The journey not the product

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As adults, we often enjoy children’s artwork for not only the adorable inexperience it shows but the aesthetic¬†qualities too.¬† However, there are times when we want a lovely product instead of realizing the rich quality of the process a child went through to create whatever is on that piece of paper or however a sculpture may appear. In the early years of development, the artwork is not necessarily¬†for aesthetic purposes, it is a complex investigation of colors, textures, shapes, and sizes.¬† The artwork through its process is also very much a part of psychology in which the child is in the moment calming the brain, calming any anxieties, and recharging energy.¬† Children take time naturally to process information and we see this often when children become quiet and push all other activity from their focus.¬† They may not answer a question an adult or another child poses, because their brain is working hard at interpreting¬†a large or small amount of new information.¬† That new information could be a flower they saw on their way to school.¬† That flower at first was a bud and now is in full bloom.¬† The child has noticed the changes and these are not small changes to that child’s mind, they are huge and complex changes because that flower the child observed is life as it grows, develops over time.¬† To an adult that flower may be insignificant, yet for the child that is part of a strong foundation for all future learning.

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When children explore colors they are investigating mixing, creating and experimenting with a variety of combinations they can come up with.¬† Sometimes they will have a plan in mind for what they are creating, but often times there is no plan because this is a truly¬†kinesthetic/ tactile and cognitive process that does not need a plan.¬† The process children go through with their investigations with artwork is not meant to be “something” unless that child wants it to represent a person, place or thing.¬† And if a child chooses for their artwork to be representational know that what is represented will not stay the same.¬† In one moment the painting above could be a house or a dog or nothing.¬† As a teacher I will often ask questions like, “can you tell me about your painting?”, “Can we read your¬†drawing?”, “Tell me more.”.¬† If a child’s intent was for the painting or drawing to represent something they will elaborate and tell me what it is in that moment only to change it to something else in the next moment, which then leads them to storytelling or sharing a life event they experienced.¬† In essence, an opportunity to discuss their artwork may simply open a door to connect with a child and the experiences they have in life.¬† Communication, listening, speaking are all a part of a rich literacy foundation with artwork as the vehicle or catalyst.

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Scribble to symbolic form is a natural and complex developmental process that should not be rushed.¬† Children in their own time will shift to consistent¬†symbolic form when their minds are ready.¬† Please do not dismiss or belittle a child’s scribbles.¬† Scribble form is what every single human being started with, you and I are no different than children today that scribble.¬† This stage of development is a natural process that must be experienced in order for the child’s brain to aquire new information that allows them to move on to symbolic form.¬† Symbolic form means that we, adults and children recognize the artwork as being “something”.¬† That “something” will be flexible and fluid, not static.¬† The child may choose to say it represents a face, a cat, a car etc.¬† We must be respectful of the importance that this artistic work is not about the end product but rather the process or journey the child went through at they created this peice of work.

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With a Reggio Emilia Inspired environment, I am able to integrate letters, numbers, shapes, textures, concepts and academic content into the emerging curriculum through the form of “play”.¬† “Play” encompasses all the complexities of learning for young developing minds.¬† I accept and respect all the work my students engage in.¬† I do not rush them, I listen and observe how they interact with each other, individually and with the environment.¬† Children come to school with a rich vocabulary base and a large platform of experience from their home life.¬† What they’ve learned from their respective families is often times extended upon in class.¬† Yet, that is not always the case for every child.¬† Some children are able to limit the knowledge they share from their family.¬† This means that some children have a mind that is internally driven to explore and learn new information or explore information that is the same, yet presented differently at school.¬† Other children will share everything they experience at home and in the world at school.¬† I look at this as natural boundaries children are expressing and I respect each child’s abilities and desires to share whatever amount they wish. Please respect the process and the complex journey of young minds as they grow.¬†¬†

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Join The Marigold School of Early Learning and allow your child to grow and learn at their own pace.  Enjoy the early years of development and watching your child blossom!

Walk, ride a bike or drive to The Marigold School Of Early Learning! Morning Preschool Specifically Designed for Children Ages 3-5!

Heidi Scott is an experienced Master level Teacher

Children Learn In Their Own Time

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Roads are not always created with blocks.  When children are allowed to explore their curiosities they end up using a variety of materials designed for entirely different purposes.  Yet, being able to manipulate a wide variety of objects and discover multiple uses for them is how children form the knowledge bases they need for all academic areas they will be more heavily involved with once they enter elementary school and beyond.

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Nature also provides an endless supply of wonderful materials for all sorts of creations.¬† Stick, leaves, bark, rocks, grass and the list goes on, are all important parts of a child’s foundation for learning.¬† Kinesthetic/tactile experiences are so vital for concrete minds.¬† When children are constantly interrupted from their natural way of learning to sit and do a direct instruction activity that an adult wants them to work on the real tragedy of that moment is that the child is only doing something to please the adult, but is not learning as deeply as is needed for future success and confidence.¬† When a child is allowed to explore and construct knowledge in an environment that is set up for “play” learning has no end.

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Respecting each child’s age and developmental journey is also very important and directly affects a child’s future social and academic successes. When a child is three they are spending that year gaining more and more vocabulary, their fine and gross motor skills vastly change, their ability to understand conversations, ask questions, make observations, tell stories, and the list goes on is all new and exciting.¬† However, they are still three and there is much more learning to come.¬† Don’t rush a child who is three, allow that child to be the age they are.¬† Enjoy all the new and old discoveries.¬† Enjoy the back and forth progress and journey¬†of growing and learning. And remember that literacy and mathematics are part of a bigger whole.¬† In early childhood education, the focus is on the needs of the whole child, not just letters, and numbers.¬† These abstract concepts are incorporated into play to help their concrete minds build a foundation to add onto as they grow and develop over a number of years.¬†

Yes, children can memorize letters and numbers and when they do they are pleasing an adult, but when a child is allowed to learn these abstract concepts in their own time, a much deeper understanding is able to form.¬† They will have a more stable grasp of the information and will be more successful through their school career. Listen, observe and be the support the child needs when they are showing an interest in letters and numbers.¬† Be the child’s scribe, provide them with the tools they need to show their understanding in a natural play context with no pressure, so there is no anxiety tied to learning academic concepts.

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Learning new things happens over and over again.¬† There is a spiral of new and revisited concepts and that is normal development.¬† Interest can be strong for a long period of time in a certain subject or category, but when the child discovers newer information their brain shifts to make new pathways for those concepts.¬† Once a child feels comfortable with their newly acquired knowledge they will spiral back to other areas of interest and add more pathways of understanding.¬† Influences for this process are both internal and external.¬† It is important to support a child’s interests and make sure the new and old information can be explored, questioned, experimented with and built upon.¬† When a child leaves one interest and becomes more engrossed in another subject for a while, they will return to the original interest that much more competent with that subject because their minds have had time to continue to work on any curiosities they had.¬† Working in different areas of interest does not occur in isolation, rather they fit together, all areas are related and are fluid and not static.¬† A child’s mind is rapidly growing and taking on more and more information, so do not worry if they lose interest in counting for a while, the other interests they have actually allow their subconscious to continue working on any areas they had questions about.¬† Once they return to counting they may be rusty at first but then there will be a burst of new information showing through their play because their minds have had time to process and assimilate new information that will allow the child to go further with their understanding of numbers than they could before.

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Let children be children and cherish the time they are young and the world is new to them.  This perception will change as they get older, so do not feel you need to rush a child to become an adult.  They will get there in their own time through their own unique journey of curiosity, discovery, and construction of knowledge.

*Walk, ride a bike or drive to The Marigold School of Early Learning: Preschool Specifically Designed for Children Ages 3-5! ūüôā¬†

 *Heidi Scott is an experienced Master level Teacher with 20 + years of teaching both early childhood and primary grades.

 

Cars and Dolls role in Play!

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Playing with cars is more than just the act of pretending to drive and sound effects. Cars can take on the role of multiple characters to inspire imaginary play. Cars can be used to experiment driving on different types of constructed roads, they can be measured against different length strings and they can be used to paint with.  The list really can go on and on, but the one thing to remember is how cars are not just toys to add sounds and drive. 

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When a child’s mind opens to imaginative stories cars become characters in those stories. They can play supporting roles or be the main cast.¬† For a child having that imaginary character around will help them be inspired to¬†explore textures, measure, count, pattern, and paint.¬†¬†

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Dolls are also a traditional aspect of childhood play, but these little wooden dolls have abilities that the bigger baby dolls aren’t quite as handy at.¬† And that is their small size allows them to travel to many different stories. They fit into baskets, buckets,¬†bowls and are easier to incorporate wherever¬†a child goes. We call these wooden dolls fairies and sometimes they are supporting characters in the stories the children create, but they have yet to be main characters.¬† Some children will automatically incorporate dolls as¬†their playmates¬†or main characters of their stories and will often include them in family role play.¬† However, there are also children who have other interests and dolls come in second. Children really do have diverse and similar interests, but often they do not follow stereotypes unless the adults around them are encouraging them to follow the stereotypes put out by multiple toy media companies and TV shows. Listen, observe and converse with children to know what toys/ tools they prefer instead of just assuming girls like dolls and boys like cars.¬† Often both girls and boys like both. And since both materials are used as characters in stories they are an important part of a child’s process of learning about the world they live in.

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Toys are tools to gain knowledge with, they are materials that are more inviting and successfully used when they have multiple purposes so the child can continue to learn and grow with every use.  Open-ended materials are wonderful for children to have and to use in ways they can understand.  Yet, open-ended materials are also wonderful ways to bridge the gap between understanding concepts and not understanding.  And open-ended materials provide just the right disequilibrium or challenge for every age!

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Let children enjoy learning! And the best way is through play!

Heidi Scott, BA & MIT

 

 

Early Writing and Fine Motor Development

101_4223  Fine motor development in preschoolers cannot be rushed, yet like disequilibrium when being challenged at the right level children can interact with their learning environment in several different ways that support a kind of challenge that is just right to help move along their fine motor skill development.  You may think I mean worksheets or having the teacher sit the child down and trace either letters or numbers, but that is not what I am referring to.

101_3384¬†By using my school classroom as a “third teacher”, I am able to incorporate many different sized materials that are appropriate for young children’s growth and development of their fine motor muscles.¬† Setting up provocations to see if they have an interest in drawing is one example.¬† A common provocation, activity, lesson, whichever you prefer to call it when paper and crayons are present children will usually gravitate to that table because of all the joy they find while exploring colors and expressing themselves artistically.¬† However, they do not always want to draw a picture.¬† Sometimes they are writing as they explore colors.¬† Scribble form is the beginning of writing and is a developmental process all children go through and every child experiences this step.¬† Children will go back and forth between scribble and symbolic as they gain new information and interests while their skills become more advanced.¬†

Revisiting the word “provocation”.¬† When I set up crayons and paper it is not an activity or lesson, it is an invitation¬†to create.¬† The provocation is open-ended meaning the child can do whatever they want and while they are exploring, experimenting and creating I am observing the entire process and admiring the process.¬† This child loves to arrange the colors in rows, counts them, sorts them by color and on occasion¬†experiments with patterning.¬† When other objects are included by the child, such as cars, a narrative emerges and soon the scribble form is accompanied by the child verbalizing a story while “writing”.¬† As I scribe the words the child is saying aloud, I also inquire as to whether I am writing the words they want me to.¬† This is a great way to support a child’s writing development and keep the child engaged in the learning process by tapping into their internal interest¬†they are showing at that moment.

cropped-101_4140.jpg By providing young children with choices for drawing/art tools they are able to challenge their fine muscles to move along those skills of development, just as when disequilibrium occurs to challenge children at their level cognitively. A continued example is of oil pastels and how they are a bit thicker than regular crayons and pencils, so more of a whole hand grip is needed for drawing, while the other tools I mention can be held differently to adjust to the size, shape, and weight of the writing tool.

101_4478¬†¬†101_4802¬†In addition to writing/drawing tools, there are of course real tools!¬† Above is an example of both plastic tools, and real tools such as screws and nuts of three different sizes.¬† The real tools are part of the “Loose Parts and Intelligent Play Things” theory that I’ve incorporated in different parts of the classroom and am still collecting.¬† We see that once again fine motor skills are in use in different ways and each challenges the child.¬† Holding onto a screwdriver with a thicker handle and figuring out which way to turn it and how tight or loose of grip to have can cause some children disequilibrium until they have mastered the tool and move on to something more challenging.¬† Trying out real tool parts such as screws and nuts is also a chance for children to be in disequilibrium because they are getting the hang of aligning the screw and nut so¬†twisting will cause the nut to move up or down the screw.¬† Getting things aligned can be a challenge and just the right kind because with a little persistence and a little support the child will have this skill down pat in no time.¬† All while continuing to develop their fine motor muscles.

101_2582¬† The Marigold School of Early Learning is a Reggio Emilia Inspired Preschool for children ages 3-5. ūüôā Support your child’s natural curiosities and development by encouraging your child to play and observe closely to see what your child is really interested in.¬† You may be very surprised with the process your child demonstrates.¬† Children are intelligent people and all they need is us adults to support them on their journey of natural curiosity which leads to an ability of unlimited learning.

Heidi Scott, BA & MIT ūüôā¬†cropped-100_8088.jpg

 

 

Reggio Provocations, creativity and the zone of proximal development

Another older post that I find relevant for today’s children. Please share some of your thoughts and experiences with the topics I’ve brought up in this posting.

The Marigold School of Early Learning

101_5964¬†¬†Earlier in the week, I posted a blog about having an open discussion centered around the broad topic of provocations. ¬†Provocations, of course, stem from the Reggio Emilia approach. To continue with this discussion, I would like to talk about not only provocations¬†but the growing and evolving role of creativity and the ‚Äúzone of proximal development‚ÄĚ, a term coined by Lev Vygotsky.

I am a teacher inspired, changed and constantly growing in my understanding of how young minds learn.  I attribute this to learning about the Reggio Emilia approach several years ago.  Before I learned of this branch of constructivism, I was much more close-minded and rigid in my view of education in general and of what capacity young children were capable of in terms of learning for understanding.  Since opening my own preschool and being able to fully take advantage of the fact that I can implement as much…

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