Category Archives: early education & play

New Picture Book Recommendations For April

I’m grateful to have the chance to preview upcoming picture book titles in digital format via Netgalley. There are a lot of great titles coming out this Spring and Summer. These are my recommendations for April. All links are Amazon affiliate links, meaning that if you purchase the book using this link I will receive a small financial incentive.

Blossom and Bud by Frank J Sileo

Blossom and Bud, live in a flower shop amongst the most beautiful flowers but they feel that they are not beautiful enough. The flower shop owner has the perfect job for them and they quickly learn that however they look, there is a special place for everyone. I was prepared for this book to be a little preachy but it isn’t at all. It is a simple beautifully illustrated story which shows the value in us all, without laying it on too thick. The brevity of the words and illustrations showing parings of people who are different from one another, but bring each other joy, complement each other perfectly. There are also useful tips in the back of the book for helping support children in learning about and valuing their body image.

Amazon US link

Amazon UK link

Arthur and the Forgetful Elephant by Maria Giron

Arthur meets an elephant, but the elephant is sad because he cannot remember anything. Playing together, Arthur helps the elephant to find happiness again and eventually to remember his family and be reunited. This is a sweet story about the bond between young and old and would be a good story to share with a young child who has a grandparent with memory loss. Beautifully illustrated, it shares the themes of love, joy, friendship and family.

Amazon US link

Amazon UK link

My Dad by Susan Quinn

In My Dad, a boy tells all the great things about his dad. He isn’t a super hero or a busy run around dad but he bakes, gardens and joins his son in lots of fun activities. The simple text and captivating illustrations show the loving, relationship between father and son. This one would make a special gift for a new dad or for Father’s day.

Amazon US link

Amazon UK link

The Grumpy Fairies by Bethan Stevens

I didn’t expect to like this one but it is a lot of fun and I think young children will really identify with the grumpy fairies. The fairies are grumpy because they keep getting asked to do chores, the moan and stomp around in a way that parents and young children will recognize. They are so busy being grumpy that they forget to heed the message of the woodland animals to look out for the troll. This repetitive part of the book will work great as a read aloud as the children call out the warning each time. When the troll arrives looking for a grumpy fairy snack, they soon change their mood – for now at least. I think this one would be a firm favourite with my preschoolers. As an added bonus for UK readers, the paperback is currently available for under five pounds.

Amazon US link

Amazon UK link

Enjoy the recommendations. I’m looking forward to sharing some great new titles for May.

Preschool Songs About Trees

There are a number of preschool songs about trees, but what are they teaching about trees?

I love to use song to reinforce learning concepts. Songs make learning fun and meaningful. The songs below were adapted from traditional children’s songs to teach early learning concepts and information about trees for young children.

  1. I’m and Old Oak Tree – an action song to teach the parts of the tree, to the familiar tune of I’m a little teapot. This song has been used in my class to support imitation and naming basic parts of a tree.

2. I Have a Little Nut Tree – sung to the tune of the nursery rhyme – I have a little nut tree, this song features a squirrel who comes to a tree to find nuts. Finding none, the squirrel is sad. Nuts are added to the tree and counted one at a time. This song was used in my classroom to talk about things that grow on trees, naming nuts that grow on trees and to practice counting up to 10. I would choose a child to tell me how many nuts to put on the tree and we would count them together.

3. Walking Through the Forest – An version of the preschool song Walking Through the Jungle. In this song I use a tree with small soft animals peeking through the holes. As we go through the forest we look at the different parts of the tree, and try to identify the animals that live there. This song was used in my class to learn about animals that live in and on trees. In a regular, non-Covid classroom I would hide the animals in the tree with only a small part peeking out and have the children put there hand in the hole to see which animal they find.

4. Way Up High in the Apple Tree – this song is a counting down song. Using the tree prop, after each verse we shake the tree until an apple falls down and then count how many apples are left. At the end of the song the apples are revealed in my tummy and we count them together. It can also be used for early phonics and for children working on speech sounds. One line of the song is about eating the apple, I emphasise the mmmmmmm sound and show them how to imitate the sound.

5. 5 Little Leaves – This is another counting down song. As the wind blows the children join you by blowing the tree to make a leaf fall to the ground. You could use different kinds of leaves and identify which tree they came from.

6. Tree Seasons Song – this song is sung to the tune of the wheels on the bus and teaches about what happens to the trees in different seasons.

7. The Green Grass Grows – the green grass grows is a song about the parts of the tree and the sequence in which it grows. I used it to teach positional language and sequencing. The audio for this one has been added to a powerpoint showing the sequence of the tree growing and visuals for the positional words.

It will be OK – A Picture book about Anxiety and Empathy

During the Pandemic – we are finding more and more that our children are anxious and worried. I feel is is very important that young children know that this is a normal response to these uncertain times, we can help them but also it is okay to be anxious.

Finding a book with this message, that suitable for the preschool children I teach is a challenge. There are plenty of books about worry, some are a little wordy, others have slightly scary characters and many by the end show a character who is no longer worried.

For the times we are in ‘ It Will be Okay’ ticked all the boxes for what I was looking for. I will, without a doubt, be adding this book to my social/emotional collection in my preschool classroom.

The story follows Giraffe, who can’t go out with his friend because he is worried about a spider. He knows his fear is irrational, but hides in the tree regardless and can’t bring himself to come down. His friend Zebra, listens to his fears and waits until giraffe is ready to come down. Zebra tells Giraffe that his fear ‘isn’t silly if it bothered him’ (my favourite line from the book), he shows empathy and understanding and shares a message that friends can help us with our fears, but most importantly it is okay to be worried by things. I love the resolution of the story. Instead of ‘curing’ Giraffes fear, it shows the comfort of an understanding friend and the message that being afraid is perfectly normal. Bravo for this modern take on worry, anxiety and friendship!

This is an affiliate link – I will receive a small financial incentive if you purchase this book using the link.

Amazon UK Link

Amazon US link

Problem solving in Preschool Using Songs and Puppets

Problem solving in preschool is particularly challenging to teach in the virtual classroom. I have been using puppets and songs, to help teach problem solving concepts. The videos are recorded for my class, so they can watch multiple times. The children love the puppets and find these songs especially engaging. Though it doesn’t replicate being able to practice problem solving skills in the classroom, it is a tool to help support social and emotional learning in a non- traditional classroom.

This is an adapted version of the song ‘Oh dear what can the Matter Be?’ In it the puppets are sad and talk about their problem, and then we try to come up with solutions.

We have also talked in class about problem solving, using the puppets as a model. I have taught about taking deep breaths and finding a quiet space as a way to calm down. Sometimes, children in our class encounter problems, even in the virtual environment. If we see a child is upset or frustrated we often notice saying, ‘I see ….. is sad, if you have a problem you can tell us’. In some ways, I feel in the virtual environment, we need to be even more intentional about teaching these things than we would in person.

Almost a Year of Teaching Virtual Preschool -What have I learned?

We all know that online teaching is not the ideal environment for preschool children. I’ve been doing it since March , it isn’t easy but some things have been surprisingly successful.

For context, I teach in a preschool inclusion classroom, my students have a variety of needs, 50% or more have iep’s and many do not have English as a first language. My live teaching consists of a 30 minute circle time and some small groups, the remainder is provided asynchronously. My preschool sessions are 2.5 hours, I have an am and a pm class.

Live instruction

My goal for organizing live instruction is 3- fold

  1. To follow a predictable sequence
  2. To be engaging
  3. For there to be an opportunity to build relationships with teachers and peers.

Starting the Session

I start the meeting with a transition song that we sing everyday when walking into the classroom. I wanted to keep this as a signal that school had started and to introduce the transition song to the children in case we ever return to in person school.

I start the circle by referring to our visual schedule. This follows a familiar format

Songs

Movement

Sharing time

A demonstration of the project of the day

Good bye song

Songs

Our opening song is the song we use at the beginning of the circle when we are in person. It is both a signal to come to circle and to be ready. The song is sung to the tune of ‘If you’re happy and you know it ‘ but the words are changed to if you’re ready for the circle. We have 3 verses – clap your hands, nod your head and eyes on me. I play this on the ukulele and this helps maintain attention – most of the children look eagerly at the screen when they hear the ukulele.

This is followed by a song relating to our theme. I try to keep the songs as interactive as possible by using visuals, calling on children to contribute ideas for the songs or singing action songs. For example, I used puppets to help me enact nursery rhymes such as hickory, dickory dock and little miss muffet, we sang pat-a- cake and wrote the first letter of a child’s name on the cake and I used pictures and visuals for prepositions when we sang the green grass grows.

I have recently added some OT finger exercises that I adapted to a rhyme into this part of the circle.

Below is an example of one of my song videos. You can also see in this video, how I have my space set up. I sit on a cushion on the floor as this mirrors how I would sit at school and have an easel and basket of visuals behind me that I can use when I need to.

Movement

To get ready for our movement activity we practice our deep breathing by smelling the flower (breathe in ) and blowing the candle (breathe out)

For movement/dance we use a familiar song from You Tube. Sharing the video on the screen does not work so well, so we play the video on a phone and demonstrate the actions ourselves.

Before sharing time, we may introduce a concept relating to our theme by sharing some pictures, objects or part of a book.

Sharing

Every day we do some kind of sharing/show and tell. This was built in to the session to allow children to feel like they are being listened to and to give them a chance to interact with peers. Sometimes children say they do not want to share but mostly they love it! We think of something that relates to our theme, season, or maybe book we have been reading and Mondays are always an opportunity to share anything they would like. Examples of sharing have been – a family photo, something beginning with a certain letter, something cold, a thing of a certain color and something that came from a tree. We hold up a name card of the child whose turn it is to share and they have learned that at this time they unmute their microphone.

Demonstrating a project

We demonstrate our daily activity for parents and children to see what they need to do and to talk about ideas for alternative materials or modified ways of doing the activity. We also do this as part of our circle during in person learning, before we move to small groups.

Goodbye song

One teacher leads the goodbye song and the children wave and sing whilst muted. All singing is done this way to avoid lag. Children participate well, even when they are muted we have found. The children can then unmute and say goodbye to teachers and friends if they wish. We always try to say goodbye personally to anyone who unmutes.

How I Set up my Activities for Asynchronous Learning

The platform my district uses is Classroom Teams. Within this we can set up individual channels; this has been organized to mirror our in person day. Each channel has a different set of information, for different parts of the school day. Parents can pick and choose what they want their children to experience. The channels are laid out as follows.

Information for families

This is for newsletters, weekly timetables and articles and resources relating to early learning.

Meetings

Here we post a link to our daily live meetings and any specific announcements relating to our meetings.

Question of the Day

Each day at school ,we would have a question for the children to answer – we continue this on our teams site and provide visuals to help children answer the question. The questions are presented as a poll or form with 2 or 3 possible answers.

Daily Activities

Each day we provide a table top activity, with instructions modelled in our live session. Visual instructions are included. Some materials are readily found at home, some are to be printed (but we usually give an alternative if a printer isn’t available) and some are provided in packets to be collected at school. These are short activities such as sequencing, craft activities, counting, sorting , scavenger hunts etc.

Playtime

Our playtime/free-choice is the biggest part of our usual preschool day, where the majority of our learning occurs. I cannot replicate that in a virtual setting, but what I am able to do, is offer suggestions for things to do at home and explain to parents why these things are important. I feel like this has given our parents a greater understanding of what we do at preschool and why. Examples of focus plays have been dramatic play, related to our theme, different kinds of sensory play, counting (with an explanation of the stages of learning to count with 1-1 correspondence and how that can be supported in play) and focusing on particular types of toys. Our focus playtime is for a full week.

Outdoors

This usually consists of a gross motor activity and a nature/environment activity – examples have included scavenger hunts, looking for items during walks and things we can do with sticks (including how to use them safely).

Stories and Books

We pre-record our stories and books so that our meetings are more interactive and the children can re-visit them as many times as they like. Sometimes we do a few pages of a non-fiction book during our meeting.

Songs and rhymes

I record all of our songs and rhymes so that children can re-visit them. Often these songs are a focus activity for children with iep’s, to develop imitation and making requests, so it is important for the parents to have ready access to them. Sometimes I also record the audio without video. We also post a link to our movement song.

Social/emotional

This is the biggest challenge to teach remotely. I incorporate social skills during our meetings by using puppets to teach, problem solving, sharing , being kind etc. On the channel I provide resources to support that, by choosing a focus every few weeks. Focus points so far have been cues for transitions ( I made a video explaining the auditory and visual cues we use at preschool), problem solving, Tucker the turtle, waiting, imitiation and being kind ( for this I provided checklists and the children could earn badges for being kind). Sometimes I record a book with a social/emotional theme and explain what the book is teaching and how to follow up at home.

For children with social/emotional goals, I host a weekly small group session, in this we have discussions based on a book, photograph or puppet script.

Picture Wall

This is an optional space for students to post pictures of their work or things they have been playing at home. We always make a specific comment of praise for any child that posts.

There are additional small groups and parent – teacher consultations for our students with iep’s. For those that I do not lead such as speech, I use this time to observe and take data.

It isn’t perfect but I feel like there are many positives:-

  • The children are very engaged and enthusiastic about coming to online preschool
  • Parents are able to see what we do at preschool and we are able to explain why we do things
  • Through our discussions with parents, we are able to work on skills that may be helpful in the home environment
  • Children are learning new skills with technology

I have learned that young children can learn in a virtual environment and I would never have believed that before. Some things are hard to learn and the children are missing out on many early social experiences but in face of this challenge I have had my eyes opened to new possibilities.

101 Ideas for Dramatic Play

As this unprecedented school year draws to a close, I created this resource to keep my class inspired to have fun playing over the Summer. I hope you can find some inspiration for your dramatic play adventures.

  • 1 . Bakery – you could make salt dough cakes and cookies, use playdough or make a mud bakery outside.  Accessories could include aprons, baking trays, mixing bowls, order forms, boxes to pack the goods in.
  • 2. Restaurant – Choose any kind of restaurant to reflect your culture or introduce new ideas. My kids favorite thing to do when playing restaurants was to be a food critic.  They would have a clipboard and rate each part of the meal.
  • 3. Home – the simplest of all dramatic play as they take on the roles of the things they see in your home.
The home corner is organised so everything has its place. The plates and cups are stored in colour groups and the pans in size order. The environment is organised, inviting and promotes interaction
  • 4. Laundry – you could make a washer from a box, add laundry baskets, wash clothes by hand and hang them out to dry. Also include sorting and pairing.
  • 5. Clothes shop – the children could choose which kinds if clothes they want to sell. Make tags for the clothes, the children could read how much they cost.
  • 6. Building site – indoors with blocks or outdoors with sand and mad, you could add vehicles if you have wheelbarrows, cars, carts or wagons
  • 7. Vet – with soft animals and a doctors set.
  • 8. Hospital – you could add bandages (crepe paper rolls also work), add a receptionist to book appointments over the phone.
  • 9. Hair salon – create fancy styles on dolls or make a cardboard head with paper hair that you can cut.
  • 10. Post office – collect envelopes, stamps, boxes for wrapping, cards – practice writing letters, post them in a mailbox, weigh parcels, which is heaviest, send the mailman to deliver the letters.
  • 11. Market stall – choose any kind of market stall, fruit, vegetables, crafts.
  • 12. Flower shop – provide fake flowers, ribbon , pots to put flowers in – someone can take orders while another delivers.
Delivery for you

 

  • 13. Workshop – this could be a workshop of your choice, wood with small tools or appliance with small appliances to take apart
  • 14. Café/coffee shop – similar to the restaurant but with a stronger focus on drinks.

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  • 15. Book shop – the children could also make books for the shop.
  • 16. Camping – build a tent with sheets, make a pretend campfire and pretend to roast marshmallows on a stick.
  • 17. Train – use a cardboard box or chairs to make the carriages.
  • 18. Airplane – as with the train, add a flight attendant to serve.
  • 19. School bus – as with the train.
  • 20. Vacation – pack your suitcase, get your tickets and head off on a vacation of your choice.
  • 21. Pirate ship – you could build a ship with a box or just pretend.  Make a treasure map and search for buried treasure.       
  • 22. Castle – this could be a castle for kings and queens or for knights defending themselves from attack.
  • 23. Explorer ship – Explore the ocean waves with a telescope, compass and map – what will you find?
  • 24. Garden centre – buy seeds and plants, what will you grow?
  • 25. Eye doctor – make a chart to get your eyes tested.  Try on different kind of glasses. You could make some of your own.
  • 26. Looking after baby – babies need lots of looking after – diaper change, feeding, putting to bed, dressing them, cuddling them and singing them songs.
  • 27. School – what will you have in your school? What kind of work will you do? Maybe you could have a pe class, recess, lunch and circle time.
  • 28. Time machine – this was my all time favorite at nursery. During millennium year we build a time machine in our wooden hollow cube. Each day we travelled to a different decade – our adventures included a Victorian schoolroom, a 70’s disco and a street party for the Queen’s coronation.
  • 29. Space ship – take a journey to space – what will it look like in space? What will you need for your journey?
  • 30. Pizza takeaway – make toppings for the pizza from felt or paper, you could even make your own pizzas – don’t forget to deliver.
  • 31. Movie theatre – grab some popcorn and watch your favourite movie but first make some tickets and have someone show you to your seat.
  • 32. Theatre – what kind of theatre is your choice, make tickets and a program, make posters . Do you want to be on the stage or watch? Dress up in your favorite costume – you could even paint your face.
  • 33. Puppet show – just like the theatre bit this time with puppets. If your too shy to make up a story, put some music on and have the puppets sing along.

  • 34. Airport – what do you do at the airport? You need to check your luggage, hand your tickets and passport, go through security and maybe shop before you board the plane.
  • 35. Ice cream shop – make ice cream with playdough and cardboard cones.
  • 36. Shoe shop – can you pair the shoes? Put them in boxes to sell.
  • 37. Traffic patrol – use chalk to make a road, include stop signs and zebra crossings. Someone can guide the traffic or give the cars a ticket if they park in the wrong place.
  • 38. Fire fighters – use water guns and pretend to put out fires.
  • 39.. Tea party/birthday party – indoors or outdoors – what will you have at your party?
  • 40. Street party – similar to a birthday party but with more people. Decorate with bunting, play games, eat treats and dance together.
  • 41. Barbecue – make a grill with a box – pretend to cook and share what you have made.
  • 412 Grocery store – collect empty boxes and containers and build a shop. Don’t forget your list.
  • 43. Witches and wizard potions – you can make a real potion outside or pretend and make up spells around the cauldron.

 

  • 44. Acting out a familiar story – choose a favorite fairy tale or book and re-enact the story.
  • 45. Den building – indoors or outdoors
  • 46. Train station – buy your tickets, stop for a snack and check the timetable – perhaps you could make the announcements.
  • 47. Dentist – check your family’s teeth or use a puppet with an opening mouth.
  • 48. Car wash – Use a hose or build a car wash.
  • 49. Gas station – make a pump form a cardboard box or use a hose to refill – don’t forget to pay!
  • 50. Beauty salon – you could beautify dolls or practice painting nails, painting faces or even painting body tattoos.
  • 51. Picnic -grab a blanket and a tea set and have a picnic with your toys.
  • 512 Tourist information – collect some brochures or make some of your own.
  • 53. Pet shop – use stuffed animals – what do you need to buy for them?
  • 54. Farm – play outside, ride a tractor, collect eggs in a basket, milk a cow or ride a horse.
  • 55. Olympics – which are your favorite events – compete with friends and family.
staging an Olympic medal ceremony

 

  • 56. Winter Olympics – you don’t need snow and ice – check the link for ideas.
ski jumping

 

  • 57. Life guard – watch out for your toys swimming in the lake – did you have to save anyone?
  • 58. Music shop/band – grab your instruments and make a music shop or use them to make a band. Will you have a marching band, an orchestra or a rock band? You could also make your own instruments with materials around the house.
  • 59. Detectives/spies – can you solve a mystery, use a magnifier and look for clues, maybe someone could make you clues or a code to crack.
  • 60.. Weddings – dress up for a wedding – what does a wedding in your culture look like? What will you need to celebrate?
  • 61. Cultural events – choose your own cultural event.
  • 62. Parade/carnival – decorate your bike or other wheeled toys to create a carnival or dress in a fancy costume.
  • 63. Doctor surgery – You’ll need a patient a doctor and a receptionist to take the appointments.
  • 64. Superheroes – play at being your favorite super hero.  Do they have something special you could make?
  • 65. House painting and decorating – grab a bucket of water and pretend to decorate the walls of your house.
outdoor play
I’m Painting the wall
  • 66. Seamstress/tailor – you could learn to make some simple stitches or pretend to make some clothes. Don’t forget to measure your customer.
  • 67. Car mechanic – fix your toy cars with tools, you could use old tires and change a wheel.
  • 68. Office – print out a computer keyboard and put it on your desk, answer the phone, make notes and sort through your papers.
  • 69. Library – similar to the bookshop but this time you check out books instead of paying.
  • 70. Photography Studio – use a real camera or toy one
  • 71. Car park  – mark out parking spaces, do you need a barrier, have a parking attendant collect money and hand out tickets.
  • 72. Recycling centre – sort recycled materials into bins and containers – you could use some of the materials to make things.
  • 73. Pet grooming salon – wash, brush and comb your toy animals.
  • 74. Beach – put on your goggles and water wings and go for a swim, lay or towel and sit in the sun – don’t forget sunscreen.
  • 75. Realter/estate agent – show people around your house, fill out paperwork and answer the phone.
  • 76. Costume shop –  choose your favourite costumes, help customers find the pieces they need – you could make costumes too.
  • 77. Ball or disco – dress up and go to Cinderellas ball or dance at a disco , all you need is some music.
  • 78. Shoe repair shop – use a small hammer and fix your shoes. You could play the elves and the shoemaker.
  • 79. House move – use a wagon and load up like a removal truck – you could build 2 dens and move between them.

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  • 80. Gardener – grab your tools, pretend to cut grass, plant flowers,water and prune.

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  • 81. Hotel – check in at the desk, show people to their room and provide room service.
  • 82. Museum – what kind of things could be in your museum? Do you need signs?
  • 83. . Zoo – you could be a zoo animal or use your soft toys. Do you want to be a visitor or a zookeeper.
  • 84. . Toy shop – set up a shop with your favorite toys.  Make price tags. What will you use for money?
  • 85. . Circus – try your best gymnastics, be a clown and make everyone laugh or lead the ring.
  • 86.. Wimbledon – if you are a tennis fan, make a net and hit the ball over, you can be a spectator and eat strawberries and cream.
  • 87. Fishing boat – make a boat and a fishing rod and see what you can catch
  • 88. Face and body painting – use face paints and try out different designs.
  • 89. The 3 bears cottage – you will need a big, small and medium bowl for the porridge.  Will you be goldilocks or a bear?
  • 90. House cleaning – a spray bottle with water, a cloth, small broom or duster and you can clean the house.
  • 91. Fish and chip shop – make cardboard fish and paper chips and serve then wrapped in paper.  Don’t forget to offer salt and vinegar.
  • 92. jack’s beanstalk and giant’s castle – if you are the giant make everything around you small (small bricks to build a town, toy cars etc) if you are Jack pretend everything you have is huge – a ball could be a pea, bucket a cup etc.
  • 93. Lemonade stand – pour a jug of water, make a sign and take money. How much will your lemonade cost?
  • 94. Art gallery – Make some beautiful art and hang it for all to admire, make signs to explain your art.
  • 95. Driving school – make a cardboard box car and pretend you are learning to drive.
loose parts
Making cars from cardboard boxes
  • 95. Explorers – you need a compass, a map, a backpack and go on an expedition.
  • 96. Orchard – You could make a paper tree and add ballons or paper balls for apples. How many will you pick? Maybe you could make something with real apples.
  • 97. Pumpkin patch – make paper pumpkins or make some from paper mache.  Orange balloons would work too.
  • 98. Ice rink –  pretend to go skating on the ice, keep your balance.
  • 99. Act out your favorite movie or tv program – use any of your choice.
  • 100. Fashion show – make your own clothes from sheets of material or recycled materials.
  • 101..Ask the children – they always come up with ideas we couldn’t even imagine.

Additional ideas and images can be found on my Pinterest Dramatic Play Board.

Inclusion in the Preschool Classroom


What is an inclusive preschool?

An inclusive preschool educates children with disabilities in the same environment as typically developing peers, so all children can participate in the same activities and routines.

An inclusive preschool ensures an accessible learning environment, offering multiple ways to access materials, engage with materials and to express themselves. An environment where learning is individualised and adapted to meet the needs of all students, so they can seamlessly become a participant of the group.

In preschool, this is founded in play. Play is in its essence supportive of inclusion. Play’s open-ended nature, encourages, choice, naturally caters to different learning styles and supports teachable moments as they occur.  Inclusion is an attitude, a set of values rather than a set of practicalities.  

In this room the children engage in sensory play. They work together on a painting, mixing colours. The children have choice as to which materials they add to the sand or water and all the boxes are at child height. Aprons are provided and the children independently take them and put them on. The dustpan and brush is at child height. The children are encouraged to clean up as they go.

Why should preschool classrooms support inclusion?

Social and emotional learning

  •  No studies comparing the social impact of segregation and inclusive settings have shown segregation to be superior.
  • Social and emotional learning is at the heart of preschool and is a core component of the Early Years Foundation Stage in England, at the heart of the Australian Early Years curriculum and many others around the World.
  •  Inclusive preschools give more opportunities for children with disabilities to build friendships. Through these friendships, engagement is maximized, the friends look out for their interests, are encouraging and help them explore and learn new things.
  • Building friendships in the early years has shown benefits for later life in academic achievement, independent living, and adult mental health

… The single best childhood predictor of adult adaptation is not school grades, and not classroom behavior, but rather, the adequacy with which the child gets along with other children. Children who are generally disliked, who are aggressive and disruptive, who are unable to sustain close relationships with other children, and who cannot establish a place for themselves in the peer culture are seriously at risk.’ (Hartup, 1992,)

The teacher uses visual hand signals to guide the children in this musical activity. The children also have an opportunity to learn from their peers.
  • Inclusion gives children a sense of belonging and shows that they are valued for their abilities and potential
  • Inclusion encourages acceptance and support from typically developing peers that are the foundations of an inclusive society. Studies indicate inclusive settings provide typically developing children with opportunities to learn skills, values, and attitudes related to human differences (Farrell, 2000), including learning how to be friends with people who are different from themselves ( Rafferty et al., 2001) and to assist classmates who may be experiencing difficulty (Burnstein et al., 2004)
  • Typically developing children are also likely to show increases in self-esteem, confidence, autonomy and leadership skills (Fuchs, Fuchs, & Burish, 2000).

Language, communication and learning

  •  Rafferty, Piscitelliand Boetthcher (2003) found improved language in children with severedisabilities in inclusive settings and no difference between settings inchildren with less severe disabilities
  • In an inclusive preschool, children with disabilities have a more varied and stimulating experience, opportunities to interact and observe typically developing peers; they get encouragement from other children and learn directly from others.
children of different abilities work on an art project. The teacher helps the child to understand the directions and holds the paper to help him cut.
  • Typically developing children make similar developmental gains in regular and inclusive preschools (Odom, DeKlyen, & Jenkins, 1984, Strain & Bovey, 2011)
  • Some typically developing children spontaneouslycommunicate by alternative means in order to be able to communicate with theirpeers with disabilities.

Why inclusion is particularly well-suited to the preschool classroom

  • Inclusion is particularly suited to the preschool classroom because of the flexibility of the curriculum and ability to respond to a range of learning styles through play.
  • In early education, observation and assessment is an integral part of the learning cycle. Teachers are used to observing children in their play, and using their observations to enhance the learning and create next steps.  Teachers are also used to working in teams who reflect together on the learning to create a purposeful, engaging environment.

Below are some examples of planning and assessmentmaterials I have used. These could also be developed with individual children’sIEP goals to focus observations and assessments. Ask yourselves – am I doingit? Does it work? How could I change it? How can I encourage interests to bemore complex or appear in different contexts?

 At preschool there are multiple opportunities to embed learning throughout the day. IEP goals can be worked on in the natural setting ,for example, communication goals can be worked on during play and during routines such as snack. Think about how your daily routines can provide opportunities to practice goals.

What does an inclusive preschool look like?

  • A preschool learning environment considers the indoor environment, the outdoor play provision and the emotional environment.

The indoor environment

A space for quiet. The child has a book of photographs of things that are meaningful to him. These are used to initiate conversations.
  • In the indoor environment you will see a range of materials and activities to ensure independence for the lowest functioning and challenge for the highest functioning. This will often involve open ended materials such as clay, paint, blocks or pretend play.
  • Materials will be accessible and children will know where to go to obtain and return them. This can include placing toys on child height shelves labelled with a pictures and words, storing toys in clear boxes without lids and having clearly designated areas for different activities.
The home corner is organised so everything has its place. The plates and cups are stored in colour groups and the pans in size order. The environment is organised, inviting and promotes interaction
  • If necessary modify toys so they are accessible to all. These resources from Youngstar give useful examples of how to modify toys for different needs.

Adapting Toys

Adapting Toys and Play Materials

The Outdoor Environment

  • There should be opportunities for all children to engage in the outdoor environment. Outdoor play should include opportunities for physical activity, sensory play and peace and relaxation.
  • Play Scotland have some excellent resources on inclusive outdoor play with a number of links to other useful resources with activities and tools to evaluate your provision

The Emotional Environment

  • The learning environment should support participation,be nurturing and promote friendship and respect
  • The environment should be structured  to support interaction and accomplish goals
  • There should be collaboration with other professionals
  • Activities should build on children’s interests andextend learning
  • Teachers should demonstrate flexible thinking
  • Routines should be predictable. This includes aregular timetable for the day but also predictable routines withinroutines  for example, keeping  the same routine for circle time and withinthat there might be a predictable routine for calendar
  • It should be inclusive all day long. All teachersshould interact and share interactions and teaching of all students, sharingexpertise and providing instructional generalization. IEP’s are addressed everyday and all day long
  • Teachers should be reflective and work together todiscuss strategies to support the learning of individuals and the group,frequently monitoring outcomes and implementing them into the programme.Collect data on how practice is delivered and the effects and meet regularly asa team to review and plan. Always be flexible and ready to change.
boxes are at child height, are clearly labelled and are open so the children can see what is inside. The adults support the children in making choices, finding resources and how to use them.
  • There should be a strong partnership with parents, building on the belief of the parent as the child’s first educator.

Other useful resources

Inclusion Development Programme Resources.  Guidance for teachers in supporting children with EBD, Autism and speech language and communication needs in the Early Years Foundation Stage.

Assistive Technology for Young Children –http://ectacenter.org/topics/atech/atech.asp

This resource has lots of really useful links on topics inclusion in the early years https://dcf.wisconsin.gov/youngstar/eci/bestpractices

Preschool inclusion for children on the autistic spectrum https://www.rchsd.org/documents/2017/04/alexas-playc-preschool-inclusion-toolkit.pdf/

A short article on inclusive early education and care http://edu.gov.on.ca/childcare/Underwood.pdf

Had Enough of Snow? These Peanuts Snow Sculptures will Make you Smile.

After almost a week of snow in the Seattle area, many have had enough of snow and can’t wait to get back to normality. Personally, snow makes me smile. I love having my kids home and playing in the snow, because we can try out some really cool projects. As Peanuts fans, on our first snow day this week, we built a snow sculpture of Snoopy lying on his kennel.

snoopy snow sculpture

We used a brick mould to build the structure of the kennel and smoothed the sides to make the sloping roof. Then, sculpted snoopy lying down on top.

snoopy snow sculpture

His nose and ears were painted with watercolour block paint and we painted his name on the entrance to the kennel.

snow sculpture snoopy on kennel

Each day we have added a new Peanuts character.

Day 2 – Charlie Brown and Woodstock

The following night we had a lot of snowfall, so in the morning it was as if a Snoopy cartoon had come to life.

Thankfully the snow was soft and powdery so brushed off with little damage, other than some paint smudging and a slightly less defined Woodstock.

Day 3 – Lucy

lucy van pelt snow sculpture

Day 4 – Linus

This is my personal favourite. There had been some thawing overnight so there were a lot of pine needles in the snow; perfect for Linus’ hair.

Linus Van Pelt snow sculpture

For as long as the snow remains, we’re going to add a different character each day. I’ll be updating this post and my Instagram and Facebook page with pictures of the new additions. Who is your favourite Peanuts character?

A Step by Step Guide to Making Ice Ornaments

It isn’t often we get a cold spell long enough to make ice ornaments, but with freezing temperatures set to last, we made a few batches to hang on our bushes. They look really beautiful, but also provide lots of opportunity to learn about ice, freezing and melting. A few years ago we made some and shared our learning story, as we watched them melt and freeze.

How to Make an Ice Ornament

You will need

  • Baking trays
  • Ribbon or string
  • Food colouring (optional)

Step 1.

valentine ice ornaments

Choose a baking /cup cake tray and fill each hole with cold water.

Step 2

Add a drop of food colouring – mix or leave to mix itself which can leave a marbled effect.

Step 3

ice ornaments

Snip pieces of ribbon or string and submerge one end in the water, making sure the other end is free. You could loop the string but I prefer to leave it as it makes it easier to tie to larger branches. I usually do this part outside to avoid spilling when you move them to freeze.

Step 4

Leave outside overnight to freeze (or put the tray in your freezer).

Step 5

ice ornaments

Hang on a bush or tree. If there is snow on the ground the food colouring will drip onto the snow as they melt. If there are prolonged freezing temperatures the ornaments will melt slightly and form icicles as they re-freeze.

I wasn’t sure how easily the hearts come out of the tins but they came out without any trouble. If they need a little help, bring them inside for a few minutes or run some warm water on the base of the tin. Alternatively, you could use a silicone mould.

The second batch also included owls and bears. We made half of the owls clear, to see how they would look without colour, but kept the colour in the bears, because my daughter thought they would look like gummy bears.

Picture Books to Add to Your Valentine’s Day Collection.

Do you share Valentine themed books with your class or kids at home? Some of the old favourites like Guess how much I Love You are great, but it’s always good to refresh your collection with new titles.

Have I Ever Told You by Shani Kin would make a perfect Valentine’s gift for a younger child. My children read it and said ‘ this is really lovely’. The book is full of the important messages a parent should share with their child;  messages of love, acceptance, tolerance and joy. I can imagine snuggling with my girls, reading the book together and talking about the messages within. Each message end with the phrase, ‘Have I ever told you that?’. Some of the messages are recognizable as things we say to our children, and some may be things we ought to say, but sometimes forget.

book for valentines day

The illustrations by Anna Horvath, are built around hands; multiracial hands, hands doing things, holding things and helping each other. Intertwined with the hands are objects and thoughts to represent each thing the parent tells their child. There is something strikingly beautiful about this; love expressed through hands as they create, bond, help, heal and touch. Holding and touching hands is perhaps the most sincere and secure expression of love there is.

If Have I Ever Told You were read in a classroom, it could inspire a Valentine themed writing project. The children could choose someone they love – a parent, sibling, friend or grandparent, and write something they want to tell them, ending with, ‘have I ever told you that?’ You could scribe for pre-writers and they could draw a picture or write it inside a hand print. Advanced writers could make a small book following the theme. Asking the children why they think hands were used in the illustrations, would also spark an interesting discussion.

Have I ever Told You would make a perfect Valentine’s gift.

Love Big by Kat Kronenberg follows a different theme, one of kindness and community.  In Love Big, Baboon watches the other animals being mean to one another and teaches them that through smiles, kindness, sharing and listening, we can build a happy community. 

I liked the message of the book and think it would be a good starting point for talking about classroom community.  I feel like it would be more effective if it were simplified, as in places it was a little wordy, especially in the parts where Baboon shares his message, which seem a little complex for small children. The book has a nice structure as it moves through a scenario where the animals behave in an unfriendly way and then are taught that they can be happier if they behave differently.  I personally disliked the repetitive Whoosh! Wham! In a flash of light before the phrases ‘We can be kind’, ‘We can share’, ‘We can listen’ and ‘We can care’  as they felt unnecessary and showy, but that is simply a personal preference. In some places, it felt like it was trying to do too much, for example it includes a song to the tune of twinkle, twinkle little star which felt a little out of place to me.

The illustrations by David Miles are bright, bold and cheerful. As the animals learn their lessons, the illustrations are placed in small vignettes and this makes a nice contrast with the bright, full page illustrations in the other parts of the book.

In the back of the book there are ideas for classroom activities to explore the books themes further and additional activities, fact sheets and videos can be found on Katkronenberg.com.

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