Tuesday, August 31, 2021

My friend died

 I learned a hell of a lot from Dan Hodgins. 

He was mentor, a friend, and a "bone shaker" for many of us in the field of Early Childhood Education. He was and will always be a champion for children, and protector of childhood.  

I have so many great memories of time spent with him, it just doesn't seem like we had enough time. Dan died this past Saturday. 
Interestingly enough, Dan and I talked about death quite a bit. It is one of those topics that isn't talked about all that much in our field, but is super important. All living things eat, all living things poop, and all living things die. 

Dan and I recorded a podcast for awhile called "Shaking Bones." Dan was always shaking bones, even before I met him. To say I was honored to be asked to be his co-host would be putting it lightly. I loved recording with him. He was never afraid to touch on topics that were a bit edgy, or issues that sometimes weren't talked about much at all.  We even talked about death during one of the episodes. (You can find all of our archived episodes over at playvolution hq)

We shared a number of resources and ways to talk about death with children, and well, aren't we all children or as Dan would say "former children?"  I prefer to be a "blown up" not quite ready to be grown up ;). So, one of the ways to help children and ourselves through the process of grief is to share the memories.....
On one of his trips for Play Day here in Marquette, we held a session at the children's museum. This was Dan's favorite slide. It is an intestine, and there is a fart button at the bottom. He really liked the fart button. 
Then, there was that one time when we were in Maryland at the first ever PEP Rally, and we sang "George Washington Bridge." Dan was never afraid to sing, and sometimes his singing was more like yelling. When you work with young children you've just got to sing! I remember Dan telling me that his favorite thing to do at IKEA was to sing in all of the bathrooms/showers. The last few times we have been there, my husband Allan and I did just that. If you haven't tried it, I highly recommend trying it. 
I was so lucky to have been able to bring Dan to the U.P. a couple of times for Play Day. He sure loved to come and visit, the fall colors were always something he looked forward to. But he much prefered the warmer weather in Florida. 
After I met Dan, he was persistent in convincing me to make my way to Good Stuff for Kids in Roseville, California. I made it there in 2014 and I sure did learn a lot of "good stuff" and made some life long friends, I found my play tribe there. 
I don't have any pictures of the first time I met Dan, but I will never forget it. I was sitting in the back row at a training with my friend Carol. I had never heard of Dan Hodgins, but I had to get my training hours in. So, there I was in one of the back rows, thinking I was going to just coast through the day to get those hours in. I was talking to my friend Carol when she glanced up and saw a picture that Dan was showing, and she said... "Isn't that your backyard?" And it was... Dan was talking about outdoor classrooms and had found some photos from my blog. Carol stood up, pointed down at me and said "That's Amy's backyard!" and well, a number of photos in his presentation were from my yard. The standing joke with every slide was "Is this yours too?" He had me jump in to share a bit about my yard that day, and he convinced me to start "taking my show on the road." 
There was one time where I was presenting at the MiAEYC conference (thanks to his nudging) where they put me in a tiny room. Dan told everyone in his session to come and listen to me. Needless to say, the room and hallway were packed and I ended up projecting in the hallway so everyone could see and hear. He told me that he knew I was going to need a bigger room! 
We worked on a lot of projects together. I loved presenting with Dan at Play Day. I loved sharing our activities and photos with him. (Many of the photos in his second book are from our program). Last time he was here, he talked a lot about retirement and "passing the torch along." He was always nudging me to write more, and to speak more. (Did you know I started on 3 books.... they still need a lot of work, and someday maybe I will finish them). I enjoyed the nudging, but juggling my priorities at home has always come first. 
I sure am going to miss Dan sharing things that made people think and offering ways for children to feel powerful....
I am going to miss his laughter, and sheer love of life and adventure.
I know he was really worried about what is going to happen to childhood and play, 
I also now that he touched so many lives.
The power of the relationships he fostered, the seeds he planted.... 
I know that no one person can or should carry that torch he kept trying to pass, but together.... together we can be so much more.

Rest in play my friend. 
You are deeply missed, but never forgotten. 

Sunday, August 29, 2021

Making Mixed Ages Work:


I get a lot of comments and questions in regard to our program. Often people have a hard time understanding how to work with so many different ages and levels of development.  

How do you manage your time with the daily needs of the younger children
and the learning needs of the older children?

What do you do to keep older children from being "bored"? 

How do you make sure that you are meeting the needs of each child? 

How do you structure the day?

      First, age is a number. Children, especially young children develop at different paces. The range of ages at which children accomplish certain developmental milestones can be HUGE! So, just because you work with a specific age group does not mean that you don't have to deal with some of these same issues.  If we can let go of the age expectations and respect children for who they are and where they are developmentally, it will make juggling those differences much easier.  One of my favorite quotes that I'm not sure where it originated is : "The only place we segregate people by age is school." 

Providing children an opportunity to learn and grow with a multitude of ages is more natural and allows those children to benefit more from each other.  Giving older children the opportunity to interact with infants helps them along their developmentally path of gaining empathy. (Check out this article on CNN). Older children also have the opportunity to be role models for younger children, and can reach greater levels of mastery when they become the "teachers."  Younger children have an opportunity to be exposed to activities and to try things that the older children initiate. 

     Providing a variety of different materials for a similar activity is a great way to allow various ages and levels of development to participate. Younger children may not be able to squeeze the spray bottles, but they can dump the paint and/or use the paint brushes. (This is the fizzing sidewalk paint!)

     I run a play-based, emergent curriculum which really helps cater to a variety of ages and developmental levels. My job is to create an environment for learning and I don't really see myself as a teacher or educator, but more as a "facilitator." When the environment is well thought out and prepared, my role in the child's learning is minimized. They gain the independence and confidence to take charge of their own explorations, and ultimately their own learning. My job is to provide the resources and to keep children safe.  Thus, the "structure" of our day is highly variable. We have consistent meal and snack times, but the activities of the day are often child driven and thus cannot be planned well in advance.  When children show an interest in a topic, it is my job to research and to provide additional materials in the environment in order to encourage deeper investigation.  I often find myself asking questions like, "What do you need?"  "Where do you think we could find out?" "Is there anything else?"  AND, I really try hard not to say "no" but to find a safe way to continue activities and exploration.  This comes into play when older children would like to try things that may not be safe for younger children. Sometimes it takes some creativity to adapt activities for younger children. (The infants may have a different type of paint or sensory material than the older children).  Sometimes, activities can also be done by older children while younger ones are napping. We also tend to have a wide array of activity going on simultaneously. The more independent you can make your children, the easier it will be do juggle all of those ages and stages. 

     Another big tip I have for you if the range you are working with is too large, is ASK for help! I am very fortunate to have a great partner in play-Mr. Allan. If you don't have an assistant, there are a number of things you can do. First, you could encourage more parent involvement. Second, if you live near a university, college, or high school that has an early childhood program, you could look into having student volunteers or interns as a part of your program. Third, "baby helper" is a great job that you can rotate among the older children. This job allows the older child an opportunity to connect with the infants by singing songs, "reading" or telling stories, and talking to the younger children. 

     A good friend of mine once told me, "boredom is a choice." I love to follow that philosophy, and I encourage children to make the choice to be active. Again, asking questions like "what do you need?" help them to realize that you are there to help them with resources, and a well stocked classroom of open ended materials helps them make engaging choices. Older children are the ones who will typically tell you that they are bored. Engaging in meaningful conversations with them, and providing materials for their continued exploration is key to keeping them active and learning. If you are not successful in doing so, perhaps your program is no longer the best fit for that child. 

     When we go on field trips, which we do quite often we have a buddy system. The older children are not allowed to be buddies with each other, they must assist a younger child in our adventures.  I always walk behind the children. That way, I can help to make sure that all of the children are safe and an older child in the lead can help give us direction. 

     Regardless of how varied your ages are, you are still going to be concerned about meeting the individual needs of each child.  A few things that I do are to take some time to talk with each child each day. I NEVER require children to participate in any activity. I invite them to participate, and then allow them to make decisions as to where they would like to play and explore. We don't gather in a circle for "circle time" Children can choose wherever they would like to sit, or stand, or play during our story time or song time.  We often have our group time, planning time, etc during our meals. It is a great time to share stories and make decisions and everyone is gathered together.  Adding resources based upon children's interests and requests allows you to juggle those individual differences. 

      I'm going to take a few minutes to answer some of the more common questions I am asked about integrating such a wide range of ages in our classroom.

What do you do with the infants?

     The majority of questions I receive in regard to mixed ages has to do with caring for infants at the same time as older children. Yes, infants do have some additional needs that you don't have with older children. However, having infants together with older children provides a wonderful reciprocal learning opportunity.  Older children are constantly modeling and scaffolding for the younger ones. Younger infants and toddlers provide ample opportunities for modeling empathy and treating others with respect. 

Logistically, What does this look like in our classroom?

We run an emergent play-based classroom. This means that we are very child centered. The children take the lead, and we support them through resources, conversation, and reflection. Our materials are set out at child level with any material that would be a choking hazard or require additional close supervision to be placed on higher shelves. We have real- honest and open conversations about our concerns with materials.

"Ms. Amy, Can we play with the dollhouse stuff?" 

"I'm a little bit worried about all of the small pieces with the babies here today.... How could we make that work?"


     By sharing my concerns with the older children and asking them to be the problem solvers, I am not imposing rules..... I am inviting them to be active participants and to solve problems to come up with agreeable solutions. Sometimes the ideas the children come up with are brilliant......

     Sometimes, it means that I engage the younger children in a different activity. Sometimes it means that the small pieces are only played with at a table or on a higher level than the younger children. Sometimes it means that I play too, sitting with the infants to make sure that they don't put any pieces in their mouths. Sometimes it means waiting until the infant(s) take a nap. Whatever the solution, the children own it.

     I also try to promote as much independence as early as possible. This means that mobile infants are on the floor and mobile. I don't tend to use things like exersaucers, swings, or bouncers inside. We do have a few chairs for sitting in, and I use the high chair seats on the floor. (The ones that you would normal strap onto a regular chair).  By having the chairs at the child's level, they can crawl up to them. 

When older children are building with blocks and don't want the younger children to knock their creations down, I ask them to use their words. "Tell them you don't want them to touch your tower." It usually doesn't work very well as very young infants are quite egocentric and if they want to do something, they continually try to do it. So, I usually position myself on the floor near the structure and keep little ones from knocking the tower down, reminding them, "I think I heard M.. say that she doesn't want you to touch her tower. We need to find something else to do. I can build a tower for you to knock down or you can find something else to play with" I proceed to engage the younger children in something similar and keep them from the older children's creations.  Most of the time this works out well, and sooner rather than later they start to understand to respect the space and explorations of others.

     Working with mixed ages can prove to be a challenge, but the benefits far outweigh those challenges! Sometimes it just requires a little bit of creativity and planning to make sure that you are able to meet all of the individual needs and support the investigations of all of the children.

Originally Published by Amy Ahola: http://www.prekandksharing.blogspot.com/2011/11/caring-for-mixed-ages and http://www.prekandksharing.blogspot.com/2013/01/more-on-mixed-aged-classrooms-how-do.html

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

"You Put Your Competitors on Your Website??"

As you know, we are a home based childcare program. Allan and I have been working together from home for the last almost 16 years. We are a licensed group home caring for up to 12 children at any given time. We consider ourselves a play based, child centered program and we are always learning, always questioning, always growing. We have built up a pretty solid reputation. We have clients who have been with us for over a decade, and we take great pride in our business and the long term relationships we hold with our families.  We are not a center, we are not a school, and we do not strive to be. We provide care in our home, but we are child care professionals. We do our best to make our space a space for the children, a place where they know they belong, a place they know that they can come to and drive their own learning, curiosity, and whims. A place where it is okay to just be whatever, whoever... A place that supports children's development and recognizes the needs of the whole child. 

I still get really frustrated when people think that just because a childcare program is in a home, it isn't a "real" job or a quality program. If you haven't figured it out yet, This is our REAL job, and some days being with children is more real than any experience out there. Just because we choose to operate out of our home does not mean that our program is just "babysitting" or that we don't run a "real" business. 

Last week or the week before, Mr Allan took a call from a potential new client. To be honest with you the past month has been a blur so it may have even been a bit longer ago. Part of that conversation still runs through my head, and I'm sure the dad on the other end was not intentionally sending this message, but I want to share part of it with you. 

"You have a website?, Aren't you in a home?"  Yes. We are in a home, but we are a business and we do have a website.  I know his intentions were good, but the utter sense of shock in his voice that we would have a website was discouraging. Yes, we have a website. We have a contract, we have policies and procedures. We are intentional about what we do. Most licensed home providers are. Not everyone has a website, but the majority of licensed providers I know are childcare professionals. It takes a special kind of person, family to open up their home to strangers who become family and to work with children and families over the long haul. Those people, people like us,  find their calling in this profession. We often work very long hours and for low profit margins, but we love what we do. We continue to strive to be better than we were before and to do the very best we can for children. 

I know it may seem petty on my end to be hung up on a comment as minor as "You have a website??", but these kinds of minor comments stick with you over time. I can't tell you, because I have lost count, how many times people have asked me what my plan is after the daycare, what I plan to do for my "real job." I haven't heard it as much in more recent years, but for anyone wondering or thinking of asking, childcare is my real job. Additionally, our program isnt "just a home, or surprisingly a home based program" We are a home based childcare. We've never been "just" or "only" anything.

The other piece I want to share with you is, "yes, we put our competitors on our website." I know this may seem shocking to some, as it was to the potential new client the other week, but we don't see fellow childcare providers as our competition. We know that there is a childcare crisis. We know that not every family is going to feel that the climate and culture of our program is the best fit for them. We truly believe as Bev Bos said, "Together We're Better." So if we can't help your family meet your needs, I know that someone out there might be able to. Parenting is hard, finding the right fit for your child and family is important. If we aren't that fit or aren't able to help you, I'm happy to add a simple link on our website to help you find someone who will. 


Tuesday, May 14, 2019

It Wasn't Peek-A-Boo, Respecting Infants at Play

Last week, a colleague of mine asked, "What does a child-led, play based program look like for infants and toddlers?" For many, it is really easy to see how to follow a child's lead with older children. It is easy when children can communicate with you, when they can tell you what they are doing or want to do, but how to do you embrace a child-led, play philosophy with our youngest learners?

As a home based childcare program with mixed ages, I have the wonderful opportunity of learning, growing, and playing with children of all ages. In our program we support  a play based program for infants, toddlers, preschoolers, school aged children, pre-teens, teenagers, and sometimes even adults! Regardless of age, supporting play boils down to relationships and trusting the player.

For infants, this means providing a lot of materials that support child development and what we know about children at this age and stage of development. For infants it means getting rid of the "containers" and allowing them the ability to trust their bodies. Placing them on the floor or ground where they can work on building their gross motor skills is crucial. Additionally, you will want to make sure to have an adequate amount of materials readily available at their level. 

It also means that you need to be a close, careful observer. Before young children verbally communicate, you can read body language. Facial expressions are crucial to understanding what a child may want/need.  Children generally will develop an understanding of language (receptive language) prior to expressive language. Having a strong relationship with the child and watching and listening to their cues will assist you in understanding what the child wants/needs. 

Young children need to have a variety of materials available to do the things that young children do.

 They need things to fill,
things to dump,
things to climb,
things to hit,
things to grab,
 things to push,
things to pull,
things to bite,
places to be alone,
places to be next to each other. 

Young children need you to support their play, but not interfere with it. Sometimes you will hear this referred to as an invisible support. This means that you pay attention. You look to see what additional materials may be needed.... If you all of a sudden have an influx of infants and toddlers, you may need more of the same materials as those children are solitary players or parallel players. It also means that you may need to step in to help children problem solve. However, keep in mind that if you really trust children, you will see that they generally find a way to work things out. I try not to interfere unless I am concerned about harm to self, others, or materials.  (This does not mean that I do not sometimes play with children. I wait for the child to invite me into the play, and I follow their lead.)

The children in this photo spent quite a bit of time playing independently in the same space. There was the "classic" give and take of materials. I often see it as part of the game, they take turns giving and taking things from each other. I've seen a lot of adults jump in when they see a young child take something from another, wanting the child to "give it back." Obviously if the children need help facilitating this I am all for jumping in to help them express what they want/need. However, 9 times out of 10, I have observed that this give and take is merely part of the game. It is part of the interaction and learning of how to play and be together.  (You may notice that when an adult does interject and ask a child to give something back, often times, no one actually wants the item anymore.)

You may have noticed the majority of photos in this post are of a young child playing with a receiving blanket. She spent quite a bit of time lifting the blanket, lowering it, straightening it out, and lifting it again. At first glance, it may have looked like peek-a-boo. However, instead of intruding on the play and making the assumption that she wanted to play peek-a-boo, I sat back and observed. She did not look over to me at any time as she played. She did not have a visible change in facial expression when the blanket was lowered. I trusted that she knew what she needed to do. I watched quietly and took some photos. Was she exploring the air movement when the blanket moved? Was it about the difference in light? Was she trying to set the blanket just right? Was it about up and down? Could it have been something else??? There are so many things she might have been up to, but really it was her play, she owns that... It may have just been fun... and that's okay too! We will never know what was really going on, but I know for sure that it wasn't peek-a-boo.  Now, if I had intruded, it would no longer have been play. I'm sure she would have smiled and followed my lead, but it would not have been what she was really trying to do. 

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Is It Play? What is Play??

Dan Hodgins, a good friend and colleague posted a great question over on his Invitations to Learning Facebook page today. The question simply stated was, If we plan for it, is it Play??? I invite you to visit the page and get in on that discussion.

Dan is one of my favorite ECE people, not because we agree on everything, but because we don't always. We also tend to make each other think.   After answering his question today and some dialogue with a few other ECE professionals, I have decided to share a few thoughts that were originally published in the Child Central Station Provider's Play Day Book. (This isn't a book you can order, it is just a collection of handouts that changes every year and is given to each attendee of the Play Day).

So here is section 1. During Play Day, we took a lot of time to discuss this in small groups.

Why Choose Play? A Journey to Play

We are living in a time where “play” is almost a 4-letter word. Some advocates have indicated their concern in regard to the possible extinction of childhood, the extinction of play. Why is this? The research continues to support play as the best way for young children to learn, and yet….. practices do not always match our words or intent. The value of play although repeatedly proven, has been diminished. People continually challenge and question the validity play has an children are given fewer and fewer opportunities to play. Why do we have such a hard time allowing and trusting children to learn through play? Why do we continue to add things and call it play when really it is not?

Before we go too far, let’s take some time and reflect…… on PLAY… spend a few minutes jotting down some thoughts and ideas to the following prompts….. Keep in mind there are no right or wrong answers. This is purely for self reflection, contemplation, and group discussion.

What is play? How would you define it?

It can be hard to define play, perhaps think of some tenants or characteristics of play. What makes play, play?

And perhaps… What makes something NOT be play?

Is play something definite? or is there a continuum of play?

What about playful learning? What does playful learning look like?

Would you describe your program as a play based program? Why or why not?

What do you see as your biggest challenge in regard to play?

Defining Play.

I think part of the reason that we have such a difficult time with the term play is that it means so many different things to different people. Is play the opposite of work? Can play and work co-exist? Is learning play? Can play and learning co-exist? Are they one in the same? Does ALL play have purpose? Play has value, and the research shows time and time again that play is important and the best way for children to learn. I do think that some practitioners and systems have also taken advantage of this research and have perverted play, trying to sell things off as being play that truly are not.

So, for a moment… Let’s get on the same page. Let’s look at how we define play.

Dictionary.com defines play “To exercise or employ oneself in diversion, amusement, or recreation” or “to do something in sport that is not to be taken seriously” I wonder, a diversion from what? and really? Are you serious? not to be taken seriously? No wonder why play is on the extinction list… the dictionary does not give play any justice….. Play is not a diversion, play needs to be taken seriously…. and fortunately for us, there are researchers who have spent a lot of time looking at a better definition and proving time and time again that play is important, that play has value, and we need to start paying more attention and embracing the benefits of play.

Dr Peter Gray says that play has 5 main characteristics:

(1) Play is self-chosen and self-directed

(2) Play is activity in which means are more valued than ends

(3) Play has structure, or rules, which are not dictated by physical necessity but emanate from the minds of the players

(4) Play is imaginative, non-literal, mentally removed in some way from “real” or “serious” life

and (5) Play involves an active, alert, but non-stressed frame of mind.

(Psychology Today, November 19, 2008).

So, according to this… anytime YOU the teacher determine the activity or come up with the project or plan… It is not truly play. Again… Play needs to be self chosen and self directed. To get the full benefits, the child needs to drive their own explorations and learning. Play is a process! We need to trust that process and we need to remember and to trust that young children are capable!

Dr Peter Gray also indicated that play is not black and white, that there is a continuum of play. Meaning that activities and pieces of our lives can be partially play and partially not at the same time.

How do you feel about play? Does this set of criteria work for you???

What do others have to say about play?

Teacher Tom, (Tom Hobson) describes play as one of his students proclaimed, Play is…. “What I do when no one tells me what to do.”

“Play is the highest form of research” -Albert Einstein

“Play is the answer to how anything new comes about” - Jean Piaget

“It is a happy talent to know how to play.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Play is often talked about like it is a relief from serious learning, but for children play is serious learning” - Fred Rogers

“Play is the only way the highest intelligence of humankind can unfold.” - Joseph Chilton Pierce

“You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than you can in a year of conversation” - Plato

“We don’t stop playing because we grow old, we grow old because we stop playing” George Bernard Shaw

“Play is the highest expression of human development in childhood, for it alone is the free expression of what is in a child’s soul” -Friedrich Froebel

“Play is not frivolous, It is not a luxury. It is not something to fit in after completing all of the important stuff. Play is the important stuff. Play is a drive, a need, a brain building must do.” Jeff A Johnson & Denita Dinger

“Play is a signal that nature’s wisdom is being enacted” Jane Goodall

“Those who play rarely become brittle in the face of stress or lose the healing capacity of humor” Dr Stuart Brown

More questions to ponder…...

So… What exactly is play? Can anyone besides the player really determine if it is true play?

How can we support children and encourage more opportunities for play?

Why is there a dichotomy between play and academics? If play is the best way to learn isn’t play academic? 

This is a question I deal with all of the time, and I think the biggest difference between what many folks define as a play based program and an academic based program boils down to one characteristic of play. In a true play based program children have a lot of power and control over their time, explorations and environment, they as the players have the opportunity to choose and design their own learning. The more child-centered a program is and the more opportunities children have to drive their own explorations, the truer it is to play. Where things start to get muddy is when adults start to attempt to control the learning by providing “fun”, “cute” activities for the children to meet an adult goal or drive. Remember, that just because something is fun does not mean that it is play! (on a side note, this is why the term playful learning drives me nuts… All play is learning, but when an adult has their own agenda and is pushing academics or ideas it is no longer play and in many cases the children do not learn the subject matter as it is not real or relevant to them.)

Originally published by Amy Ahola DBA Central Station 2016 (c) All Rights Reserved.

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Pass Me the Yogurt Cups! A few thoughts on Loose Parts

A few years back, I attended an amazing professional development conference. Like all opportunities to learn and grow, I found myself among many like minded people. One of the beautiful things about diversifying the training I attend is that I am exposed to a variety of programs and points of view.  During this particular session, I found myself questioning my practice and wondering if what the presenters were sharing really fit with my point of view and practice.

Are you familiar with the idea of loose parts? If not, there are plenty of resources out there for you to explore. The basic premise is that children don't need to have toys that have a single purpose. The idea is that you can provide them with a variety of odds and ends where they can be creative and use them for a multitude of different uses.

You'll find some practitioners who promote the loose parts theory who can give you a recipe... or a plan for exactly what to use and add. They may tell you to make sure that you store them in baskets and that everything needs to be "aesthetically pleasing".   I urge you to question that... I have spent a lot of time reflecting on this. What is aesthetically pleasing to adults may not be as inviting to young children. And, for us, sometimes baskets are just not practical. I use some baskets in our program, but seriously, they are not always practical. Do you know how quickly baskets can be destroyed... and not because children are being especially destructive, but because most baskets are not made to withstand the use that young children put them through.

A couple of statements from that workshop run through my mind daily. They told us to go home and throw out the yogurt cups.  It's a good thing that I'm not very good at being a blind follower. In fact, I urge you to collect some yogurt cups. The plastic yogurt cups are used daily in our program. Not only are they a favorite loose part for many of the children, they make sense in our program. They are economically a sound investment. They are also being reused as opposed to being recycled or thrown away. Did I mention that the children love them? They fill them, they dump them, they pretend they are cups. They stack them, they knock them down. They send them flying with the catapult... They are used in so many different ways.

I also want to you to consider this... It is a thought that has continually been running through my mind. I don't think loose parts really have to do with the actual parts. Think about it, I mean yes you can be given a list of things to put into your classroom to use and you can come up with some of your own things... but is it really about the stuff?? or is the idea really more about a mindset?  Are there only certain things that can be considered loose parts???

Here is my take. I think the theory of loose parts is a mindset. I think that anything can be a loose part when the classroom culture supports it. If children are given the freedom to use equipment and are trusted to explore how they see fit, I don't think the "stuff" really matters.  I have seen children use toy cars as money. I have also seen children use just about anything they can find to build structures and piles with. Once, while I was visiting and consulting at a program I was puzzled as to why they had a parking structure/ramp/garage  for the children in almost every classroom. It seemed to take up a lot of space and not have much in terms of play value. However, the program supported children and the culture allowed for that piece of equipment to be used in so many different ways! Had I not spent time observing the children there, I may have recommended getting rid of the structure. If given the freedom and the option to imagine,  children will turn anything into that which they need.

Do you use loose parts in your classroom? 

What are your favorite loose parts?  

Do you think it is a set of materials or a mindset? 

I'd love to hear your take on loose parts in the classroom! 

Friday, April 19, 2019

Santa's Dead

"LOOK! It's Santa!" I exclaimed in my best impression of elf as I noticed a child putting on a Santa suit.

"I'm not SANTA! I'm -------"

"Oh, I thought you were Santa."

"No, Santa's dead. I guess I have to deliver the presents now" (with a deep sigh)

"Santa's dead?? What happened?"

"Yeah, Santa's dead. It's a long story"

and.. just like that he skipped off to play.  Clearly the story was too long to tell, and he had other things that were more important to do than to share it with me. 

Many programs are looking at the calendar and providing materials and lesson plans revolving around spring and Easter. We tend not to look too closely at the calendar and instead follow the lead of the children. We have many holiday related materials available to the children, but they are available year round. On any given day of the year you will most likely find a child dressed up as Santa (in fact, one the children has dressed as Santa every day for about the last 2 years.) Children also regularly trick or treat and play hide and seek with plastic Easter eggs.  We don't rotate most of our supplies, because as adults, who are we to say what will be needed when. 

My friend died

 I learned a hell of a lot from Dan Hodgins.  He was mentor, a friend, and a "bone shaker" for many of us in the field of Early Ch...