Tag Archives: Cooperation

Waffle Blocks

There is not nearly enough space in the playroom for all the toys I own so the majority are stored in bins in the basement.  Puppets, blocks and animals are sorted into groupings of similar items so it is easier for me to select the ones I want to bring out when I rotate toys. I have a spreadsheet which helps me keep track of when toys are added to or removed from the playroom.

I usually manage to get every toy into the playroom for at least a few weeks each year – more often if the children have favourites or request a specific toy.  Occasionally there are toys that don’t get brought out because they are not developmentally appropriate or interesting for the children enrolled at the time.

Last month when I put the castle blocks and the puzzle people back into storage I brought out the stacking cups and Waffle Blocks instead.  One by one as the children arrived and entered the playroom I heard “Ooooh, what are those!?” or similar comments.  I was a little confused as these are old toys so I checked the spreadsheet again an realized that it had been more than two years since the last time the Waffle Blocks were out!

This group of preschoolers really enjoyed the Waffle Blocks – they played with them almost exclusively during the entire five week period of time these blocks were in the playroom.  I liked that there was a lot of cooperation and creativity when they played with these blocks.

In the past I’ve had some groups that found these blocks boring – making nothing more than a cube or two and maybe adding a roof.  Other children have had difficulty forming the  cubes ‘properly’ and easily became frustrated, constantly asking for assistance.  I’m not concerned about ‘proper’ cubes so I tend to let them figure it out.

It is somewhat difficult to make weapons out of Waffle blocks which may have forced this group to expand their interests a little more.  Also, because I don’t have a lot of these blocks, if they want to make something BIG they have to work together on one structure.  I’ve considered getting more Waffle blocks but then I watch the children problem solve ‘not enough blocks’ and think maybe less is better.

I was particularly impressed by the architecture involved in this  creation;

Waffle blocks have never been one of my personal favorite construction toys but I was definitely pleased with what this group of preschoolers managed to do with them.

Delivery

I ordered something and knew it would be arriving soon.  I told the children something new was coming – they were very excited.  “What is it?”  “I’m not telling, it is a surprise.”

It arrived on Monday – at nap time as usual – I’m fairly certain that all couriers are required to make daycare deliveries at nap time and they get a bonus if they kick the door at the same time as they ring the doorbell… *sigh*

I decided to wait to introduce the new items – but the packaging was fun for day one;

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Making a ‘sidewalk’.

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‘Crinkles’ when we walk on it;

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Plenty of after nap fun with just the packaging;

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Day two – let’s open the little boxes that came in the big box;

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What are these?

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Let’s sort them;

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They’re called ‘Balance Pods’ – Can you stand on them?

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Is it easier or harder if they are upside down?

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Maybe we should hold hands;

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Even the baby wants to try;

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Let’s see if we can sit on them;

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Or walk;

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So many new things to try – this is only the beginning;

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Castle Blocks

A few years ago I bought some sets of Castle Blocks from Quality Classrooms. Like all the various types of blocks I have they are rotated in and out of our play space depending on the interests of the children in my care.

My current group of children has enjoyed building with these blocks for several weeks now.  They particularly like to design and build impressive towers.

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I enjoy watching the cooperation when the children agree to work together on a building project;

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However, they have encountered a bit of a problem – the baby of the group gets so excited when he sees a tower that he can’t resist knocking it down.  He does immediately attempt to help rebuild the towers but the original builders are still very disappointed by the destruction.

One of the solutions that the children have come up with is to only build towers when the baby is not in the room.  Although effective, this strategy also severely limits the block building time.  Then one day, while the baby was playing in the room, I observed the three-year-old building this;

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I asked him to tell me about his creation.  He said “It’s a tower – that the baby can’t knock down.”  Hmmm, very interesting.  These horizontal towers have become quite popular and can be built all day long without any issues.

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Nice problem solving 🙂

 

What’s on Your Shirt?

I can’t begin to count the number of time’s I hear the children ask some version of “What’s on your shirt”.  No, they’re not wondering what someone (usually me) has spilled on their shirt.  They want to see the picture, logo, or any words that are printed on the fabric.  If there are words they need to know what they say.  This whole conversation is repeated every time anyone comes in the room.

I decided to start documenting this activity by taking photos of all the children’s shirts, printing them and creating a book.  So far we have forty four shirt photos like this;

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The album full of shirt pictures has been extremely popular.  There have been a few minor disputes over it because there is only ONE book but that may change soon because we’ve nearly run out of space so we’ll need a second album. 🙂

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Even the youngest children can name the owner of each of the shirts in the album.  There have been some really amazing conversations here as the children look through the book together.  The conversations have continued at home too – I hear stories about struggles to get dressed in the morning because ‘I can’t wear that shirt, Cheryl already has a picture of it’.  Some are even demanding shopping trips to get NEW shirts to add to the album.

It is important to keep families involved in our daily activities 😉

Puzzle Masters

In my collection of childcare supplies I have dozens of puzzles.  Some of them belonged to my own children when they were young, others have been purchased or donated to my childcare program. There are some very simple puzzles with only a few pieces, some with up to 1000 pieces, and everything in between.

Puzzles have always been available as a quiet time activity but they have never been a favourite choice for any of the school-age children.  Occasionally the older children would choose a few of the simplest puzzles and have competitions to see who could complete them the fastest – this tended to be too loud for quiet time.  The larger, more complicated puzzles were never popular and simply gathered dust.

In the past I’ve wondered if the children found these larger puzzles to be too time consuming to be completed in one sitting.  When I have had several older children in attendance for longer periods of time during school breaks I have set up a puzzle area where they could work on a puzzle project independently or with others.  There was no need to put it away when they tired of working on it and so it could be completed over several days.  Still, no interest.

My current group of preschoolers might change that.  For these little ones puzzles are one of their favourite activities.  They have done all the smaller puzzles many, many times.  They can easily complete several puzzles in one sitting and often have many puzzles out at once because they finish them so quickly.  They never seem to get tired of doing puzzles.

None of the preschool puzzles offer much a a challenge to these three and four year old children any more so we now work on the 100 piece puzzles.  What I find most interesting is that they also ask if they can do these puzzles ‘together’.  Cooperating on any activity is a challenge for these little ones so of course I’m going to facilitate any request like this.

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There are so many learning opportunities throughout this one activity!

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Even when they are busy doing other activities they often talk about doing puzzles together – planning or reminiscing.

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Start to finish these two can complete a puzzle this size in about 30 minutes.

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They are puzzle masters.

Walking & Talking

We’ve all seen/heard them. Many of us know one personally. Some of us even have given birth to one of our own. They are the high energy, strong willed, emotionally intense children that challenge everyone and everything.

When these children are fully engaged in something they love to do it is magical to watch. It is a little scary too because if they are interrupted or become frustrated or bored with the activity the magic may turn to mayhem in a matter of seconds. They are impatient and easily over stimulated.

In my current little group of preschoolers I have three – yes three of these ‘difficult’, ‘spirited’, whatever you want to call them, children. Each one of these children is challenging but put all three of them together for an extended period of time and things can become volatile very quickly.

Even when, or especially when they all have the same goal they struggle to cooperate – too impulsive or competitive to work together they tend to destroy any progress that another has made. Their own intense reactions – happy, sad or mad – are further fueled by the reactions of the others. It is not that they purposely want to disrupt activities but the reaction they get from the others is exhilarating.

They all enjoy active, gross motor play but it never seems to tire them out. In fact, like little crank-up flash lights, the more energy an activity requires the more power they seem to build up. They seem to have better self control during quiet activities but tension builds silently and will eventually explode.

Five hungry children enjoying a peaceful lunch. A single noodle slips off a spoon and plops back onto the plate. Splat! That was a funny noise – someone giggles. Two children try to recreate that sound by scooping and dumping spoonfuls of noodles. Excitement and volume increase exponentially. Someone’s milk gets knocked over and they begin to cry. At this point lunch is over. No amount of talking, redirecting or reprimanding will return this situation back to a peaceful lunch.

Forget any type of circle time activities. These children love to talk. All of them have amazing vocabularies but they don’t seem to hear/understand anything anyone else says. It is far easier to get children to focus when they are outside but even in a natural outdoor environment these children will struggle with a group circle time activity. There is always someone on the other side of the circle who is smiling, makes a silly face and waits for the reaction. Of course they get it – positive or negative doesn’t matter – it was a reaction.

This is why we walk.

It is no secret that I love to go hiking. Walking alone through a forest is for me the most precious time. It is an introspective period of imagining, reflecting, dreaming, discovering. I often take children hiking but for each child/group of children the purpose of the hike is different. For some it is all about the destination. Others need the exercise or the change of scenery.

This current group of children is different. Their endless energy is never depleted – none of them ever complain that they are tired of walking. They are not concerned about our destination or the length of time it may take us to get there. For this group when we walk – we talk – and more importantly, we listen.

Maybe it is the motion or the rhythm of our steps or the constant drone of the vehicles on the street but as we walk these children and I have some of the most amazing conversations. Conversations we have never been able to have while sitting in a circle.

We talk about the things we see. We tell stories about places we have gone and things we have done. We talk about our likes and dislikes. We sing songs – together instead of competitively. We take turns talking and sharing. There are few interruptions and no pushing/grabbing/hitting because we are busy walking. Sometimes we walk for hours – they have a lot to say but it is hard for them to talk when there are too many distractions. So we walk…and talk.

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Yard Projects

As mentioned in my previous post there have been many small yard projects I have tackled this summer.  Several years ago we put our old claw foot tub in the yard – re-purposed as a fire pit.  It was placed as a divider between the gravel area and the grass area but because of the rounded shape of the tub it didn’t really prevent the gravel from spilling over into the grass.  Originally we just had a board that sat just inside the tub to prevent access to the soot and debris but it didn’t prevent rain from soaking the fire pit.  Last year my husband made a cedar cover for the tub.

15-10-yard00It drives me crazy that he didn’t arrange the different coloured boards to create a pattern but I do love the smell of cedar so I try to focus on that instead.  The tub cover makes a great table for many of our group activities like this one;

15-10-yard01 However it doesn’t do anything to prevent the gravel from spilling over into the grass.  So, this summer I placed some cinder blocks along the cribbing beside the tub.  They line up with the edge of the cover and as an added bonus they make a great surface for chalk drawings;

15-10-yard0215-10-yard03There was another issue with the tree stumps too.  The children often like to use the stumps as tables – nothing wrong with that but it did sometimes get in the way of the children who wanted to walk on the stumps.  Some of the children also didn’t like to sit on the gravel beside their ‘table’ but had trouble finding suitable items to use for chairs.

As mentioned in my last post, this summer I rearranged the stumps to create a circular path around and over the hill.  I also had my husband cut a couple of the smaller stumps in half.  These were then put on the other side of the yard in front of the tipi along with one of the biggest stumps to create this;

15-10-yard04Since ‘the table’ is not part of the stump path dramatic play ‘meals’ don’t get in the way of active play.  Yes, sometimes the children do like to climb on these stumps too and sometimes they still use other stumps as tables but at least now they have more options and fewer disputes.

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