to include.  One of my classes will be arranging a fictitious preschool classroom that must include a minimum of 5 learning centers.  My EC curriculum class is beginning to work on their thematic units that must include ideas for various learning centers.  
I get excited as my students are working on these I love to plan and I often begin plotting out new ideas I would like to put into motion.  

These assignments have caused me to reflect on centers I have implemented in my years as a preschool teacher.  In my classroom I always included the following centers:  blocks, dramatic play (corresponding with the theme), sensory tables (sand/water and anything goes), manipulatives, library corner, art, and often a thematic inspired area.  I have also tried some other centers for limited periods of time:  snack, computer, listening, music, science, and preschool tummy time (explanation to follow in a future post).  I was never brave enough to add a wood working center in my classroom.  

This past Friday, the lead preschool teacher, some of our student teachers, and I reworked the block area.  I wish I would have taken a "before" photo.  All the blocks were taken off the shelves, cleaned, and sorted.  Random blocks were gathered for use elsewhere.  Shelves were wiped down and new shelf labels were made.  A HUGE bin of extra blocks that had been in our playground storage shed was brought in...all blocks wiped down, and added to the newly organized shelves.  This cleaning and organizing adventure was the beginning of a block area enhancement project that I am working on for a future conference presentation.  I am planning on adding inexpensive simple items to lure the kiddos into the block area to play.  The block area has not had a makeover in quite a while and the kids need some new challenges.  The children's reaction to the items will be fun to observe and will provide the college students with some new skills to documents and ideas for their future classrooms.

The inventory on these shelves is a little more skimpy than others...more room for new items.

Nice load of unit blocks!

So nicely organized...until Monday.
Whole newly reorganized block area!

The first new addition to the block area are some tree blocks and forest animals as one of our student teachers is implanting a camping/forest theme next week