Category Archives: play-based learning

ABCs for Young Children

Have you ever wondered what might be the best order to introduce letters to young children? There is no standard for which order to teach the alphabet. Some educators use a letter-of-the-week method that may or may not be based on letter frequency, while others follow the alphabet in order.

ABC Literacy

Very young children may already have some print knowledge. Typically they are motivated by the letters in their own name. When introducing the alphabet to young children, here are some things to consider in your planning.

The two greatest predictors of reading success are knowledge of letter names and letter sounds (phonemic awareness) in the early years. Once children begin to have an understanding of these concepts, they can grasp the relationship between sounds of speech and letters (alphabetic principle).

It is easier to predict the sound of some letters than others. When a letter’s sound can be extracted from its name, it is easier to build an understanding of the alphabetic principle. The name of the letter E, for example, can be heard in its sound. However, when W is spoken, it does not sound like its name: ‘double-u.’ So when choosing which letters to first introduce to your group, consider letters that have an obvious correlation between letter name and letter sound such as: A, B, D, O, T, V, and Z.

There has been much debate about whether to introduce uppercase before lowercase letters. One could argue that most print is in lower case and therefore children should be taught how to read these letters first. But when it comes to learning to print, it is easier for young children to reproduce uppercase letters. These letters are larger and can be more easily reproduced with their predominantly straight lines. With limited pencil control, young children can print large letters with vertical and horizontal lines more easily than smaller ones with curves and diagonal lines. Begin with letters that have vertical and horizontal lines such as H, L, I, and E.

To help you decide what order to teach your children the alphabet, here is a look at what is age-appropriate:

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Toddlers

  • Toddlers can learn to sing the alphabet song and should be read to daily. This age group enjoys simple, rhyming stories and songs.
  • Encourage toddlers to recognize the first letter of their name.
  • At two years of age a child may be able to produce vertical strokes, and horizontal ones by two and a half years.
  • Expose toddlers to print and model adult printing for them.
  • Encourage the development of the fine motor control needed for printing through scribbling, manipulatives and play dough.

 

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Preschoolers

  • Preschoolers may be able to learn to recognize and name some of the letters of the alphabet. To strengthen their understanding of this, focus on beginning letter sounds of a word. For example blue, berry, brown, bag.
  • They can develop dexterity and pencil control through colouring, tracing letters, and completing simple mazes. Children this age may scribble, create mock letters that are unrecognizable, or string random letters together to represent words. Typically at three years old a child can draw circles, print a cross at age four, and a square at age five.
  • Continue to expose children this age to increasingly complex stories. Ask them questions about the stories to encourage development of their narrative skills.

Keep in mind that writing tools for young children should be small. Short, thin crayons are recommended over thicker ones.

Literacy is a journey that takes time and cannot be rushed. Encourage print motivation (an interest in reading) by providing a child-centered environment that is rich in literacy. Incorporate the interests of the children into their learning.

Each child develops at their own pace and there are many cognitive and fine motor skills needed before the process of reading and writing can begin. As educators, our role is to set a strong foundation for success and foster a love of reading in the early years.

Signature - Jo

References: Lucy Hart Paulson, Ed.D, CCC-SLP Communicative Sciences and Disorders University of Montana. Taken from Niagara Speech Services Emergent Literacy Conference 2015.

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Getting Back to Nature

Fall is the perfect time of year to celebrate nature and all of its glory. Many of us head outdoors to savour Autumn’s colours and the remaining days of sun before the really cold weather moves in.

But what if we allowed our children the gift of nature every day – rain or shine? Even in the cold and snow.

What would happen if our kids played freely in the forest, the meadow or the walking trail and witnessed each season’s changes first hand – up close and personal? 

Back to Nature 1

My colleagues and I recently had the opportunity to attend a Nature and Early Learning Conference with keynote speaker Marlene Power, Executive Director of Forest School Canada to answer those questions. During the conference, each one of us was taken back to that magical sense of wonder we experienced in nature as children.

When kids are exposed to and become familiar with natural settings, they form connections that reap immeasurable benefits. Repeated exposure to that environment allows them to build a relationship with nature – connecting them to something greater than themselves.

Natural spaces foster a sense of adventure, discovery, and wonder in all of us – but especially children. Outdoor play becomes about imagination, collaboration, dialogue and children directing their own learning process (emergent curriculum).

Back to Nature 2

 

At the forest and nature school here in Ottawa, children are encouraged to play freely outside, in a natural setting. They learn to navigate varied terrains, in all different kinds of weather. They develop a respect for nature and learn to map out their understanding of the forest. Other interesting observations from the Forest School is that outside, skills and abilities become more important, leaving materialism and social hierarchies with less currency. Imaginations take over and the children reinvent uses for found items. The ideas, physical skills and stamina developed from spending time in the forest enhance feelings of competency and esteem in the children attending.

“The evidence suggests that viewing, interacting with, and living in natural environments can have multiple effects on ‘reducing stress, increasing patience, increasing self-discipline, increasing capacity for attention, increasing recovery from mental fatigue, or from psychopysociological imbalance,’ (Russell et al., 2013, 9. 482)”

“Environmental education is linked to better performance in math, reading, writing, and listening and better critical thinking skills (Bartosh, 2003; Ernst & Monroe, 2004)” … “Play and exposure to green spaces can also reduce children’s stress levels, protect their emotional development, and enhance their social relations (Kuo & Taylor, 2004; Ginsburg, 2007; Weinstein et al., 2009; Children & Nature Network, 2012).”

~ Taken from Forest School Canada’s website.

Children can interact with nature inside too. Consider bringing the outdoors in for even more benefits!

Back to Nature 4

Here toddlers and preschoolers added found treasures to salt dough for an open-ended art activity.

For many more fabulous ideas on bringing nature into your daycare, Humber College and The Back to Nature Network produced an excellent guide called ‘Ready…Set…Wonder

Enjoy!

Signature - Jo

Resource Packages

This summer we reached out to our members and Facebook followers to ask what kind of resources they’ve been looking for. Then our little CCPRN worker bees went to work developing new and unique die cut packages to sell. So if you’re looking for some fresh new resource kits in time for Fall – you’ll be impressed by these new ones!

Resource Packages Froggy Gets Dressed

Coming soon: Felt sets based on the Froggy Gets Dressed book by Jonathan London – a funny way to look at putting on all those extra layers once again. Use these props to visually enhance your storytelling and then have your children play with the set to retell the story themselves.

Resource Kits Little Cloud

Felt packages based on the Eric Carle Book Little Cloud are a great addition to your weather theme.

 Resource Packages Halloween Costumes

Halloween Costumes play kits were designed by Sharon Cunningham of Story Time Felts for your little ones to play with and dress up the felt dolls.

Resource Packages Farm Kit

A farm theme is a natural fit around Thanksgiving and it can be used to enhance so many different learning concepts. This very special limited edition farm felt kit was created by former CCPRN President Andrea Gingras. She embellished each of the die cut pieces by hand. The attention to detail in each piece is really quite something. These kits are a bit more expensive than our regular ones but they are absolutely gorgeous and come with an extensive handout of farm stories, circle time songs and rhymes.

For crafting purposes we also have the following seasonal paper kits for Halloween, weather, and Fall:

Resource Packages Paper Weather Resource Packages Paper HalloweenResource Kits Paper Fall

These kits and more are for sale at the CCPRN office. Call and book a time to come into the office to browse through all of our resources! * Please note: kits are subject to availability.

Signature - Jo

Book: Show Me a Story

Show Me a Story Book

I recently discovered this book that inspires new storytelling ideas and techniques. Show Me a Story, by Emily K. Neuburger, is jam packed with ideas to spark the imaginations of young and old. Inside you’ll find Story Starters and suggestions for encouraging imaginative play for children of all ages. Setting a fancy table for a royal meal, transforming a cardboard box, and going on a walk in search of 5 interesting things are wonderful invitations for open-ended imaginative play – just to name a few.

Show Me a Story offers many ideas for home made props for storytelling too. As an added bonus, the Story Starter prop ideas are simple enough to get your school-aged children involved in their creation.

Show Me a Story - Story Stones

Story Stones

Print images and glue onto stones, wooden blocks, or even wooden disks.

Story stones can also be used to retell a favourite story, like the classic There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly, for example.

There Was an Old Lady 1

 

Here the old lady was made out of paper mache using a basket as the base. Then an image of each animal that she swallowed was glued onto a stone.

Another one of my favourite suggestions in the book Show Me a Story is to set the scene for a story within a jar. Or try creating a scene on a mat or blanket on the floor.

 

Show Me a Story - Story Jar

Storytelling and invitations for dramatic play foster the imagination, language, and narrative skills of young minds. CCPRN has purchased the book Show Me a Story for anyone interested in borrowing this great resource from our library. It is also available for purchase through Chapter’s online.

Happy reading!

Signature - Jo

Storypark and ELECT

I want to share with you a new website that child care professionals can use to document and preserve observations of their daycare children – in a safe, fun, and organized way. With this exciting new tool, daycare providers can create an online portfolio for each child, capture special moments in a child’s day and then share it with that child’s parents. This collection of recorded observations – or stories – not only makes a keepsake for families, but can also be used by care giving professionals to plan play-based curriculum, reflect on their practice, and develop partnerships with parents.

Storypark

Once registered with the Storypark website, users are given unique usernames and passwords to protect each child’s information and maintain their privacy. Caregivers post stories to the site and parents receive an email alerting them when a new story about their child has been added. They can then log in and check it out at their convenience. Parents have the option to comment or even share the story with friends and family.

Storypark Vim at work looking at stories

Each child is given their own profile in which their stories are saved, creating an organized collection of observations in chronological order. In cases where a story contains more than one child, the caregivers can easily save and share that story with several families at one time. This tool is also a convenient way for providers to share information in situations where parents share custody of a child.

Early Learning for Every Child Today (ELECT)

Because Storypark is a tool used to record observations over a period of time, it supports and enhances any child care provider’s work within the ELECT framework. Sharing a snapshot with a short anecdote about a child’s day is a great way to open the lines of communication and promote parent engagement (one of the six ELECT principles). Sharing these moments and insights about a child empowers parents to be actively involved in their child’s development and gives them the opportunity to support learning strategies at home.

Child care professionals can use Storypark as a resource to track each child’s development and mastery of new skills. By observing the development and interests of a child, caregivers can plan learning activities with those interests in mind. Documenting these observations is useful for planning curriculum that furthers meaningful play-based learning concepts centered around the interests and learning goals of the children. 

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Storypark is a great resource for caregivers to demonstrate their professionalism, validating their important work with children. There is a small fee to use this service, but it can be offset as a business expense for operating a home daycare business. CCPRN members will also receive a discount for using this software!

On March 31stStorypark is offering a free information session by webinar. You can either attend this by logging in from your home, or joining us at the CCPRN office from 7 to 9pm. There will be a home child care professional currently using the Storypark platform at the office to answer your questions as well as an online demonstration. Registration is required for either option.

For more information about the benefits of Storypark for parents and caregivers click here.

To sign up for your 30 day free trial of Storypark click here.

Thanks for reading,

Signature - Jo

Halloween Play-based Learning and ELECT

Have you seen how CCPRN is using the ELECT framework to develop children’s events? Here we’ve shown how children learn through play, using our Halloween party activities as an example!

Halloween Felt Board Play Sets

Halloween Party Felt Board

We asked the children: “Can you dress the people in costumes? What costumes do you see?”

With this activity they had the opportunity to learn the following skills:

3.1 receptive language, simple turn-taking

3.2 expressive language

3.3 vocabulary

3.5 using descriptive language to explain

4.7 symbolic representation

4.10 classifying

5.1 gross motor coordination, reaching and holding

5.2 fine motor coordination, holding and using tools, pincer grasp

5.3 visual exploration, visual discrimination, tactile exploration

5.4 sensory motor integration

P is for Pumpkin Group Activity

Halloween Party P is for Pumpkin

We asked caregivers to recite the rhyme: “P is for pumpkin and much, much more. Take a peek when I open the door!” and lift the flap to reveal a picture underneath. The children were encouraged to name the picture.

With this activity the children had the opportunity to learn the following skills:

1.5 interacting positively and respectfully

1.6 co-operating

2.5 regulating attention

3.3 vocabulary

3.6 listening to others

3.10 phonological awareness

3.11 letter recognition

3.13 matching spoken words with written ones

4.5 observing

4.7 symbolic representation

5.1 gross motor coordination, reaching

5.2 fine motor coordination, pincer grasp

Leaf Counting Game

Halloween Party Leaf Counting Game

The children were asked to count the leaves and place the correct number in the box. With this activity they had the opportunity to learn the following skills:

2.5 regulating attention

4.2 problem solving

4.7 symbolic representation

4.13 determining quantity

4.15 representing numbers

4.20 completing simple number operations (one-to-one correspondence)

5.1 reaching and holding, gross motor coordination

5.2 fine motor coordination, holding and using tools, pincer grasp

5.3 visual exploration, visual discrimination

5.4 sensory motor integration

Spider Match Game

Halloween Party Spider Match Game

The children placed the spiders on their corresponding webs. With this activity they had the opportunity to learn the following skills:

4.7 symbolic representation

4.10 classifying

4.17 understanding two-dimensional objects

5.2 fine motor coordination, holding and using tools, pincer grasp

Face Patterning Game / Make a Jack o’lantern

Halloween Party Pumpkin Patterning Game

Children recreated pumpkin face patterns using the assorted shapes. With this activity they had the opportunity to learn the following skills:

4.2 problem solving

4.7 symbolic representation

4.17 understanding two-dimensional objects

4.18 identifying patterns

5.2 holding and using tools, fine motor coordination, pincer grasp

5.3 senses, visual exploration, visual discrimination

Creature Match Game

Halloween Party Chop Sticks

The children used chop sticks, tweezers and tongs to place little critters in the same coloured pail. With this activity they had the opportunity to learn the following skills:

4.10 classifying

5.2 fine motor coordination, holding and using tools, pincer grasp

5.3 senses, visual discrimination

Creature Creation Blocks

Halloween Party Blocks

Children were asked: “How many silly people can you make? Stack the blocks and see!” With this activity they had the opportunity to learn the following skills:

1.6 co-operating

4.10 classifying

4.12 counting

4.13 determining quantity

5.1 gross motor coordination, reaching and holding

5.2 fine motor, palmar grasp

Halloween Play Dough Mats

Halloween Party Play Dough Mats

The play dough mats provided an open ended art activity for this children. With this activity they had the opportunity to learn the following skills:

5.2 fine motor coordination

5.3 senses, sensory exploration

5.4 sensory motor integration

Treat Bag Decorating

Halloween Party Treat Bags

Children decorated their own treat bags as well and had the opportunity to learn the following skills:

4.3 representation

5.1 gross motor coordination, reaching and holding,

5.2 fine motor coordination, holding and using tools, pincer grasp

Skeleton Bones Puzzle

Halloween Party Skeleton Match Game

The children could lay out the skeleton bones by matching their numbers to the ones on the map. With this activity they had the opportunity to learn the following skills:

1.6 co-operating

2.5 regulating attention

5.1 gross motor coordination, reaching and holding

4.15 representing numbers

4.22 using spatial relations, maps

Click here to view or download your copy of the Early Learning for Every Child Today (ELECT) document and plan out your play-based activities!

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