What are suitable materials for very young children?

When you look online or in stores for toys for young children, many toys are offered for lots of money where they make noises, have lights, music, and other such things. None of them are necessary. Empty plastic containers, with and without lids and empty boxes are wonderful toys for exploring all sorts of learning. Comparing sizes by putting one thing in another teaches science and math without anyone instructing the child. Listening to the difference in sounds as these containers and boxes are clapped together or banged on the floor or against a table teaches difference in pitch, volume, and other musical concepts. More to come.

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Telling (not reading) Stories – part 1

You don’t need a book to tell stories.  Story telling happens in all cultures, and has been going on far longer than the written word.  Any time you describe something that happened already, you are telling the story of what happened.  The more you do it, the easier it gets.  The first stories can be 1 statement.  We ate lunch. Then add to it.  What did we eat?  “Pittr buttr”, which was how my second one said peanut butter.  What else did we eat? Apple.  Did we have anything to drink?  Milk. Here’s the new story.  We ate lunch. We had peanut butter sandwiches. We drank milk.  We cut up an apple and had it for dessert. It has a beginning, a middle, and an end.  Do you want to tell the lunch story again?  Each time, you and the child/ren can add things – We were hungry.…

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Loose Parts and Balls

Someone asked how to introduce loose parts in an early childhood center where the teachers were not familiar with them. It would have been better to  introduce the idea at a staff meeting first. But it’s too late for that now.  So I suggested what I did when introducing the study of balls.  I assembled 3 large bins of many sizes and types of balls, and put 1 in each of 3 classrooms.  I told the teachers that the only rule was to observe – and they couldn’t “teach” anything about them. The staff meeting was 3 days later.  I told everyone about what I had done and asked each of the 3 teachers what happened.  One said "They didn’t learn anything, they just rolled them around and around."  I asked her to tell us more.  They rolled them on the carpet and on the bare floor. They…

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What Is It? Why you should NEVER ask

Most often, children who make things, especially pictures, collages, block or rock or other structures, have no idea before-hand about a finished product.  They just make things.  Sometimes, after they are finished, they look at it and notice it looks like something.  One of my children made a sort of rectangle, looked at it for a while, and said, “Look, Mommy!  I made the refrigerator!”  He said it with surprise and pride at the same time. Either they know what they made or they don’t. If they don’t, the question makes them think you want an answer, so many children will often say something to please you.  This is starting them on the slippery slope to lying. Yes, lying. Because making words up is lying. If they do know what they made, the question can lead to thoughts of: I’m not such a good artist (builder, etc.) or…

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Asking Questions, Getting Answers

Sometimes, I ask questions and get strange answers.  In a recent workshop series I asked what I thought was a simple question.  Some didn’t answer and others told me things that seemed unrelated to my question. The problem, as it usually is when the answer doesn’t “match” the question, is the question itself, often combined with the listener’s understanding of what is behind the question.  An example – “Do you want chicken for dinner?” is answered by “Are you saying you want to go out for dinner?”  Or the same question is answered by “What? Leftovers again?”  More clearly, I could have asked, “Do you want chicken or fish?”  or “We have chicken vegetable soup and roasted chicken in the fridge.  Would you like one of those for dinner?” In classrooms, when teachers ask questions and children’s answers are not what the teacher expects, the teacher often thinks…

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Infants, Toddlers, and Science

Preparing for a workshop on science for infants and toddlers, I asked some colleagues for input.  Some suggested I bring special items to teach how to teach about certain aspects of science.  MY point is that special lessons are unnecessary and interfere with little ones' exploration.Lots of things go in the mouth. Are they hard or soft, bumpy or smooth, and which ones feel better when teething? They push and throw things and find out if they push something off of a table, it will fall.  After many, many tries, they find that the item always falls down - not up, not sideways.Some things do come up again, such as balls.  But when balls finish bouncing, they are down and stay down until someone bounces them again.These and thousands of everyday explorations are real science learning.Adults can help by giving them materials, time, and space to explore. Adults can…

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Thanksgiving and Young Children

Every year, before Thanksgiving, there are “cute” images of turkeys.  Children are taught poems and stories and songs about the turkey who got away, children waddle around going “gobble, gobble, gobble” and in many classrooms, they trace their hands to make a turkey. Every year, I ask the same question:  Why is this the only animal that is personified for a holiday where it’s the main food at the dinner?  I know there are children raised on farms where they eat the animals they raise.  BUT, they are not taught to pretend to BE those animals. In early childhood classrooms, children waddle like ducks, flap their arms to “fly” like birds, “swim” like fish, etc.  BUT they are never taught to do this when that animal is going to be on the table! Yes, teachers have to be mindful of the families who may be vegetarians or vegans. …

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Making a New Website and Learning

Who ever thought that there were so many decisions to make when making a new website? First, you need a domain name.  Fortunately, that part was done.  I've had this domain name since early 2000. Then you have to research to find a host that's offering what you want in a website, and you want to get one that offers help that you can actually reach (this one is a big deal - note that you have to pay for this help), and don't be too proud to use the help like crazy.The process includes writing stuff only to have to write it all over again. There are so many new things to learn - like how to make words show in lines that don't act like new paragraphs with too much space in between, how to add pictures - how to make them the size you want and…

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