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.

New Year, New Beginnings

One of the most rewarding aspects of working in the field of Early Childhood Education is bearing witness to the immense social development that occurs amongst the children. At The Children's Meetinghouse, the first several weeks in the beginning of the school year are dedicated to setting the foundation for this development to occur. 

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Since the start of school, the children in both the Infant/Toddler and Preschool programs have been busy making new friends and actively exploring every inch of the classrooms. The teachers are so proud at how far they've come in adapting to new routines and transitions while simultaneously beginning to forge meaningful relationships and understandings about what it means to be a part of the "TCM Family."

Here at TCM, we are delighted to watch your children's personalities slowly but surely emerge as they grow more comfortable with the environment, one another, and with us. They are SO curious and busy every day: the teachers work hard to ensure that these curiosities are continuously piqued and supported.

In the Infant/Toddler room, ample opportunities are provided daily for the children to explore with their senses, develop language skills, and strengthen fine and gross motor development. From building with pegs and magna-tiles, to reading a favorite story, to joyously jumping on top of bubble wrap, the children are learning new skills every minute of the day, all while having fun!

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The children are also practicing important self-regulation skills such as turn-taking while they wait for a chance to paint at at the art table or wash their hands before eating snack. Speaking of painting: the skills represented in this simple activity are immense! While exploring the artistic medium of paint, children are strengthening their fine motor function (gripping a paintbrush), experiencing sensory processing (the paint feels wet & squishy!), identifying colors, deepening their expressive language ("more paint please!"), and of course, expressing themselves creatively. Wow!

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In the Preschool room, children are building upon these same skills while also strengthening their relationships and interactions with peers. Three, four and five year olds learn to collaborate in deeper ways: they move beyond parallel play and work together to plan and build intricate block towers, create stories together at the writing table, and utilize materials inventively during imaginative play (rubber playground balls make for terrific meatballs, don't you think??).

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Preschool teachers understand that children learn best when they are actively engaged in the process. During a recent butterfly unit, the children participated in several thoughtfully prepared activities covering numerous learning objectives. From measurement (how many classroom objects can we compare/contrast with our inchworm/caterpillar rulers?), to pre-literacy and sequencing skills with butterfly life cycle booklets, to creative explorations of turning watercolor paint and coffee filters into colorful, unique butterflies...all aspects of the preschool child's brain are nurtured and developed.

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Much like the children are awed by the transformation of the caterpillars into butterflies, we are awed by the transformation of the children's development over the course of the school year.

And to think: we're only just beginning!

The Importance of Play

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At the Children's Meetinghouse, we believe in play! As Fred (Mr.) Rogers once said, "Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children, play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood.” We honor the importance of play in our children's daily school experience. Educational research shows that young children develop their creative, intellectual, social, and physical potentials from engaging in active play.  

As we welcome a new school year, please take a moment to consider that when one, two, three, four, and five-year-olds are playing," they are doing exactly what they are meant to do!

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"Just Playing"

 

When I am building in the block room,
Please don’t say I’m “Just Playing.”

For, you see, I’m learning as I play,
About balance and shapes.


Who knows, I may be an architect someday.

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When I am getting all dressed up,
Setting the table, caring for the babies,

Don’t get the idea I’m “Just Playing.”
For, you see, I’m learning as I play.

I may be a Mother or a Father one day.

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When you see me up to my elbows in paint
or standing at an easel, or molding and shaping clay,
Please don't let me hear you say, "I am just playing".
For, you see, I'm learning as I play.
I'm expressing myself and being creative.


I may be an artist or an inventor someday. 

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When you see me sitting in a chair
“Reading” to an imaginary audience,

Please don’t laugh and think I’m “Just Playing.”
For, you see, I’m learning as I play.


I may be a teacher someday.

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When you see me combing the bushes for bugs,
Or packing my pockets with choice things I find,

Don’t pass it off as “Just Play.”
For, you see, I’m learning as I play.


I may be a scientist someday.

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When you see me engrossed in a puzzle or some
“plaything” at my school,
Please don’t feel that time is wasted in “Play.”

For, you see, I’m learning as I play.
I’m learning to solve problems and concentrate.


I may be in business some day.

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When you see me cooking or tasting foods,
Please don’t think that because I enjoy it, it is “Just Play.”

For, you see, I’m learning as I play.
I’m learning to follow directions and see differences.


I may be a chef someday.

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When you see me learning to skip, hop, run, and move my body,
Please don’t say I’m “Just Playing.”

For, you see, I’m learning as I play.
I’m learning how my body works.


I may be a doctor, nurse, or athlete someday.

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When you ask me what I’ve done at school today,
And I say, I “Just played.”

Please don’t misunderstand me.
For, you see, I’m learning as I play.

I’m learning to enjoy and be successful at my work,
I’m preparing for tomorrow.

Today, I am a child and my work is play.

 

[Anita Wadley]