“A child’s play is his work.” -Dr. Gary Landreth
At Walnut Acres Children’s Center, this is a quote we take to heart! In our Junior Kindergarten program, we use play in all academic areas to promote learning. Besides practicing important social skills (like making friends and working out problems with each other), playing is essential to brain growth. Here are just some examples of what you may see in our Jr. K classroom/playroom and why we do it:
Most of us would agree that play is important because children experience true joy from it. Our kids reward us with a belly laugh and smile when they are having fun and honestly, what’s better than that?
Click the link below to find out more of the fascinating brain-play connection.
‘Tis the season to be……
How would you personalize this sentence?
Jolly? Stressed? Partied out? Busy? Worried?
Although the holidays are filled with gatherings and parties, many people find it to be a stressful time as well. For myself, I always host a Christmas Eve dinner at my house with my side of the family, my in-laws, and some close friends. I always have the best of intentions when I send the invites out, but ultimately make myself crazy trying to clean the whole house (honestly who in the world is going to look in my closet?) and shop for all the food (everyone asks what they can bring, so why can’t I delegate?) and then worry that it all is costing too much. Again, this is supposed to be a fun get together. So, why am I always so exhausted by Christmas?
No matter what holiday you celebrate, the same sentiment is often echoed by other parents.
So this year, I challenge myself and you to make a new tradition: make some time for FUN and FAMILY. I mean quality time every day for the 2 week vacation. I want to do something special with my daughter everyday where she and I spend time doing something together and I hope you will join me in this challenge. Some ideas that I have done and new ones I came up with include:
*Taking a walk/hike in a new area (I’m thinking parts of Tilden we have never explored)
*Having an old fashioned tea party
*Bake something from scratch (or semi-from scratch)
*Read a book then watch the movie (in Junior K we do this with the Polar Express)
*Go to Pump It Up during drop-in hours and Jump with your kid (Fun and a great calorie burn)
*Play a Game (Not an Electronic One): Chutes & Ladders, Checkers, Go Fish, the classics
*”Camp out” at home and pitch a tent in the living room
*Go to the park and do everything your kid does (great workout)
*Do a science or art project together (research something then do the project together)
*Do something out of season (go to the beach, bundle up and play in the sand or take a bike ride and get ice cream)
You may already do these things with your child or you may have been inspired to do something new, but the whole point is to make our time with our kids meaningful and intentional. I will still go crazy making my house “Holiday Ready” for my annual Christmas Eve party, but this year I may vacuum one less room so I can color a page out of my daughter’s Frozen coloring book with her.
"He hit me!"
"No I didn't! She took my block!"
How many times have we as teachers and parents heard similar arguments between children?
If your answer is "never" please write to me and tell me your secret! All joking aside, these conflicts are a healthy and normal part of growing up. These are referred to as "teachable moments." It does take some extra time and energy out of our busy days but are so important to address.
Have you ever had a disagreement or argument with your spouse or significant other right before you left for work? How was work for you? Did you plow through your to do list or did you find yourself distracted? Did you meet new clients with a smile on your face and a charm about you? Or was your confidence a bit shot, your words a little off? Did you type up that big report or did you continuously play over in your head what you wish you would have said or done?
My guess is you were pretty distracted. Children are the same way. They cannot move on when there is an unresolved issue. Academics go out the window if they are worried if their best friend is still going to play with them at recess. We need to help our children work out their problems.
We recently attended an anti-bullying conference (please find information at www.soulshoppe.com) where we learned some new ways to help young children work out their problems. There we learned 3 important phrases that you and your child can work on at home:
Will you please.....
We are working on relating emotions and feelings to words that we can verbalize to each other. Give them words and show them by example (I feel frustrated, nervous, scared, angry, sad, disappointed, etc). Help your child by expressing what can resolve their negative feeling (I need calm, quiet voices, a hug, a schedule, etc). Finally, teach them by modelling and giving them the words to say to ask for what they need (Will you please give me space, hold my hand, talk in a quiet voice, be on time). Giving each child a way or process to solve a problem is teaching them a skill (just like reading, math, spelling, etc) that they will carry with them throughout life.
Arguments and disagreements are a typical aspect in life but it's the resolution that really counts!
February is the month of love! That love is for our partner, family, and friends. In our class, we work on socialization skills all year, but the special Valentine holiday is the prime time to focus on further building friendships. Children come to school to learn math, writing, and letter sounds and these are important skills. However important these academic skills are to us, as their parents and teachers, children have two questions when they come to school:
1) Will anyone be nice to me?
2)Who will play with me today?
Simple, basic questions with so much significance to the child. Friendships at four and five years old are fleeting and fluid, meaning they can move rapidly in and out of relationships. Their "best" friend can change daily (sometimes hourly) as their interests and social "rules" change. They can also lose friends or feel insecure about who is their friend. I took my daughter Gracie to the park and she was thrilled that there were other girls there. She started to follow them and asked if she could play. The "big" girls promptly said "no" and continued their exclusive game of tag. My heart absolutely broke for Gracie. We love our kids so much and feel that empathy when they hurt.
But there are things we as parents and teachers can do to help our youngsters develop and maintain friendships:
*Model social behavior~ let them see you be a friend
*Practice~ invite parents with their kids over for "play dates"
*Use Positive Language~teach them how to ask someone to play
*Instill Resiliency~don't dwell on your child's shyness or lonely feelings/acknowledge their feelings and move on
*Conflict is Inevitable~children will have problems and disagreements and these are learning opportunities
Next Month I will focus on Conflict Resolution and why we can use it as a tool for learning!
This week we have been discussing the seasons and weather changes. With our California weather being so mild, how could we teach our students about snow or ice? Through sensory play of course! Sensory play provides meaningful experiences and allows our children to experiment. I set up the following stations for this week's seasons sensory tubs:
*Summer: water, sand, shells, ocean animals
*Spring: flowers, bugs
*Fall: leaves, acorns, pinecones, forest animals
*Winter: instant snow, polar animals
I also provided the children with several measuring cups and teaspoons so that natural curiosity would encourage independent exploration. The children were scooping, dumping, pouring, and measuring. The scientific process naturally unfolded! Children packed the instant snow and built "snow castles." They scooped up acorns with tablespoons and started to dissect them; splitting them in half and wondering what part of the acorn did squirrels like to eat. They were asking themselves and each other how many ocean animals could fit into 1 cup? Then they would count them! True math and science occurred while children played!
Sensory play seems so natural and basic, but we often need to be reminded how important it is for young learners. Even scooping and pouring and mixing bubbles in the bathtub provide sophisticated brain work! Kids must hypothesize, experiment, test, and analyze their results. This is why our young scientists need time and space to experiment over and over.
At home, I use a pie pan or aluminum pan and fill it with anything for my daughter(ice, shaving cream, flour, dry beans, rice, etc.). Tell me what sensory play activities you and your child(ren) do at home!
Julie Avery, the Junior K Coordinator, is the teacher that runs the Little Acres Program. She has been working with children over the past 10 years. With Julie's California teaching credential, she will ensure a child's developmental learning through patience, understanding, and quality academic activities.