Parks in China, Vietnam, Singapore, Myanmar, and India

In the last two months our family has spent time in six different countries, visiting parks in every location.  I have a growing theory that the casual observer can learn something about the culture from paying attention to the types of equipment in a playground and watching the ways that equipment is used by the children and the adults they are with.

My sampling of playgrounds from the countries in the title of this post (plus, the post I wrote a few weeks ago about parks in Japan) is very small, and I’m sure does not provide a clear overview of playgrounds across that country.  Still, I enjoy reflecting on our experiences in these parks and wondering what conclusions I can draw given my very limited experience. (more…)

Open-Ended Literature

Simone reads one of her favorites to Henry: Pancakes for Breakfast.

If you’ve been following our adventures here at Abundant Life for very long now, you will know I am passionately devoted to open-ended play things for children: materials that spark creativity and imagination and leave the product wide open.  Our shelves are filled an odd assortment of wooden spools, ceramic tile samples, and wooden trim pieces that serve a variety of purposes throughout the day.  It was not until recently that I made the connection between my love for wordless picture books and my passion for open-ended materials.  With wordless picture books, the storyline is left to the reader.  And while there is one primary theme running throughout, the story can be retold thousands of different ways each time it is told.

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Rainbow Party!

Our rainbow on the ceiling

A few weeks ago, we were walking home from the park when it started to rain – one of those spring rains with large drops and still visible blue sky and sunshine.  Rainbows!  Look for the rainbows!  The crew and I started looking, but couldn’t find one that day.  When we got home, we started talking about rainbows – where they are, what colors they are made of, what letters are in the word, how to create rainbows from primary colors…all of the logical extensions of a near rainbow sighting.  I was inspired by some of the pictures posted by For the Children during preschool tours to create some rainbow art, and we ended up with a masterpiece! (more…)

All Things Beautiful

“Children are miracles. Believing that every child is a miracle can transform the way we design for children’s care. When we invite a miracle into our lives, we prepare ourselves and the environment around us. We may set out flowers or special offerings. We may cleanse ourselves, the space, or our thoughts of everything but the love inside us. We make it our job to create, with reverence and gratitude, a space that is worthy of a miracle!” – Anita Rui Olds (in Designs for Living and Learning)

 

Early childhood educators are known for their ability to make gold out of someone else’s recycle bin (to be honest, there is gold to be found in the dumpster as well!).   I have written before about the value of repurposing soon-to-be-recycled stuff into fine works of art or ingenious open-ended play materials.  Those of us in early childhood professions often find ourselves at the mercy of tiny budgets, and work to create environments out of a conglomerate of discarded hand-me-downs – not that there is one ounce of anything wrong with creating environments out of second-hand materials, but beauty often takes a backseat to functionality when it comes to early childhood space design.

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“My mama is going to LOVE this!”

Christian created this masterpiece while chanting methodically, “My mama is going to love this!”  With every sticker, each fringe cut on the cereal box, and all the letters written (there is a whole alphabet of Christan’s invented spelling on the reverse side), her excitement grew.  My mama is going to LOVE this!  She beamed as she finished her creation, and when it was done and sitting patiently in her cubby waiting for it’s beloved recipient to arrive, Christian visited periodically to gaze admiringly at the finished product, and to occasionally add an embellishment here or there that she found lacking in the form of a stray googly eye or a piece of cut yarn.  With so much attention paid during the course of a day waiting, the piece lost some of its extras, but it was with a heart bursting of love that Christian presented it at the end of the day to her mama who received the gift in the spirit in which it was intended – matching love for love – and thus offering back to her daughter what was most desired.

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Centering

When was the last time you threw an all-out fit because things didn’t go your way?  The grocery store was out of the cheese you needed, and you laid down on the floor and kicked your feet and screamed at the top of your lungs until someone came to your aid?  Chances are, you haven’t had an episode like this since you were a toddler.  The reason?  Self-regulation. From the earliest games of peek-a-boo to the preschool games of chase – the play we engage in with children and the play they engage in with each other all helps them learn to regulate their strong emotional reactions.  And guess what?  Children who develop a stronger sense of self-regulation are far more successful later in life.

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