Friday, July 27, 2012

Play – The Olympic Effort of Early Childhood


As the 2012 Olympic Games begin, there is an excitement that cannot be matched by any other sporting event.  We will watch young athletes from all over the world come together in peace.  Years of hard work and dedication will culminate in one sprint, dive, swimming lap or gymnastics routine.  In my home, we watch the Olympics as a family.  We talk about how wonderful it is to watch people of all cultures come together peacefully.  We admire the dedication of the athletes as they worked hard to master every nuance their sport.  Every time we have these discussions, it occurs to me that I am so fortunate to work with young children.  I spend every day watching their Olympic effort to understand their world.  I watch children interact peacefully regardless of cultural origins.  I watch children do the hard work of childhood.  I watch them play.

Play is the Olympic, herculean effort of childhood.  It is through play that children lay the foundation for all future learning and social interaction.  Children sitting in a pile of blocks are solving the mysteries of spatial relationships and gathering information about weight & balance.  Children making jewelry from beads are not only honing their fine motor skills but are also experimenting with sorting and patterning.  Preschoolers playing dress up are stretching their creative boundaries while developing their storytelling skills.  A child quietly sitting and turning the pages of a book is developing early literacy skills.  The child is showing an appreciation for the written word, studying pictures and beginning to find the main idea, predict the outcome and connect separate concepts.  Those who share the book, the blocks or the beads are learning about the important social skills of sharing, cooperation and leadership.  They succeed and build their self-esteem.  The blocks fall and they learn to be persistent and try again.

There are lessons learned through play that children cannot learn anywhere else.  We have learned from cognitive theorists such as Jean Piaget that we cannot open a child’s head and pour our knowledge into it.  That is not how they learn.  Young children must be given the time and opportunity to build their own knowledge.  When they are able to interact with their world and experiment freely, they accomplish amazing feats.  Imagine how much a child who builds a complex structure has learned.  I hope you have had the opportunity to see their faces as they realize that they succeeded. 

As an early childhood professional, how do I know that they have learned?  When you take that structure down, they can build a new one.  When you talk about the beaded necklace and ask for a bracelet, they once again pattern and sequence the colors.  When you ask about the book the child sitting alone is holding, you are told something about what they are examining.  The children are not regurgitating information to simply pass a test or complete a worksheet.  They have acquired skills that they will use over and over again.

I hope you will join me in ensuring that our young children are given opportunities for social and cognitive growth in an environment in which they can really learn.  Early learning does not look like children sitting at desks for 30 minutes doing worksheets.  That is not how children develop skills that they will need to succeed in years to come.  Early learning looks like children playing in the dramatic play costumes and pretend kitchens.   Early learning looks like boys and girls working together to create a tall tower or the longest train track.  Early learning looks like children looking at books and creating stories after they have spent time at a sand table or finger painting. 
Parents and educators needs to work together to make sure that play does not disappear.  We want to watch young children accomplish the efforts intended at that age – successful socialization, development of independence and a foundation that will support all future learning.  When young children solve the puzzles of their world, they smile as proudly as any Olympic athlete. 


Copyright 2012 © Cindy Terebush
All Rights Reserved
Please do not sell, post, curate, publish, or distribute all or any part of this article without author's permission.   You are invited, however, to share a link to this post on your webpage, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and other social networking sites.

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Friday, July 13, 2012

Children Can Hear You!


For some reason, adults forget that children can hear us. Adults tend to think that when they whisper or speak to another adult in the room, children will not listen.   In one of my less stellar moments as a preschool director, a clown yelled at me.  That’s right – reprimanded by a comic child’s entertainer.  I invited parents to see a show at our summer camp program.  The parents sat in the back of the room and whispered to each other.  The clown walked over to me to strongly point out that they were disruptive.  The clown was right.  The children were trying to quietly watch while the adults seemed to think that the children couldn’t hear them.  The children kept turning around because their attention was clearly divided.   I tell that true tale every time I invite parents to an activity in the Early Learning Center.  They laugh because they recognize themselves – they whisper at children’s activities as if the children cannot hear them.

The false perception that children will not listen when we whisper or when we speak to other adults can have a great impact on them.  Children take their cues from the adults around them.  We have a choice.  We can use our words to build or destroy their confidence, sense of security and self-esteem. 

I was recently in the supermarket waiting in line when the lights flickered.  A girl of about 4 years old began to whine.  The child’s mother looked up at us and said, “I hope the lights stay on.  She is afraid of the dark and will flip out.  It’s so stupid.”  She looked at her child and said, “You’re being ridiculous.”  You can be sure that the little girl heard every word, including but not limited to the references to being stupid and ridiculous.

Another indicator that parents forget that children are listening is the desire to bring children to adult appointments and events.  Each year, we conduct parent/teacher conferences.  We make it very clear that parents cannot bring their children to the conference.  The goal of conferences is to provide constructive information for our parents.  We want to be able to give each parent an honest assessment of their child’s social, emotional and cognitive development.  We also want our parents to be able to express their concerns openly.  Children can hear us when they are sitting in the corner looking at a book or playing with toys.  Chances are they are listening very closely.

Positive parenting isn’t only about discipline (which is a topic for a future blog).  Watching what we say in front of children shouldn’t only be reserved for the use of foul language.  We need to assure our children that they will be fine.  We need them to hear us tell good tales about them to others.  We need to keep in mind that they may be looking elsewhere but they hear it all.


Copyright 2012 © Cindy Terebush
All Rights Reserved
Please do not sell, post, curate, publish, or distribute all or any part of this article without author's permission.   You are invited, however, to share a link to this post on your webpage, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and other social networking sites.

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Monday, July 9, 2012

What is Your Child's Learning Style?


A child’s learning style impacts the ease with which each experience is received.  As adults, we have spent years in learning situations, both inside and outside classrooms, and can usually identify how we learn best.  At the most basic level, there are three learning styles – visual, auditory and kinesthetic.  We subconsciously tailor our activities to our learning style throughout our lives.  During summer vacation, for example, each type of learner will visit a museum differently.  A visual learner is apt to enjoy going to each display and reading the provided information.  An auditory learner will want to rent the audio tour of the museum rather than read the placards.  A kinesthetic learner is more naturally inclined to participate in physical activities and will gravitate quickly toward the hands-on experiences.  If there are no hands-on experiences available, kinesthetic learners tend to move quickly and are the first ones ready to leave the museum.  Though we tend to be some combination of all styles, each person has a learning style that is dominant.  Understanding each style and watching your child for the clues that identify each style can help you guide your child’s educational and recreational activities all year long.

Visual learners benefit from seeing information and grow impatient with listening.  Visual learners will study charts, tables and maps.  They experience success when they write and review information that is presented orally.  They use flash cards to study.  They usually have a highlighter in hand when reading and color code information to visually organize it.  It is not unusual for a visual learner to develop his/her own set of symbols to draw next to each type of information.  Early visual learners love looking at books and learn to name things easily when looking at pictures.  They will more easily memorize the names of numbers and letters while seeing them in books, charts and posters. 

Auditory learners absorb information from the spoken word.  They find integrating information easy when they hear it so they tend to recite information aloud.  They talk to themselves or others about what they have seen.  Auditory learners will tend to turn off unrelated music or television shows because they find them distracting when trying to hear their own quiet recitation of information.  They memorize best from word associations.  Auditory learners like to set information to a tune and sing it so they can hear it in a rhythm and beat.  Young children who tend toward auditory learning will memorize the alphabet song quickly and not be as interested in seeing the information.

Kinesthetic learners prefer to be active and cannot focus for long while sitting still.  When asked to read information, they tend to use a finger to track their reading on the page.  Committing things to memory tends to be easier when they write information down multiple times.  Kinesthetic learners might be seen playing with a stress ball or other toy during oral presentations.  The hand movements help them to focus.  They need to move around and will take breaks during long presentations.  They tend to enjoy building models, doing puzzles and playing games.  In the early learning years, these children will excel at building complex structures, stringing beads, manipulating all sorts of materials and creating elaborate crafts.  For ease of early learning, use sensory materials such as play dough and shaving cream to create letters and numbers.
When participating in activities with your children this summer, note which activities engage them best.  Note if the activity was primarily auditory, visual or kinesthetic and for how long your child was or was not engrossed.  Being aware of your child’s learning style can help guide your activities as a family and help you to work with your children to effectively develop customized and successful study habits.


Copyright 2012 © Cindy Terebush
All Rights Reserved
Please do not sell, post, curate, publish, or distribute all or any part of this article without author's permission.   You are invited, however, to share a link to this post on your webpage, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and other social networking sites.

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