I am constantly evaluating the learning environment as I observe the children at play. I make notes of things I’d like to add, remove or modify. Sometimes I can make the necessary changes easily, other times they take longer.
Bringing elements of music and rhythm to the outdoor play space has been one of my goals. It started a few years ago when my husband ‘rescued’ two large barrels made of heavy cardboard with a tin base. We lay these barrels on the deck and the children used them as animal dens, train sheds or other type of shelter that suited their interests.
When not in use these barrels were stored upside down in a sheltered area on the side of the deck to prolong their life. It was here that it began when one of the children discovered the sound that could be made when they banged on the tin end of the barrel.
Over time the cardboard barrels disintegrated but we kept the end caps – painted them, and attached them to the fence. Playing these ‘drums’ has been a favourite activity for the children.
Since then I have added some other outdoor sound items like the wind chimes and the windmill which when the wind is right makes a unique sound as it flaps against the cedars.
The children have been busy creating instruments of their own. With sticks, pails, tubes and more the combinations are as endless as their imaginations.
I was particularly impressed when they experimented with adding various amounts of gravel to this flexible tube and adjusted the placement to achieve an assortment of different sounds.
One thing is certain – the yard is never quiet.
The ability to understand written and spoken language is essential in today’s society.
In the playroom of my childcare home I allow the children of all ages to choose and handle books independently throughout the day. I include a variety of books from small board books to heavy catalogues with glossy pages. Books are used as part of play and social activities.
I do not schedule a specific time of the day for me to read stories aloud to the children – reading and listening can be done anytime throughout the day regardless of age or ability.
Children are not required to sit and listen to me read a story. I encourage them to interact with each other and the objects in the room as I read. Being able to connect the story to personal experience is an important part of understanding the language. Even those children who are playing elsewhere in the room may be listening and visualizing or acting out parts of the story. I believe that children’s literacy skills can be enhanced by allowing them to move around and engage in other activities as I read. An active young child who is required to sit and ‘pay attention’ may be learning that books and reading are boring and actually tune out the words even though they appear to be listening.
I have attached labels to various objects throughout the room and in the housekeeping area I include empty containers from familiar objects in place of toy replicas. In this way, young children can learn to associate the text with the real objects instead of only seeing it on the pages of books. The printed labels and words on the items the children play with allow the children to combine the text, the spoken words and the visible object as they manipulate these items.
Literacy is more than being able to read and write words — understanding the meaning of words is equally important. Young children need to be able to physically explore in order to fully comprehend written and spoken language.