Tag Archives: preschool

A Little Playful Inspiration

Have you visited the blog Let the Children Play I find myself frequently pinning Jenny’s lovely posts because they are so wonderful for simple, magical, child-led fun.

Here’s a few examples that have inspired me for our lazy days at home…

“This sunny day we set out a couple of shallow boxes and containers filled with sand, along with a basket of goodies to create little worlds.”

series: how to create an irresistible outdoor playspace for children

“Within the Reggio Emilia schools, great attention is given to the look and feel of the classroom.  Just feast your eyes on some of the wonderful images of Reggio Emilia inspired preschools I have found lately…”

A space of comfort and privacy:
 

A space of beauty and wonder:
 
I subscribe to Let the Children Play by email, and it’s lovely to have these simple and whimsical ideas dropped into my inbox each morning.  I highly recommend going over and taking a peek.  Click on Popular Posts to see some of the viewer favorites, but don’t stop there.  Click on related pages at the end of each blog post and you’re likely to find more than you can possibly keep up with to inspire you.  :)
Happy Thursday!

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More Research Shows Preschoolers Learn Best Through Play and Exploration (and a Few Fun Links)

As if we needed more studies to show that preschoolers don’t need formal education, two new studies have shown that little ones are better at learning and solving problems when they are not instructed about it first.  In Slate’s Why Preschool Shouldn’t Be Like School, researcher Alison Gopnik cites the studies and how they surprised the scientists:

As so often happens in science, two studies from different labs, using different techniques, have simultaneously produced strikingly similar results. They provide scientific support for the intuitions many teachers have had all along: Direct instruction really can limit young children’s learning.

The author concludes the article with something most of us know already:

Knowing this, it’s more important than ever to give children’s remarkable, spontaneous learning abilities free rein. That means a rich, stable, and safe world, with affectionate and supportive grown-ups, and lots of opportunities for exploration and play. Not school for babies. 

Want to play with your kiddos today?  Here’s some sites with some fun inspiration…

  • Meyamo has a wonderful PDF page showing how to make a dozen gorgeous colors of natural paint with powdered sugar, a bit of boiling water and fruits and vegetables like spinach, carrots, raspberries, coffee and lemons.
  • Twenty-five different blogs took part in Tinkerbox’s Cardboard Box Challenge and I love some of the things they came up with, like the way Teach Preschool’s little carpenter not only used parts of boxes to make walls of a little house but he even made planks of floors.  Then there’s the splat paint box, the marble run, the castle, the loom…
  • I love The Artful Parent’s Spray Painted Canvas Patio Walls!  We do something similar with an old sheet all summer (yes, that’s the same sheet over the years in the pictures!).  We hang it on the clothesline and attack it with paint, spray bottles of colored water, you name it, and then just wash it and use it for our table cover when we do messy crafts inside.  I love the way it constantly changes depending on the latest art adventures, with some designs lasting forever through the new.

Happy Wednesday!

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What We Can Learn From Swedish Preschools

I received a rather snarky comment on my “What Should a 4 Year-Old Know?” post today.

While I’ve been contacted by teachers, librarians, principals, doctors and early childhood education experts who have said they wished more parents realized these things, this surly individual called me “blase” and “touchy feely” and said, “C****, we’re all screwed.”

The commenter, Eric, said that “we are so behind other countries that good jobs are bleeding from our borders to other nations…” and “4-year-old children SHOULD be able to write their name, know the planets, list several presidents AND count to 100…”.

So I’d like to take this opportunity to educate Eric on what those countries that are leading the world ARE doing in preschool.

It might not be what he thinks.

Head over to Teacher’s TV and watch this 26 minute video about preschools in Sweden.

As the narrator says,

Imagine a school where play and relaxation is paramount…

…Where there’s little formal learning and most leave at the age of five or six unable to read or write.

…Yet, just a few years after starting formal schooling at the age of seven, these children lead the literacy table in Europe.

The preschool director points out that there is no testing and that “It’s not the child we should evaluate, it’s the processes we do.”

The Swedish preschool’s motto:

Challenge, Discovery, Adventure

The video talks about what’s important in Swedish preschools — lots of time outside, natural foods, cooperation, exercise, security, play, life skills and most importantly, fun.  It also shows how these young children do in school a few years later, and lets them talk about what they think of it all.

What about the rest of the world?  Teacher’s TV has an entire series of programs that follow countries that teach in the best ways, and Hungary was featured for teaching math best.  Again, you’ll notice that they introduce formal learning later and the children do better. In Hungary, they begin formal school at age 6 and are not formally tested until age 14.

There’s plenty more to show the academic reasons for play-based learning for preschoolers.  Take a look at this excerpt from Should preschools teach all work and no play?

Rebecca Marcon, a developmental psychologist and education researcher at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville, agrees. In 1999, Marcon published a study in the journal Developmental Psychology that looked at 721 4-year-olds selected from three different preschool models: play based, academic (adult directed) and middle of the road (programs that did not follow either philosophy). Marcon followed the children’s language, self-help, social, motor and adaptive development along with basic skills.

“What we found in our research then and in ongoing studies is that children who were in a [play-based] preschool program showed stronger academic performance in all subject areas measured compared to children who had been in more academically focused or more middle-of-the-road programs,” says Marcon.

According to Marcon and other researchers, children who are subjected to overly academic environments early on have more behavior problems later and are less likely to be enthusiastic, creative learners and thinkers.

“You will frequently get short-term gains with a highly academic approach (in preschool), but they come with long-term consequences,” says Marcon. “A lot of early childhood studies only follow children to third grade. But when you take it into fourth grade and beyond that’s where you see the big difference. That’s when children have to be more independent and think.”

When deciding what is best for your preschooler, I hope you will always follow the leads of your own heart, your own child and at the very least, follow the research.

Despite grumpy people who may think otherwise, doing things that are good for children is not bad for any of us.

For more on this subject see:


4 Reasons To Ditch Academic Preschools

Academic Preschools: Too Much Too Soon?

Academic Preschool

Pushing preschoolers — at what cost?

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What Should a 4 Year Old Know?

What should a 4 year old know?

It’s back to school time and children all over are starting preschool.  Many parents are frantically searching the internet to find out if their little ones are “on track” and know everything they should.

I wrote this article about what a four-year-old should know many years ago but it continues to be the most popular page on the Magical Childhood site.  I don’t think a week has passed in the past eight or so years when I have not received a letter from a parent, grandparent or teacher about it.  Parents and principals especially have said they wish more parents realized these things.

So in honor of the new school year, I’m posting it here…

What should a 4 year old know?

I was on a parenting bulletin board recently and read a post by a mother who was worried that her 4 1/2 year old did not know enough. “What should a 4 year old know?” she asked.

Most of the answers left me not only saddened but pretty soundly annoyed. One mom posted a laundry list of all of the things her son knew. Counting to 100, planets, how to write his first and last name, and on and on. Others chimed in with how much more their children already knew, some who were only three. A few posted URL’s to lists of what each age should know. The fewest yet said that each child develops at his own pace and not to worry.

It bothered me greatly to see these mothers responding to a worried mom by adding to her concern, with lists of all the things their children could do that hers couldn’t. We are such a competitive culture that even our preschoolers have become trophies and bragging rights. Childhood shouldn’t be a race.

So here, I offer my list of what a 4 year old should know.

    1. She should know that she is loved wholly and unconditionally, all of the time.
    2. He should know that he is safe and he should know how to keep himself safe in public, with others, and in varied situations. He should know that he can trust his instincts about people and that he never has to do something that doesn’t feel right, no matter who is asking. He should know his personal rights and that his family will back them up.
    3. She should know how to laugh, act silly, be goofy and use her imagination. She should know that it is always okay to paint the sky orange and give cats 6 legs.
    4. He should know his own interests and be encouraged to follow them. If he couldn’t care less about learning his numbers, his parents should realize he’ll learn them accidentally soon enough and let him immerse himself instead in rocket ships, drawing, dinosaurs or playing in the mud.
    5. She should know that the world is magical and that so is she. She should know that she’s wonderful, brilliant, creative, compassionate and marvelous. She should know that it’s just as worthy to spend the day outside making daisy chains, mud pies and fairy houses as it is to practice phonics. Scratch that– way more worthy.

But more important, here’s what parents need to know.

    1. That every child learns to walk, talk, read and do algebra at his own pace and that it will have no bearing on how well he walks, talks, reads or does algebra.
    2. That the single biggest predictor of high academic achievement and high ACT scores is reading to children. Not flash cards, not workbooks, not fancy preschools, not blinking toys or computers, but mom or dad taking the time every day or night (or both!) to sit and read them wonderful books.
    3. That being the smartest or most accomplished kid in class has never had any bearing on being the happiest. We are so caught up in trying to give our children “advantages” that we’re giving them lives as multi-tasked and stressful as ours. One of the biggest advantages we can give our children is a simple, carefree childhood.
    4. That our children deserve to be surrounded by books, nature, art supplies and the freedom to explore them. Most of us could get rid of 90% of our children’s toys and they wouldn’t be missed, but some things are important– building toys like legos and blocks, creative toys like all types of art materials (good stuff), musical instruments (real ones and multicultural ones), dress up clothes and books, books, books. (Incidentally, much of this can be picked up quite cheaply at thrift shops.) They need to have the freedom to explore with these things too– to play with scoops of dried beans in the high chair (supervised, of course), to knead bread and make messes, to use paint and play dough and glitter at the kitchen table while we make supper even though it gets everywhere, to have a spot in the yard where it’s absolutely fine to dig up all the grass and make a mud pit.
    5. That our children need more of us. We have become so good at saying that we need to take care of ourselves that some of us have used it as an excuse to have the rest of the world take care of our kids. Yes, we all need undisturbed baths, time with friends, sanity breaks and an occasional life outside of parenthood. But we live in a time when parenting magazines recommend trying to commit to 10 minutes a day with each child and scheduling one Saturday a month as family day. That’s not okay! Our children don’t need Nintendos, computers, after school activities, ballet lessons, play groups and soccer practice nearly as much as they need US. They need fathers who sit and listen to their days, mothers who join in and make crafts with them, parents who take the time to read them stories and act like idiots with them. They need us to take walks with them and not mind the .1 MPH pace of a toddler on a spring night. They deserve to help us make supper even though it takes twice as long and makes it twice as much work. They deserve to know that they’re a priority for us and that we truly love to be with them.

And now back to those 4 year old skills lists…..

I know it’s human nature to want to know how our children compare to others and to want to make sure we’re doing all we can for them. Here is a list of what children are typically taught or should know by the end of each year of school, starting with preschool.

Since we homeschool, I occasionally print out the lists and check to see if there’s anything glaringly absent in what my kids know. So far there hasn’t been, but I get ideas sometimes for subjects to think up games about or books to check out from the library. Whether you homeschool or not, the lists can be useful to see what kids typically learn each year and can be reassuring that they really are doing fine.

If there are areas where it seems your child is lacking, realize that it’s not an indication of failure for either you or your child. You just haven’t happened to cover that. Kids will learn whatever they’re exposed to, and the idea that they all need to know these 15 things at this precise age is rather silly. Still, if you want him to have those subjects covered then just work it into life and play with the subject and he’ll naturally pick it up. Count to 60 when you’re mixing a cake and he’ll pick up his numbers. Get fun books from the library about space or the alphabet. Experiment with everything from backyard snow to celery stalks in food coloring. It’ll all happen naturally, with much more fun and much less pressure.

My favorite advice about preschoolers is on this site though.

What does a 4 year old need?

Much less than we realize, and much more.

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A Door to Anywhere

Daryl has been on the lookout for an old fashioned screen door for a play he’s putting on in September.  Last week, he spotted one by the street for trash pick-up and snagged it.  When he got it home, he realized it seemed to be made for very tiny people (!) and would not work at all.

A door made for very tiny people?  I immediately seized on it and asked Daryl to hang it up for us.

Three hinges and ten minutes later, we had a door to nowhere.  Or the back yard.  Or anywhere.

Daryl added a hook and eye screw so the door can be fastened against the garage when out of use.

We discovered that it made a perfect stage for puppet shows!

Or just make believe.  :)

One thing I’ve learned over the years is that often the most magical things are things that other people would consider rubbish.  Whether it’s scrap wood painted bright colors and used as giant outdoor building blocks or old doors that lead to nowhere, there’s often pretty nifty stuff out there waiting to be imagined — for free!   :)

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Easy, Beautiful Suncatchers!

I am in love with this darling idea from tales from the corner house!  This is just white glue and bits of glass and plastic baubles.  Brilliant and beautiful!

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A Few Good Things…

… that have caught my attention lately:

  • Here’s a super simple, inexpensive spray you can make to clean fruits and veggies at home:

Susan Sumner, a food scientist at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, developed a solution that is an effective disinfecting procedure to clean those conventionally-grown fruits and vegetables. It is non-toxic and inexpensive, and can also be used to sanitize your kitchen counters and food preparation surfaces such as wooden cutting boards. She simply uses white vinegar (or cider vinegar) and 3% hydrogen peroxide (the same as found at the drugstore). Put each solution into 2 spray bottles. Spray your produce (or work surface) with the vinegar and follow with the hydrogen peroxide. Then rinse the produce under running water or wipe the surface with a clean, wet sponge.

(source)

  • Yahoo’s Healthy Living section has this simple chart of 9 food ingredients to avoid, what they do and why they’re bad.  This is great info if you’re unclear why brominated vegetable oil is added to soda anyway or you want something concrete to convince your mother-in-law that yes, food coloring really does cause hyperactivity and other problems for lots of children and there’s a reason to stop filling your kids up with red Kool-aid and Skittles.  ;)
  • I’m really enjoying the Let the Children Play blog from a preschool teacher in Australia.  Much of the focus is on how to make outdoor spaces good for children, especially related to nature and the senses.
  • Likewise, I’m loving irresistible ideas for play based learning, also from an Australian preschool and also focused on outdoor play spaces for children.

(photo by irresistible ideas for play based learning)

Any neat blogs or sites or ideas on your radar this week?

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Why I Love Teacher Tom

I’ve been following Teacher Tom’s blog for a little while now.  Teacher Tom is a preschool teacher who gives me all sorts of wonderful ideas, especially for making outside spaces child-friendly.  He also just has a wonderful love of children that I enjoy reading.

But today’s post on his blog perfectly sums up why I adore him.

He was inspired by these blocks (so am I!) and decided to try to make some with his students.

Now anybody who’s been around the internet block a time or two knows that when most folks are inspired by projects for children online, they try to recreate them to absolute perfection, and then document the steps in 25 photoshopped, frame-worthy pictures.  The final result usually belongs in a high end Etsy shop or an art gallery.

It also tends to look like it requires so much trouble, so much artistic skill, so many expensive supplies and so much time that I just forget about it and get out the playdough.

This is how Teacher Tom recreated the project with his kids.

And more.  Glorious messes galore.

And the final bit, that made me smile like mad?  Just as I was thinking “I wonder what special paint he used and if he’s coating it with varnish,” he mentioned it was plain old tempera paint… and it rained that night and it probably all washed off so “I guess we’ll just have to do it again.”

And you know what, I’ve done THAT craft!  The kids do love it.  We did it on big rocks and cement border stones, but they had a blast (me too, actually!).  And it did wash off, and we did do it again.

I have scrap wood in the back yard and I have lots of tempera paint.  I know some kiddos who would love to make that pile into some fabulous, tacky, gloppy, beautiful, colorful, perfect blocks.

Thank you, Teacher Tom, for crafting for the kids.

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ScrapColoring Pages

I’m loving these online coloring pages!  There’s everything from kissing flamingos to knights to mermaids, all with wonderful colors and patterns to fill them with online for free.  You can even enter personalized text to color!

This is addictive fun, not just for children but for mamas too.  :)

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A Few Good Links

I have a date with a hubby, a bowl of ice cream and a show on tape so I’ll be quick!  Here’s a few fun things around the net that we’ve done or mean to do soon!

Made overnight french toast with strawberries and bananas

Doing super simple activities for lazy days (you all know simple is my favorite word!)

(Although this would require a much cleaner floor than I presently have!)

Making Valentines Day paper mache boxes

Talking about chores for toddlers and preschoolers

Making Chinese New Year crafts

And now, chocolate chip cookie dough awaits me!

Please do something fabulously wonderful for yourself in my honor.  You deserve it!

Happy Thursday!

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