Monday, August 20, 2012

Cornmeal Racetrack... (The first 3 days)

It's been a little over a month since I first spilled the cornmeal...
(the day that I began to see more)

and within this time I have been documenting

-the cornmeal activities we have presented to the children
-the cornmeal activities the children have created for themselves
-the lessons the children have taught me, along with the "more" that I have seen

It has been very exciting for all of us!

What a blessing it is

to live these...
to have lived these...

and I am sure that one day I will look back on these days and smile, grateful for

Ordinary Moments, Extraordinary Memories!

Here are some of the activities that we have enjoyed...

Activity #1- Cornmeal and Funnels



What I did:  I put cornmeal in the red sensory table and provided funnels, turkey basters, cups and "scoopers" of various shapes and sizes.  I wanted to give them the opportunity to use the materials to explore and make their own science discoveries (physics).

What they did:  The children explored for a bit before finally bringing their own items to the table, declaring that they were going to make cupcakes and open a cupcake shop!

I see more:  The fact that the children extended the activity did not surprise me.  I expected them to do that.  What I didn't expect was that as they saw me taking pictures of them engaged in the activity, they would ask me to "make a video" so they could do a cooking show.  (unfortunately, my camera battery didn't have enough "juice")

Lesson Learned:  Charge the battery next time so I can fulfill their request.  There is no telling how far they would have taken this idea had I been prepared to follow their lead.  Child initiated activities are so important for healthy growth and development and missed opportunities like this are impossible to get back!

Helpful Tip:  Before you begin... know your children.  Where are they developmentally?  Are there any allergies?  Are they ready for this type of activity? Are there cultural sensitivities that would make playing with food inappropriate?

Activity #2- Beans and Cornmeal



What I did:  I put the cornmeal in the red sensory table, mixed in a bag of dry beans, and brought dinosaurs from the dramatic play area. (Social- Emotional Development, and Language and Literacy)

What they did:  Launched their dinosaurs into "full attack" mode accompanied with the appropriate sound effects.  One of the children went to the dramatic play area and brought back eggs from the kitchen area so that the dinosaurs "could hatch their babies".  (Awww, why didn't I think of that?)

I see more:  The children brought more animals from the dramatic play area to add to the cornmeal and beans.  I was shocked when one of the children apologized for bringing items that were not "prehistoric".  I was not only shocked by the actual word choice used, but was wondering why he felt the need to apologize for their play.  After all, isn't this "A Place For Little Hands"?

Lesson Learned:  I should have set up the activity before the children came out to play.  When children watch you gather materials for an activity, you run the risk of making them feel as if you have ownership of the activity.  I figured that the reason the children apologized when they wanted to add a new concept to the activity was because they felt they were "messing up" my original idea.

Helpful Tip:  Once you have set out an activity for children, be approachable.  Let them bring whatever they feel will make the area complete, even if it wasn't in your initial plan.  If needed, offer a verbal invitation and keep the ownership neutral by asking, "What else can we do here?  Do you have any other ideas for this game?"

Activity #3-Cornmeal Racetrack




What I did:  Created a "start to finish" desert racetrack. (Social-Emotional Development, Language and Literacy, Mathematics, Directional Awareness)

What they did:  The looks on their faces made my day as they gasped in awe and started claiming their cars.  We're off to the races!

I see more: The children surpassed my developmental expectations of them on this day!  My group consisted of 3 two-year-olds, 1 three-year-old, and 1 "just turned" four-year old.  I really only expected them to race one time, and then use the cars to play in the "sand".  I did not feel they were ready for a "structured" teacher-directed activity, but  I was shocked when they raced, and then asked me to set it up again.  They even waited patiently as we repositioned our "start/finish" letters and had to search for one of the missing T's.

Lesson Learned:  Don't underestimate your kids.  Remember to keep it fun, but if they are ready for more of a challenge... give them more!

Helpful Tip:  Adapt this experience to make it challenging for older children.  For instance, to build upon the Mathematics foundation (for older preschoolers) let children pull numbers out of a bowl, and count out that number of spaces with the car of their choice.  The first one to the finish line is the winner.   (Or for school age children) Jot down several appropriate math problems, and when children answer correctly, they get to move forward the number of spaces written on the back of the card.  The first one to cross the finish line wins the game.  Most of all, be creative and listen to ideas from the children.

(Click here to check out days 4 and 5)

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