Something to wRite about…
Get a sensory table they said, it will be fun they said....
Actually it is A LOT of fun having a sensory table, regardless of the "mess" and I quote mess, because this is the adult's interpretation of what the environment looks like when children play. . I prefer to call it "evidence of play" however in this story, I will call it a mess. Ok, so let me tell you, having a sensory table be a lot- mess wise, mentally and physically. Let's back it up... in February I had beans in the table, messy, messy, messy, then in April I put rice in there.. MESSY MESSY MESSIER!! ..... Rice was EVERYWHERE, I swear there was rice in my pants, socks and shirt at the end of the day! Even though I have mini brooms out and I help sweep up when the opportunity arises. I try not to clean while the children are playing, unless I am invited to help clean or a suggestion has been made that I help them clean, as it sends a negative message that they are being too messy and they do not need this on their conscience as they are playing... Anyways, rice... it gets everywhere and you find rice months and months after the table has been changed to something else. On this pom pom throwing day S was tidying up the pom poms and she said, "Oh look I found some rice!!" hahaha
Most of the time the mess comes from the children scooping up the rice and putting it in containers on the side of the table or other objects from the table as seen below and subsequently the containers getting too full and spilling, or you have children that will take cupfuls of rice or beans or whatever and purposely dump the contents on the ground. While this can be extremely frustrating for the adult, for the child this is learning. Dumping, pouring, throwing, dropping, rolling is a type of Play Schema called trajectory- Interest in moving objects by throwing, dropping, or rolling. May include the trajectory of own body by jumping off things or bumping into things. Interacting with things that are already moving, for example putting hands under running water.....
As you can see from the photo below, there is a child cleaning up without prompting, she took it upon herself to start tidying up.
In child development, Swiss Psychologist Jean Piaget (1952) defined schema as: “a cohesive, repeatable action sequence possessing component actions that are tightly interconnected and governed by a core meaning.”
History of Schemas of Play:
Jean Piaget was one of the first to use the term “schema” or “schemata” in 1923. Piaget was one of the most important child development Theorists and his Theory of Cognitive Development was and still is incredibly influential.
He was one of the first who believed children think differently than adults and that they have an innate desire to learn, and do so by constantly taking in information from the world around them.
A major piece of his Theory of Cognitive Development was schemata. He theorized that children have three schemata: Symbolic Schemata, Operational Schemata, and Behavioral Schemata.
So what are they learning by dumping and pouring? They are learning cause and effect, gross motor skills, visual tracking, body awareness, observing, and predicting.
Here's the nitty gritty and I'm going to be brutally honest. Your child is constantly learning through every moment in their lives, regardless! Children learn best through uninterrupted and unstructured play and large time blocks without transitions!!!! Oh and not telling them no tot make a mess!
Children do not need to sit down in desks filling out stupid workshits, sitting criss cross 'give me a freaking break' applesauce in stupid circle time being quiet and JUST listening and watching the adult perform for the children. I am not a performer or an entertainer, I am a facilitator in a child's learning through play experiences providing a loving, caring, accepting, honest relationships where the children can feel honored and trusted to be free and play and learn in an environment that welcomes MESS! Let them spill the beans or rice, and if you are tired of the mess, put something in the table that's less messy but FUN like I did. HONESTLY, the rice was getting to be a bit much for me, so I did decide to swap it out with pompoms which is much easier for cleaning up and let me tell you, more fun to throw around the room!!!!
And what could be better in life then frolicking in the pom poms as they are splattered all over the floor??
In the end, I gave them all buckets and said, "Let's see who can fill their bucket to the top." And guess what, they did, they cleaned it all up, and believe it or not, it did not become a competition. They would each fill up each other's buckets!
There is so much rich and authentic learning when you step back and let the children do their own thing and put aside the fear of them making a mess!
Last week as I observed M work on her art creation, I recalled an article that Teacher Tom wrote many years ago Just the Right Amount which has had a huge impact on the art process of children over the years.
I was mesmerized at how consumed and focused she was in her play. First she would use just one glue spreader to spread on the glue, then she grabbed another. Next thing you know she is scooping the glue and dripping it from the spreaders onto the paper.
Next she proceeded to pick up the glue pot and scoop out the glue with the spreader. By this time the glue was oozing off her paper onto the table. She would periodically glance at it on the table and it didn't seem to bother her. I didn't say anything, I just stood back and observed and admired. As Lisa Murphy says, "The best teachers have bite marks on their tongues."
Soon after the spreaders were dropped and her fingers came out! She started to spread the glue around with her fingers. By now she was fully immersed in her project.
And that was it, she said she was done! I explained to her that I would have to carefully lift it up and place it on top of another larger piece of paper so that I could set it aside to dry. She said, "It's going to take forever to dry!"
I can't wait to see her again to show her what her creation looks like now that it is dry. I wonder what she will think, what she will say, if she will reflect on the process...
Years ago when I first entered the field, I feel like I remember having to "ration" supplies as we only had so much in our budget to purchase supplies each month and there were three educators that had to use that money. I would never say things to diminish their sense of creativity if they were "using too much", however, I did feel bad limiting supplies especially when they expressed they wanted more. It wasn't until I opened my own program where I had control over how much I had to spend and how I would allocate my funds that I felt fully in control of what children could use. I always budgeted enough for art supplies especially paper, glue, paint, stickers, shiny things and wiggly eyes to name a few top contenders. I also focused on shopping at thrift stores and dollar stores to get more for my money. I also have parents donate items to the program.
I can distinctly remember one Christmas in 2017, some of the children were creating Christmas cards and they kept placing foamy stickers on top of each other piling them up along with globs of glue. My mind went to ... oh no, I don't have many foamies left... maybe I should remind them there are others that may want to come and create art. I looked around, no one was near..... I saw the joy in their eyes and heard the enthusiasm in their voice about who was going to be so lucky to get that card for Christmas from them. And reflected that some of the kiddos didn't come to the art centre very much so this was a rare occasion that I could not stop them from creating what they wanted to with how much they felt was just enough. I also thought that if someone else came to the table and wanted some foamies, then we would have to work through it. But guess what... no one else came to the table and guess what... no one ever knew how much they used!
"Playing with extremes is how we learn about self-limitation, which is at the heart of self-regulation or self-control. When we're not permitted the opportunity to explore limits, it means we are under the control of others, leaving us with two choices: rebellion (the natural human response to external control) or obedience (the unnatural one), neither of which tend to contribute much positive to our self-identity or our ability to think for ourselves." Teacher Tom
So the next time your child is "using too much" stop and think.... does it really matter, do I now need to put a limit (limits should be placed ahead of time), can I find another alternatives- dig in your cupboards and bring out other things for them to use. I do this quite often. If there are limits, they should be set out ahead of time, and example could be "Just so you know, we only have a little bit of wiggly eyes, I have divided all that I have between everyone and have given you each a bowl with what you can use." And in this instance, I have also noticed some others haven't come to use their share and have worked together with that child to see if they will be using it and would like to offer up to another child and most of the time, the child says others can use their share.
Now I need to go and replenish the glue and the loose parts materials
"We just have to be able to be doing what we know is important and appropriate for the age and development of the child that's in front of us. Not our image of what people expect or our sorta persona of a teacher that we want to have for ourselves."
Listen to it here:
It starts in the baby room:
Most of us in ECE agree that infancy is just as full of learning as preschool, but what should practice look like under that philosophy? Is it letters and numbers and shapes? Is it group activities? Lisa Murphy and Heather don’t think so.
"We just have to be able to be doing what we know is important and appropriate for the age and development of the child that's in front of us. Not our image of what people expect or our sorta persona of a teacher that we want to have for ourselves." Heather Bernt-Santy, M.A.ED.
This episode isn't just about working with babies, it's relevant to all age groups. It really made my morning listening to this one. If you haven't checked out this podcast, I highly recommend doing so, there are so many great topics for you to pick and choose from and so many guest speakers. I really enjoy when there are guest authors on there. It gives you a glimpse into what their style is like and into the books they write. I've purchased a few books from listening this this posdcast.
So many times I have heard educators tell children they can do certain things. No you can’t touch that. No you can’t move that. No you can do that! WHY? If you can not tell them why with a logical answer, let them do it.
Did anyone get hurt, did any property get damaged?
I got this pinwheel for my yard in my old home, and had just unpacked it and placed it accordingly in the garden and admired it. Monday morning comes around and one of the children grabs it out of the dirt and started carrying it around. I almost asked them to put it back. I took a breath and asked myself, “Is anyone going to get hurt? Is any property going to get damaged?” No, then no big deal, walk away! (Plus I bought it from the dollar store for two bucks so it’s not really that big of a deal!) And so I didn't say a word!
What came about was magical “I like how when I walk the colors go around.” After running around: “If I stop, it stops” “when the wind stops I have to blow”….. concentration, attention span, one on one correspondence, eye hand for ordination, science discoveries, relationship to the world, exploring real items, relationship building, self confidence, self esteem…. so many real and hands on learning opportunities.
And guess what!!!!?? It didn’t get broken and they always put it back in the garden. Not in the same place, HOWEVER, it doesn’t really matter!
There’s so much rich exploration, discovery and learning for children if we just stop and ask the question, “does it really matter?”
Ser.en.dip.i.ty [ser-uhn-dip-i-tee]- Noun 1. Luck in making desirable discoveries by accident
Typically when we go inside from outdoor play we take off our gear, wash our hands then meet on the carpet for a gathering time- others may call it circle time, it’s certainly never a circle, it could be a half moon, an oval, a square, but more often then not it’s chaos and sometimes a mosh pit 🤣
During this time we hang up our owl names on the tree then do whatever… read a story, play a game, talk, whatever the children want. On this particular day, we came in, took our gear off, washed our hands and I met them at the carpet with the hopes to read the story, “The very hungry caterpillar” as we had just gotten our caterpillars and I really wanted to read it.
A few children were straggling along getting their outdoor gear off and washing hands and the others were getting restless and they started hopping around from one mat to another and soon others joined and it became a game. There was laughter, turn taking, patience, perseverance, negotiation, frustration, joy, team work, and most of all ~ it was led by the children.
“Hey guys watch out, look out, look at me, watch this, 3,2,1!, look I can jump to D’s spot…..”
I snuck away and went about my business. They continued on this play for about 5 minutes and then they they slowly meandered off into their own play elsewhere with no mention about having a gathering time.
My program is about the children, it’s child centered, I follow their lead. It’s not about me and what I want to do. I will share with them somethings that I like to do and go from there, however, I do not make them sit down, be quiet and read that story I wanted to read. That wasn’t important for them- jumping on the mats was important for them- that’s what matters and that’s the greatest learning of all!
And I reiterate: What am I doing, why am I doing it, who am I doing it for?
I started walking again in January around my new neighborhood in the mornings. I used to walk over a year ago and I had to stop, I’ll share about that another time. It felt so good to be back at it again. It’s a great time to think, reflect, wonder and just be in the moment with no distractions.
As I walk I am looking at other people’s yards and their set ups, trees, dirt, flowers, the sky, airplanes, and most of all the amazing view from way up here ✨
I don’t take photos everyday, however here’s a snippet of the last four months. I love seeing the changes of the season! The photos aren’t in order… perhaps I’ll fix it one day.
As I walk I wonder, how long have they lived in that house for? How did they bring all that rock to their house? How much time they spend on yard work, oh that’s a steep driveway just like mine…..
What kind of plant is this, I really like it, I need to get some… oh I just found out it’s an invasive species and it can be harmful if touched.
Ooh is this the wild asparagus I hear about? It’s not but sure looks like it…
I noticed this family chopped their trees down from the front of their house and chipped the logs and they used the wood chips on the ground in front of their trees, it smells so fresh.
I wonder where these people got their address sign, I want one…
I should grab some more bulrushes… oh maybe not, that was really not such a great idea last time…. 😅
Think about the times you have wondered and what you were doing and how you felt about your thoughts, how you validate them and process them. Now think about children and their wonderings. So often they are disregarded as meaningless and insignificant. We tend to brush it off and hurry on and give them the technical answer. We need to stop doing that. We need to relish in their moment with them and truly listen and get into their world with them.
Often I will share my wonder with the children. I wonder why this water is so cold. I wonder why this flower died? I wonder why we have to wear shoes? Sometimes they look at me like I’m silly and shrug it off and sometimes they truly have suggestions for me and we have some great meaningful conversations. When they tell me their wonderings or ask me why, I will often reply, “I wonder, what do you think”…. and dive right into a conversation with them, sometimes for a just a moment and sometimes longer.
The next time you are wondering, say it out loud to who you are with, have that discussion with them, open the conversation, relish the rich connection that will follow, be in that moment and you will experience the joy of having someone relish in your wonderings, and visa versa; open your mind to their wonderings, relish in their moments ✨
Angela Roy, Early Childhood Educator
My family moved to Lake Country in November 2021. After 9 years of operating my preschool from downtown Kelowna, I opened up my preschool from my home in February 2022.
I will often post on my preschool Facebook page stories about my preschool and things we are doing etc. But then I decided I should utilize my webpage and start writing on here. I am in no means a professional writer, but wanted to give it a shot. There may be grammar and spelling mistakes, and I’m ok with that (please do not shame me for this!)
This is me, in the moment and sharing a part of my life alongside my preschool program. Feel free to comment and share your words with me if you choose. Happy reading ✨