Archive for Toddlers

29 Jun 2012

The Value in Playing With Mud

1 Comment ELECT, Infants, Preschool/Kindergarten, Toddlers

Today is international mud day, a day when it’s more than okay to get a little messy.

I like the idea of having a mud day for many reasons. First of all, it promotes being messy and sometimes messy play is the most fun. It also promotes being outdoors, no matter what the weather, which I think is important. The beauty of mud day is if it rains, it actually makes more mud and therefore more fun. Finally, I like that mud is completely open ended, you don’t have to be a certain age to play in mud and there are so many possibilities. Once you get into it, playing in mud is freeing, it is an experience for the senses, its a way to let go of “product” activities and keeping things tidy and just allow the children (and yourself) to explore.

Online, I always find myself drawn to blog posts or photos or even videos of mud play. I am always inspired by early childhood programs that made mud a part of their everyday practice or even devote entire days to exploring mud. There is something about mud that fascinates and engages children and I think that they don’t always get enough opportunities to follow that interest and really explore with mud. However, we know that children are always learning and that they learn best when they’re engaged in something that really interests them.

Using the ELECT Continuum, here are just a few of the many different ways that children learn when playing with mud.

Infants

5.3 Tactile Discrimination (touching, rubbing, squeezing materials)

Infants and toddlers love sensory play. They almost always enjoy getting dirty and they learn best when they can completely immerse themselves and use all of their senses in play. Mud might be dirt-y but it’s all natural, so it shouldn’t hurt them if they try to check it out using their sense of taste. Infants don’t need any props in their mud play, just complete access so they can explore with their arms, legs, hands and feet.

Toddlers

4.1 Attention Regulation (maintaining attention for increasing periods of time)

4.4 Spatial Exploration (exploring containment by putting objects in containers and by dumping them)

5.3 Sensory Exploration (using all senses in the exploration of properties and functions of objects and materials)

Society often portrays very young children as having short attention spans, but those of us who have children or work with children know that when something really catches their interest, and we allow them the freedom to play uninterrupted, they can do so for significant lengths of time. Toddlers, like infants will enjoy exploring mud simply with their bodies, but at this age, you might also want to add different sizes of containers or even strainers and funnels to let them fill and empty with mud. At this age, you may also begin to see imitative or pretend play; their first attempts and mud pies or even mud soup.

Preschool/Kindergarten

3.5 Using Descriptive Language to Explain, Explore and Extend (using new vocabulary and grammatical constructions in their descriptive language)

4.3 Representation (using a variety of materials to build with and express their ideas & sustaining and extending their socio-dramatic play with language, additional ideas and props)

4.5 Observing (using all senses to gather information while observing)

Preschool and Kindergarten age children may enjoy exploring mud using a mud kitchen or even a mud laboratory. At this age, they engage in a lot of pretend play and will probably enjoy creating with the mud. They are also doing a lot of experiments, they are able to make predictions and solve problems they encounter in their play. There are many opportunities for language through mud play, just think of all the different ways we can describe mud- gooey, runny, sticky, bumpy, oozing, malleable, etc. They might enjoy making their own mud, experimenting with consistency and adding other elements from nature, such as grass, leaves, sticks or even flowers.

For us adults, I think that we should all spend some time with our hands in the mud. It’s relaxing, it’s freeing and it allows us to recapture the joy of playing and having fun!

Happy Mud Day!

For more mud reading, check out these links:

From Community Playthings: The Mud Center: Recapturing Childhood

From The Imagination Tree: An Outdoor Concoctions (read: mud) Kitchen

From Let The Children Play: Mud Play at Preschool

From Growing a Jeweled Rose: 30+ Mud Activities to Celebrate International Mud Day

Photo from Flickr- FreeLearningLife

27 Sep 2011

Sharing is Caring?

4 Comments ELECT, Parenting, Social, Toddlers, Toddlers
Toddlers (14 months -3 years)
Social 

1.1 Social Interest

  • observing and imitating peers
  • beginning to play “follow the peer” games
  • observing and playing briefly with peers (may turn into struggle for possession)
  • offering toys
  • engaging in short group activities
Incorporating singing games into play and routines. Engage one child at a time where other toddlers can observe. 

Toddler’s natural social interest in adults and children helps to focus their attention.

Observing the shared joy of the singing game will motivate involvement when a new game is being introduced.

There’s this phrase I hear time and again from parents and child care workers- “sharing is caring”. It bothers me every time I hear it, especially since it’s often used with toddlers and “twos”. I’m not sure where the phrase originated but I’m pretty sure it’s a big purple dinosaur that’s responsible for its popularity.

Now it’s not that I’m adverse to sharing (or caring for that matter), my issue is how this phrase is used and who it’s being directed towards.
I most often hear this phrase as a admonishment to a child. This child may be playing with a toy another child shows interest in or wanting to hold on to all of the cars or blocks. The phrase “sharing is caring” is used to tell the child to give up their current play so that another child can play. Now let’s imagine this same scenario in a more “adult” context. I’m working on a note in a client file and Joe wants to work on the same file. Joe and I cannot work on the file at the same time. Now it may frustrate or inconvenience Joe that I am working on this client file, he might even ask me to stop my work to give him the file. However, I am fully within my rights to refuse because I’m still using it. Now imagine that Joe’s recourse is to go to our boss; what do you think his response would be? Do you think my boss would ask me to give up the file to Joe stating “sharing is caring”? Doubtful. Would he set up a schedule for me to have the file for 1 minute and then Joe would have a turn for 1 minute and then it would be my turn again? Or would he just trust us to sort things out for ourselves?

Why don’t we allow children the opportunity to negotiate these property disputes on their own? Who are we to decide what is fair or unfair? It is difficult to watch children fight over toys and even more so when one child seems to always have toys taken from them. However, in those instances, does our intervention really help that child? In the short term perhaps, but in the long term, wouldn’t they benefit from learning how to hold onto their toys tighter or to tell other children “mine”? When we intervene, we take away those opportunities for children to negotiate these types of social situations on their own.

The other thing I’d like to touch on briefly is the expectations for very young children to share. Often I hear caregivers tell children as young as twelve or thirteen months to share. We need to remember that infants and toddlers are still very ego centric and they are supposed to be that way. At that age it is “all about me”. They might sometimes offer up toys or “share” with others, but only on their own terms. Our expectations should reflect this. I’m reminded of a poem I’ve read time and again:

Toddler Property Laws

What’s Mine is… Mine

If I like it, it’s mine

If I saw it first, it’s mine

If it’s in my hand, it’s mine

If I can take it from you, it’s mine

If I had it a little while ago, it’s mine

If it’s mine, it must never appear to be yours in any way

If I’m doing or building something, all the pieces are mine

If you are playing with it and you put it down, it automatically becomes mine

If it’s broken, it’s yours

I”m not against supporting children in turn taking and learning how to share, I just think that we need to use the right words and have the right expectations based on their age.

What do you think?

Photo by Andrew_mc_d (Flickr)