Friday, 31 January 2014

Munchkin Market

       I've noticed a lot of the children carrying bags around the room and filling them up with various objects.    When I looked into their play more closely I had discovered they were shopping. Without hesitation I told Tabatha we needed to make a grocery store. I remember as a child taking all the cans and boxes out of the cabinets and turning the dining room into my personal grocery store. I also remember helping my mom put away groceries, but before I did I made sure EVERY item was "scanned" on my imaginary cash register. (In case my mom is reading this.. thank you for your patience!) 
     We both agreed this would be a great addition to our classroom, and started gathering materials we needed. All we added was an old cash register and a new shelf with a couple old boxes and the rest was up to the children. Immediately they flocked to the store with limited props, and began to play. In order for more merchandise to fill the shelves we asked families to donate old cans and boxes. We set up tables with stamps, stickers, crayons, and tape for the children to make their own labels. We also made our very own signs for the store by cutting old flyers. The left over flyers allowed the children to write out their own shopping lists. (Cookies and juice boxes were the most common items.)

      Every day the store fills up with more cans, boxes, and other props the children have added themselves. The children have all worked together to make the Munchkin Market their very own, and take keeping it clean and organized very serious. 


    The Market has been a very successful addition, and it's been so enjoyable to watch the children play together. They take their time choosing which products they want to buy and tell their friends what they are going to cook for lunch. Once they fill their baskets they head over to the cashier to pay. I went shopping and tried not to pay the cashier, but the Munchkin Market has very high security! (So don't even think about!) 

       I'm not saying the Munchkin Market has the best prices in town ($50 for a can of pepper is a little much if you ask me.) but building a play supermarket from scratch has really opened many doors for learning. It also led to conversations what foods are our favorite, and the importance of healthy eating! 

Why This Matters:

Imagination & Creativity - Children create imaginary scenarios in which they explore new    possibilities and take possession of their worlds.

Children invent symbols and develop systems of representation. 

Communicative Practices - Children form relationships.
 Children extend ideas and take actions using language. 

Democratic Practices -        Participate in decisions that affect them 
                                              Practice fairness and social justice. 

Physical Health -   Food & Nutrition

   - New Brunswick Curriculum Framework for Early Learning and Child Care

Literacy - Writing labels, creating signs, word & letter recognition

Math -  Number recognition,  measurement (comparing weight), counting 
Art & Creativity - Painting and making signs, setting up displays
Fine Motor Skills -  Cutting coupons, writing labels & shopping lists 
Responsibility- Keeping area clean, making merchandise to use
Problem Solving - Taking turns using the register, negotiations 
Dramatic Play - Role playing, use of materials & props, pretending & make believe
Communication - speaking & listening skills, making rules 

                                                                                                                           - Leslie Dionne

Friday, 24 January 2014

Winning Big with Fruit Loop Poker!

I walked downstairs one morning and the room was quiet, a little too quiet.  I knew there could not be seven 3 year olds down there, and assumed the children had gone outside with Tabatha. Just then I heard, “Pick a card, any card!” When I turned around the corner, I saw seven children sitting at a table with Tabatha. Tabatha looked up and me and said, “It’s Fruit Loop Poker!!” I began to laugh and the children looked up and said “Ya! We’re playing poker!” Without delay , I asked if I could play too, but of course the game is “just for kids!” (I should have known)

Because the game is for kids only, I observed from the sidelines watching the children play. So how does one play Fruit Loop Poker you ask?
                                           Fruit Loops
                                   Deck of Cards (2-10)

At the table, the children all sat eyeing the jackpot container full of Fruit Loops. (Of course you do not have to use Fruit Loops, but we had quite a bit left over from a previous invitation.) When it is the players turn you pick a card from the deck, say the number, and pick that many fruit loops from the jackpot. It is the player’s decision what to do with the winnings. Most decided to eat them, however, Fruit Loop bracelets were also popular. I know you’re probably thinking “that’s it!?” but to three year olds this was pure bliss! Perhaps the snack of fruit loops had a little bit to do with it, but the learning in this simple activity is vast.


Why this is Important:


·        Math Skills – Recognizing Numbers


Adding & Subtracting

Classifying Objects

        ·        Social Development – Listening Skills

 Taking Turns

Working Together (Helping each other count)


·        Fine Motor Skills – Lacing the Fruit Loops on their bracelets

Tying knots


In the afternoon when the 4 year olds joined our group we played the game again. The 3 year old explained the rules to the others and they were just as engaged. Tabatha and I both discussed how we were surprised how well the game went. No one got upset when they only got a low number, or took the other children’s fruit loops. It was a very successful activity that began when Tabatha noticed the attention the box of Fruit Loops was receiving. This game has been popular all week, and I'm sure this isn't the last time we'll play!



Do you have any favorite counting games?

                                                        - Leslie Dionne

Friday, 17 January 2014

Benefits of Tree Climbing

Earlier this week I had a small group of children ages 3 & 4 with me outside. They had the entire after school side to them self (very exciting!!), yet they were all huddled together in the trees. A couple children were around a "fire" they had made while the others were circled around a tree talking. I stood next to the group and looked at the tree as well, but didn't say anything. I was impressed how observant they were when I heard one boy say, "Those branches are just like a ladder! We can climb it." I looked, and sure enough there were branches that had broken off and made what looked like perfect steps.

"Leslie, can you pleeeeaseeeee help us climb that tree? We'll be your best friend forever." Well, I was not about to turn down a best friend forever so I decided to help the children climb the tree.

Before we started, I explained that we could do this activity because I was right here to help, and that it could be potentially dangerous if we did not be careful. I picked up the first child and he put his foot on the first branch and grabbed on to the higher branches. I kept my hands on his waist as he climbed up the branches. He was so excited and yelled to the children around the fire and said, "Look guys I'm up here in the tree, I did it!" Before he even made it down, I had a line of children looking at me with anxious eyes.

The next little girls climbed up, but was nervous. I asked her if she wanted to come down but she said, "No, just don't let me go." I kept my hands on her the entire time and was so proud that not only did she step out of her comfort zone, but she trusted me. She asked if I could take her picture, so I had one of the children on the ground take my phone and take one. When she came down from the tree she jumped up and down and yelled, "I did it! I did it!"

One after one, I helped them climb up the tree and we took their picture. Some were more comfortable than others so I asked them if I could take a step back. If I felt that they were able to climb hands free, I stepped back and just spotted. The children cheered each other on and helped tell them what branch they should put their feet next.

       So how exactly are children benefiting from climbing trees? 

There has always been a big debate whether tree climbing is safe or not, and many centers do not allow it. It is our duty as early childhood professionals to ensure the safety of all the children who are in our care. Our duty also involves providing children with age appropriate risks and challenges to further their development and learning. Parents and child care professionals must spend time explaining what makes certain activities potentially dangerous, and how we can make sure we are safe. When children participate in a potentially dangerous activity it allows them to build their confidence and self esteem. Every time one of the children made it up the tree I knew they had such a sense of pride and accomplishment. Even the ones that did not think they could do it, learned they were capable.

Tree climbing helps build Cognitive Development  by trial & error and problem solving, along with Social Development by contributing positively to a group. The children on the ground would help their friend by telling them which branches to avoid and reassure them with cheers of encouragement. Climbing trees is a perfect example of a gross motor activity as well. Gross motor skills help with body/muscle development, coordination, balance, & promote a healthy lifestyle!

A few facts about our Tree Climbing Adventure 
  •  The children only climbed about 4 feet off the ground. 
  •  No child was injured during this activity 
  • We plan on doing this again in the very near future (children's request!)
  • Every child ate their entire lunch that day!  


-Leslie Dionne


Sunday, 12 January 2014

Facts about Tracks

The children seemed to really enjoy the story Big Tracks, Little Tracks  by Millicent E. Selsam. They were able to guess some of the tracks in the snow by looking at the illustrations. To extend the children's learning, I put an invitation out for the children to explore inspired by the story.

I put out a few surfaces with flour on it, magnifying glasses, and a variety of animals. The children quickly started pressing down the animals onto the "snow" to see what their tracks would look like. Every time they made a new track they told me all the characteristics of it; round, big, small, pointy, and even what shapes they saw.

After they filled up their board with prints they wanted to erase them and start with fresh snow. They would rub their hands over the flour, but it would become bumpy and they couldn't see the prints as well. "How can we make it more flat?", they asked. I shrugged my shoulders and asked them what they thought might work. "Something flat." was what they suggested. I told them they should look for something flat and they grabbed pieces of paper from the shelf. When they put the paper on top of the flour they smoothed it with their hands. They lifted up the paper and gasped, "It's really flat!" When somebody new joined the table they made sure to inform them of the new trick they discovered.

We then turned this invitation into a game where someone would close their eyes and try to guess what animal the tracks belonged to. I did my own finger prints and decided to trick them. With a closer look and further investigation, they decided it was somebody's finger prints. One little girl pressed her fingers next to mine and said, "Woah.. those are really big finger prints. Mine are just tiny." After comparing the size they determined the mysterious finger prints were mine!

                                                                                    Later, the children wanted to see what other things they could make prints with. We grabbed a branch from a pine tree and made the most beautiful impression! They explained the needles made lots of bumpy marks in the flour and agreed it was the "awesomest."

Some of the other children began tracing designs and writing letters with their fingers. One child noticed I was writing in my journal and asked me if they could use my pen to write their name. This sparked the interest of some of the other children and asked if they could use my pen too. The children were engaged with this invitation for quite some time, and I've read the story several times. Keep an eye out for a future post of how I extend our track play!

Why This Matters:

Identifying/Classification Objects
Shape/Letter Recognition 
Problem Solving
Exploring Cause & Effect 
Fine Motor Skills 
Language Development (Asking /Answering Questions)
Social Development (Taking turns / Sharing )


                                 - Leslie Dionne