Gratitude

With Thanksgiving fast approaching, it feels necessary to pause and reflect on what we're grateful for at The Children's Meetinghouse. Young children are naturally filled with innocence, wonder and enthusiasm.  In a sometimes increasingly troubling and uncertain world, they remind us that there is still goodness to be found. 

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We are grateful for colorful masterpieces that result when children collaborate creatively.

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We are grateful for an abundance of rocks, sand, twigs and leaves on our playgrounds, and for seeing little minds utilize these materials in imaginative play.

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We are grateful for a well-loved collection of crayons and for their role in providing our children with daily opportunities to scribble and draw. We are grateful for those scribbles and the meaning behind them.

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We are grateful for musical instruments and songs, and for the inclusivity that musical exploration brings to a group.

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We are grateful for pockets stuffed with collected treasures and for the hands that keep them filled.

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We are grateful for teamwork, communication, and learning how to figure things out by sharing ideas.

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We are grateful for books and the magic found within their pages.

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We are grateful for wooden toy trucks and the joy they bring when sneakered feet zoom them across the classroom.

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We are grateful for leaves in shades of copper and gold, and for the thrilling feeling that accompanies jumping into a freshly-raked pile.

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We are grateful for science experiments and gathering together to conduct them.

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We are grateful for the smiles and the way that children unabashedly give them away.

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We are grateful for sunlight and how it keeps us warm on a crisp fall day.

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We are grateful for you! Thank you for being an integral part of The Children's Meetinghouse community, and for your support of our teachers, our children, and each other.

Provocations in Preschool

In the middle of a stormy Wednesday morning (and in search of some creative inspiration!),  I decided to pop over to the preschool classrooms and see what the children and teachers were engaged in. I returned to my office feeling refueled and inspired. I am excited to share these findings with you. 

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At TCM, we believe in letting the natural world lead our investigations with the children. Why are the trees turning colors? Do you think those Robins perched in our bird feeder are hungry? What is inside of a pumpkin? 

The teachers greatly respect these questions. Led by the children's interests and discussions, they purposefully set up materials and experiences that enable the preschoolers to discover the answers for themselves, and moreover, create new questions in the process!

In the sensory table, children were using scoops, funnels, spoons and sifters to explore bird seed. I observed one child say to another "It is getting stuck because those pieces are too big to fit through the tiny holes. Here, try this one instead!" 

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Right in that moment, we're touching on teamwork, scientific inquiry, cause & effect, and sensory processing.

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I turned around and saw two children working intently on decorating a shoe box with markers, fabric, tape, little bits of paper, feathers, and string. I watched them for a few minutes and upon inquiring about their project, learned that they were collaborating to make a house for two small stuffed animals. The house had a roof, "fancy decoration," and a bed (among other things) and had been under construction for more than an hour.

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When children collaborate creatively like this, especially on a self-guided study or investigation using open-ended materials, the learning capabilities are remarkable. They were so excited to share their completed house with me and gleefully displayed their purple hands in pride. 

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I turned another corner and encountered a small group of children participating in what looked to be a birthday party.  A comfy seating area had been constructed from a large cardboard box filled with pillows, and baby dolls were enjoying pieces of "cake" off of birthday plates. When I asked whose party they were celebrating, they told me "it's a birthday party for everyone because birthdays are SO FUN!" (Agreed).

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Before leaving the space, I stopped and looked at a display on the wall by the classroom door. I saw a variety of seemingly random materials (stickers, pompoms, paper clips) lined up in a row on sticky paper. When I read the documentation posted, I learned that the children had measured the circumference of a large pumpkin with several materials and then displayed their findings visually. Instead of the teachers trying to explain the concept of circumference to the children, they enabled the children to formulate their own understanding as participants and investigators. 

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All of this is but a tiny glimpse into the fascinating emergent curriculum happening daily at The Children's Meetinghouse. Come discover it for yourself!

One thing we can promise you is this: No day ever looks the same.

How extraordinary.

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Sensory Play The Toddler Way

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Do you remember the first time you recognized the unique sound of rain pitter-pattering against a window? Or the "splat" that occurs when drops land in a puddle? Do you take the time to listen to that sound now during a rainstorm?

For most of us, the answer is probably no. But if you have a toddler, you've likely seen him or her stop and point at raindrops on a car windshield, or tilt their head back to try and catch some water on their tongue.

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Toddlers constantly process an immense amount of sensory experiences. By seeing, hearing, touching, tasting and smelling, they gain fundamental physical, cognitive, verbal, social and emotional skills. In child development lingo, that’s a fancy way of saying that young children need messy, hands-on, physical exploration to learn new concepts and develop new skills. In actuality, if we limit these opportunities for young children to engage in messy play, we risk depriving them of important sensory development needed to form an understanding of the world around them. 

At The Children's Meetinghouse, we recognize that sensory play is crucial to toddler development, so we've created a program that provides children with intentional opportunities to explore with their senses every single day. We want to encourage you to incorporate more sensory experiences at home, too. We promise it's worth it.

Start simple.

Tie a few silky ribbons to a fence post or door frame and watch how your child interacts with them...

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(Pure joy!)

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Fill up a mixing bowl with water and dish soap and have your child help you "wash" dishes (or anything, really). Don't we all have toys around that need a good scrubbing? Throw in a few cars and call it a car wash. Baby dolls? A bath! Add some blue food coloring and animal figurines? You've created the ocean!

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Don't have any paint at home? No problem! Open up your spice cabinet and mix a concoction with glue or water. Our teachers led a simple sensory activity in which children helped to incorporate cinnamon and brown sugar with glue and then used brushes to create fall "texture paintings." 

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Playdough provides wonderful sensory input. If you're feeling ambitious, here's a collection of six easy recipes to make homemade playdough (don't forget to invite your child to help). Here's a starter set of tools (in case you're looking for a child-sized pounder and rolling pin).

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Truly, the opportunities to foster sensory play experiences are endless.

And hey, next time it rains, dig out those boots and remind yourself to stop and listen.

Get wet. Take your child's hand and jump in that puddle. 

It's a beautiful thing.

Surprise Visitors!

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What an exciting morning at The Children's Meetinghouse! One of our teachers surprised our students with some very special visitors...her pet chickens! 

At first, the children greeted our guests with a mix of caution and curiosity...

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But once the chickens were freely roaming around our playground, everyone started laughing at their funny and energetic behavior.

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One chicken even tried to go down the slide. How silly!

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Any child who expressed interest was given the opportunity to gently pet the chickens.

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Some children learned how to feed the chickens by holding their palms open to offer food. Others held freshly-laid eggs and were shocked to discover that when an egg cracked open, "it looked just like the eggs we buy from the supermarket!" Meaningful, real-life connections like these are one of the many reasons we believe in an emergent, exploratory Early Childhood curriculum. 

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A few children and teachers felt brave enough to hold a chicken in their arms.

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The morning took a particularly exciting turn when a chicken escaped over our fence and had to be retrieved. Never a dull moment around these parts!

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Here at TCM, we don't take for granted the fact that our school is located in Concord, MA, a historic, bucolic New England town. This provides us the ability to offer our children a hands-on curriculum immersed in nature and wildlife. Such a gift!

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Until next time, Chickens.