Archives

Toy Rotation

Are you tired of cleaning up a zillion toys each day?  Tired of surrounding your tot with those zillion toys only to find there is little that arouses a sustained amount of interest?  Tired of buying a zillion more toys to entertain your tot?  I have a solution!  Really!  The solution to this dilemma is something I get asked about quite regularly so I thought I would repost this blog entry from March 11, 2014 (with some amendments).

On alternating Fridays, I blog about parent/teacher

hot topics & interesting info or Q&A

 

Today’s Topic: How toy rotation and changing our physical environment can benefit learning.

“Change can open our minds to new ways of viewing ourselves and our relationship to the world, and renew our pleasure in living.”  – Tarthang Tulku, Knowledge of Freedom

 

1. On toy rotation :

A lot has been written about this so I will not overwhelm you with fine details but I will write from my experience, the benefits of toy rotation and also how I approach toy rotation.

The benefits are many, here are a few:

  • Less clean-up
  • More engaged play with toys –> mastery of toys –> inventive use of toys
  • Toys retain excitement –> less boredom with toys –> less need to buy more new toys

When & what I rotate:  I do a toy rotation every two weeks and this coincides with the changing of our activity plan (visit our shop to view our curricula).  I choose toys that specifically relate to the topic we are learning, plus I have 8 staple categories I always include.  Our toys are available in bins.  We have 12 bins.

  1. Building toys (blocks, mega-lego, etc)
  2. Imaginary play (toy cars, figurines, puppets, dress-up, etc.)
  3. Problem solving toys I (puzzles, lacing, sorters, stackers, etc.)
  4. Problem solving toys II(puzzles, lacing, sorters, stackers, etc.)
  5. Sensory toys (balls, crinkly toys, squishy toys, play dough, etc.)
  6. Books
  7. Music toys
  8. Cause and effect toys (we have a few we really like: Peek-a-Shoe, Pound n Pop Carnival Elephant, Pop n Pals)
  9. Specific to topic and activity plan
  10. Specific to topic and activity plan
  11. Specific to topic and activity plan
  12. Specific to topic and activity plan
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Our main play area

In the picture above, our weekly topic was colours so the four “specific to topic and activity plan” bins were one for each colour.

Since we first posted this we have added two new play areas: As children grow older, dramatic & imaginary play become a central part of playing (it becomes more and more complex and developed) .  To accommodate this growth in our children, we added a play kitchen area and a dress-up area.

Our play kitchen

Our play kitchen

Our dress-up area

Our dress-up area

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Also, since our girls have grown older, we do the toy rotation together. I get their input on which toys they would like to have out for the next two weeks.  I give the guidelines, such as building toys, then I let them choose which building toys.  Whenever it’s time to ‘change the toys’, they get really excited.)

 

2. On toy storage: I think it goes without saying, that if you’re not going to have all of your toys available in your play area, you need a place to put the toys that aren’t being used.

Tips:

* Store toys in an area that your tot doesn’t have access to

Toy closet with child proof door knob

Toy closet with child proof door knob

*Ensure you have easy access to them (so that toy rotation is not a major ordeal)

I can get any toy with minimal effort

I can get any toy with minimal effort

*Ensure they are organised (so they are easy to find)

Chalk board toy organizers

Chalk board toy organizers

*If you feel you have no use for them any more, donate toys that are too immature for your tot’s age

 

3. On changing the physical environment:

This can range from changing the layout of furniture in a room to the actual décor in a room and in a classroom; the seating plan.  When possible/suitable, change the actual location of the learning environment such as going outside or to a gymnasium.

 

4. Why is change so beneficial for learning?

It’s not something that is easy for me to describe but I will do my best to be concise and not blabber on.  Weather we are people who like change or not, it is undeniable the everything inside and outside of us is constantly changing.  Embracing this simple principle can help us to lead less fearful and more fulfilling lives.  Offering change to your students and children, if nothing else, will bring about a certain amount of comfort and acceptance of change.  However, there are many more benefits.  Change brings with it, a lot of energy, momentum and creativity.  It can bring about excitement and stimulation as a result of the unknown or “newness” of something (it’s not stagnant).  Once a person begins to recognize the energy of change, it is possible for them to harness that energy and use it to achieve things they never thought possible……….

…………………….I would suggest that this possibility begins with you offering the gift of change in the first place (even if it’s as simple as changing a seating plan, toy rotation, or hanging new pictures on the wall).

Reggio Provocations Explained

The Reggio Emilia educational philosophy (established in Italy) is one that is quickly gaining momentum in countries world wide – and for good reason. I spent three years working at a kindergarten school that followed the Reggio philosophy which is where I gained a thorough understanding and love for it!  The Reggio approach has many wonderful facets but today I will focus solely on Reggio provocations.  If you are interested in the Reggio approach to early childhood education, I encourage you to take some time to read this.

On alternating Fridays I blog about parent/teacher

hot topics & interesting info or Q&A

 

 Today’s Topic: Reggio Provocations

Provocations (as They Relate to Reggio Emilia)

  • What are Reggio provocations?

First, it is important to note that there is no set or specific objective to be achieved.  Simply put, the sole purpose of a provocation is to elicit some kind of response. Then, based on the response given, new materials, questions or opportunities are introduced to further explore a topic.

 

  • What is so valuable about Reggio provocations?

The idea of learning by means of provocation (rather than ‘being taught’) is valuable because there is:

  1. Genuine Interest – Children have a lot of control over the direction of their learning
  2. Genuine Experience – Children learn through touching, moving, listening and observing
  3. Natural Curiosity – Children are encouraged and provoked to explore materials, relationships and environments with as few limits as possible
  4. Genuine Self-Expression – Children can be afforded endless ways and opportunities to express themselves
  5. Authentic Tasks – Children are engaged in work that is purposeful and meaningful to themselves and others.  They are more likely to retain the knowledge (and more importantly) the skills that they acquire, because their desire to do the tasks is intrinsic; therefore they identify problems themselves and eagerly want to solve them.
  • How can I set up Reggio provocations?

While setting up Reggio provocations requires careful thought, they can be simple, inexpensive and the possibilities are infinite!

  1. Initial Topic – Observe and question your tot about a topic of interest.
  2. Choose MaterialsMaterials can include anything; books, natural materials, art supplies, collections, tools, blocks, light, mirrors, water; the list is endless.
  3. Set-Up – Set up should be visually appealing and intriguing – inviting exploration. First, consider where you will set up.  What kind of space is required?  Next, choose a way to display your materials; consider the type of containers or holders you will use – they should be interesting and compliment your materials.  Last, define the workspace using trays, mats, table cloths, paper, etc.  When you define a work area, children naturally move towards it.
  4. Observation – Observe your tot interacting with the provocation you have set up.  What is interesting?  What is said?  What is asked?  What is being done? Take notes.
  5. Extension – Based on your observations, add new materials as needed.  Respond to your tot’s interests by supporting his/her efforts to “do” something.  (This inevitably leads to some sort of ‘project’)
  • Can I see examples of Reggio provocations?

Of course!  The example below is a brief overview of this post (if you want to see the full thing).  However, that post does not include the extension, which is crucial and is noted below.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1. Initial Topic – The girls had been talking a lot about catching butterflies with nets, going for walks and going to the playground so I decided to present my materials using spring themed containers, holders and colours.
  2. Choose MaterialsI chose the materials to be textiles related to bathing because our theme this week is ‘bath time’. I also added some art supplies (stamp pad, markers and paper on the wall)
  3. Set-Up – I chose a space with natural light in an open area.  The items used to display the materials were engaging.  I defined the work space with the green tape on the wall to add another dimension and to provide a larger-than-usual canvas.
  4. Observation – The girls were VERY interested and much was done, (click here to see the initial response) but the element of this provocation that generated the most interest was the decorative tree and even more specifically, the decorative eggs in the tree.
  5. Extension – As a result of the observation, the next day, I introduced plastic eggs to the table.
New materials added (plastic eggs) as a result of the previous day's observations

New materials added (plastic eggs) as a result of the previous day’s observations

This led us to two projects: (Keep in mind that the girls are 2 years + 4 months)

Project #1 – Creating ‘Surprise’ Eggs – While exploring all the materials, one of them decided that they wanted to put something into the plastic eggs to make a ‘surprise’.  I asked them what they would like to put inside.  The unanimous response was “chocolate”.  I told them we didn’t have any chocolate.  Rather than choosing to solve that problem, they came up with a different suggestion.  “I make a picture, put in eggs. Please get me paper.”

Problem 1 – I used suggestive language and said, “Here is your paper, this is quite a big paper to fit into a little egg”.  They quickly decided to cut the paper.  Then they drew pictures which I labelled for them.

M cuts her paper into smaller pieces

M cuts her paper into smaller pieces

O's labelled pictures

O’s labelled pictures

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Problem 2 – There were 4 eggs that needed to be divided equally.  They chose one at a time until gone. (“M 2 eggs & O 2 eggs”, was said) – They’re teaching themselves math!!!

Problem 3 – The drawings were still too big to fit into the eggs.  “I cut, use scissors”, said M.  As she began to cut, O said, “No! M, break picture my made” – so cutting was no longer an option.  With A LOT of prompting and questioning by me (my final prompt was, “How do we get our clothes to fit into our drawers?”), they came to the conclusion that we could FOLD the drawings.  Then they placed them into the eggs and gave them to guests that visited later that day.

Folding the paper so it will fit into the eggs

Folding the paper so it will fit into the eggs

Putting the surprise into the egg.

Putting the surprise into the egg.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Project #2 – Decorating Eggs – They decided they would like to decorate the plastic eggs and tried using marker on them which kept coming off on their hands.  They asked me about a book we recently read inwhich the characters decorated eggs.  I explained that they were real eggs.  “I decorate real eggs too”.

Problem 1 – I tried having a conversation about how eggs are fragile and break open easily and that we needed to find a way to make them hard.  In the end, they just had no ideas and no way of knowing how to make an egg hard.  So I told them that we would cook them in boiling water.  I asked them to choose the pot that was most appropriately sized to cook the eggs in.   I showed them the bubbling water which amazed them! “Steam, very hot”, they said.

Choosing the appropriate sized pot

Choosing the appropriate sized pot

Watching water boil - NOT BORING with these two!

Watching water boil – NOT BORING with these two!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Problem 2 – They wanted to decorate them right away but obviously they were too hot.  “How can we make them colder?”, I asked.  “Put it in fridge”.  Done.  I asked them how they wanted to decorate.  They told me they wanted to paint the eggs so I chose this opportunity to introduce them to water paints, which they have never used before.

M using water paints for the first time

M using water paints for the first time

Learning how to use water paints

Learning how to use water paints

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"I like red"

“I like red”

M is pleased with our decorated eggs

M is pleased with our decorated eggs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Problem 3 They wanted to eat them for lunch.  How do we get the eggs out of the shell?

Peeling eggs - fine motor skills at use!

Peeling eggs – fine motor skills at use!

Eating eggs with our lunch!

Eating eggs with our lunch!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

They really liked the water paints…so now I might set up a provocation table related to water paints with flowers and a Claude Monet book, etc.  It is important to note that even though the projects shown were short-term projects, they can take as long as is needed.

  • In Summation

This was a lengthy post, I hope you found it helpful and worthy of your time.  That being said, I would like to leave you with this idea:  I liken Reggio provocations to planting seeds.  You provide a seed and your child’s knowledge, curiosity and creativity will cause it to flourish in beautiful ways; often in ways that you could never predict or imagine.

 

P.S.  Last Chance!!!

This weekend is the last opportunity to take advantage of our anniversary sale (20% off all of our curriculum).   Use the code: CTM20 at check-out and bag yourself a bargain!! This offer will end March 29, 2015.

 

 Click here to visit our shop

We’re Back!!!

On alternating Fridays I blog about parent/teacher

hot topics & interesting info or Q&A

Today’s Question:

When are you going to start blogging again?

CTM blog readers, World Wide

 

Hello everybody!

Thank you for all of your emails and thank you for waiting for us – we appreciate your patience! We have some special things to share with you!

 

#1 – 

To celebrate our one year anniversary we are offering all of our development programs at 20% off.   Use the code: CTM20 at check-out and bag yourself a bargain!! This offer will be available through March 29, 2015.

 Click here to visit our shop

 

#2 – Reaching Roses (18-24 months) is now available for purchase!!

Reaching Roses Large Cover Comprehensive Reaching Roses Part One Title Reaching Roses Part Two Title

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sometimes it’s difficult to ‘toot your own horn’ but here are some great things about our development programs:

Benefits to Children

  • The programs are stimulating and FUN!
  • Encourages your baby to meet specific developmental milestones
  • Helps your baby to develop communication and literacy skills
  • Nurtures your baby’s confidence and self-awareness
  • Builds a strong bond with parents and caregivers

Benefits to Parents

  • Save time and energy! – You won’t need to spend time researching what your baby should be learning and how to teach it to your baby – It’s all been done for you!
  • Save your sanity! – It can be difficult to entertain your baby/toddler for an entire day.  You’ll never be left thinking, “What should we do now?”
  • You and your children will be able to communicate more easily and effectively together which helps alleviate many parental challenges such as tantrums, following instructions, eating, potty training & behaviour issues
  • Have fun and make lasting memories with your baby

#3 – We will begin blogging using our third curriculum, Leaping Lilies (24-30 months)!

Leaping Lilies is just as cohesive and holistic as the previous two programs, plus now each activity plan includes a specific Reggio Emilia provocation activity (If you’re not sure what that means, don’t worry, I’ll explain it soon!).  Click here for a review of The Crystal Teaching Method Philosophy.

Since our program is changing, so is the format of our blog!  Our blog runs on a two week schedule and starting Monday, it will look like this:

Monday #1 – Reggio provocation

Wednesday #1 – Activity from the current activity plan

Friday #1 – Q&A or Interesting information

Monday # 2 – Activity from the current activity plan

Wednesday #2 – Activity from the current activity plan

Friday #2 – The culminating activity to end the current activity plan

 

We are really looking forward to sharing with you again…until then,

HAPPY LEARNING!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

Keeping You Posted

Hi everybody!

This is a quick post with two purposes…..

The first is to say a HUGE, THANK YOU to all of our followers.  I started this blog less than 1 year ago and in that time we have been joined by readers and followers from all over the globe – spanning 6 continents and 48 countries (and counting)…..  Thank you for letting us share our journey with you, thank you for the support and encouragement and most of all, thank you for letting us be a part of your child’s learning – what a privilege!

The second is to say that we are taking a blogging hiatus until the New Year.  There are a couple of reasons for this.  One major reason is that the winter holiday season is upon us and between the shopping, wrapping, parties, family get-togethers, baking, decorating and more… I don’t know how I’ll be able to find the time to do blog posts.  Another, is that I would really like to take this month to focus solely on the development of the curriculum and updating the website…as many of you have noticed, Reaching Roses is still not available for purchase (…apologies, I just don’t feel it’s publishable yet) plus, we are moving on to our third curriculum Leaping Lilies which I am behind in developing.

All that being said, we wish each and every one of you all the best that life has to offer:  love, laughter and learning!  We’ll see you in 2015!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Bring Some Sense to Your Babies!

In any early childhood forum (this one included), the words “sensory learning” pop up so often that it seems they must be synonymous with early learning itself.  So then, what exactly, is sensory learning?  Why is it so valued?  And how can you provide your baby with sensory learning experiences?  Indeed, sensory learning forms part of my teaching philosophy, so today we’ll look at some simple answers to these questions.

On alternating Fridays I blog about parent/teacher

hot topics & interesting info or Q&A

 

 Today’s Topic: Sensory Learning

Sensory Learning

  • What is it?

Simply put, it is learning through the stimulation of the senses (seeing, hearing, smelling, touching/feeling and tasting).  One of the ideas behind it, is that learning and retention improve, the more our senses are engaged.  Also, since babies are not able to speak and can not understand everything that is being spoken to them, this is their natural and main method of experiencing the world and learning about things.  Often, sensory activities have “open-ended” learning outcomes (meaning the learner is not bound by rules, instructions and a specific objective.  The outcome is whatever is appealing and valuable to the learner – whatever the learner wants it to be.)

  • Why is it so valued?

The sensory learning approach is one component of education deemed important by Maria Montessori (the founder of the Montessori educational philosophy) and has been legitimized by teachers, parents,caregivers and children worldwide.  Sensory activities offer a range of learning opportunity in all categories of child development.  Here are some examples:

  1. Language Development – Children want to use language when they have experiences that are interesting to them.  Sensory experiences are exciting because each child can use the materials differently.
  2. Social & Emotional Development – In sensory learning experiences, children control their actions and their experience.  This heightens their self-confidence and enables them to make decisions; it encourages self-discovery as they indulge their curiosity.  Sensory activities are also conducive to cooperative play and learning to understand somebody else’s viewpoint.
  3. Gross Motor & Fine Motor Development – This can include pouring, measuring, stirring and whisking interesting materials or examining different surfaces with hands and feet.
  4. Creative DevelopmentGiven the open-ended nature of sensory activities, creative development can flourish because the process of what is being done, is more important than the outcome.  The sky is the limit!
  5. Cognitive Development – There are so many things that can be listed here, I will mention a few:  Math skills (size, counting, timing, matching, classifying, sorting).  Simple concepts (sink/float, full/empty, more/less).  Science (cause and effect, gravity, solids vs. liquids, problem solving).
  • How can you provide sensory learning experiences?

The good news is, it’s easy, inexpensive and the possibilities are endless!  If there is a down-side, it is that sensory activities are often messy, requiring a suitable space and sometimes, considerable clean up time.  The simplest explanation I can give is, provide your child/baby with a 1) a tactile material and 2) objects with which to manipulate the material.

  1. Examples of materialsWater, sand/mud, rice, pasta, cornmeal, dry beans, play-dough, saw dust, grass seed, shaving cream, finger paint, clay, confetti, putty, whipped cream, rocks, buttons, foam pieces……………..
  2. Examples of objects used to manipulate the materials – basters, whisks, waterwheels, shovels, pails, funnels, plastic containers, ice cube trays, tongs, cooking utensils, sponges, sea shells, sifters, plastic eggs, combs, moulds, vehicles, bowls, straws, pipe cleaners………

* Be sure that the materials don’t present a choking hazard and also be mindful of using materials that can cause a slipping hazard (shaving foam, soap, water, etc.  Putting down a mat or towel can help mitigate slipping).

Pictures from some of the sensory learning activities we have done:

Finger painting with different liquids

Finger painting with different liquids

Baking with babies!

Baking with babies!

Drumming on different surfaces

Drumming on different surfaces

 

Pouring different objects

Pouring different objects

Drawing in scented, coloured sand

Drawing in scented, coloured sand

Making faces with food

Making faces with food

Play-dough

Play-dough

Using utensils & textured paint

Eating utensils & textured paint

Melting ice

Melting ice

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rhythmic dancing with scarves

Rhythmic dancing with scarves

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Check out one of our most popular posts – Make your own sensory toys!

For more sensory activities, click here (15-18 months) or here (18-24 months)