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Imagine.Create.Play. Resource Kit Handouts

Why They're Handy to Have!

Did you know? Nearly all of our kits include a detailed digital handout to help you make the most of the kit components—saving you valuable time searching for ideas and inspiration on how to integrate the kit materials into your daily program.

We know that as you welcome children into your home each day you strive to create a nurturing environment which supports their emotional, social, and physical well-being. Your daily observations of the children guide your engagement and also help you to support the unique ways in which they express themselves.

You believe that all children are capable, competent, and curious individuals and you know that when you purchase an Imagine.Create.Play Resource Kit you are investing in the quality program that you provide for the children in your care.  As a home child care provider, you understand that by scaffolding the children’s abilities you are supporting the development of emergent skills that they will need to head into the world of school and beyond.

Here’s what providers have to say about the kit handouts:

  • The additional resource list is handy for ideas to capitalize on the children’s interest and further their developmental skills.
  • The kits come with a handout with songs and activity ideas to keep the fun going!
  • Excellent attention to detail and thoughtful inclusion on how to utilize the kits.
  • It takes the time and energy away from me having to source an idea and supplies, especially while we can’t shop for items as we usually would.
  • I like open ended materials and feel the handouts also provided great supporting material to help expand on the children’s play.
  • It helps to get ideas that are beyond what we may have done ourselves.
  • The quality is excellent, and they are unique.

Designed to be used as a quick reference or resource guide to help support the interests of the children in your care, the handouts often feature:

  • Extensive ideas for how to use the kit items
  • Information on the type of play and/or learning benefits associated with the kit
  • Suggestions for extending the play and learning—including suggestions for various play invitations and provocations
  • Discussion prompts and questions to inspire dialogue and communication
  • “At-a-glance” visual inspiration from Pinterest for art and sensory play, activities, and snack ideas all related to the kit
  • A compilation of rhymes, finger plays, and songs—often including original work created specifically for the handout
  • A book list featuring related titles/subjects
  • Printable components to use with the kit items—game sheets, simple work sheets, colouring templates, etc.
  • Condensed story favourites to share with children and to use with kit materials
  • Various online references and resources

Here are some excerpts from various Imagine.Create.Play Resource Kit handouts:

 

 

The Colour Monster:

Social-Emotional Development:

Vivid images engage children as they relate to how the monster is feeling…anger, happiness, fear, etc. Children learn that feelings have names, and the book helps them to identify those feelings by associating them with different colours. This story will provoke conversations among the children about how they are feeling and why.  Labelling and understanding emotions helps children learn to self-regulate and is key to developing empathy for others.

Read the book, bring out the peg monsters and ask the children:

  • How is the monster feeling?
  • How do you know? (Discuss what visual cues and body language help us to understand the emotions of others.)
  • I wonder why the monster is feeling happy/sad/angry/etc.? (Helps children to take the perspective of another and develops theory of mind.)
  • When do you feel happy/sad/angry/etc.?

Small World Play:

Encouraging Small World Play:

Small world play combines various elements of imaginative, dramatic, loose parts, and sensory play.  Inspired by a child’s interest, the adult can help to gather and prepare materials which are then left for the child to manipulate and explore.

In order to contain and define the play, a small world set up usually starts with some sort of base: trays, playmats, shallow bins, and shoebox lids are all great examples.

Next is to determine the setting: the beach, the woods, a pond, a farm, a city block, the ocean, a meadow, etc., the possibilities are endless!  A setting helps to differentiate small world play from more general sensory play.

Once a setting has been selected, it’s time to introduce various bits and pieces:

  • Loose Parts: blocks, glass beads, spools, buttons, wool, small cars, tracks, etc.
  • Sensory Components: sand, straw, water, shaving cream, shredded paper, etc.
  • Natural Elements: rocks, shells, wood, mulch, pinecones, greenery, etc.

The last step is to include some small people and/or animal figures.  These bring the small world play to life and really encourage language development.  Children manipulate the characters as they test out various ideas and theories through play.

Snowballs:

If You Plant a Seed:

Science Extension Ideas and Activities from Pinterest:

  • Learn about the parts of a plant and the life cycle with photos, felt shapes, and/or sequencing cards.
  • Introduce the various edible parts of a plant. For instance, we eat the roots (carrots, beets), the stem or stalk (celery, rhubarb), the leaves (spinach, cabbage), the flower (broccoli, cauliflower), the fruit (tomatoes, cucumbers), and the seeds (peas, beans).
  • Plant seeds in a clear plastic baggie or cup so that the children can easily observe the roots and sprouts. Measure and document the growth.

 

My Watering Can—original poem

I water with my watering can, every chance I get.
I know the little plants like to be a little wet.
I shower them so carefully, just a little is enough.
I’m gentle as I water, I wouldn’t want to be too rough.
I give the plants a little drink when they are parched from too much sun.
Watering with my watering can, is really so much fun.
The water, fresh and cool, seeps deeply down below.
Spreading to the roots, so the little plants will grow.
Watering makes me happy, I’m so glad to do my part.
I love my garden and the plants, both with all my heart.

Tile Monster (original game set):

Game Suggestions

  • Fill and dump: Into an empty tissue box, wipes container, or parmesan container (or something similar that has a smallish hole to present a bigger challenge than above.
  • Loose parts: Kitchen area, doll house area…wherever the child’s imagination takes hold.
  • Exploration: Place in a bin on a table and encourage the children to explore them – how high can they stack them? What can they build?
  • Group Time: Talk about colours, encourage children to name the colours, place out two with the black side up and one of another and ask them which one is “different”, count them, place out all 6 colours – review them with the children – ask them to close their eyes as you take one away – then ask them which one is missing…
  • Matching: Roll the die and encourage children to pick the tile that matches or roll the die and the Tile Monster has to eat the tile that matches

 

Six Colour Tiles—original matching game poem

Six colour tiles, waiting to play,
Along came (child’s name) who took one away.
*Repeat, counting down to one, if less than 5 children, repeat names or use fewer tiles.
One colour tile, waiting to play
I came along and took it away.
Now we each have a tile…you know this game…
Quick find something in the room with a colour just the same!
*Everyone quickly finds a matching colour object and returns to show the group.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar:

Printable Resource: Fruits with holes 1-5

Print and use for storytelling, art, math games, and more.

 

The Mystery of Metamorphosis:

Most butterfly larva harden into a chrysalis while most moth larva will build a silk cocoon around themselves.  A chrysalis can take many shapes and colours and can be translucent near the end of the transformation.  Chrysalis is the name of the butterfly pupa while a cocoon is external, made just before the moth pupates.  (https://carleton.ca/biology/cu-faq/whats-the-difference-between-a-cocoon-and-a-chrysalis-elizabeth-age-11/)

 

New Little Butterfly (original song, tune of Au Clair de la Lune)

On a sunny morning, at the break of day.
I open up my eyes, soon to find my way.
I spread out my new wings… so that they may dry,
I’m filled with such excitement; I just can’t wait to fly!
*try as an action song with the children curled up on the ground, slowly spreading their wings and flying around the room or yard.

Love Monster:

For more information, please visit our e-store at www.ccprn.com/shop where you’ll find detailed descriptions, photos, and videos highlighting our unique and engaging Imagine.Create.Play Resource Kits.

Nurturing a Gender Inclusive Environment

Written by Julie Bisnath, BSW RSW

Preface: I’ve been thinking a lot lately about gender identity and gender inclusive child care.  I’ve done a lot of reading and learning, over the last few years especially, and I’ve also been reflecting on some of my experiences working with adults and youth who have struggled with fear and guilt and shame around understanding and expressing their own gender identity.  I know that if some of these individuals had had even just one adult in their early lives who provided a safe and supportive place to explore gender it would have had a lasting impact.  To have had an adult read a book about gender diverse children, be open to the idea of using new pronouns, or speak out against traditional gender norms and stereotypes might have helped to counter the many negative messages they later internalized as feelings of shame, of not belonging, and of not being worthy.  

Today I share with you some ideas and resources to hopefully inspire you to learn more and to reflect upon your own inclusive practices.  If you have a great resource or comment to share please send it to me at [email protected]  I am learning too.  When we know better, we do better.  

Together in caring ❤                                                                                                                                                      Julie (she/her)                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              ______________________________________________________________________________________________  

It’s never too early (or too late!) to talk about gender and to promote the healthy development of gender identity and expression.  Children begin to develop a sense of their overall identity at around age 2 and need to be able to express themselves freely through their play, clothing, hair, friend, and toy choices without judgment or expectation—without having to fit into either a “girl” or “boy” pre-set check box.  Noticing a variety of gender creative behaviours in early childhood isn’t new—young children are drawn to explore and experiment through play.  This is a completely normal and healthy part of development and does not automatically imply that a child will eventually self-identify as transgender.   What has changed (and is changing) is how we as adults understand the broader concept of gender as more than the binary categories of male and female.  And more importantly, how we use that understanding to provide a safe and nurturing space for children to explore and develop their identities while we work to dismantle traditional gender stereotypes.

Still,–it’s a work in progress.  There are new and evolving ideas to learn, new words to understand, and new pronouns to use.  For some, this is already second nature, but for others it’s a steep and challenging learning curve.  What’s most meaningful, is that we make the choice to learn and grow and change—to be open to new ideas and to actively reflect upon our own beliefs, attitudes, biases, and assumptions.

Nurturing a gender inclusive environment:

Learn more: Understand and familiarize yourself with the broader concept of gender as multifaceted—often described as a diverse and/or fluid spectrum.  For many people, the sex assigned to them at birth aligns well with how they feel about themselves on the inside.  Other people might feel a partial alignment or no alignment at all.

Some useful terms–adapted and/or cited directly from genderspectrum.org and/or caringforkids.cps.ca:

Sex at birth: When children are born, the sex “male” or “female” is determined based on external genital organs. A child who has a penis is said to be male. A child who has a vulva is said to be female. In rare cases, a child is born with external genital organs that are not clearly male or female — referred to as an intersex child.  A person’s assigned sex at birth might or might not match their gender.

Gender identity: Gender identity is the deeply held, internal sense of self “who you know yourself to be”. It is important to know that gender identity often exists on a spectrum.  A person’s gender identity can be male, female, both, neither, a combination of, or something different altogether. It can also be fluid–some people have a gender or genders that change. Genderfluid people move between genders, experiencing their gender as something dynamic and changing, rather than static.

Non-binary: An umbrella term for gender identities that are not exclusively masculine or feminine.

Gender expression: This is how you express your gender to others, whether through behaviour, clothing, hairstyle, the name you choose to go by, etc. Words to describe someone’s gender expression could be “masculine,” “feminine,” “androgynous”, etc.

Transgender: When a person’s gender identity is not the same as their sex at birth, they may be referred to as “transgender” (often shortened to “trans”). For example, a child born with female genital organs may say that they identify as a boy. A child may also say that they are not a boy or a girl, but just “themselves” because they don’t want their sexual characteristics to define who they are. Indigenous people may use the term “two-spirit” to represent a person with a combination of masculine and feminine characteristics.

Gender dysphoria: Describes the level of discomfort or suffering that can exist when there is a mismatch between sex at birth and gender identity. Some transgender children experience no distress about their bodies, but others may be very uncomfortable with their sex at birth. This distress can be more obvious as puberty begins and the body starts to change.

General online resources for learning more about gender:

  • Gender Spectrum—Understanding Gender

https://genderspectrum.org/articles/understanding-gender

  • Genderbread—Breaking Through the Binary: Gender Explained Using Continuums

https://www.genderbread.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/Breaking-through-the-Binary-by-Sam-Killermann.pdf

Once you feel comfortable, or to help you better understand the broader context, explore some of the more in-depth articles and resources specific to gender identity and early childhood:

  • Caring for Kids—Gender identity:

https://www.caringforkids.cps.ca/handouts/behavior-and-development/gender-identity

  • Gender Spectrum—Talking to Young Children about Gender

https://genderspectrum.org/articles/talking-to-young-children

  • Gender Creative Kids—Hi Sam: Sensitizing Youth Through Play Pedagogical Guide for Elementary Schools

https://gendercreativekids.com/upload/ressources/Hi-Sam-Pedagogical-Guide_2021-01-28-160844.pdf

  • Gender Creative Kids—The You Inside Project and video “Sam’s Story”

https://gendercreativekids.com/programs/the-you-inside-project

  • Fondation Jasmin Roy—Inform Children During the Early Childhood Period on Issues Related to Gender, Gender Identity and Gender Expression.

https://fondationjasminroy.com/app/uploads/2018/09/FJRSD-Trans-Fascicule-2-En-3.pdf

  • Fondation Jasmin Roy—Social and emotional learning to help children with the process of identity affirmation + videos made for children

https://fondationjasminroy.com/en/initiative/social-and-emotional-learning-to-help-children-with-the-process-of-identity-affirmation

Create a safe space: Model inclusive language and behaviour, welcome questions, listen, try not to make assumptions. “Gender-inclusive spaces allow children to easily move between roles or materials commonly regarded as male or female without any gendered expectations or barriers.”  (https://www.naeyc.org/resources/pubs/yc/mar2019/exploring-gender-enacting-anti-bias).

  • Gender Spectrum—Easy Steps to a Gender Inclusive Classroom

https://genderspectrum.org/articles/easy-steps-to-a-gender-inclusive-classroom

  • NAEYC—Tate and the Pink Coat: Exploring Gender and Enacting Anti-Bias Principles

https://www.naeyc.org/resources/pubs/yc/mar2019/exploring-gender-enacting-anti-bias

  • Gender Diversity Glossary for Parents by Rowan Renee

https://www.rebekahgienapp.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/gender_diversity_glossary.pdf

  • Fondation Jasmin Roy—Social and emotional learning to help children with the process of identity affirmation

https://fondationjasminroy.com/en/initiative/social-and-emotional-learning-to-help-children-with-the-process-of-identity-affirmation/

  • The Gender Wheel

http://www.genderwheel.com/

   

Provide gender inclusive books: Children need to see themselves and others reflected in your books. Reading together creates a natural opportunity for encouraging discussion and promoting kindness.

  • Parents for Diversity: Books about Gender Identity and Expression

https://www.parentsfordiversity.com/gender-identity

  • 17 Books About Gender non-conforming and transgender kids

https://www.notimeforflashcards.com/2020/03/books-about-gender-non-conforming-and-transgender-kids.html

 

Challenge gender stereotypes: Speak up and openly discuss gender stereotypes–with children and with adults too.  Be kind and consistent.  Help children to develop an identity based on individual interests and strengths.

By creating and nurturing a gender inclusive environment we pave the way for an authentic sense of belonging, where we honour, support, and celebrate the engagement, expression, and well-being of all children.

Felt Board Fun

Written by Julie Bisnath, BSW RSW

Felt board resources are a great way to “re-invent” familiar songs or stories and to introduce new material or concepts.  They provide a visual component which helps to keep children interested and engaged and often extends the learning and play.

Used with a group or even with just one or two children, felt board activities can be tailored and tweaked to best suit your needs.

Just starting out? No problem! An easy way to introduce the felt board is to start when the children are already gathered and seated—perhaps while they have a snack.  This provides a natural sort of captive audience.  Pull out your felt board and let them know that you’ve got something special to show them.  Keep your felt pieces hidden away in a small bag or basket.  Start with something simple and familiar—maybe a little rhyme or poem (make sure to have the words handy if you need them).  Make a habit of using your felt board regularly with a variety of songs, finger plays, and stories.  When the children get used to seeing the felt board they will naturally wonder what sort of shapes you have in your bag.

Once you feel comfortable and confident using the felt board to tell a song or story, you can extend and expand upon the learning by introducing other concepts—colours, shapes, counting, matching, vocabulary, guessing, etc.  You can ask questions, discuss ideas, and play games.

Felt shapes can be as simple or as elaborate as you like.  You can make your own or purchase a variety of sets, ready to go (check out the mini felt kits available on our e-store!).

Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Create a small collection of felt shapes that correspond to a set of familiar songs and pull out one shape at a time asking the children “Hmm, I wonder what song goes with this? Do you know any songs about _____?”. Examples include: Star—Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, Boat—Row Row Row Your Boat, Spider—Itsy Bitsy Spider, etc.
  • Tell a more elaborate song or story using a variety of felt shapes:
    • A farm collection for the song Old MacDonald—pull each animal out of your bag one at a time to maintain the element of surprise.
    • People, animals, and keys for an adapted version of “Good Night, Gorilla”.
    • Pair with an audio recording of a book—key felt shapes provide a great visual.
  • Use a series of 5 shapes to tell a finger rhyme or sing a song:
    • Five Little Ducks, Five Little Monkeys, etc. To make your fingerplay more elaborate, include other shapes.  For example: Five Green and Speckled Frogs—5 frogs, one log, a small bug, and one pond.
  • Use several pieces of two shapes to introduce matching, sorting, and patterning.
  • Play a guessing game—hide shapes in your bag and give clues for guessing (one shape at a time). Clues can be easy or hard depending on your group.  Once they’ve correctly guessed the shape, pull it out of your bag and tell a little rhyme to go with it. 
  • Tell a story: put a few random shapes in your bag and pull them out one at a time to tell a made-up story. Involve the children in deciding what shapes to use and invite them to help tell the story.  Don’t worry about your story making sense, silly or mixed-up stories are fun too.
  • Play a little hiding game—set up a few larger shapes and then hide a small shape underneath and have the children guess where it’s hidden. Or, if you have lots of felt sets make up a hiding game and rhyme: for example, with one mouse and a few different coloured houses you can play “Little Mouse, Little Mouse are you hiding behind the red house?”.
  • Have a large number or colour die? Include it in the fun. Have the children take turns rolling the die and then place the corresponding number/colour shape(s) on the board.
  • Use puppets to interact with the felt pieces—puppets can add a “3rd voice” to your play, talking, playing, or even eating your felt shapes.

 

Another way to extend the activity and invite expression, is to allow the children to handle the various felt pieces—to use the pieces in their own way, exploring the colour, shape, and texture, re-enacting songs and stories and making up new ones as they play.  Perfect for independent or small group exploration, felt play provides an opportunity to develop skills and enjoy many benefits:

  • Fine motor development, hand-eye coordination, manual dexterity
  • Imagination and creative thinking
  • Language and vocabulary
  • Cognitive skills including early numeracy (counting, sorting, matching, etc.), problem solving, organization, planning, memory and recall, cause and effect, etc.
  • An opportunity to share and practice turn-taking, to communicate and work together to tell a story, act out a scene, or play a simple game.
  • A lovely, soft, quiet sensory experience
  • Spatial perception and exploration
  • A way to re-enact stories and events, helping children to better understand the world around them. A time to explore emotions and think about things they have seen or heard.
  • An opportunity to learn about and practice being gentle and caring. Some felt shapes are delicate and the children can learn to care for them in a kind and careful way.
  • Connection—with you the adult, and with peers. A time to build relationships, laugh, learn, and be silly together.

 

If you’re new to felt board play, I hope you give it a try—take the time to explore and enjoy it and the children will too.  For those of you with lots of felt board experience, I hope you find a way to stretch the play in new and exciting ways.

Capable & Competent

Written by Julie Bisnath, BSW RSW

When we think about children’s behaviour and define for ourselves what is “acceptable”, one of the first things to consider is our own expectations of how children should behave.  What are our expectations? And are they developmentally appropriate?   If we have unrealistic expectations (either too high or too low) of what children ought to be able to do then their behaviour will more often than not fall into the category of “unacceptable” leading to undue strain and stress on the adult-child relationship.  Knowing that children learn best within the context of caring and supportive relationships, we can see how our own expectations influence and shape that learning—either positively or negatively.

How Does Learning Happen? helps us to understand that seeing children as capable and competent is the place to start.  But what exactly does this mean and how do we communicate it to our children? When our expectations are developmentally appropriate it’s much easier to see what children can do and are doing instead of won’t do and aren’t doing.  We are then more inclined to support learning and teach new skills.  Our beliefs, words, and actions directly impact how children see themselves–either as competent or not—which in turn influences their behaviour.

Shifting our beliefs and expectations:

When we reflect upon a child and really think about how we see them it helps us to understand their competencies.  What are they good at? What skills have they mastered?  What are their interests? Next, we take a look at our expectations for behaviour.  Are they appropriate for the child’s age and ability?  For a complete picture, it’s important to consider all domains of development.  There are many great tools available to help define and clarify these expectations—some of which are referenced below.

Expressing our beliefs and expectations:

Conveying the view that children are capable and competent is not always easy.  Evaluative praise (“Good job!”), generic reinforcement (“That’s beautiful, I love it!”), and well-meaning directions (“Does your coat go on the floor?”) or corrections (“Your boots are on the wrong feet.”), can all communicate the message that a child isn’t actually capable or competent at all.

Internalized thoughts might sound something like this:

“Good job!”—She says that to everyone.  What does it mean? How does she know that I’ve done a good job? Reinforcement is much more effective when it’s specific and not based on the evaluation of good or bad: “Zippers are hard! You practiced a lot and today you zipped up your coat without any help!”.  “You tidied up the blocks by putting them in their bin.  That was helpful.  Now the carpet area is clear and ready—let’s dance!”.

“That’s beautiful, I love it!”—Does he really love it? He only loves it because it’s beautiful.  I don’t know what beautiful means so I will concentrate on making all of my paintings the same.  Commenting on what you see or how it makes you feel sends a much clearer and more genuine message: “I noticed that you used the red paint to make all of these dots and the blue paint to make the lines—tell me more about these.”.  “Your painting is so colourful; I love how you’re experimenting by mixing the red and yellow over here. What were you thinking about while you were painting? ”. “Looking at your painting reminds me of all the colours we see outside.”

“Does your coat go on the floor?”— I’m stupid, I always forget, I never do the right thing. Questions or directions for which the child already knows the answer can lead to shame-based thinking.  Modeling and narrating the action that you want to see (“I’ll put my coat on the hook”), using a verbal prompt (“Coat!”), or a physical gesture (eye contact while tapping coat hook), can all remind the child what to do in a way that says “I know you know what to do.  We all forget sometimes.  Everyone needs reminders”.  Of course, there are times when a clear direction: “Stop.” or “No running.” is imperative for the child’s safety or the safety of others.

“Your boots are on the wrong feet.”—I give up. I can’t do it.  While well-intended, these type of corrections don’t consider the process and steps that the child has done properly and only focuses on the end “problem”.  When we pause to think about these other steps (finding boots, standing boots upright, balancing to insert one foot and then the other) we see that the child has really done quite a lot.  The fact that they’ve accomplished all of this is more important than the fact that their boots are on the wrong feet.  Acknowledging the effort is more likely to result in the child feeling confident and encouraged to keep trying.  “Terrific! You’ve found your boots and put them on. You are ready to play outside.” Acknowledging the error is more likely to result in the child giving up and feeling like they “can’t do it”.   The natural uncomfortableness of having their boots on the wrong feet might prompt them to correct this on their own.  Otherwise, it is something that can be gently discussed another time (“It might feel more comfortable to try…”).  Again, it goes without saying that some things absolutely need correcting/adjusting–car seat straps or bike helmets for example.  In this case,  we can still acknowledge the child’s role “You’re learning to do it yourself!” while explaining that some jobs have an adult role too “It’s my job to keep you safe and that means that I have to fasten your seatbelt/helmet.”.

The actions we take also communicate our view of the child.  What messages do we convey if we never give children the opportunity to try? If we as adults are constantly doing things for them, things that are developmentally appropriate and that they could be doing for themselves (dressing them, cutting their food, lifting them up to the slide, etc.) or are constantly intervening to rescue them or resolve their problems, we are sending a message that says: You can’t do it. You’re not smart enough, strong enough, skilled enough.   Over time, children internalize these messages and come to believe them to be true.

Finding the balance between helping and hindering is the key.  Letting children know that we believe in their abilities, encouraging them to trust themselves, and supporting them to develop age appropriate skills set the foundation.  Providing lots of opportunities to practice new skills with the knowledge that we are here to help if needed, communicates that we see them as capable and competent.

When we believe that children are capable and competent and we express this belief (with words and actions) in a way that affirms their skills and abilities, we are more likely to see their behaviour and learning as developmentally appropriate.  When we see their behaviour as appropriate and acceptable, we are more likely to want to support and further their learning and development.  This creates and contributes to a caring and responsive relationship, one in which children can truly flourish and thrive.

Resources:

How Does Learning Happen– Ontario’s Pedagogy for the Early Years A resource about learning through relationships for those who work with young children and their families.

http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/childcare/howlearninghappens.pdf

Think, Feel, Act: Lessons from research about young children “Positive Relationships and Brain Development”

http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/childcare/positive.html

Book–How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish

https://www.amazon.ca/How-Talk-Kids-Will-Listen/dp/1451663889

Caring for Kids & Canadian Pediatric SocietyYour child’s development: What to expect

https://www.caringforkids.cps.ca/handouts/behavior-and-development/your_childs_development

Encyclopedia on Early Childhood Development: The most up-to-date scientific knowledge on early childhood development, from conception to age five.

http://www.child-encyclopedia.com/

Zero to Three–Your Child’s Development: Age-Based Tips From Birth to 36 Months

https://www.zerotothree.org/resources/series/your-child-s-development-age-based-tips-from-birth-to-36-months

On Track: Supporting Healthy Child Development and Early Identification in the Early Years A reference guide for professionals in Ontario

https://resources.beststart.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/K44-E.pdf

The Looksee Checklist is a simple, easy-to-use developmental tool designed to help monitor a child’s development from 1 month to 6 years of age, featuring a short list of “yes” or “no” questions about the child’s abilities. Register for an account to access the online or PDF screening tool.

www.lookseechecklist.com

The Magic of Storytelling

Written by Julie Bisnath, BSW RSW

Oral stories are powerful things—they can teach, entertain, evoke emotion, elicit memories, develop imagination, provoke deeper thinking, and prompt reflection.   Most importantly though, they bring us together and keep us connected.  Stories transcend time and space, have the power to evolve, and are free to give and receive.  Pretty impressive if you ask me.

Storytelling is also very natural—we do it all the time without even thinking about it—when we recount an incident or event, when we reminisce, when we tell a joke, and when we use examples to teach or reinforce a moral or value.  What’s more, is that oral storytelling—many stories existed well before the printed word—with children is universal.  And for good reason!  Oral stories are hugely important to a child’s cognitive and emotional development.

“Telling and listening to stories provides a bridge between the oral language skills of early childhood and the more formal language of print. With the ability to tell stories develops the ability to talk about things outside the here and now, to understand how we use language to express cause and effect and to talk about feelings and motivation.”

speechtherapycentres.com/tell-me-a-story/

Did you know that by the time a child is 2 ½ years old they are usually familiar with the basic structure of storytelling?  They know how to sequence basic events, understand the purpose of place and time, and can organize characters.  Amazing! But why—and to what end? Telling stories helps children solve problems and work out concerns.  Just as we might see them acting out a worry with dramatic play, children will tell stories (not necessarily to others) to help make meaning of an event or incident.  Storytelling also plays a role in how children view and understand themselves within the context of their family, and their community.

We know that children express themselves in many ways.  When we support the development and expression of communication in all of its forms, we are telling children that we see them as capable and competent.

What stories are being told here? Who are the storytellers and who are the story-listeners? Look at the connections and togetherness created during these moments.

So, what can we do to encourage storytelling in young children?

  • Have lots of conversations using rich vocabulary and a variety of concepts
  • Introduce and expose children to a wide variety of story mediums—written, oral, theatrical, etc. and story genres.
  • Encourage storytelling and story-listening all throughout the day—mealtime, bath time, naptime, in the car, out for a walk…have children narrate stories about their play and about their art. If you can, transcribe their stories or take a video.
  • Tell them stories about themselves, children love to be the central character in their own story!
  • Practice re-telling a familiar story together—based on a real event or a popular tale.
  • Use the tools of rhyme and repetition—children love hearing the same story over, and over, and over…!
  • Ask open-ended questions: Who are the people in the story? What happens next?
  • Model storytelling using various props. A felt board and felt shapes (take a look at Frosty Fun our new Winter Mini Felt Kit!), simple masks, a story apron, story stones or discs (check out our Wooden Wonder Collections!), all add to the storytelling and story-listening experience. 
  • Play with puppets—puppets no matter how simple, can provide a “third voice” (separate from the narrator and audience) adding to the dramatic interest. Puppets often have the freedom to say and do things that we might not, making them excellent teaching tools.  Simple puppets might be as easy as using your bare hands.  Other puppets might be made out of paper bags, paper and popsicle sticks, paper plates, photos, socks, fabric, etc.  These can be made by an adult or child.  More elaborate puppets can be purchased commercially.  For a unique and beautiful addition to your storytelling tools consider one of CCPRN’s handmade story puppets (Coming Soon!)—crafted to include a puppet pocket and puppet accessories, these pieces are sure to inspire.
  • Don’t forget to think about your tone of voice, volume, body language, and gestures. Using these effectively is what makes the story come alive.
  • Invite the children to enjoy a story table, story basket, or story sensory bin: Using the script from a familiar picture book, children manipulate the materials to act out and re-tell their own version of the story.
  • Try something new: cut and tell stories are fun and engaging! This one is simple yet captivating: http://drjeanandfriends.blogspot.com/2017/01/cut-and-tell-stories.html
  • Introduce reflection with occasional comments: “Hmm, I wonder how that makes him feel?”, “I was thinking about that story you told earlier…”.

 

Most importantly, listen attentively and participate actively when a child tells you a story (even if you’ve heard it 50 times before!). Enjoy the beauty and magic of the moment.

Create and Craft Christmas–Art Ideas and Inspiration

Written by Julie Bisnath, BSW RSW

I think for most of us, we know deep down that art is good.  We know that children learn from doing.  We appreciate the artistic talents of others.  We have good intentions and great ideas (thank you Pinterest!).  Where we sometimes get bogged down is in the logistics, the preparation, and most importantly, the mindset:

  • Making the commitment to offer more process oriented art.
  • Allowing the children to come and go from the “art table”.
  • Having them decide what materials to use, how to use them, how much or how little to use, and when to stop.
  • Understanding that art is not always about having a “finished piece” or “product”.
  • Knowing and preparing for the fact that there might be some mess.
  • Accepting that art ideas and interests are as subjective as the art itself.
  • Embracing the learning and creativity that comes from consistent, unstructured (not unsupervised!), access to art.

 

When we really challenge ourselves to shift our mindset and include art as a part of our children’s daily experience, we open the door for them to explore, express, innovate, create, craft, discover, wonder, imagine, question, problem-solve, enjoy, and so much more.  We build confidence, pride, and self-esteem. We instill and nurture a sense of agency, mastery, accountability, self-efficacy, and ownership.

If providing daily access to open-ended art seems difficult or unmanageable, start with changing only one or two small aspects of your usual art activity/routine.  Try to increase access to art.  Try to include new or different materials.  Think about how to arrange your time and space to be “art-friendly”.  Follow the interests of the children.  Extend books or dramatic play onto the “art table”.  Invite the children to suggest ideas.

Offer art activities often, provide variety, and modify as needed.  Follow the cues from your group.  Consider the age range of your children, their varied abilities, and their individual interests. Most importantly—is there joy? Are the children curious? Is there wonder and delight? Lead with a happy heart, be open to new experiences, and share in the learning—enjoy the opportunities and your children will too.

Many of my favourite holiday activities involve art, crafting, and creativity.   Here are a few ideas for inspiring art and supporting the artistic and creative expression of young children:

 

Ideas for Encouraging Process Art:

  • Messiness is ok and to be expected! This does not mean that the children are permitted to paint your walls or each other! Have them wear play clothes so no one has to worry or feel anxious about getting dirty.  Talk to parents ahead of time and explain the concept (and value!) of process art.  Have clean up items (towels, wipes, water, etc.) readily available.
  • Provide access to open-ended materials—paint, fabrics, water, shaving cream, glue, markers, chalk, paper, pompoms, collage items, clay or play dough, bits and bobbles, etc. You do not have to provide all of the materials at the same time! Too many options can be overwhelming.  Large amounts can also be too much—start with a little and add as needed.
  • Supervise without providing instruction. Lead by example.  Enjoy exploring and creating with the children.  Try new things.  Get messy!
  • If it’s easier—go outside! This is especially true for glitter! Or go outside just for fun and to experience process art in a different environment.
  • Introduce materials and tools found in nature: twigs, stones, leaves, grass, etc.
  • Use recycled objects: bottle caps, sponges, containers, toothbrushes, bubble wrap, etc.
  • Try to allow for long periods of time and/or have the art materials available for children to access and explore throughout the day.
  • Comment occasionally on the specifics of the process and/or ask questions: “I noticed that you are using the toothbrush to move the paint around on your paper.” “You mixed glue with paint. What happened to the colour? What does it feel like?”
  • Let the child decide when they are done and whether or not they want to keep the end result. Do they want to include their name? If so, where?

 

Ideas for Encouraging Product Art:

  • Keep the project age appropriate and set the children up for success (i.e. pre-cut any difficult shapes, pre-measure any difficult ingredients, etc. but let them do as much as they can themselves).
  • Provide several models so that the children have a guide but also know that their product does not need to look exactly like one specific model.
  • Offer choices: colour/texture of material, added ingredients (raisins or chocolate chips?), glue stick or glue pot and spreader, etc.
  • Explain the steps and do the project together (each person can do their own or it can be a combined group effort). Provide visual aids and examples of each step.
  • Help the children understand that with some projects following the steps and directions are important. Ask questions. Encourage problem solving.  Give them opportunities to learn and practice new skills.
  • Do not correct or fix their work—3 eyes and 5 legs are ok! For older children, if the product didn’t quite turn out (to THEIR expectations) that’s ok too, focus on what went well and encourage them to try again.  Learning any new skill takes perseverance and lots of practice!
  • Focus on positive outcomes: “We did it! We followed all of the steps and now we each have a duck! My duck is yellow, with one eye, and green feathers. Tell me about your duck!”

 

Examples of Christmas Process and/or Product Art

These ideas can all be modified to better suit the age of the children:

  • Marble, golf ball, or jingle bell painting (on plain or pre-cut paper to have a product)—use a tray or closed container (place the paper inside the closed container).
  • Bubble wrap prints (on plain or pre-cut paper to have a product).
  • Collage of various Christmas materials and textures (fabric, paper, old cards, ribbon, etc.).
  • Paint using evergreen branches.
  • String beads on pipe cleaners to make an ornament.
  • Provide a sensory experience and offer to make prints on paper or pre-cut shapes.
  • Use Christmas cookie cutters to stamp with paint.
  • Make and paint salt dough or clay ornaments with the children.
  • Spice art: the children apply glue and then sprinkle on spices (ginger, cinnamon, clove, etc.). Use plain paper or a pre-cut shape.
  • Paint with various tools (spray bottles, squeeze bottles, droppers, pompoms, fingers, Q-tips).
  • Provide contact paper and a variety of Christmas bits (sequins, glitter, ribbon, etc.).
  • Use the end result from process art to make a card or framed piece of art.

 

What about Art? A post for parents

Written by Julie Bisnath, BSW RSW

In recent years, professionals in the early learning community—both centre based and those in home child care, have been shifting their perspective when it comes to art.  You may have noticed that your child is coming home with little or no finished art.  Not to worry! The fact that they haven’t brought home a beautifully cut and glued paper craft does not mean that they aren’t being creative or that your home child care provider is not introducing them to art.  Indeed, the opposite is likely to be true.  All early learning professionals are being encouraged to provide young children with opportunities for process art—instead of, or in addition to, the more traditional product art.

“Process art” or “open-ended art” is art that focuses on the experience of doing rather than the finished product.  It allows children the freedom to explore various materials and mediums without the constraints of “producing”.  Process art often does produce beautiful, interesting, and unique results but this is not its purpose. Children may or may not want to keep the end piece.  The successfulness of process art is measured in terms of the child’s joy, wonder, and curiosity during the experience of doing—the process of creating.

“Product art”, also known as “crafting”, is art that focuses on the end product.  There is usually a specific set of instructions and if followed correctly, each person’s end product should be relatively the same.

Process art teaches children to value the creative experience and to value experimentation.  It allows them opportunities to explore with their senses, and to experience materials and mediums as they relate to one another.  It provides inquiry based learning and the opportunity to use, manipulate, explore, and express with a variety of tools and techniques.  It teaches children that there is no right or wrong way to create art.  Process art is meant to be a calming and relaxing experience.  Children make decisions regarding how much, how little, where, when to stop, etc.  It teaches children that their art is their own.

Product art teaches important skills too.  Patterning, math, problem solving, planning, sequencing, reading, following instructions, working towards a goal, perseverance, and determination to name a few.  When we introduce and expose children to simple crafting (product art) we are setting the foundation for later skills and abilities used in everyday life: completing a recipe, putting together furniture, writing an essay, etc.…we are teaching children that these skills are important and take practice.  Learning to hone a particular craft also develops its own skill set and is valuable in and of itself—think of baking, quilting, knitting, woodworking, crocheting, jewelry making, food preserving, etc.—all types of product art and all requiring the skills listed above.  Finally, crafting often has strong generational and/or cultural roots.  Sharing these types of activities with children fosters a sense of belonging and values family traditions.

Beneficial when the intent is to teach a skill, introducing product art at child care does come with some challenges:

  • Younger children are easily frustrated: “I can’t do it”
  • The child care provider is heavily involved, often the one completing the craft
  • It is a more stressful activity for everyone: “Am I doing it right?”
  • Children feel upset when their craft does not look exactly like the adult-made model
  • There is often more advanced preparation required by the caregiver to cut out parts, etc.
  • The creative process is restricted by the steps involved to make the craft

 

Depending on the caregiver, and the ages/stages of the children in the group, your home child care provider may or may not regularly incorporate product art into the programming. It might be scaled down with modified expectations or it might only be offered as an occasional activity.

Instead, your home child care provider is likely introducing your child to art materials and mediums such as painting (with fingers or brushes or random tools), collaging (papers and fabrics of various textures), art with materials found in nature (twigs, leaves, sand), art with recycled materials (bubble wrap, plastic forks, old toothbrushes), or art with mixed mediums (shaving cream, glue, paint, foil, sandpaper).  To support your child’s learning be sure to dress your child in play clothes and pack an extra outfit or two—not having to worry about getting dirty will allow your child to fully experience the creative process: touching, mixing, poking, smelling, etc. 😉

So what’s the real take home here? Product art definitely has some benefits but should not replace the wonderful opportunities provided by process art for children to create, experience, and express themselves freely—without the expectation to please others or re-create a final product.  There may or may not be an actual “take home” and that’s ok!

Holiday Resource Kit Reveal

Written by Julie Bisnath, BSW RSW

This year has been like no other—a rollercoaster ride of emotions—and we know that the holidays will be just as challenging.  Our goal at CCPRN is to help you spread a little cheer and happiness.

With the holiday season right around the corner, CCPRN has been busy developing new Imagine.Create.Play Resource Kits designed to make your holidays merry and bright.

Take comfort in knowing that when you support CCPRN you are supporting a locally run business with more than 40 years of delivering quality services to home child care providers and parents across the province.

With your health and safety in mind we offer:

  • Convenient online shopping
  • Contactless pick up
  • Shipping across Ontario–and beyond!

 

Here’s a look at some of our new products as well as a few seasonal favourites that we’ve restocked especially for you:

New! Personalized ICP Kit: The Gingerbread Friend

  • The Gingerbread Friend is an adapted version of the classic tale “The Gingerbread Man” by Jim Aylesworth.  Our unique version is customized upon order to include your name, the names of one or more children, and possibly pets.  Whether it’s purchased as a gift or for use at home/child care, this kit provides many opportunities to celebrate and focus on the four foundations of How Does Learning Happen? —Belonging, Well-being, Engagement, and Expression.
  • Your kit includes the personalized story, wooden story pieces (customized with your photos!) for re-enacting the story and/or creating a new adventure, your choice of Gingerbread Friend—either felt or wooden, a foam gingerbread for decorating, a resource handout and, as a bonus—the board book version of “The Gingerbread Man” (while quantities last).
  • These wooden story pieces can be gently cleaned with a lightly saturated disinfecting wipe.  As with all small/hand crafted items, children must be supervised closely when playing with these sets.
  • Kit pricing starts (includes 5 story characters) at $20 for members and $25 for non-members.  Orders must be placed by December 4th at the latest.

 

New! Wooden Santa Ornaments

  • Original art transferred onto wood…a beautiful ornament to give as a gift or enjoy for yourself. Optional custom photo added to the other side.  These are $7 for members and $9 for non-members.

New! Wooden Wonder Collections

  • Perfect as a gift or to use at home or daycare.  Inspire play-based learning with our Wooden Wonder sets.  Use to re-enact a story, tell a new story, spark imaginative play, add to a sensory bin, build vocabulary, and more.  Add Velcro to use on a felt board or magnets for the fridge.  Buy two identical sets to play a game of Memory or to practice matching and counting.  Buy two different sets to play Tic Tac Toe (i.e. Dinosaurs vs Unicorns), or to create extended stories and dramatic play opportunities.
  • Once again, these wooden discs can be gently cleaned with a lightly saturated disinfecting wipe.  As with all small/hand crafted items, children must be supervised closely when playing with these sets. Also please keep in mind COVID-19 restrictions and best practices.
  • All images credited to: Jane at Digital Artsi  www.etsy.com/ca/shop/DigitalArtsi
  • Pricing starts at $10 per set for members (or 2/$16) and $15 per set for non-members (or 2/$24).

Christmas Tree & Gingerbread Person Playscapes

  • Back by popular demand! This kit includes either a large felt Christmas tree or large gingerbread person and a multitude of decorations. We have also included a set of numbers (1-5) and some circle time songs and rhymes, making this a very versatile kit!  Can be used with the very young as well as kindergarten age children.

Christmas Tree: $20 for members and $30 for non-members

Gingerbread Person: $25 for members and $35 for non-members

Christmas Paper Die Cut Collections

  • Invite your children’s creative Christmas ideas to shine with paper die cuts of gingerbread houses, Christmas trees, candy canes, wreaths and bows, pine tree cards, Santa, reindeer, sleighs, and lots of mini accessories such as lights, stars, and candies. Enough materials for six children and comes with a list of ideas and suggestions for free play, games, puppets and more! $10 for members and $15 for non-members.

 

ICP Kit: The Mitten

  • An all-time favourite, this kit includes the board book “The Mitten” by Jan Brett and some pretty adorable wooden props including a sewn fleece mitten and “animals” to hide inside. The Mitten, a fanciful story based on a Ukrainian Folktale, is fun to read and perfect for re-enacting. $30 for members and $50 for non-members.

ICP Kit: The Snowy Day

  • This kit is based on the board book by Ezra Jack Keats. Winner of the 1963 Caldecott Medal, Keats’ story of a young boy experiencing the year’s first snowfall is a delight. The kit contains the book, 2 felt dolls with 4 different winter felt outfits (total), crochet snowflakes, snowballs, smaller felt people, and playdough mats. Great for free play, imaginative art, and circle time activities.  $41 for members and $61 for non-members.

ICP Kit: Snowballs

  • This kit is based on the board book by Lois Ehlert. This is a great book to read to a group, search for various items, and use as a springboard to design unique snowscapes. The kit contains the book, felt pieces to create your very own snowscape, play dough mats and open-ended play/art pieces. The hand-out has suggestions to help extend the play. $31 for members and $51 for non-members.

ICP Kit: Tap the Magic Tree

  • Tap the Magic Tree is an engaging and interactive book about the changing seasons and one special tree in particular. Tap, rub, jiggle, wiggle, and more to see what magic takes place. Perfect for all seasons with beautiful and brightly coloured artwork— children will love the magic and whimsy of this simple story. Your kit contains the hard cover book, 4 beautifully hand-painted wooden peg dolls each representing a season, and 4 coordinating, hand-stitched felt leaf pockets.  $37 for members and $57 for non-members.

You won’t want to miss out on these unique products, sure to inspire curiosity and delight.

Head on over to our e-store to place your order today!

Spread joy, shop local, and support CCPRN

Baby Doll Circle Time™

Written by Julie Bisnath, BSW RSW

“Circle time” has always been one of my favourite times of day—as a child and as an adult too.  I love to sing and to sing along with others.  When I was in elementary school we’d often have sing along assemblies and growing up, hymns were my favourite part of our weekly church service.  Family gatherings often included one or more instruments and I’m no stranger to a good old kitchen party.  I love to sing.  I’m not great at it but I love it just the same.

Last year, I wrote a more general Circle Time Resource Guide that CCPRN members received along with their 2020 memberships.  If you’d like to take a look, you can read it here: https://gallery.mailchimp.com/c2347f6794b4b0e79de6d2902/files/ff9b997d-7bc3-499c-aaeb-ede2c28f42d5/CircleTimeResource.pdf

Today, I want to focus more on a specific type of circle time called Baby Doll Circle Time™.  Baby Doll Circle Time™ combines my love for singing with my passion for teaching empathy, kindness, and caring.  Baby Doll Circle Time™ was developed by Dr. Becky Bailey and is a trademark of Conscious Discipline®.  The theory behind Baby Doll Circle Time™ is that children develop best within the context of caring relationships.  Baby Doll Circle Time™ provides the opportunity for young children to experience being the nurturer by interacting with their baby dolls (or teddy bear) in the same ways that we as caring adults might interact with them.  As the children play with their dolls, they relive and strengthen the attachment and connection that they have with their caregivers and parents.

The goals of Baby Doll Circle Time™ are to:

  • Enhance attachment
  • Increase self-regulation
  • Promote trust
  • Foster attunement skills

It also provides a wonderful opportunity for young children to develop, experience, and practice compassion towards others by building connection.

Baby Doll Circle Time™ focuses on building connection through:

  • Eye contact
  • Gentle, appropriate touch
  • Being present in the moment
  • Playful interactions

 

There are 5 main steps to a successful Baby Doll Circle Time™.  The first is to transition into the circle and to have the children “get their babies”.  You can transition to circle in your usual way—with a song or a visual cue, etc.  Next you can incorporate having the children “get their babies” by having them close by (I find a bin or basket works well) and then singing the song “Get Your Baby” written for this purpose:

Get Your Baby (tune of Oh My Darlin’ Clementine)

Put out a basket of baby dolls.  Use eye contact, joint attention, and gestures as you sing to invite the children to take a baby.

Get your baby, get your baby, get your baby, it’s time to play.

Get your baby, get your baby, get your baby, it’s time to play.

You may need to sing this more than once to give the children enough time to get their baby and then sit back down.

Once everyone (including you!) has a baby doll or stuffed animal, it’s time to sing the songs that fall under step 2 “beginning awareness”, step 3 “connection”, and step 4 “cuddling and soothing”.  You can follow along with my version here https://ccprn.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/Baby-Doll-Circle-Time.pdf or make up your own.  The idea is that the songs all promote caring and gentleness.

Step 5 ends Baby Doll Circle Time™.  I always end by putting the babies to bed and then transitioning to Sleeping Bunnies but you can do whatever works for your group.

Goodnight Song (tune of Good Night Ladies) Use a soft and then an even softer voice.

Night, night, babies. Night, night, babies.  Night, night, babies, it’s time to rest your eyes….shhhhh

Night, night, babies. Night, night, babies.  Night, night, babies, it’s time to go to sleep….shhhhh

“Goodnight baby, I love you”.  (Place the babies back in the basket)

Transition to Sleeping Bunnies: “Now that the babies are sleeping, you can find a spot to lie down and we’ll do Sleeping Bunnies!”

 

It may sound a bit complicated but trust me it’s not.  It’s fun and lovely.  Most children really enjoy the interactive component of having a special doll or stuffy to care for during circle time.  Here are some simple strategies for implementing Baby-Doll Circle Time™ with your group:

  • Be consistent, follow the same circle time routine, especially in the beginning while the children are getting used to the concept.
  • Model the actions and attunement by having a baby doll for yourself too.
  • Use familiar songs, rhymes, and social games—those that you might use with an infant or toddler in your care–or ask their parents for ideas.
  • Talk about gentleness and the importance of being kind and caring.
  • Notice and comment on the children’s participation: “I love how you are holding your baby doll so carefully. Your baby will feel safe with you”.

 

If you’re still feeling a bit unsure, you can view my Baby Doll Circle Time™ demo video here: https://ccprn.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/JuliesBDCT.mp4 and/or access my full song list (and lyrics!) here: https://ccprn.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/Baby-Doll-Circle-Time.pdf.

For those of you looking to do a French version, Lise Beauchemin has created a lovely “Le cercle avec poupée” which you can find here: https://ccprn.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/Le-cercle-avec-poup%C3%A9e.pdf.

If you’d like more information on Conscious Discipline® or to see official Baby Doll Circle Time™ promotional videos you can take a look at these resources:

I really do hope that you’ll give it a try—whether you are a parent with one child or a home child care provider with a full group, Baby Doll Circle Time™ is a wonderful activity to enjoy together.

Yours in caring and sharing.

Loose Parts Play

Written by Julie Bisnath, BSW RSW

Coined in the early 1970’s by Simon Nicholson, the concept of “loose parts” came from his belief that the use of open-ended materials in childhood was strongly linked to creativity and critical thinking skills later in life.  It has since become a central component of many early learning environments and you can find lots of research and information pointing out that loose parts play does indeed develop skills across the entire continuum of development.

Children need opportunities to be creative and inventive in their environment, manipulating and constructing their ideas through play. This result can be achieved through the introduction of unstructured play with loose parts.”  https://www.cpha.ca/loose-parts-policy

Essentially, loose parts are any open-ended bits and pieces that have no intended purpose or specific play goals.   They can be moved around, added to, organized, taken apart, and used in many different ways allowing children to be creative, to explore, to investigate, and to learn from their own experiences manipulating the pieces.  Basically, any collection of natural or man-made materials can be thought of as “loose parts”.

Home | Loose Parts Play

www.loosepartsplay.co.uk

Natural environments automatically provide a rich assortment of loose parts.  Think about the ocean side with water, sand, shells, and rocks or a lush forest bed filled with sticks, stones, leaves, dirt, pinecones, moss, and bits of bark.   The opportunities for play and learning are endless.  Children are invited and encouraged to use their imagination (the stick is a wand!), to develop analytical skills (which pinecones are sturdy enough to support a bit of weight?), and to test out their own ideas and hypotheses (small rocks float and big rocks sink).  They use the materials in new and inventive ways.  With no right or wrong way to play, children enjoy the freedom to explore and create without the typical constraints of store bought toys meant to do one or two specific things.  Loose parts play also fosters self-confidence and builds resilience as children are free to re-use the materials and experiment with a variety of ideas.   It gives them the opportunity to try and try again.

loose parts in the forest - Nature Connect

www.natureconnect.ca

Loose parts pave the way for critical thinking. It allows the children to have their own ideas, to make things the way they decide, and to figure out for themselves how to make their idea work.” http://www.thewideschool.com/the-theory-of-loose-parts .

No need to take a day trip though (although how wonderful to spend the day lakeside or in the woods!)—you can incorporate loose parts play right in your own backyard or indoor play space.

A simple way to get started is to use what you already have at home: blocks, large pompoms or cotton balls, large popsicle sticks, balls, and recycled paper towel rolls set out on the floor are perfect for toddlers.  Older preschoolers might enjoy a variety of smaller loose parts added in: clothes pins, gems, shells, rocks, pinecones, and spoons.  A sensory bin filled with miscellaneous materials sets out an intriguing invitation.   Another option is to try table top loose parts—have the children sit at the table each with their own tray or shallow box of loose parts to examine and explore.  This works well with a mixed age group as you can tailor the items specifically to each child, following their interests and abilities to manipulate the loose parts safely.  This set up is also helpful if you are trying to minimize having the children touch or share common items.   Perhaps you have kindergarten or school age children who would enjoy some gross motor, outdoor, loose parts play?  Scavenge your basement, the garage, or ask your local hardware store for discarded materials: old tires, broken bricks, bits of lumber, large industrial rolls (sturdy cardboard inside large bolts of plastic or fabric), recycled yogurt containers, milk crates, and rope make a good start.  Recycled materials (containers, cardboard boxes, plastic bottle caps, etc.) are free and also helpful when it comes to clean up—no need to wash or disinfect, when the children are done playing out into the bin they go.  Dollar shops and thrift stores are another great place to look for loose parts—think about wooden napkin rings, bits of hardware, craft supplies, bins, baskets, etc.  Know someone who likes to sew? Ask them to set aside the empty spools.  Friendly with a local merchant? Ask them to keep the inside plastic piece from the cash register paper rolls.  Going out for a walk? Bring along a bag to collect pinecones, rocks, sticks, leaves, etc.

open ended gross motor play in 2020 | Eyfs outdoor area, Outdoor play spaces, Outdoor play areashttps://www.pinterest.ca/pin/224265256432558622/

TINKER TRAYS FOR YOUR TODDLER • U Ready, Teddy?   https://www.ureadyteddy.com/toddler-tinker-trays/

Just as there is no right or wrong way to play, there is no right or wrong way to offer or set out loose parts.  Through trial and error, you’ll discover what works for your space, and what works for your children.  Follow their lead and enjoy the limitless potential of loose parts play.

Interested in buying a ready-made loose parts collection? We have 2 left for sale–head on over to the e-store for a closer look!

Pic of ICP Loose Part Kit

As always, children need to be closely supervised when playing with loose parts.  Be sure to select items that are age appropriate and suitable to the child’s skills and abilities.

A sample list of bits and bobbles from: Loose Parts Play

Stones, rocks · Tree stumps · Logs · Pebbles · Gravel · Twigs · Sticks · Washers · Planks of wood · Coconut shells · Corks · Ping pong balls · Pegs · Bulldog clips · Duct tape · Straws · Marbles · Decorative stones · Spoons · Curtain rings · Paperclips · key rings · chains · tape measures · Pallets · Balls · Buckets · Baskets · Crates · Boxes · Rope · Tyres · Shells · Seeds & seed pods · Pine cones · Old CDs or DCDs · Ribbon, string tape wool, lace · Metal tops from bottles & Jars · Cardboard cylinders · Raffia · Cable reels · Feathers · Pasta · Costume jewellery · Pots · containers · Glass beads · Cable ties · Guttering & drainpipes · Garden trugs · Tarpaulin · Nuts & bolts · Bark & moss · Leaves · Coins · Old bike wheels · Small slices of logs · Empty food cans (not sharp) · Netting · Garden canes · Dried peas, beans, rice · Wood off cuts · Torches · Cameras · Dice · Gourds · keys