Category Archives: Guidance

Active Play

I consider most of the children in my current group to be ‘active’. Now you’d think that, with so many news reports about childhood obesity and sedentary lifestyles, I would consider it good that these children are so active.  In reality though, there is a part of me that is so very tired of saying ‘walk in the house’, ‘keep your feet on the floor’, ‘that’s not meant for swinging on’, etc thousands of times every day.

You see, I prefer indirect guidance – using the environment to influence the behaviour of the children. During CBA observations and evaluations my understanding and use of indirect guidance was identified as one of my greatest strengths. I detest having to interrupt play to redirect behaviour.

I have the playroom arranged into five well defined areas with specific purpose for each area.  There are no long pathways that encourage running – the main play space is less than 200 square feet and there are plenty of obstacles.  I’m beginning to think the children view these obstacles as a challenge to be overcome – like in a video game where the goal is to get from point ‘A’ to point ‘B’ in the least amount of time preferably without touching the ground.

Have I inadvertently encouraged these behaviours by providing activities like parkour?  We’ve discussed safety in detail and differentiated between appropriate indoor and outdoor activities. We have plenty of outdoor time every day.  Yesterday we were outside for two hours and they spent most of that time running and jumping.

I rotate the toys often so the children have new choices and don’t easily get bored.  I provide a mix of adult led and free play activities so they have the opportunity to participate in organized group activities and also to engage in activities that they initiate.  I schedule downtime for relaxing and enjoying quiet activities so they don’t become over stimulated.

I briefly – very briefly – considered turning on the TV because I know that would work.  There are several children in the group that I’m certain would become almost comatose in front of a TV screen but the ‘professional’ side of me can’t allow me to resort to that.

This has been such a long winter and I know I can’t wait for the opportunity to work in the garden.  I have absolutely no desire to do any paperwork no matter how important it is.  (Please note: if my coordinator is reading this – I am no where near ready for re-licensing).  The recent freeze, thaw, freeze cycle has created a glacier in my yard that threatens to never melt even if the weather does ever really warm up.

But we can smell it.

Spring break is here and summer is on the horizon.  We are excited and that excitement is so hard to contain in any environment.

Sorting, Organizing & Cleaning

When people visit my childcare home the most common comments centre on organization and cleaning up.  Many are amazed by how well the children demonstrate responsibility for putting away the toys and equipment.

How do I get them to do that?  Well, to be honest, my own obsessive compulsive tendencies may have something to do with it.  Most importantly though — I have consistent expectations, the children know them, they apply to everyone and I set the example.

Cleaning up can be fun – counting, matching, stacking, and sorting are all activities that the children willingly engage in throughout free play time.  I use these activities for cleaning too.

I’ve traced the tools hanging on the pegboard and the outlines let the children know when something is missing and what belongs there. Putting away the tools becomes like completing a puzzle. I have taken pictures of the shelves and taped the picture to the wall by each shelf.  These pictures are a guide for what belongs on that particular shelf.  The children use these pictures as a reference for a matching game.  The blocks and small toys in bins are sorted according to color, size or shape – more games!

Did you notice all the learning opportunities without any need for a worksheet?

Probably the most significant ‘rule’ is that throughout play time we put away things that are not being used. We don’t wait until clean-up time. If there is a toy on the floor – pick it up.  If you are switching to another activity – put it away the toys you don’t need anymore.  If the clutter doesn’t get out of control we don’t get overwhelmed by the prospect of cleaning it up.

There are no excuses — everyone is responsible for cleaning up. Saying “I didn’t use it” is simply an acknowledgement that you know a toy needs to be put away. Being bossy or tattling on others get responses like “Hmm, maybe they don’t know how – you could demonstrate.” or “Oh, you noticed a toy that isn’t where it belongs – where should you put it?”

Cleaning up is not a competition there are no rewards for ‘best, fastest or most’ – cooperation and collaboration are valued. ‘Missing’ toys provide an opportunity to discuss the importance of putting things away.  Items that are put where they belong will be easy to find when you need them.

At clean up time I guide and assist the youngest children. I follow them and prompt them to put away a few specific items and then accompany them out of the room.  The youngest are always the first to leave at clean-up partially so they don’t continue play/make a mess and partially so the oldest do more work. Growing up requires more responsibility – another learning opportunity.

Time-Out?

If you ask any of the children here if they ever get put in time out at daycare they will probably say yes.   This bothers me because I really dislike the use of ‘time out’ as a form of guidance because as it is commonly used it really is simply a punishment – meant to hurt or reprimand without any chance of understanding the issue or learning from it.

For many, time out means ‘You’ve done something to anger/upset me/someone else so go to your room/seat/corner and think about what you’ve done’.  Really? No child I know is ever going to benefit from this.

Some children may spend this time thinking – that they are bad/useless/terrible no one wants to be around them and they need to suffer.  Many will spend this time festering in their anger – burying it away or redirecting it toward someone or something else. Some children have been through it so many times that it has become routine – they’ve rehearsed it and know exactly what to say/do to get parole.  None of these children are learning anything beneficial.

Here, time out is really time with me.  Maybe the child just needed a little time get away from the situation to cool down so we sit and I ask questions and listen.  Maybe the child is out of control – having a fit/meltdown – fine come to this safe area I’ll be here if you need me.  You can scream, cry and stomp if it makes you feel better but you can’t hurt anyone else.  When you’re ready you can talk to me and I will listen.   Whatever the reason that the child is away from the group they are not alone.  I am nearby – calm and available.  There are no lectures, no threats, and no judgements.

So, I started writing this entry with the intention of saying I don’t use time out.  I wanted to find a better name for it.  ‘Time In’?  ‘Reflecting time’?  Nothing I could come up with was going to work easily.  Saying ‘Time Out’ has become a habit for me and the children.  Then, I had a revelation – I’m not a sports fan but I know they use the term ‘time-out’ in many sports so I looked up their definition…

In sports, a time-out refers to a break in the match for a short amount of time to allow the coach to communicate with the team, determine strategy or inspire morale.

Hmmmm, maybe I do use time-out.