January 2020 Newsletter – Exploring Loose Parts: Director’s Corner – Helping Teachers Get Started with Loose Parts

It is important for directors and program administrators to lead the way when it comes to incorporating loose parts. Your guidance, knowledge, and excitement about loose parts will be invaluable to staff members who are new to using these kinds of learning materials.

Use a variety of methods to introduce the concept of loose parts play.  You can share articles, books, videos, or professional development courses, such as the one offered by CCEI (CUR125: Loose Parts: Incorporating Found Objects and Open-Ended Materials into the Classroom).  Once employees have had the chance to review the materials, hold discussions about the benefits that loose parts would bring to the program, as well as the challenges that might arise.

Before collecting any new materials, take some time to guide teachers through a few of the following reflections:

  • Consider your program’s philosophy and mission statement. Work with staff members to align the benefits of loose parts to the overall mission of the program.
  • Work with individual teachers and teaching teams to reflect on how loose parts play relates to the goals teachers are attempting to reach in their learning environments.
  • Ask teachers to evaluate the materials that are currently used in the environment. How many could be considered loose parts? Which materials could be used in conjunction with loose parts? Which areas of the classroom could be enhanced with loose parts?
  • Ask teachers to consider the storage of loose parts. Where will materials be stored when not in use? What needs to happen to make space for the storage of loose parts? For example, do teachers need time to clean out a closet before bringing in new materials?
  • Work with teaching teams to identify a few simple, starter materials that teachers can introduce in to the learning environment. Help teachers decide how the materials will be introduced to children and a few guidelines for the use of the materials – but keep in mind that the use of these materials should be largely child-driven.

As teachers become more comfortable and confident with the implementation of loose parts, challenge them to continue to think outside of the box about the materials they use in the classroom.

You can find more tips for getting started in this resource here.

For the main article Exploring Loose Parts, CLICK HERE

For the article Benefits of Loose Parts, CLICK HERE

For the article Loose Parts for Infants & Toddlers, CLICK HERE

For the article Loose Parts for Older Children, CLICK HERE

January 2020 Newsletter – Exploring Loose Parts: Loose Parts for Older Children

Once children have stopped mouthing materials and have better muscle coordination, many different loose parts materials can be introduced.  Practically any safe material can be used as a loose part in a preschool classroom. The items provided to infants and toddlers can be enhanced with:

  • Various lengths of string, yarn, and ribbon
  • Sand paper scraps
  • Wooden sticks, disks, and logs
  • Polished and unpolished stones and rocks
  • Prisms, sea glass, and glass pebbles
  • Wire
  • Items made from cork or sponge
  • Dried and fresh flowers
  • Various seeds and pine cones
  • Clothes pins
  • Straw bales
  • Tires
  • Milk crates
  • PVC pipes and tubing
  • Pool noodles cut to different lengths
  • Buttons
  • Clothing made from a variety of fabrics
  • Dirt, mud, clay, etc.
  • Magnets
  • Dice and other random game pieces
  • Popsicle sticks or tongue depressors

Check out tons of other ideas on our Pinterest page here!

For the main article Exploring Loose Parts, CLICK HERE

For the article Benefits of Loose Parts, CLICK HERE

For the article Loose Parts for Infants & Toddlers, CLICK HERE

For the article Director’s Corner – Helping Teachers Get Started with Loose Parts, CLICK HERE

January 2020 Newsletter – Exploring Loose Parts: Loose Parts for Infants & Toddlers

When choosing loose parts for infants and toddlers, avoid materials that are choking hazards. That being said, there are many different materials that can be introduced to infants and toddlers:

  • Cardboard food and packing containers
  • Plastic bottles, yogurt cups, and empty spice containers
  • Various fabric scraps or doilies
  • Pots, pans, funnels, and utensils
  • Large spools
  • Baskets and tin containers
  • Various lids
  • Paper towel rolls and tubes of various sizes and materials
  • Pompoms and cotton balls
  • Various sizes and shapes of foam
  • Large beads and napkin rings
  • Nature items such as mini gourds, leaves, shells, etc.
  • Wooden pegs and dowel rods
  • Tile samples
  • Wooden planks

There are many other materials that you could use – what loose parts have you used with infants and toddlers?  Tell us on Facebook here!

For the main article Exploring Loose Parts, CLICK HERE

For the article Benefits of Loose Parts, CLICK HERE

For the article Loose Parts for Older Children, CLICK HERE

For the article Director’s Corner – Helping Teachers Get Started with Loose Parts, CLICK HERE

January 2020 Newsletter – Exploring Loose Parts: Benefits of Loose Parts

Because loose parts can be used in many different ways, they are a great tool for strengthening all areas of development.  Sometimes, children will use materials in ways that support hand-eye coordination and fine muscle development. Other times, they may use those same materials in a cooperative way that promotes communication, negotiation, and problem solving. Some loose parts lend themselves to the exploration of early literacy concepts, mathematics, or scientific thinking.

Loose parts are open-ended, meaning there is not a predetermined right way to use them. Using loose parts is an active, child-led process. This gives children an opportunity to express themselves creatively and use their imagination. Children can use materials that have multiple purposes in their storytelling and pretend play. These activities typically involve a group of children, meaning that they are also practicing cooperation, collaboration and negotiation skills.

As children explore, they are able to make connections to prior knowledge, learn from others, and conduct their own experiments. Because the exploration is child-driven, children strengthen their concentration skills, increasing their ability to focus their attention and ignore distractions. These learning experiences improve critical thinking and self-regulation skills, which are essential to success in school and in life.

Introducing loose parts outdoors can have the benefit of helping children connect to nature, which has scientifically proven benefits to health and well-being.  Items from nature can be used as loose parts that children can use to construct new creations and explore engineering and design.

What other loose parts benefits can you think of?  There are many, many more!

For the main article Exploring Loose Parts, CLICK HERE

For the article Loose Parts for Infants & Toddlers, CLICK HERE

For the article Loose Parts for Older Children, CLICK HERE

For the article Director’s Corner – Helping Teachers Get Started with Loose Parts, CLICK HERE

January 2020 Newsletter – Exploring Loose Parts

Happy New Year!  Happy New Decade!  What a great time to adopt new strategies to promote children’s creativity and exploration!

An easy and inexpensive way to do so is by incorporating loose parts into the learning environment.  “Loose parts” is a term used to describe any material that can be used in an open-ended manner.  These are materials that can be used in many different ways, or for many different purposes.

Loose parts can be recycled materials, found objects, or items from nature. Ideally, the materials are free, but some loose parts can be found in stores or from supply vendors for very little investment.

In this newsletter, we will explore the benefits of loose parts and materials that are appropriate to use with children of different ages. If you are interested in learning more about bringing these valuable learning materials into your environment, be sure to check out one of CCEI’s newest courses, CUR125: Loose Parts: Incorporating Found Objects and Open-Ended Materials into the Classroom. This course is the free trial course of the month of January 2020 for individuals who are new to CCEI, so be sure to share with your colleagues!

For the article Benefits of Loose Parts, CLICK HERE

For the article Loose Parts for Infants & Toddlers, CLICK HERE

For the article Loose Parts for Older Children, CLICK HERE

For the article Director’s Corner – Helping Teachers Get Started with Loose Parts, CLICK HERE

December 2019 Newsletter – Collective Leadership: Collective Leadership with Staff

Including employees in goal setting and quality improvement is vital for long term success and sustainability. You can work with the entire team during a staff meeting, small groups of teachers working in committees, or with teaching teams. Individual situations will determine who should be involved in the collective leadership process.

In some cases, such as a disciplinary action, collective leadership is not appropriate. However, there are a number of opportunities to bring employees into the fold through collective leadership. Involving employees can help them feel more invested in the program and it reduces stress on directors, who often feel they need to do it all.  Consider the following options:

  • The team develops the program’s vision and mission statements
  • Teaching teams create vision and mission statements for their classroom
  • The team engages in group problem-solving when issues arise – rather than being told how to solve the problem, employees generate their own solutions, create action plans, and are held responsible for the success or failure of those plans
  • The team organizes family involvement events and celebrations
  • The team identifies and executes a fundraiser
  • The team shares responsibility for lobby displays and decorations
  • The team determines how to meet quality improvement initiatives or accreditation standards
  • The team plans their own professional development event

In each of these cases, different members of the team take on different responsibilities depending on their interests and strengths. Accountability is spread across multiple people rather than falling on the shoulders of just one person. The director’s role becomes one of a guide to help people with tasks along the way, instead of the person responsible for all of the tasks. It is also important that directors recognize successes and support staff through challenges or mistakes – treating them as opportunities to learn and build new skills.

For the main article Collective Leadership, CLICK HERE

For the article Benefits of Collective Leadership, CLICK HERE

For the article Collective Leadership with Children, CLICK HERE

For the article Collective Leadership with Families, CLICK HERE

December 2019 Newsletter – Collective Leadership: Collective Leadership with Families

Many programs have some type of mechanism for collecting feedback from families, which is an excellent first step to . Some programs go as far as to have a family committee that meets periodically.  Programs that function as a co-op include families to an even greater degree.

Family members possess a wide variety of skills, knowledge, and cultural perspectives that can be very beneficial to collective leadership efforts. While you may not invite families to participate in all decision-making, there are many contributions that family members can make to your program.

Consider the following opportunities to incorporate collaborative leadership with families:

  • Compose a vision and mission statement for the family committee
  • Develop a family vision for the program
  • Plan teacher appreciation events
  • Design community projects
  • Organize fundraisers
  • Plan a carnival or cultural festival
  • Organize family education events
  • Welcome and orient new families
  • Involve families in efforts to advocate for investments in ECE to state and federal lawmakers

What are some other ideas you have for how you can include families in the collective leadership of your program?  Please share them on our Facebook page here.

For the main article Collective Leadership, CLICK HERE

For the article Benefits of Collective Leadership, CLICK HERE

For the article Collective Leadership with Children, CLICK HERE

For the article Collective Leadership with Staff, CLICK HERE

December 2019 Newsletter – Collective Leadership: Collective Leadership with Children

Children are able to participate in certain elements of collective leadership and they benefit from it in many of the same ways that adults do.

Here are a few ways that collective leadership can be used with children in the learning environment:

  • Develop a class vision – work together to create a vision statement that captures the overall goal or purpose of your daily activities
  • Co-create expectations – help children brainstorm the list of expectations for how children and adults will interact and treat one another
  • Plan curriculum projects – gather input from children about different projects they are interested in exploring
  • Plan field trips and class visitors – gather children’s ideas for places to visit in the community and visitors they can invite for a visit
  • Group problem solving – rather than determining the best way to solve a problem, engage children in coming up with possible solutions and choosing the best option for the situation
  • Room organization – sometimes room arrangement can be problematic, work with children to generate solutions to room arrangement issues
  • Class portfolios – while each child should have a learning portfolio that highlights individual accomplishments, children could create a class portfolio that details what they whole group is learning

For the main article Collective Leadership, CLICK HERE

For the article Benefits of Collective Leadership, CLICK HERE

For the article Collective Leadership with Families, CLICK HERE

For the article Collective Leadership with Staff, CLICK HERE

December 2019 Newsletter – Collective Leadership: Benefits of Collective Leadership

Including employees in goal setting and quality improvement is vital for long term success and sustainability. You can work with the entire team during a staff meeting, small groups of teachers working in committees, or with teaching teams. Individual situations will determine who should be involved in the collective leadership process.

In some cases, such as a disciplinary action, collective leadership is not appropriate. However, there are a number of opportunities to bring employees into the fold through collective leadership. Involving employees can help them feel more invested in the program and it reduces stress on directors, who often feel they need to do it all.  Consider the following options:

  • The team develops the program’s vision and mission statements
  • Teaching teams create vision and mission statements for their classroom
  • The team engages in group problem-solving when issues arise – rather than being told how to solve the problem, employees generate their own solutions, create action plans, and are held responsible for the success or failure of those plans
  • The team organizes family involvement events and celebrations
  • The team identifies and executes a fundraiser
  • The team shares responsibility for lobby displays and decorations
  • The team determines how to meet quality improvement initiatives or accreditation standards
  • The team plans their own professional development event

In each of these cases, different members of the team take on different responsibilities depending on their interests and strengths. Accountability is spread across multiple people rather than falling on the shoulders of just one person. The director’s role becomes one of a guide to help people with tasks along the way, instead of the person responsible for all of the tasks. It is also important that directors recognize successes and support staff through challenges or mistakes – treating them as opportunities to learn and build new skills.

For the main article Collective Leadership, CLICK HERE

For the article Collective Leadership with Children, CLICK HERE

For the article Collective Leadership with Families, CLICK HERE

For the article Collective Leadership with Staff, CLICK HERE

December 2019 Newsletter – Collective Leadership

Collective leadership is an approach to management that utilizes the strengths and contributions of all members of the group to reach a goal.  Organizations that use collective leadership engage members to participate in all steps of the decision-making, planning, and implementation stages of a project. Members of leadership recognize that their role in guiding change within a group of people is that of facilitator, rather than authoritarian. At different points within the process, different people have the opportunity to take on leadership roles, depending on their individual strengths and interests.

Adopting elements of collective leadership can build buy-in from the group, distribute responsibility, build teamwork, and instill a culture of collaboration.  In this month’s newsletter, we will explore the benefits of collective leadership and ways that it can be used in early learning environments.

For the article Benefits of Collective Leadership, CLICK HERE

For the article Collective Leadership with Children, CLICK HERE

For the article Collective Leadership with Families, CLICK HERE

For the article Collective Leadership with Staff, CLICK HERE