Tag Archives: indirect guidance

Artificial Nature

It was back in 2005 that I first created a nature area in the playroom as a way to bring nature indoors.  Originally it was just 16 sq ft nature loft;

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It was a very popular picnic spot so in 2009 I redesigned it and doubled the size;

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This new loft was also higher off the ground and under the loft was an ‘underwater’ tunnel;

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Admittedly this under/over nature areas was one of my personal favorite designs but it was a nightmare to clean.  The children hauling armloads of toys up and down the loft stairs was another concern.

In 2010 I abandoned the nature ‘loft’ idea and created a nature ‘area’ in one half of the small nap room off the main play room.  This new nature area had both ‘land’ and ‘water’ areas with many pillows to create comfortable places to relax;

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I found that having the trees up against the walls meant the nature area lost the secluded/sheltered feel that the loft had provided.  So, in the next renovation I moved the trees from the border to the centre  of the nature area.  Moving trees is somewhat easier to do in an artificial environment 🙂

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This new arrangement allowed the trees to create a canopy over the whole area and the open corners provided quiet areas to sit.  It also created another problem – running in circles around the tree.

It wasn’t the circling the tree that bothered me, it was the running.  The circling always started slowly – often marching and singing – but gradually became fast and reckless.  Left unchecked the situation could become totally out of control.

As is often the case with direct guidance, repeated reminders to ‘walk’ were usually ignored.  I much prefer to use indirect guidance so I’ve been looking for a way to add something to the environment to slow down or eliminate the running problem.

I had this chunk of tree against the wall for texture and a ‘home’ for small toy animals.  I moved it over to create a sort of speed bump;

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However, I was concerned that the triangular shape – that had been perfect when placed against the wall – would be dangerous in this location;

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So, I placed pillows over the log and covered it with the ‘grass’ blanket.  Now it is a little hill in our indoor nature area;

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The babies love climbing over the little hill and curling up in the comfy relaxation corner;

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Yes, I’ve now managed to replace indoor ‘running’ with indoor ‘climbing’ but it is a climbing activity that I consider acceptable for an indoor environment.

We do spend a lot of time outdoors where all running, jumping, and climbing is encouraged.  Interestingly, the children are aften a lot less active outdoors.  I know why.  No matter how much ‘nature’ I bring to our indoor environment there is one thing I can never recreate.

The calming effect of nature cannot be replicated in an artificial indoor nature environment.  To truly relax in nature you must go outside.

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.