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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.

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.

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.

 

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

Art & Early Learning Opportunities for Young Children

Written by Julie Bisnath, BSW, RSW

“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”, has developed a bit of a bad reputation in the field of early learning—“craft”—it’s almost become a dirty word.  But WAIT! It needn’t be considered as such if your intent is to teach.  The difficulty lies in the confusion between the words “art” and “craft”.  When working with children, thinking about them as two separate words or activities (i.e. process versus product) helps to see the individual distinctions, benefits, and worth of these two terms (although there is a HUGE gray area and certainly for many people crafting is art and art is crafting).

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.

A similar comparison would be to think about teaching a sport versus teaching the more general concept of physical activity.  Is teaching a sport (with rules, and competitions, and structure) wrong? No, of course not.  Is learning a sport the same as learning to be physically active? Not quite.  They both have value and they both develop skills and abilities important for health and well-being.

So the big question is: Is providing opportunities for product art appropriate when working with young children?  Is it ok to have the children cut and paste and draw, following an example, to produce a particular end result? Absolutely! — If your intent is to teach skills such as sequencing, planning, measuring, etc. The important thing to remember is that product art or crafting is not the same as process art and should not replace the many 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.

What about a compromise? Is there an option that allows for both process and product? Yes, of course! There are many ideas that can be modified to bridge the two together:

  • Die cut large shapes and have the children paint them using a variety of tools and colours of their choosing. Older children can also learn by choosing and cutting out their own shapes. One step further would be to have the child draw the shape themselves.
  • Provide a sensory art experience (like shaving cream and paint) and the option to make a print if the child wants. The print could be on regular or die cut paper.
  • Die cut shapes and provide the children with assorted collage material (various types of paper and/or fabrics, various colours and textures, etc.) for gluing. For example provide large pre-cut pumpkins and many different types of orange fabrics and papers. The children get to choose from the various materials and they decide how much or how little to use.

 

In the end, there are many benefits to offering both process and product based art activities.  Offer these 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.

 

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 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!”

For more reading check out these links:

https://www.naeyc.org/resources/pubs/tyc/feb2014/process-art-experiences

http://www.ooeygooey.com/handouts/art.pdf

Wintery Fun!

Ideas and Images compiled by Julie Bisnath, BSW, RSW

Inside with cabin fever? Outside trying to keep warm? Here are some activities to keep you (and the children!) moving.

Indoor Ideas from Pinterest (pictured below):

  1.  Yoga poses and stretches—make it fun by associating poses with arctic animals.
  2.  Play assorted snowball games using large pompoms or balled up socks.
  3.  Sweep a large pompom or balled up sock around various obstacles or dot-to-dot style with the alphabet or numbers.
  4.  Shovel crumpled up paper.
  5.  Tiptoe/step/hop on paper snowflakes or icebergs.
  6.  Ball toss with plastic balls or balled up socks.
  7.  Make an activity cube describing various actions: jump, roll, stand on one foot, etc.
  8.  Play with large balls or balloons—(be sure to supervise closely).
  9.  Create tape “balance beams”.
  10.  Colour match bean bag toss.
  11.  Snowman bowling.
  12.  Paper streamer web for climbing over and under.

Other ideas:

  • Play freeze dance or have a dance party.
  • “Ice skate” with empty tissue boxes.
  • Build an indoor “snow” fort with pillows and blankets.
  • Set up an indoor treasure hunt made up of winter objects or toys.
  • Make an indoor obstacle course using pillows, pool noodles, pylons, baskets, etc.
  • Borrow toys from your neighbourhood toy library: slides, tunnels, parachutes, etc.

 

Outdoor Ideas from Pinterest (pictured below):

  1.  Create a construction site—one spot for filling and across the yard for dumping.
  2.  Nature walk and scavenger hunt.
  3.  Paint on snow with spray bottles.
  4.  Balance beam using log and wood plank.
  5.  Shovel out a snow maze—walk, hop, skip, or run.
  6.  Follow footprints or animal tracks (or make your own monster tracks).
  7.  Target practice, spray paint a circle target for snowballs, or use a large bin.
  8.  Outdoor obstacle course: use balls, hula hoops, wood, etc. or make snow hurdles.
  9.  Blow bubbles to chase and catch, see if they freeze.
  10.  Build snow ramps (add water to make icy) for small cars. Or use plastic ramps.
  11.  Make snow angels.
  12.  Make an unusual snowman (sleeping, upside down, clown, etc.) or snow sculpture.

Other ideas:

  • Build a snow family! Give them various faces (Mr. Potato Head pieces are fun)—happy, sad, surprised, and talk about feelings.
  • Play at the park or explore a wooded area. Climb trees.
  • Build a fort—use shovels, pails, dump trucks, empty yogurt containers, etc.
  • Go for a walk and collect sticks/pinecones/rocks—use them to decorate the fort.
  • Shovel!
  • Feed the birds–make a feeder for the yard or head to the park with some bird seed.
  • Work together to roll a giant snowball.
  • Make small snowballs for the children to carry, move, stack, knock down, etc.
  • Go sledding or sliding (have the children help make a mini hill where you can stand beside the hill to help as needed or go to the park).
  • Treasure Hunt: hide toys in the yard and search for them together—the smaller the toy the harder the challenge.
  • Hold an outdoor concert or create a marching band—give the children buckets, pots, spoons, bells, etc. as “instruments”. March around the neighbourhood.
  • Play Simon Says, Shark Tank, Red Light Green Light, Duck Duck Goose, etc.

 

*Join me in February for Active Play: ParticipACTION states that “physical literacy is the gateway to physical activity and provides so many amazing benefits, like improved physical and emotional well-being, cognitive ability, and overall good health. It provides the building blocks required to participate in physical activity and sport.” Join me to discuss the Canadian 24-hour Movement Guidelines for the Early Years.  The room set up will be focused on active play ideas and activities will be designed to engage and energize the children.  We’ll end the morning with a quiet circle and some calming exercises. Visit the CCPRN Events page to register now!