June 2018 Newsletter – Sensory Experiences: Director’s Corner

Because sensory activities are beneficial to all areas of children’s development, members of leadership have the important role of ensuring that sensory opportunities are made available to children throughout the day.  Take a moment to reflect on your current program practices.

  • Are children given the opportunity to explore with all of their senses throughout the day?
  • What materials are available for sensory exploration?
  • How often are these materials made available to children?
  • What are the signs that the staff values sensory exploration?
  • Are the signs that teachers are limiting sensory exploration?

There are a few reasons why programs may see a lack of sensory play experiences:

It’s messy – This can be a concern for teachers as well as parents.  Of course, we don’t want to send children home in ruined clothing.  We will need to communicate with parents the benefits of sensory play, encourage them to dress children in play clothes, and work to use smocks and other protective gear during sensory activities.

Sometimes teachers avoid sensory play because it can be a lot to clean up.  Work with teachers to figure out ways to involve children in the clean-up process.  Remind teachers of the benefits of sensory play and determine a few easy-to-incorporate sensory ideas that they can commit to implementing.  Then, each month, or thematic unit, add another type of sensory experience.

It’s not viewed as academic – We have given a number of sensory play ideas that are academic in nature (sorting and classifying or writing activities).  It may be necessary to remind teachers of the early learning standards in your state and how sensory activities can be used to introduce and reinforce many of these skills.

Incorporate a sensory activity into your next staff meeting.  Give employees 10 minutes to explore sensory materials. Once they have finished, pass out a list of skills from across the domains of learning.  Ask teachers to check off each skill that they practiced in their play.  Ask them if there were skills that they could have practiced with more time, encouragement, or the right tools.  Brainstorm a list of prompts or needed materials they can use to extend sensory play with the children in their classrooms.

Sometimes, teachers report feeling pressure from families to forgo play-based sensory activities in favor of more academic school-readiness options.  To address this concern, we need to do a better job sharing with families the many ways that sensory experiences can be used to introduce, practice, and refine school-readiness skills.

It’s expensive – Whenever possible, look for opportunities to use recycled materials as sensory items.  You do not need to purchase expensive, name-brand doughs – make your own – which is an excellent math and literacy activity to do with children.  Review the classroom supply orders placed by your staff.  Make sure that a.) they are ordering materials for sensory experiences, and b.) that they are being as efficient and economical as possible.  This will help stretch the supply budget, while still offering children these valuable experiences.

Find more ideas on our Pinterest page here!

 

For the Main Article on Sensory Experiences, CLICK HERE

For Infant & Toddler Sensory Ideas, CLICK HERE

For Preschool Sensory Ideas, CLICK HERE

For School-Age Sensory Ideas, CLICK HERE

June 2018 Newsletter – Sensory Experiences: School-Age Activity Ideas

Here are a few ideas that would be appropriate to add to a school age environment:

  • Cooking activities – Introduce new, heathy ingredients into your recipes to reinforce healthy eating.
  • Science experiments – incorporate weekly science experiments. Conduct the experiments several times during the week.  Encourage children to make alterations to the methods of the experiments, make hypotheses, observe the results, and collect data.
  • Origami – Provide children with paper and instructions for folding origami figures.
  • Knitting, crochet, or sewing – Provide materials for these crafts as children’s fine motor skills improve.
  • Homemade instruments – Provide an opportunity for children to explore the sounds that instruments from around the world make. Encourage children to try to design and create their own versions of those instruments using recycled materials.
  • Emotional painting – Encourage children to match their painting style to their current mood.
  • Gardening – There are many opportunities to use our senses when planting a garden.
  • Texture scavenger hunts – Give children a list of textures and challenge children to find items while on a nature walk.

Find more ideas on our Pinterest page here!

 

For the Main Article on Sensory Experiences, CLICK HERE

For Infant & Toddler Sensory Ideas, CLICK HERE

For Preschool Sensory Ideas, CLICK HERE

For Director’s Corner Sensory Ideas, CLICK HERE

June 2018 Newsletter – Sensory Experiences: Preschool Activity Ideas

Here are a few ideas that would be appropriate to add to a preschool environment:

  • Mystery box – Make from a shoebox or tissue box; place a new item in it each day and ask children to explore with their sense of touch to identify the item.
  • Water wall – Work with children to construct a water wall using bins, funnels, water wheels, and pipes.
  • Mud kitchen – Designate a corner of your playground as a mud kitchen. Collect used kitchen tools and bakeware for children to use.
  • Color mixing – Allow children to explore how colors mix, using water/food coloring or paints.  Younger children can explore color mixing using finger paints or with paint places in zipper baggies.
  • I-Spy bottles – Place small plastic items into recycled plastic bottles along with dry pasta or rice. Challenge children to find specific items, or to find items that start with a particular letter of the alphabet.
  • Nature sculptures – Provide a variety of items from nature and clay. Encourage children to create sculptures and other original works of art.
  • Yarn play – Add yarn and straws of different lengths to the sensory table.
  • Light table – If you are unable to purchase a light table, you can create a similar effect using a clear storage container and a few strands of white lights. Try using strands of multi-colored lights for added interest.
  • Scent jars – Place a small amount of spice or scented material into containers with a piece of fabric secured under the lid. Poke a few holes in the lid before attaching it to the container.  The ideas is for the scent to be able to escape – but not the material.  Encourage children to explore the different scents.
  • Salt or sand writing – Provide children with a tray and an amount of salt or sand that covers the bottom of the tray.  Encourage children to make shapes and letters in the sand or salt.
  • New foods – Explore new foods on a regular basis. Before tasting the foods, encourage children to look at, feel, smell, and listen to the food item.
  • Texture blocks – Add sandpaper, felt, and other textures to the blocks in the construction area to add a sensory opportunity as children build.

Find more ideas on our Pinterest page here!

 

For the Main Article on Sensory Ideas, CLICK HERE

For Infant & Toddler Sensory Ideas, CLICK HERE

For School-Age Sensory Ideas, CLICK HERE

For Director’s Corner Sensory Ideas, CLICK HERE

ChildCare Education Institute Offers No-Cost Online Course on Sensory Learning For All Ages

ChildCare Education Institute® (CCEI), an online child care training provider dedicated exclusively to the early care and education workforce, offers CCEI967: Sensory Learning For All Ages as a no-cost trial course to new CCEI users June 1-30, 2018.

The point of “sensory learning” is not simply to use the senses, since nearly all human activities require the use of at least one or more of the five senses. In the early childhood environment, sensory activities are those that require or encourage children to think deliberately about and discuss what they see, hear, smell, touch, or taste. Sensory activities are primary tools for building vocabulary and encouraging experimentation, exploration, and discovery. In short, basic sensory activities in early childhood can help establish a lifelong love of learning.

Developmentally appropriate sensory and multisensory activities are used to develop skills and knowledge across all developmental domains, including:

  • Promote communication skills and build vocabulary
  • Develop social and emotional skills
  • Improve cognitive skills, including mathematical concepts
  • Encourage a love for learning and exploration
  • Increase knowledge of the physical environment
  • Practice fine motor skills

This course examines sensory experiences in the early childhood classroom and the benefits of these activities for young children. Participants will explore various ways of incorporating sensory learning into everyday activities, enhancing sensory learning centers, and appropriate methods of guidance. Upon successful completion of this course, students should be able to identify ways children benefit from sensory experiences, list ways for guiding developmentally appropriate sensory learning experiences and implement developmentally appropriate ideas and props used for sensory learning experiences.

“Sensory activities are an important part of the curriculum at all age levels, whether you are working with newborn infants, toddlers, preschoolers, or school−age children,” says Maria C. Taylor, President and CEO of CCEI.  “At each age level, sensory activities can help achieve different developmental goals.”

CCEI967: Sensory Learning For All Ages is a one-hour, beginner-level course and grants 0.1 IACET CEU upon successful completion. Current CCEI users with active, unlimited annual subscriptions can register for professional development courses at no additional cost when logged in to their CCEI account. Users without subscriptions can purchase child care training courses as block hours through CCEI online enrollment.

For more information, visit www.cceionline.edu or call 1.800.499.9907, prompt 3, Monday – Friday, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. EST

ChildCare Education Institute, LLC

ChildCare Education Institute®, a division of Excelligence Learning Corporation, provides high-quality, distance education certificates and child care training programs in an array of child care settings, including preschool centers, family child care, prekindergarten classrooms, nanny care, online daycare training and more. Over 150 English and Spanish child care training courses are available online to meet licensing, recognition program, and Head Start Requirements. CCEI also has online certification programs that provide the coursework requirement for national credentials including the CDA, Director and Early Childhood Credentials.  CCEI, a Council for Professional Recognition CDA Gold Standard™ training provider, is nationally accredited by the Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC) and is accredited as an Authorized Provider by the International Association for Continuing Education and Training (IACET).

June 2018 Newsletter – Sensory Experiences: Infant & Toddler Activity Ideas

Here are a few ideas that would be appropriate to add to an infant or toddler environment:

  • Sound board – Place materials that make different sounds onto a mat or board. Encourage children to explore the different sounds that materials make. This is a great way to recycle old pots and pans and can be mounted to a playground fence as well.
  • Gel Bags – Double bag or use tape to seal zipper baggies. Fill the bags with different colored hair gel. You can add sequins, glitter, or other small items to the bags.  Tape to the floor or wall at the children’s level.
  • Scent dough – Add non-toxic essential oils to homemade dough recipes.
  • Sensory bottles – Mix water, oil, and various items into recycled plastic bottles. Superglue the lids in place.  Encourage children to shake, role, and tilt the bottles.
  • Adhesive play – Place a sheet of two-sided adhesive paper on a cabinet or tray. Provide children with a variety of items to stick to/remove from the paper.  The same can be accomplished with Velcro.
  • Texture wall – Place items with a variety of textures to a wall, board, or cabinet. Think of using different fabrics such as felt, velour, burlap, mesh, etc.
  • Explore ice – Add large chunks of ice to the sensory bin on a warm day for some cool fun.
  • Open and close – Recycle diaper wipe lids. Attach them to a tray or board.  Hid stickers or textured items under each lid.  Encourage children to open the lids to see what’s inside.
  • Sound bottles – Place a variety of small items, bells, beans, etc. into recycled plastic bottles to create a few homemade shakers.
  • Sorting bin – provide a bin full of pom-poms, figurines, and other items that do not pose a choking hazard. Encourage children to sort the items by color, size, or shape.

Find more ideas on our Pinterest page here!

As always, be sure to closely supervise young children as they explore sensory materials. They will often explore materials with their mouths in addition to their hands.

 

For the Main Article on Sensory Experiences, CLICK HERE

For Preschool Sensory Ideas, CLICK HERE

For School-Age Sensory Ideas, CLICK HERE

For Director’s Corner Sensory Ideas, CLICK HERE

June 2018 Student Spotlight – Cheyenne Harwell

I’ve always loved kids since the age of 12-years-old.  I had worked and helped my husband with his dream of owning a restaurant for 5 years and decided it was time for me. I worked at the airport but I wasn’t happy there so the position became available at the child care facility where I work at now.   My favorite activity with the children would have to be art. My kids get so excited when they hear that we have an art activity to do. Just to see the excitement on their little faces makes my heart melt.  To be able to see a child’s excitement when they learn something new and to know that I am making difference in their life is what motivates me.

I enjoy the most being around the kids in my care. I come in the morning to a group of 3-year-olds running up to me giving tons of love as if they hadn’t seen me in weeks or years. They need to know that they are loved, wanted, and safe.  In the future, I would love to be able to teach the same age group maybe a little older special needs children. They’ve always had a special place in my heart.  In my free time, I love to facetime with my 4-year-old and 2-year-old granddaughters, spend time with my husband, and my friends. I also like to read and go the beach.  I currently live in Mary Esther, Florida.

I just finished my FCCPC and I plan on pursuing my education further with additional coursework or certifications from CCEI.  I would definitely recommend CCEI to everyone. The best thing that could of happened to me!

Communicating with Families about Children’s Learning

As we head into the summer months, many programs are switching from a school year curriculum to a “camp” curriculum.  Sometimes, this can be interpreted as shifting to a less academic focus.  If you have worked in the field for even a short time, you know that this is a tremendous misinterpretation – children experience rich learning opportunities all throughout the year, even during summer months.

So, why does this misconception exist?   It is possible that families believe this because they have not been properly educated or informed about the learning that goes on during “camp” activities.   If this is the case, then we can easily address it through our communication with families enrolled in the program.  Here are a few things you can do to address the concern:

  1. Become an expert in the early learning standards in your state, developmental milestones, and assessment criteria. Being able to communicate what children are learning begins with being 100% comfortable with the tools and resources that guide our practice. It will allow you to speak confidently when families share concerns, in both scheduled meetings and impromptu conversations.
  2. Include learning objectives or learning standards on lesson plans. This will help you remember to focus on certain skills or activities. It will also communicate to families that you continue to work with intention to prepare children for success in school.
  3. Share a description of several of the learning standards that will be addressed in planned activities each week in a parent letter. Even include a few learning standards that will be practices on the marketing materials used to promote camp activities. Every piece of communication to families should include a focus on academic skills. Doing so will help families understand how play-based, open-ended activities are also academic in nature.
  4. Document learning through photography or videos. Post or share images of children engaged in play-based activities with families.  Include a list of the different skills that children are practicing while engaged in play.
  5. Invite family members to participate in the program. When family members are able to participate have them pick a learning standard or developmental milestone at random and see how many times that skill is evident in the environment and in the activities they observe.
  6. Share activity ideas that families can easily incorporate into their summer vacation plans. You could also send home ideas for play-based learning activities that are easy for families to try at home over the weekend. Include a list of skills or learning standards that would likely be evident during the activities. Include a list of questions or prompts that families can use to extend learning.  Ask families to take pictures of children engages in the activities and share them with you for the children’s portfolios.  You could also create a bulletin board that highlights summer learning at school and at home!

June 2018 Newsletter – Sensory Experiences

If you take a moment to think about the experiences that the children in your care enjoy the most, you would probably notice activities such as sand and water play or playdough at the top of the list.  These open-ended, tactile experiences are quite rewarding and engaging for young children.

Not only are these types of activities a creative outlet, they also benefit children in several other ways.  Here is a list of some of the benefits of sensory play:

  • Strengthens and refines fine motor skills
  • Builds language skills and vocabulary
  • Promotes problem solving and cooperation
  • Strengthens concentration and perseverance
  • Provides an outlet for self-calming
  • Helps children discover attributes of materials
  • Promotes classification, sorting, and organization
  • Provides an opportunity for both social interactions and quiet, solitary play
  • Builds neural connections in the brain
  • Encourages curiosity, observation, and exploration

For these reasons, and many others, it is important that sensory exploration be incorporated into early learning environments in multiple ways. This is a great opportunity to go beyond playdough and the sand table – to introduce novel materials that continue to pique children’s interests.

Keep in mind, children explore the world around them with all of their senses, not just through touch.  Look for ways to incorporate sensory experiences that utilize the senses of taste, hearing, smell, sight, in addition to touch.

Sensory play need not be expensive; many recipes are available for sensory materials online.  Be mindful of any allergies children may have when making your own sensory materials.

Also, be sure to share the importance of sensory exploration with families. Share photos of children engaged in sensory play and be sure to include descriptions of all of the skills children are practicing during their play.  See our June blog for more ideas for communicating learning to families.

Check out the lists below for ideas that may be appropriate for the children in your group.  Many of the ideas shared are appropriate for multiple age groups – so be sure to read through each list for ideas you can use in your environment.

 

For Infant & Toddler Sensory Ideas, CLICK HERE

For Preschool Sensory Ideas, CLICK HERE

For School-Age Sensory Ideas, CLICK HERE

For Director’s Corner Sensory Ideas, CLICK HERE

New Course from ChildCare Education Institute on Reflective Practices in Early Childhood Education

ChildCare Education Institute® (CCEI), an online child care training provider dedicated exclusively to the early care and education workforce, is proud to introduce PROF104: Reflective Practices in Early Childhood Education to the online child care training course catalog.

One of the most important skills required for success in almost any modern career is the ability to think critically. According to the Foundation for Critical Thinking:  “Critical thinking is the intellectually disciplined process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and/or evaluating information gathered from, or generated by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication, as a guide to belief and action.”  This could be simplified to say, the ability to collect and use information in the most effective way, in order to achieve success.

Early childhood professionals work with information all day long. They collect information by observing children’s work and present information to children on a variety of topics. ECE providers gather and share information through conversations with families and learn new information from professional development courses or college classes.  There are ample amounts of information readily accessible; however, the question then becomes, is the information being used in the most effective way in order to achieve success?

This course provides an examination of what it means to reflect on daily teaching practices and why it is an important practice. The course offers several models of reflection and reflective thinking strategies to help ECE professionals establish a reflective practice. Participants will also discover ways to plan for reflection when working with colleagues, children, and families.  Children and families will benefit from participants taking the course due to the improved practices and quality that are the ultimate end result of the course.

“It is important for early childhood educators to model and teach reflection and other critical thinking skills to children,” says Maria C. Taylor, President and CEO of CCEI.  “Our society has changed. Jobs of the future will not look like the jobs of the past, or even like the jobs of today. It is our responsibility to prepare students for the work they will be doing when they enter the workforce.”

PROF104: Reflective Practices in Early Childhood Education is a three-hour, intermediate-level course and grants 0.3 IACET CEU upon successful completion. Current CCEI users with active, unlimited annual subscriptions can register for professional development courses at no additional cost when logged in to their CCEI account. Users without subscriptions can purchase child care training courses as block hours through CCEI online enrollment.

For more information, visit www.cceionline.edu or call 1.800.499.9907, prompt 3, Monday – Friday, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. EST

ChildCare Education Institute, LLC

ChildCare Education Institute® provides high-quality, distance education certificates and child care training programs in an array of child care settings, including preschool centers, family child care, prekindergarten classrooms, nanny care, online daycare training and more. Over 150 English and Spanish child care training courses are available online to meet licensing, recognition program, and Head Start Requirements. CCEI also has online certification programs that provide the coursework requirement for national credentials including the CDA, Director and Early Childhood Credentials.  CCEI, a Council for Professional Recognition CDA Gold Standard™ training provider, is nationally accredited by the Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC), is accredited as an Authorized Provider by the International Association for Continuing Education and Training (IACET), and is authorized under the Nonpublic Postsecondary Educational Institutions Act of 1990, license number 837.

May 2018 Newsletter – Service-Learning & Family Involvement Project Ideas: Director’s Corner

Program-wide service-learning can bring together all of the children and families in the accomplishment of one collective goal.  Here are a few ideas:

  • Hold a food drive for a food bank
  • Organize a clothing or toy drive
  • Donate pet supplies
  • Donate toys and games to shelters
  • Collect sports equipment for community centers
  • Donate used books or magazines to a community health clinic

It is important to be aware of the needs of the families enrolled in your program.  Some may not have the financial ability to purchase items to donate. Service-learning projects organized around winter holidays may add financial stress to some families in your program.

It may be more realistic for families to donate gently used clothing or toys, advertise the project on social media, or volunteer to help organize and drop off the collected items.  When planning your service-learning project, compose a letter to families listing several different options for participation.

The introduction letter can also describe the purpose of the service-learning  project as well as some of the learning outcomes that will be highlighted during the project.   Invite parent feedback about the types of service-learning opportunities the program provides, including the frequency.

Throughout the project, provide families with images of children participating in elements of the project.  Suggest open ended questions that families can use to start conversations with children about what they are learning during the project.

Many additional ideas for involving families in service-learning are available here.

 

CLICK HERE to read the main article about Service-Learning

CLICK HERE for service-learning project ideas for Infant-Toddler

CLICK HERE for service-learning project ideas for Preschool

CLICK HERE for service-learning project ideas for School-Age