Play Matters

The Importance of Play

Society is beginning to notice how over-scheduled children are these days. Stories of elementary-age children being shuttled from activity to activity have made their way into the occasional news cycle or magazine article. If you are a parent, you probably identify with this as your reality and may have even considered writing “chauffeur” as your occupation on some government form. High school students are trying to pack their resumes full of extra-curricular activities for college applications. There is a sense that in this ultra-competitive new world, we have to make sure our children try and excel at everything. This attitude has trickled down into the early years and now preschool, toddler and even infant teachers are feeling pressured to “teach” these very young children to ensure that they are “prepared” for kindergarten and the rest of their school careers. What we often forget is that children learn a lot through play. Young children especially need unstructured play time to develop in a healthy way. Through child-centered play time children learn all sorts of skills from social interactions to problem solving and even important academic concepts like math, science and language skills. I recently read a report from the American Academy of Pediatrics talking about the importance of play for children in an effort to encourage pediatricians to pass along this information to parents. You can see this report at this link: AAP Play Report

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Using Themes for Play 

October 29, 2003

This is something that I crusaded in the 80's and won alot of awards doing so. Jean Warren has a wonderful website.

I get a lot of calls from teachers looking for theme-based curriculum for toddlers. Right now at World of Wonder the only theme we have for this age group is making music, and that kit was designed to help teachers bring music exploration into their classrooms throughout the year, rather than as a short-term theme.

Themes are a great way to organize learning experience for toddlers, but toddlers are not small preschoolers. Developmentally, they are in a very different place and so the types of themes we use and teacher’s expectations of how those themes will look need to be adjusted. Some things to consider when planning your toddler theme:

  • Toddlers are very concrete thinkers with little experience in the world. Themes should be concrete and familiar, like “shoes”, “apples” or “dirt”.

  • Toddlers have their own internal agenda and are not motivated by the idea of being part of a group. Keep large group activities at a minimum. Instead set up “exploration stations” where children can explore a new activity on their own terms.

  • Toddlers have no interest in a final product. It’s the process that engages them. Instead of crafts, create sensory experiences (focus on the way paint feels rather than on painting a pumpkin). Worksheets are not appropriate for this age group.

  • Toddlers are language sponges. Talk with them at every opportunity using theme-related concepts and vocabulary. You don’t need to quiz or question them. Just keeping a running monologue of their activities is enough to expose them to new language in a meaningful way.

  • Toddlers need repetition. Each time a toddler explores an activity, plays a game or listens to a book they are either learning new and different things or practicing emerging skills. They thrive on this repetition. Move slowly through theme activities and give them plenty of opportunities for repetition.

This article is a pretty good example of how a theme might look in a toddler setting. Feel free to share your experiences with toddler themes here.

Birdwatching to Uncover Our Natural World

May 3, 2013

No matter where you live, chances are you see birds every day. The tall buildings of the city, parks large and small, suburban neighborhoods and rural areas all provide habitat for different kinds of birds. Give kids an opportunity to notice and watch the birds around you and you may be opening the door to new discoveries, a wealth of learning opportunities and maybe even a life-long appreciation of nature.

Here are some ideas for young birdwatchers:

  • Hang a bird feeder near a window (natural intelligence)

  • Create a bird-friendly habitat, even in an urban area, by setting out potted shrubs or other greenery and a bird bath (natural intelligence)

  • Get a book that identifies birds in your area (or look them up online) and help kids identify the birds they see (linguistic, logical/mathematical, spatial intelligences)

  • Encourage older kids to keep a bird journal where they can jot down or draw pictures of their observations (linguistic, spatial, natural intelligences)

  • Look for bird nests, try out binoculars (spatial, natural intelligences)

  • Look at bird feathers with a magnifying lens (spatial)

  • Act out the bird behaviors you see (natural, kinesthetic, intrapersonal intelligences)

  • Go for nature walks and talk about where you see birds and what they are doing (natural, kinesthetic, linguistic, interpersonal intelligences)

For even more great ideas and information on the wonderful benefits and discoveries children can enjoy just by taking notice of the birds around them, check out this article in Teaching Young Children Magazine.

Filed under: Activities for KidsMultiple IntelligencesPreschoolThemes | Tagged: Activities for KidsEarly ChildhoodkindergartenMultiple IntelligencesPreschoolScienceTeachingThemes | Leave a comment »

Letter Days

Posted on


July 23, 2009


by wowkits

My daughter’s preschool started a new concept for their summer program and it’s been a great hit with all the kids. They are celebrating the alphabet with “Letter Days”. The idea is a simple one:

  • Each day a new letter is celebrated

  • Children are encouraged to bring in an item for “sharing time” that begins with that letter. Today is “O” day and my daughter chose to bring in an orange bracelet. She is thrilled that orange starts with O and that it looks like the letter O.

  • Each day features a craft and snack that starts with that letter. For “H” day they had hummus (with pretzels) and made “hearts and hands” wrapping paper by stamping hand prints and heart shapes on a “huge” sheet of paper.

  • Each day they make a special “tribute” to the letter. The featured letter is written in the center of a half sheet of paper. Around it, the children do a leaf rubbing (they rubbed goldenrod leaves for “G”, a maple leaf for “m”), stamp images of something beginning with the letter and draw pictures.

The kids are loving it! Each day at drop-off children are showing me what they brought for sharing. Many are even choosing the clothes they wear to coordinate with the letter of the day, a shirt with a picture of an island for “I” day, a dress for “D” day. I overhear conversations children are having about things they encounter that begin with the letter of the day. At bed time my daughter wants to brainstorm ideas of words that begin with the next day’s letter. It has been a great way to reinforce alphabet concepts over the summer, but I’m sure it could be an equally successful school year project.

Filed under: Activities for KidsLiteracyPreschoolThemes | Tagged: Activities for KidsCurriculumearly literacyPreschoolSummerThemes | Leave a comment »

Sunshine Science

Posted on


July 9, 2009


by wowkits

Science isn’t scary. It’s all around us! And there is no better way to get kids excited about the wonders of the natural world than to experiment with the magical properties of sunlight. Here are a few fun-in-the-sun science experiments for preschool and kindergarten:

  • Sun Prints– Place several objects (key, rock, leaf) on a piece of dark construction paper. Leave it in the sunshine (indoors or out) for a few hours. Invite kids to remove the objects to reveal their sun prints!

  • Shadow Tracing– invite children to trace shadows with chalk on a paved walkway or driveway. If there are no fixed-object shadows to trace (trees, signs, etc.) encourage children to trace each others shadows. Be sure to trace around the feet of the standing child to make sure they can get back into the same position later in the day. A few hours later, return to the tracings. Are the shadows still within the traced lines?

  • Rainbow Makers– Grab a hose and a spray attachment. Spray a mist of water into the air on a sunny day and encourage children to look for the rainbow!

  • Shadow Shapes– Invite children to make shadow shapes with their arms or whole bodies. If you’re on a paved surface, capture the shapes by tracing them.

  • Warming Up Water– set out a small metal (or other dark and non-breakable) bowl with water in a sunny spot. Place another small bowl of water in a shady spot. After a few hours, bring the bowls together and invite children to compare the temperatures of the water.

As you do these experiments with children, ask questions. What do you think will happen? What did happen? Why?

These experiments will get kids thinking about:

  • the source of sunlight

  • the properties of sunlight

  • how the sun moves through the sky

  • the relationship between light and heat

  • the power of sunlight

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A Garden Project Grows Young Minds

Posted on


May 6, 2009


by wowkits

Large projects are a great way to make learning a fun, real and unforgetable experience for young children. Planning, preparing, planting, tending and harvesting a vegetable garden is a great way to tie in all sorts of important concepts including:

  • plant life cycles

  • living and non living

  • seasonal cycles

  • weather

  • insects

  • food/food groups/nutrition

  • healthy habits

Gardens also tap into children’s energy and natural curiosity. Children learn through their senses, at their own pace and in their own way. Some of the Multiple Intelligences addressed while gardening include:

  • Linguistic– talking about your plans; describing your actions; discussing problems/issues; learning new garden-related vocabulary; keeping a garden journal

  • Logical/Mathematical– counting and sorting seeds; measuring garden space, seed spacing, plant height, rainfall

  • Spatial– planning garden space; drawing pictures of plants as they grow, creating seed markers

  • Kinesthetic– digging, weeding, raking, harvesting

  • Musical– singing garden-related songs; tapping or otherwise keeping a rhythm as you dig or plant; listening to the sounds of nature as you spend time outdoors

  • Interpersonal– working together to prepare soil, add compost, water, harvest food, create snacks or meals, etc.

  • Intrapersonal– quiet, independent time weeding or digging

  • Natural– watching plant cycles and insect life

You don’t need a large outdoor space to create a class garden that can become a season-long project. A small garden plot can keep kids very busy. Several large pots or other planting containers can become a bountiful urban garden. Not only will your children learn a lot, they will also have an opportunity to experience nature and that in itself comes with a host of benefits!

Filed under: Activities for KidsMultiple IntelligencesPreschoolThemes | Tagged: Activities for KidsCurriculumMultiple IntelligencesnutritionPreschoolsensory experiencesSummerTeachingThemes | Leave a comment »

A Look at Seeds Through Multiple Intelligences

Posted on


April 10, 2009


by wowkits

It’s that time of year- seeds are sprouting and buds are bursting into bloom! No doubt your children have noticed. Nature’s springtime rebirth is endlessly fascinating to children and the guided exploration of seeds is a great way to give children a front-row seat to this amazing time of year.

Here are some ideas of how to explore seeds using a Multiple Intelligences approach:

  • Linguistic– Read The Tiny Seed by Eric Carle, talk about children’s experiences gardening or planting seeds; encourage children to discuss questions or have a conversation about how seeds grow

  • Logical/Mathematical– give children a variety of different types of seeds to sort; create patterns with seeds; use standard or non standard measurements to track a seedling’s growth; create sequence cards showing a seed sprouting, growing and blooming

  • Spatial– create seed art by pasting various small seeds onto construction paper, sticking them into a slab of self-hardening clay or arranging them on sticky-backed contact paper; create a sketch journal to record the growth of a seed

  • Kinesthetic– encourage children to squat down like a little seed, the slowly rise and grow, then spread out arms as the plant blooms

  • Musical– create musical shakers by putting seeds into plastic bottles

  • Interpersonal– invite children to work together to prep the soil and plant an outdoor or indoor container garden

  • Intrapersonal– Set out a bouquet of flowers for children. Invite them to draw quietly as they look at the flowers, then talk about the drawings or the feelings they have as they look at the flowers

  • Natural– Track the life cycle of your seed, from sprouting to blooming and fading away and composting. Talk about this cycle with children

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Curiosity Comes Alive in Project Based Learning

Posted on


February 13, 2009


by wowkits

I’m a big fan of project-based learning. It is the ultimate way to create a thematic unit full of hands on learning fun. Children become partners in the curriculum planning because the success of your project depends on their interest and enthusiasm.

Planning is essential though. You need a project goal and then you need to break down that goal into smaller parts for children to build upon. For teachers it can be hard to figure out how to walk that fine line between planning ahead to guide learning and following the children’s lead.

But when learning in the classroom overlaps with the real world and children feel that they have a larger stake in the day’s activities, it’s amazing how excited about learning, and curious about the world, they become.

Here is a video clip of a big moment in one class’s project on worms. The children’s excitement is contagious! A project approach to teaching may take a little getting used to, but if it can create curious kids, it is definitely worth a try.

The Illinois Early Learning Project has a great online tip sheet to help teachers plan and coordinate a learning project. Here are the basic steps:

Phase 1- Getting Started

  • Choose a topic

  • Ask children what they know

  • Ask children what they want to learn (questions they may have)

Phase 2- Collecting Information

  • Teachers use children’s questions to plan trips or present other resources to children

  • Children collect and record information through journals, drawings, charts, etc. and share/discuss new knowledge

Phase 3- Concluding the Project

  • Children use information gathered to answer previous questions

  • Children decide how to present new knowledge to parents and school community

Filed under: Activities for KidsPreschoolThemes | Tagged: Activities for KidsCurriculumkindergartenPreschoolTeachingThemes | Leave a comment »

Holidays: An Exploration of Diversity

Posted on


November 21, 2008


by wowkits

As the holidays approach, conversations in your preschool class may begin to revolve around the upcoming family celebrations that your children are so looking forward to. For teachers who have cultural diversity in their classrooms, this can be a stressful time. Honoring the various traditions of your children’s families while trying to meet the expectations of the majority, or even a minority of very vocal parents/community members can be challenging. It is also a wonderful opportunity to explore the concept of diversity.

A diversity theme can be intimidating, but it can also be a wonderful way to get to know your families, strengthen the home/school connection and create a strong sense of community within your classroom. Here are some ideas:

  • Send home a parent letter and questionnaire– give parents advanced notice of the theme. Ask families where they come from, if they will be having a holiday celebration and if they would be willing to come in to talk about their traditions or bring in culturally relevant items or food. (Intelligences: Interpersonal, Linguistic)

  • Introduce the theme to your group by making “kid masks”– take a photo of each child. Blow it up to 5×7 or larger. Cut out the face. Laminate the photo. Mount it on a craft stick. Give children their masks. Encourage them to look at each others masks, try out the different masks, talk about how they are alike and different. Use them throughout the theme. Sort and group the masks by hair color, eye color, etc. Incorporate the masks into the dramatic play area. (Intelligences: Spatial, Interpersonal, Linguistic, Logical/Mathematical, Kinesthetic)

  • Encourage children to bring in photos of last year’s holiday celebration at home, or of a favorite family tradition. Use these photos to jog memories, have conversations, draw pictures or create stories. (Intelligences: Interpersonal, Intrapersonal, Linguistic)

  • Explore books that are relevant to the cultures of the children in your program. (Intelligences: Linguistic, Intrapersonal)

  • Learn games from the family cultures of your classroom. (Intelligence: Interpersonal, Kinesthetic)

  • Look for songs in the home languages of the children in your classroom and encourage the class to learn a word or phrase in that language. (Intelligences: Musical, Linguistic, Intrapersonal)

These are just a few ideas. If you’ve tackled this challenging theme with the children in your program, we’d love to hear about what worked for you!

Filed under: Activities for KidsMultiple IntelligencesPreschoolThemes | Tagged: Activities for KidscommunityEarly ChildhoodFamilyholidaysMultiple IntelligencesPreschoolThemes | Leave a comment »

Using Themes with Toddlers

Posted on


October 29, 2008


by wowkits

I get a lot of calls from teachers looking for theme-based curriculum for toddlers. Right now at World of Wonder the only theme we have for this age group is making music, and that kit was designed to help teachers bring music exploration into their classrooms throughout the year, rather than as a short-term theme.

Themes are a great way to organize learning experience for toddlers, but toddlers are not small preschoolers. Developmentally, they are in a very different place and so the types of themes we use and teacher’s expectations of how those themes will look need to be adjusted. Some things to consider when planning your toddler theme:

  • Toddlers are very concrete thinkers with little experience in the world. Themes should be concrete and familiar, like “shoes”, “apples” or “dirt”.

  • Toddlers have their own internal agenda and are not motivated by the idea of being part of a group. Keep large group activities at a minimum. Instead set up “exploration stations” where children can explore a new activity on their own terms.

  • Toddlers have no interest in a final product. It’s the process that engages them. Instead of crafts, create sensory experiences (focus on the way paint feels rather than on painting a pumpkin). Worksheets are not appropriate for this age group.

  • Toddlers are language sponges. Talk with them at every opportunity using theme-related concepts and vocabulary. You don’t need to quiz or question them. Just keeping a running monologue of their activities is enough to expose them to new language in a meaningful way.

  • Toddlers need repetition. Each time a toddler explores an activity, plays a game or listens to a book they are either learning new and different things or practicing emerging skills. They thrive on this repetition. Move slowly through theme activities and give them plenty of opportunities for repetition.

This article is a pretty good example of how a theme might look in a toddler setting. Feel free to share your experiences with toddler themes here.

Filed under: Infant/ToddlerThemes | Tagged: TeachingThemestoddlers | Leave a comment »

Benefits of Teaching through Themes

Posted on


August 7, 2008


by wowkits

Thematic units are the backbone of the preschool and kindergarten learning materials available through wowkits. I have always believed that themes are the best way to engage young children in learning, no matter what their strengths or abilities. Today I came across an article in the teacher resource section of stating:

Thematic units provide one of the best vehicles for integrating content areas in a way that makes sense to children and helps them make connections to transfer knowledge they learn and apply it in a meaningful way. Thematic units also address the diverse learning styles of the students we serve.

The article goes on to explain the many benefits of teaching with themes and echoes a lot of my beliefs and the reasoning behind our thematic units. It is also very well documented. To read the entire article, click here. I highly recommend it to anyone currently using or considering using themes in the classroom.

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Healthy Choices

Posted on


July 8, 2008


by wowkits

Summer has brought with it a bounty of tasty snack treats. Whether it’s play-date snacks, camp snacks, snacks for outings, or visits to berry-picking fields and farmers’ markets, snack offerings are everywhere. Bug is getting old enough to have definite ideas about what she wants for a snack, and I’m thankful that she generally makes healthy choices. I don’t know how much of it is from my early attempts at teaching the difference between “sometimes treats” (a term I first heard on Sesame Street) and “anytime treats” or if it’s really just her general lack of a sweet tooth. Either way, I’m thrilled.

I think it’s going to be a little tougher with Babe. He generally refuses anything green and has a way of shutting his eyes and mouth so tightly as the offending food approaches that it seems as if he is also trying to shut his nose and ears (just in case I had any crazy notions of trying a new entry way for getting the food into his body). He loves fruit, but nothing gets him more excited than the cookie he gets from his beloved day care provider at pick up time.

As I watch my kids navigate the world of snacks, I keep turning over a new curriculum theme in my mind. I’d like to create something to help encourage healthy eating habits. I’ve been collecting articles and ideas on the topic for a few years now, and it’s been a few years since WoW Kits came out with a new preschool theme. If you have any experiences on the topic you’d like to share, or any approach or specific area you think I should look into, please comment here.

Filed under: HealthPersonal LifeThemes | Tagged: CurriculumkidsSummerThemes | Leave a comment »

Field Trips

Posted on


June 25, 2008


by wowkits

I’m on the board of our local children’s museum and we’ve noticed a big drop in attendance this spring. It could be the weather. It was a long winter, and once it began to warm up the playground was full of families with young kids eager to stretch their legs and shake off some of that cabin fever. Maybe it was road construction keeping folks away. But I suspect it was gas prices. We’ve got a ton of great programs lined up for the fall and we’ve even secured some grant money to enable us to offer several programs for free to schools serving low income and at-risk kids, but many of the schools are not able to commit to a field trip with the cost of transportation being what it is.

I’m sure this is an issue across the country. Now a lot of the WoWKits I create are based on themes and it got me thinking that teachers could fill this field trip void by really getting into themed units. Imagine a classroom where each month the entire feel and look of the room changes completely to complement the theme of study. Giant cardboard trees with tissue paper leaves and vines of paper streamers could transform a classroom into the rain forest. The sound of a rainstorm on a CD could greet the children each morning or lull them to sleep at nap time. Rain forest animals could lurk in the toy bin or puppet corner. Going all- out with themes could create the same sort of energy and excitement of a field trip. It could also give that all important real-world context for the concepts children need to master. If we can’t get our children out into the community to see a bit of the world, let’s do our best to bring the world into their classrooms.

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Let’s Get Kids Out into Nature!

Posted on July 18, 2009

This morning the Today Show did a segment on the startling discovery that children are not getting out into nature. Apparently only 6% of children between the ages of 9-12 spend time outdoors on their own. I’d imagine the stats are even worse for younger children. In the segment Richard Louv, the author of the book Last Child in the Woods, discusses the many benefits that children get from spending unstructured time just exploring outdoors, including reduced stress, increased attention span, and increased creativity. You can see the segment here.

I was truly amazed to learn that so few children are getting out into nature. My daughter is four and my son is only 16 months and they both love to explore the yard and go for “hikes”. My daughter is so into discovering the plants and animals in the yard that she does almost daily “patrols” informing me of new flowers and weeds blooming and bringing me exciting beetles and slugs to inspect. My son practically goes into convulsions when he sees his hiking backpack come out, he gets so excited about a walk in the woods. I know we are fortunate to have a big yard and to live in a rural area near both town and national forest lands. For many folks, getting out into the wilderness takes a lot more planning and effort. But it’s worth it!

On Richard Louv’s web site is a resource page, giving suggestions of things parents and communities can do to encourage more “nature time” for kids. One of the suggestions is to create a Family Nature Club. Any parent could do it. It’s as simple as calling a few friends with kids and organizing a walk at a local park. I also think that preschools and day care centers could be great leaders for such an initiative. Just post something on a bulletin board or send the idea out in a newsletter home. Then help interested parents find each other. Once families get out to the great outdoors, remember, it’s all about the time in nature. Don’t plan a big walk, and don’t rush the kids along. The point is to give them a chance to stop and turn over rocks, poke at a bug or climb a tree. Just take a deep breath of fresh air and let the kids do their thing!

Filed under: Activities for Kids | Tagged: activitiesEarly ChildhoodImportance of PlaykidsResearch | 1 Comment »

Outdoor Science Fun

Posted on


July 14, 2008


by wowkits

Beginning last week, a construction crew installed themselves on our street. They’ll be here for a month updating the water and sewer lines and repairing the road. The kids are in HEAVEN! Every morning at breakfast they take their seats facing out the window to watch the action. So far they haven’t been disappointed. An excavator is digging, a dump truck is dumping, a front loader is carting loads of dirt up the street and the roller rolls everything flat again at the end of the day. The crew has been wonderful, waving to the kids and occasionally stopping to chat and answer questions.

Babe is enthralled by the sites and sounds of the big trucks. I’m amazed at how long he can stand in one place and just watch them. But Bug has really surprised me. Her usual passions involve fairies and kitty-cats. She is a lover of caterpillars, butterflies and flowers, and generally hates loud noises. But now she is loving learning about how roads are built and how big machines work. Of course, every bit of knowledge leads to more questions. She is delving into the world of scientific inquiry and discovery.

On that topic, I came across a great article in Early Childhood Today magazine entitled “Outdoor Activities: Taking Science Outside“. It talks about the value of taking science projects outdoors and gives ideas of very simple outdoor science experiences for young children. It is a good reminder that science and learning doesn’t have to be complicated.

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Nothing Beats Play

Posted on


June 30, 2008


by wowkits

Today is the deadline for workshop proposals for the California AEYC (Association for the Education of Young Children) Conference next spring. I got an email requesting a workshop proposal, and when I saw that the theme of the conference is “play” I couldn’t resist submitting a proposal. I’m always ready to jump at any opportunity to talk about the importance of play. And I don’t just mean as a stress reducing technique. So many people view play as an unnecessary “luxury”, or even a waste of time. Not so! To a young child play is work! Sure, it’s work they enjoy… isn’t that what we all aspire to?

Play is how young children learn about the world. If you want your preschooler to get excited about science, don’t strong-arm the local elementary science camp coordinator to squeeze in your young but brilliant child. Give your child things to play with! I don’t mean a kid-sized science lab kit, I mean open-ended things. Things they can get creative and experiment with. A water table, pitchers, flexible tubing, a funnel and a cheap siphon from the hardware store will keep your child entertained all summer. Just give her the time and permission to get wet and play with it all. You’ll be amazed with the projects that your child comes up with on her own. Through her play, she will learn about all kinds of scientific principles and problem solving. She’ll be improving her motor skills and her thinking skills and it may even plant the seed for a genuine interest and excitement about science as she gets older.

Of course, this idea applies to all kinds of subject matter and skills. Young children need to play to learn and to apply what they’ve learned in a way that is meaningful to them. We all need to remember to let kids play without meddling so much. Let’s sit back from our role as activity director. We will never be disappointed with all that they will learn on their own. That’s not to say that teachers of young children are irrelevant. It actually takes a very skillful teacher to bring out the best in children’s natural play and encourage them to try new things. But that’s a subject for another time…

Filed under: Activities for Kids | Tagged: activitiesEarly ChildhoodEducation IndustryImportance of PlaykidsTeaching | 2 Comments »

The Beauty of Curiosity

Posted onJanuary 25, 2010

“Keeping Kids Curious,” that’s our tagline at World of Wonder and hopefully the goal of every parent and teacher. While browsing Scholastic’s Early Childhood Today online magazine I came across a great article about the importance of curiosity in children.

It boils down to this simple cycle of learning:

Curiosity results in ExplorationExploration results in DiscoveryDiscovery results in PleasurePleasure results in RepetitionRepetition results in MasteryMastery results in New SkillsNew Skills result in ConfidenceConfidence results in Self esteemSelf esteem results in Sense of SecuritySecurity results in More Exploration

So the next time your toddler makes you crazy flipping the light switch on and off or your preschooler sneaks off to the sink for a little “water time”, remember that this often repetitive and sometimes messy need to satisfy curiosity is helping your child to learn, grow, develop and gain confidence. Instead of making them stop, sit back and watch their minds grow!

Pumpkins: A Multiple Intelligences Approach

Posted onOctober 21, 2008

With Halloween fever in full swing, here are some ideas for exploring pumpkins using Multiple Intelligences as a guide:

  • Visit a “pick-your-own” pumpkin patch- children can: talk with the farmer (interpersonal), explore the pumpkins growing on the vine (natural), walk the fields, (kinesthetic), count the number of pumpkins growing on one plant and compare them (logical/mathematical) and it’s a great way to get families involved

  • Explore the pumpkins- use string and/or flexible measuring tape to explore height and circumference, weigh the pumpkins, line them up by size (logical/mathematical), talk about the parts of the pumpkin and their purpose (natural, linguistic), create pumpkin rhymes or sing pumpkin songs (linguistic, musical)

  • Draw a face on their pumpkin- children can: use a washable marker to design a face, adult traces over in permanent marker and carves (spatial), talk about the expression on the face (intrapersonal, linguistic), turn the cut-out pumpkin pieces into stamps by dipping them into tempera paint (spatial)

  • Scoop out the insides of the pumpkin- children can: have the sensory experience of pulling out the insides (kinesthetic), talk about the way it feels (linguistic), sort the seeds from the stringy flesh and weigh them to see which is heavier (logical/mathematical), explore the insides with a magnifying lens (natural)

  • Explore the seeds- children can: work together to rinse, salt and spread them on cookie sheets (interpersonal), eat the seeds at snack time (interpersonal), plant some seeds (natural), create seed art with glue and heavy paper (spatial), count seeds/organize them into patterns or groups (logical/mathematical)

Pumpkins are a great way to use your children’s current interests to engage them in meaningful learning experiences. A Multiple Intelligences approach ensures that there is something that will capture the interest of every child. It also is a great way to get ideas that will involve all of the senses and it ensures that the learning experiences will be hands-on. Chances are many of these ideas will also help you address some of your state’s learning standards or guidelines.

Filed under: Activities for KidsMultiple IntelligencesPreschoolThemes | Tagged: Activities for KidsMultiple IntelligencesPreschoolTeachingtoddlers | Leave a comment »

Dive into Fall (with All Five Senses)

Posted on


October 9, 2008


by wowkits

Here in New England there is no mistaking the time of year. The trees are an autumnal rainbow of colors, the air is crisp and cool and with every breath comes the unmistakable smell of fall. Add to this the sound of feet shuffling through leaves and the occassional thump of acorns and pine cones falling to the ground and it is clear that any time spent outdoors is an absolute sensory feast. Take advantage of all the sensory stimmulation that nature provides and get outdoors with your kids during this special time of year. Some fun activities for toddlers include:

  • collecting acorns and pine cones in buckets

  • walking through big piles of leaves

  • mushing soft cooked apples to make apple sauce

  • putting leaves onto clear contact paper (sticky side up)

With preschoolers try:

  • giving a group the task of raking an area using child-sized rakes and after raking, jump into leaf piles (intelligences: kinesthetic, interpersonal)

  • collecting nature items in buckets and then counting and sorting them (intelligences: logical/mathematical, natural)

  • making leaf prints or rubbings (intelligence: spatial)

  • following a recipe to make apple sauce (intelligences: linguistic, logical/mathematical)

  • Keeping a tree journal, observing a tree throughout the fall and then drawing and talking about your observations (intelligences: natural, linguistic, spatial)

  • Gathering leaves in the play yard, sorting them, then chart and graph the results (intelligences: logical/mathematical, natural)

  • Making musical shakers from items found in nature, i.e. pie plate shakers filled with dried leaves (intelligences: musical)

Most importantly, just give your children the opportunity to get outside and have all of their senses awakened by the wonders of fall. If you have fall activity ideas you’d like to share, I’d love to hear them!

Filed under: Activities for KidsInfant/ToddlerMultiple IntelligencesPreschoolThemes | Tagged: Activities for KidsEarly ChildhoodMultiple IntelligencesPreschooltoddlers | Leave a comment »

Great Ideas for Making Music Outdoors

Posted on


May 3, 2011


by wowkits

Music has the power to lift us- body, mind and spirit. This is especially true for young children. Making and moving to music promotes all areas of development:

  • physical– coordination, muscle tone, fine and gross motor skills develop as children play instruments or dance to music

  • cognitive– creating and listening to music includes problem solving, logical thinking, patterning, counting, cause and effect, scientific discoveries, imagination and creativity

  • language– vocabulary, phonemic awareness, and rhyming can all be developed through songs

  • social– cooperation, turn-taking, give and take and the creation of shared experiences are all a part of the music making process

  • emotional– self-expression, personal reflection and the exploration of moods and feelings

When we take music outdoors all of these wonderful qualities are enhanced. Outdoors children (and teachers) have a heightened sense of freedom. Outdoors we feel more comfortable to let go and explore. We can sing loud, we can play loud, we can get silly and experimental.

So consider creating a music corner in your outdoor space. Every-day items can make wonderful instruments.

  • Plastic flower pots or 5 gallon tubs make great drums

  • a variety of old spoons hanging on a coat hanger can be chimes

  • PVC pipes of various lengths can be tapped with an old flip-flop to create all kinds of cool sounds

  • Pea gravel makes a neat sound when poured over an old washboard

  • Put a little water into a metal bowl and tap it with a stick to hear more funky sounds

Let the Children Play is another blog full of all kids of photos and ideas for musical fun outdoors. Check it out! And if you want even more info on how to create fun and inexpensive musical experiences to your children check out our Music with Little Ones binder for Infants and Toddlers, or our Making Music binder for ages 3-8.

Filed under: Activities for KidsFamilyFamily Child CareImportance of PlayInfant/ToddlerMultiple IntelligencesPreschoolSchool | Tagged: Activities for KidsEarly ChildhoodImportance of Playkindergartenlearning stylesMultiple IntelligencesPreschoolSummerTeachingtoddlers | Leave a comment »

Can a Standardized Test Measure Skills in Preschool?

Posted on


April 20, 2011


by wowkits

Standardized tests and young children are not a good mix. Head Start tried it for five years (from 2002 until 2007) and the results were not good. According to Samuel Meisels, president of the Chicago-based Erikson Institute, items were timed, had cultural bias and were only given in English and Spanish when 98 other languages were documented as being the home languages of children enrolled in Head Start across the country. All of this was in direct contrast to what we know is important for early learning, namely children’s need to feel safe and supported, to work at their own pace and the importance of the development of the home language. The format and values of standardized test  are not a good fit if our goal is to have a clear picture of what our children are capable of.

But with more and more states looking for ways to trim the budget, early childhood programs are feeling pressure to find a way to measure the progress of very young children. What is the answer? In a recent article in Tulsa World, Meisels points to observational assessments.

“As you work with kids in a sandbox or in other parts of the classroom, you can learn their abilities,” he said. “In observing, you have to learn how to do it – observe without bias, while in action with a child and how to take yourself away from a child for observation.”

To do this well takes some training, support from staff or even parent volunteers so that teachers can be freed up to do these observations. Teachers also need a process for documentation and a program that supports hands-on, experiential activities that allow children to learn, grow and show off all they can do. Young children cannot be successful in a one-size-fits-all evaluation structure, but, as any adult who has looked up when a young child shouts, “Watch me!” all children can show us what they can do through play.

Filed under: Importance of PlayPreschoolSchool | Tagged: CurriculumEarly Childhoodearly literacyImportance of PlayMultiple IntelligencesPreschoolTeaching | 1 Comment »

Tips to Help Your Preschool Child Make Friends

Posted on


April 15, 2011


by wowkits

Toddlers are very content to sit next to another child and play, each doing their own thing, basically ignoring one another. But as children grow and develop, this “parallel play” transforms into a need for social interaction. By the time children reach the age of 4 or 5, the need for friendships and playing with peers becomes very important to children. But for many children, wanting to play with friends does not mean that they know how to make it happen. When the desire is there, but the skills are not, children get frustrated. They may become aggressive as they try to get other children to interact with them. Or you may notice children becoming reclusive as they try to avoid the frustrating situation.

As a parent or caregiver, you can help. Successful play experiences, and eventually friendships, require important social skills like empathy, problem solving, and communicating. Children who have difficulties in any of these areas may have a harder time making friends. Here are some strategies to support a child’s social development and encourage friendships:

  • Bring your child along as you go out in the world and interact with others. Children learn by watching and seeing you successfully interact with people you don’t know very well can help your child to learn some of these skills.

  • Give your child many opportunities to meet and interact with peers. Whether through play dates, group activities like story time, music classes, etc. or frequent visits to a local playground, the more your child is able to meet and interact with peers, the more opportunities he will have to develop and practice emerging social skills.

  • Pay attention to your child as she navigates play opportunities. Watch her verbal and non-verbal interactions. How does she approach peers? Does he play cooperatively? Is he able to communicate with playmates? Is there a pattern to when and how problems arise? Once you have a better idea of where or why your child is having troubles playing with others, you can better support him in developing new skills.

  • Model the behaviors that you would like to see in your child. Listen to his thoughts, feelings, ideas and stories. Be kind to others, greet them, give compliments, show empathy. Avoid complaining. Have a sense of humor about your own weaknesses.

  • Help your child to see her strengths and feel good about herself.

  • When arranging play dates, start small. Begin with one friend for one hour and then gradually increase the length of time and number of friends as your child’s skills grow. This will help to avoid frustrating or overstimulating your child.

  • Don’t be afraid to guide your child through activities as he learns about social and behavior expectations. You don’t need to be a “helicopter parent” but instead support your child as needed to encourage success.

Friendships are  important to young children and learning how to start and maintain friendships is an important life skill. Like everything else, children are not born with these skills and some will need more guidance than others as they navigate the world of friendships.

Filed under: FamilyImportance of PlayPreschool | Tagged: Child DevelopmentEarly ChildhoodFamilyImportance of PlayNatural PlaygroundparentingPreschool | Leave a comment »

Supporting the Learning Process for Babies

Posted on


April 13, 2011


by wowkits

Babies are natural learners. They are curious and eager to explore and experiment. As care providers, the best thing we can do is sit back and support the explorations that drive them.

This video was taken by Janet Lansbury, a trained parent educator, and highlights the innate curiosity of infants. In her blog, Lansbury reminds us:

All babies need is a safe, peaceful environment, some basic objects to examine (unnecessary until they are 3 or 4 months old) and many opportunities throughout the day to move freely and make their own choices without our interruption.

As you watch this video clip, notice:

  • the child is free to move about and develop his motor skills

  • the simplicity of the materials that the child chooses to explore

  • the opportunities the child has to problem-solve as he explores these simple materials

  • many of the child’s senses are supported and engaged (visual, tactile, auditory)

  • adults respond to baby when he initiates interaction (getting adult attention through eye contact or sounds), and don’t intrude upon his exploration

As caregivers we want to make sure we are doing all that we can to help our babies learn and grow. What we need to remember is that there really is very little that we need to do! Our babies are experts at doing. All we need to do is have confidence in their abilities as self-directed learners and be there to support them when they need us.


Filed under: FamilyImportance of PlayInfant/Toddler | Tagged: Child CareChild DevelopmentEarly ChildhoodImportance of Playinfantsparenting | Leave a comment »

Using Play to Boost Academic Skills

Posted on


April 6, 2011


by wowkits

The case for play in early childhood gets stronger and stronger every day. The more we learn about how children grow and develop, the more we see that children need to play to flourish- socially, emotionally AND academically.

A recent article in Newsweek’s The Daily Beast, Let Preschoolers Play! says:

a growing body of research supports the very real benefits of exploratory and playful learning experiences. A 2007 study published in Science evaluated a play-based program, Tools of the Mind, against a non-play-based one. After two years in the play-oriented classrooms, children scored better on self-regulation, cognitive flexibility, and working memory. The self-control kids learn through interacting and playing with others has an academic payoff, too; it’s more strongly correlated with future academic success than either IQ or early reading and math skills.

The article goes on to explain that one of the problems with teaching preschoolers in the way elementary school students are traditionally taught is that learning through trial and error is eliminated. Instead children are “fast tracked” by adults to learn basic skills. The result is limited problem solving skills and diminished creativity. The fact that these are essential skills for our children to be competitive in the business world of the 21st century should have parents and the larger community very worried!

It’s an easy fix. Let young children learn through play and hands-on experimenting!

Filed under: Education IndustryImportance of PlayPreschool | Tagged: Child DevelopmentEarly ChildhoodEducation Industryfamily child careImportance of PlaykindergartenparentingPreschoolResearchTeaching | Leave a comment »

Secrets for Preventing Behavior Issues in Preschool

Posted on


April 5, 2011


by wowkits

Managing a classroom of 20+ preschoolers is not easy! If a “good day” is a day when no one gets hurt, and a day without tears seems all but impossible, you are not alone! Here are some ideas that will go a long way in preventing many behavior issues:

  • Take a look at how your room is set up– young children see large open spaces as an invitation to run. Move low shelves or other furniture to create cozy nooks, quiet work spaces and defined play areas like a block play or dramatic play space.

  • Create classroom rules and give daily reminders– A few positively stated rules can be extremely effective in guiding children’s behavior. Rules like “we are kind to our friends”, “we walk in the classroom” and “we are gentle with our materials”, give children specific behavior expectations and create a positive atmosphere. Make a visual poster reminding children of your rules and reinforce the rules daily through songs, conversations or simple reminders.

  • Get to know children as individuals– most behavior issues come from a child’s need to feel important, to feel included/accepted or to feel respected. If you make a point of spending a little one-on-one time with each child and teach and encourage children to practice social skills  and always treat children with respect, you will be creating a community where everyone feels important, included and respected.

  • Plan activities for different learning styles– we all learn in different ways, yet many traditional school activities are designed for children who learn through listening and writing. Activities that include movement, visual support, songs, teamwork, the natural world or personal reflection will give children with these strengths or learning styles a chance to shine.

With these basic guiding principles in place, you should notice big improvements in the behavior of the children in your class. Of course, some behavior issues require more specific interventions, but only about 10-15% of the children in a typical classroom will fall into this category. For these children, you may need to seek out the advice of others, including teacher mentors, consultants or other professionals.

For all kinds of activity ideas that are engaging to different learning styles or “intelligences” visit

Filed under: Multiple IntelligencesPreschoolSchool | Tagged: Child CarecommunityEarly Childhoodlearning stylesMultiple IntelligencesPreschoolTeaching | 1 Comment »

What to Look for in a Child Care Environment

Posted on


March 21, 2011


by wowkits

Quality child care can come in many forms, from large child care centers to small in-home child care programs and everything in between. Finding the right situation for your child can be overwhelming and stressful. It is a personal decision. What is right for your family may not be right for your best friends family. Here are some things to consider as you explore your options:

  • Schedule– if your work schedule is outside of the traditional 9-5 Monday-Friday work schedule it is important that you ask about the hours of operation of any program you are considering. Many programs may be eliminated from your list of options based on schedule.

  • Location– if you are like many people, this is a drive you will have to make on a daily basis. Once enrolled in child care, many people find that the majority of the time they have with their child is just before bed and rushing to get out the door in the morning. If the commute to child care is long, it is using up time you could be spending interacting with your child at home. Also, if your commute takes you through heavy traffic areas or other stressful situations, this will have a negative impact on your entire day (and possibly your child’s day too!).

  • Cleanliness and safety– children are notoriously good at spreading germs and young children are always putting things in their mouths. Avoid child care programs that look unclean, where choking hazards are within easy reach of young children or where you are at all uncomfortable with supervision or safety.

  • Learning environment– Children learn by doing. This means engaging in hands-on play. Look for a program where children are playing with open-ended toys like blocks, housekeeping props and dress up, rubber animals, dolls, balls, cars, etc. Watch the way children interact with each other and how the caregivers interact with the children. They should be attentive, but not controlling. Children should be active, but not wild. Children should have choices of what to play with, when and how. Adults should guide children in their choices when necessary. Avoid programs that rely heavily television, computers and worksheets to keep children busy. The kids may look calm and busy, but they are missing out on important opportunities to explore concepts in meaningful ways that will make a lasting impact on their future growth.

  • Discipline– Just as there is a lot of variety in how families approach discipline, the same is true for child care programs. When it comes to discipline, consistency is important for children so choose a program with a discipline philosophy that is in line with yours.

  • Food– some programs provide food, others expect you to bring it. Be aware of what foods will be served to your child. Excessive amounts of juice and other high-sugar foods should be avoided.

  • Outdoor time– all children, even infants, need time outdoors. Ask how often children are taken outdoors and in what situations (weather, staffing, etc.) children might not be taken outdoors.

  • Teacher training/accreditation– are teachers certified? Is the program accredited by a national or state agency? Do the teachers take part in ongoing training or professional development? A program that has high standards and supports teacher’s professional development is more likely to retain staff and be more aware of current best practice for caring for young children. This is good for kids.

  • Communication– how do teachers let you know what went on during the day? How are problems communicated? How do the teachers communicate with the children?

  • Flexibility– if you are likely to need to change your schedule, add, drop or switch days, ask if this is a possibility. Some programs are very flexible and others are not at all.

Choosing the right child care situation is important for your own peace of mind and for your child’s well-being. Take your time, ask questions and make the choice that is right for you.

Filed under: FamilyFamily Child CareInfant/ToddlerPreschool | Tagged: Child Carechild care businessEarly Childhoodfamily child careImportance of PlayparentingPreschool | Leave a comment »

More Law Enforcment Officers Stand Up for Preschool

Posted on


March 9, 2011


by wowkits

A coalition of law enforcement officials across Illinois are urging their state’s lawmakers to invest in the state’s early childhood program. They are not alone. In Santa Fe, NM county sheriffs offered to cut their budgets if it meant putting more money into quality preschool programs. In Scranton, PA, a local police chief stated, “Making sure at-risk children have access to quality pre-kindergarten programs is one of the most important steps we can take to cut future crime by keeping kids from becoming criminals.” The sentiment is shared by members of the law enforcement community across the country. An article from Chicago’s Medill Reports explains why:

One study in the report followed two groups of at-risk 3- and 4-year-old students in Michigan starting in 1962. One group attended a high-quality preschool program and the other did not. The students who did not attend the school were five times more likely than the other students to be chronic offenders. By the age of 40, the people who had not attended the program were twice as likely to have been arrested for violent crimes.

Lawmakers and budget officers looking for a long term solution to state and local budget issues should give the idea of investing in preschool a serious look.

Filed under: Education IndustryGovernement in Child CarePreschool | Tagged: communityEarly ChildhoodPreschoolResearch | Leave a comment »

5 Ways to Help Children Love Learning

Posted on


March 1, 2011


by wowkits

With so much focus on accountability and test scores, much of a child’s time at school is spent focusing on his or her weaknesses. If a kindergartner is having trouble learning letter sounds, teachers make sure extra time is spent practicing letter sounds. Makes sense, right? The trouble is that even very young children begin to see school and learning as an experience that makes them feel frustrated and bad about themselves. So what can teachers and parents do to help build important skills without turning children off to learning? Here are a few ideas:

  1. Make sure your expectations are developmentally appropriate– Remember, all children develop at their own rate. Some preschoolers may be ready to sound out simple words, while others are still working on matching the correct sound to a letter. These developmental differences exist into early elementary school. Know the child you are working with and don’t push a skill that the child isn’t ready for!

  2. Build a positive relationship with each child– children are more willing to take risks and persist with challenging tasks if they feel safe and comfortable with you. Get to know children as individuals and let them know as often as you can that you appreciate them for who they are.

  3. Teach a weakness through a strength– If a child is having a hard time learning letters, but loves to move about, create a hide-and-seek letter game or scavenger hunt. Look for letters already out there in signs when you walk around the neighborhood, school or classroom, or hide letter cards around the room or playground.

  4. Create opportunities for positive experiences– Pair a struggling first grade reader with a preschool or kindergarten child who is learning letters and sounds. Give them a chance to be an expert in an area where they struggle. Encourage a child struggling with number identification help you with counting jobs around the room (Can you help me make sure I have 10 pencils in my pencil box?)

  5. Let children take the lead– if you notice that a child is really interested in dinosaurs (or any other topic), let the child lead the learning. Find out what he might want to learn about these creatures and help him to explore. As you do, encourage him to count the teeth in the T-Rex skeleton or identify the first letter sound in that big dinosaur word. The child can take the lead with the topic and you can insert skill development.

WoWKit Activity Binders can help you to reach and teach every child. Each binder is full of skill building teaching ideas for preschool and kindergarten that enable you to teach children through their strengths and interests and tap into their natural curiosity.

Filed under: Activities for KidsMultiple IntelligencesPreschoolSchool | Tagged: Activities for KidsChild DevelopmentCurriculumEarly Childhoodearly literacylearning stylesMultiple Intelligences | 1 Comment »

Secrets of a Well Run Early Childhood Classroom

Posted on


February 9, 2011


by wowkits

Young children are wonderful, energetic little beings full of enthusiasm and a zest for life. In a well-run classroom, children are like little bees, their energy a quiet buzz. It is a joy to be these classrooms and watch young minds at work- engaged, curious, making discoveries. But in other classrooms, the bees are like hornets! Their energy stirs up the air around them and makes for pure chaos. In these classrooms teachers are stressed, children are wild, toys are breaking and survival instincts kick in. So, how can you make sure you are the teacher listening to the quiet buzz of good energy? Here is what I’ve found in well run classrooms:

  • Furniture is thoughtfully arranged– avoid wide open spaces. Create cozy nooks and protected areas for special activities like block building or looking at books. Use low shelves or lofts to separate different learning areas.

  • Rules are simple and clear– Create just a few, simple and clear rules and then post them (with simple pictures to support the text). An example might be “We are kind to our friends, We take care of our toys, We listen to our teachers.”

  • Expectations are clear– yes, children need to know the rules, but they also need to know what you expect from them in terms of behavior and productivity. Just as important is that they know what to expect from you. Consistency is key!

  • Teachers get to know individuals– With a friendly greeting each morning and some one-on-one time scattered throughout the day or week, effective teachers know the likes, dislikes, fears and interests of each child.

  • Transitions are structured– Through the use of transition activities like songs, rituals or routines, children know what is expected of them and are guided through moments of transition.

  • Teachers encourage reflective thinking– Instead of praising or scolding, teachers encourage children to think about their recent actions or experiences, to notice how their behavior effected others and how they might do things differently next time.

  • Teachers give students jobs and responsibilities– Children feel important when they have a “teacher job” to do. Successful teachers invite children take over simple tasks like setting the table, watering plants, sweeping the floor, setting out papers, etc.

  • Teachers act as role models– Teachers are proactive instead of reactive and always speak calmly and respectfully to children. Remember, children learn by watching what you do, not so much by listening to what you say.

  • Children have choices– In a well run classroom, children are respected, and while rules need to be followed, children are able to choose activities that interest them, and they have the option to not participate if they are not interested or feel emotionally unable to participate. This means optional activities need to be available, even if it’s just looking at a book quietly.

Developing the secrets of effective classroom management is a skill. To some people it comes more naturally than to others, but every one can learn and develop their management skills. If you can trade the chaos for a quiet buzz, and look forward to the enthusiasm of your children every day,  isn’t it worth it?!

Do you have your own management secretes to share? We’d love to hear them!


Filed under: PreschoolSchool | Tagged: Early ChildhoodkindergartenPreschoolTeaching | Leave a comment »

Embrace Repetition

Posted on July 23, 2008

“Again!” It’s the one-year-old mantra. They never seem to tire of watching the spoon fall from the high chair or pushing the button to hear the sound. Babe loves to pull himself up to standing and then fall to the floor. He does it over and over again with a great big smile on his face, followed by an eruption of giggles as his bum hits the floor. But it’s not just one-year-olds who love repetition. It’s all children. It’s how they learn.

A one-year-old may be mastering a new skill, like pulling himself up, or discovering a new concept, like cause and effect. The first few times they try it, it’s experimentation. Then it’s testing and gaining confidence. Once they’ve done it enough to feel confident, they continue to experience the joy of being able to do it. But that’s not enough…they’ll do it some more, changing things slightly to see what happens. Finally, they’ve had enough and move on.

The same is true for preschoolers. Sure, you may feel like you’re going to loose your mind if you watch that DVD or listen to that song again, but your preschooler thrives on that repetition! First, she’s becoming familiar with the song, getting a feel for it’s rhythm and tempo, where it changes and when it will end. Then she’s figuring out the words and how she can participate. Once she’s got that down, she just wants to hear it for the sheer joy of being able to sing along and know what to expect. Then, she’ll start to notice some of the details she hadn’t paid attention to before, like sound of a flute in the background, or an extra holler or chirp from the singer.

So, when you come across an activity that you and your child enjoy. Don’t just do it once. Embrace repetition! Do it again and again. Here are some tips for making the most of repetition:

  • Make materials easily accessible so that children can re-create the activity on their own.

  • Take pictures or video tape the activity. These are fun to look at later on and can help you all to see the progress made.

  • After a bit of independent repetition invite children to talk about or draw the experience.

  • Once children truly seem done with an activity, put it away for awhile, then bring it out again. With a little time and distance from an activity, your child will probably approach it again in a whole new way, learning something completely different and new.

Children are eager learners, we just need to be patient, try to see an activity through their eyes and let them do their thing!

Filed under: Activities for KidsImportance of Play | Tagged: activitiesChild DevelopmentCurriculumEarly ChildhoodImportance of PlayPreschooltoddlers | Leave a comment »

The Art of Observation

Posted on


November 3, 2008


by wowkits

It’s natural, as we work or play with young children, to look back on our own experiences in school and act as our teachers acted. Sitting back and just watching can feel awkward, maybe even boring. But young children learn by doing. Real doing, like coming up with ideas and acting on them. Experimenting. Problem-solving. Talking, making up rhymes, singing. Often times, when we try to act like traditional “teachers” we end up interrupting the real learning that children are doing on their own.

Consider this:

  • If we are always talking to a young child, asking and then answering our own questions, or pausing only a moment before continuing the monologue, we may be denying the child opportunities to talk. Shy or cautious children are especially likely to give up trying to communicate and just let you run the show.

  • If we are always the one coming up with the play ideas for children, they may have a hard time finding the opportunity to work on the skills they need to for their own healthy development. Then we complain about their attention span!

  • If we are always jumping in to fix problems (get the shape out of the sorter, get the blocks to interlock) children are missing out on opportunities to problem-solve.

At the high school or college level, teachers may be judged by their ability to give an interesting lecture or motivate their students. At the early childhood level a skillful teacher is:

  • one who knows how to actively observe children

  • one who knows how to set up an environment that encourages independence so that children can choose from a variety of play opportunities

  • And most importantly, someone who can spot the learning opportunities and “teachable moments” in children’s natural play and knows when and how to step in and guide a child to a new experience or level of understanding.

When working with young children, less is more. But becoming a careful and knowledgeable observer is not easy. It’s an art. It takes training, experience and skill and when a teacher does it well, it is something to behold!

The Case for Natural 

Posted on


March 31, 2009


by wowkits

It is clear that children need outdoor play time for good health and mental well being. In his book, Last Child in the Woods, author Richard Louv makes the case that not only do children need to spend time outdoors, they need to spend time outdoors in natural environments.

His definition of a “natural environment” is pretty broad. It could be anything from a state park to the back yard to an empty lot in the middle of the city. The important thing is that children have a chance to see and experience nature in action (ants moving crumbs through the grass, water cutting a channel in the dirt, sunlight shining through the leaves of a plant).

Unfortunately, many traditional playgrounds, especially those in urban environments, have very little nature in them. Concerns about safety and adult ideas about what might appeal to children have separated nature from the playground. It’s time to consider bringing it back.

Schools and towns across the country are beginning to consider replacing traditional playgrounds with “natural playgrounds”. The main difference is that rather than building play structures from plastic, metal or other man-made materials, play structures are mostly created by shaping the landscape. A slide might be built into a hill rather than be accessed by a ladder that children have to climb. Garden scapes can create mazes, water features are ponds, etc.

It seems that natural playgrounds are full of benefits:

  • play features are accessible to children of a variety of ages and abilities

  • there is more room for imaginative and creative play

  • it provides opportunities for children with a variety of skills and intelligences, not just those with good motor coordination

  • children are able to experience nature

  • structures tend to be close to or incorporated into the ground, reducing the risk of injuries from falling

  • natural playgrounds are cheaper and easier to maintain that traditional play structures

  • natural playgrounds support science exploration and other curriculum connections

I a came across a research project by a team of students at Carnegie Mellon University on the topic of natural playgrounds. They found that:

natural playgrounds encourage significantly more motor fitness and require more coordination. Recently, researchers have also shown that play and activity in nature can significantly decrease the symptoms of ADHD for many patients.

Have you experienced a natural playground? What are your thoughts?

Filed under: Importance of Play | Tagged: Child CareChild DevelopmentImportance of PlayMultiple IntelligencesPreschool