Okay,I may ruffle a few feathers with this, but what the hay! It's my space to talk, and if you would like to comment, please feel free...
I used to buy "quality" items for my daycares at garage sales all the time..... quality, meaning brand name Discovery Toys, Little Tykes, Preschool, Little People etc. My daycare had everything you could buy with a Discovery Toys or Little Tykes name on it.... I'm not joking! I was that person who was first to arrive for that AMAZING-DEAL "brand name" $5.00 stroller, kitchen set, vacuum cleaner, shopping cart, puzzle, truck, you name it! I knew the value of these items to purchase brand new from Toys R Us or Walmart, and I did my homework.... these were gold to me!
My husband, Derek said something to me (about 10 years ago now ) that really made me stop and think.... "You know, when this stuff breaks, I can't fix it.".... huh?
Break? I thought.... this stuff never breaks! It lasts forever!.... but....no, nothing lasts forever, especially toys, I thought; it does break, and when it does... it takes up a monstrous amount of space in the land fill. What have I done? What can I do?
That day,I made a concious choice to stop buying plastics... for my daycares and for my own children. At least, I can sell, give away, and re-purpose the stuff that I already had.... most of the big toys I donated to my sons teacher at school. (I had no idea that they receive virtually zero dollars to buy things for their classrooms!).. these were "quality" Discovery Toys items which I paid quite a bit of money for..... it made me feel better to give them away.... but I still wasn't (Helping) the plastic-toy problem..... they still would inevitably end up in the land fill.... I realized.
But what I could do, is look at my own purchasing habits and change them drastically. This is what I started to practise:
1. Stop buying Dollar store toys.
2. Stop buying Goody bags for Birthday parties
3.Stop buying Christmas stocking stuffers that were not quality items
4.Stop buying ALL plastic toys from Garage sales, UsedVictoria etc.
5. Any gifts I bought for family and friends were plastic free
6. I asked family and friends NOT to buy my family anything plastic
7. I am careful at the grocery store with food packages; can I find the same items in bulk?
8. I re-use my grocery bags, or ask for paper.
That's it. pretty basic stuff, and easy to practise........
The next step was making the things I wanted to buy for my daycares and children out of natural materials like wood, felt and wool.
Having a daughter who was very interested in the movie Frozen got my mind in motion. I wanted to restrain from buying any of that cheap plastic Disney merchandise that they were shovelling at us constantly through commercials and flyers! With some newly fallen trees and some wood working skills ready to put to use, I put the sander on high and began to build my own rendition of Elsa's ice castle.... and even Elsa and Anna dolls too! (Photos above and below)
They did the trick... and I was pretty pleased with my efforts! (I will confess, that the snow flakes are plastic, I couldn't find any made of wood for this project, but I did consciously buy them for this piece, knowing full well that they would be used and LOVED wisely for this castle).... I'm okay with it... there's got to be a little give here and there...
It's a start....
I realize that there are going to be things that come up for me in the future when it comes to my children wanting specific toys... like Barbies, and ponies etc... I get it... I have already started to feel the panic from my daughter when I say, "No, It's made of plastic, it won't last." to something she really wants. But at least I'm making the choice to buy an item with her, and educating her at the same time... I hope.
I've done my best..... ther is probably only a hand full of plastic toys in any of my centres at this time.... that's amazing to me, considering what I used to have. (and they were NOT thrown away; but donated and sold...yes) Some of them are awesome, and they have years of life left in them... they can stay..... I've let it go.....
My husband made a comment just the other day about how he rarely makes trips to the dump any more.... at least, it's a small step in the right direction....
sorry Disney........ we love your movies!!!... But as for your "STUFF".....
We are done......
This is the back of the Ice castle... it was carved off a stump, then sanded and waxed using a natural beeswax/mineral oil solution.....
Thinking beyond the "Macaroni necklace".... considering social responsibilities in a pre-school pedagogy......
I actually still have one of these..."art pieces" from when I attended pre-school.... that''s definitely dating me... but for what's it's worth... I think it's still edible (if boiled -of course). It still looks exactly the same as the day I made it (I presume) since I don't actually remember making it, but it is still in tact with my name hand written (by the teacher) on a piece of masking tape wrapped snugly around the part where a knot was tied in red wool.
I used to make these necklaces with my students all the time...... they loved to string the hard pasta with coloured yarn and give them as gifts to their mom's and dad's at the end of the day.... we even strung our Christmas trees with them!
I used to BUY the pasta, at Thrifty's when it went on sale... two giant packs for three bucks! SOLD! Instant art session... right?
About 5 years back, I started to struggle with ethics in my practise.....
Wasting things became a big issue with me........ Pasta, rice, lentils, water... all commonly used (without much thought) in a pre-school environment for art, in sensory bins, water tables etc.... and then tossed without much thought!
Using FOOD as ART materials really started to bother me... and for good reason. Children are starving in our world! Not only in Africa, or South East Asia, but here! In Victoria, in our own province in our own back yard! How could I justify spending three dollars on dried pasta for art, when this is actual food that could feed a hungry family!
I began to question my pedagogy.... how could I possibly make a difference?
Slowly, I realized that it wasn't so hard to make a difference within my own setting! I simply need not buy rice for the sensory bins, or fill the water table with water. I started using materials found abundant in nature.... organic materials like sticks and dried moss, and dirt. What I realized is that children didn't care what was in these special bins for them to "play" with, they didn't care what it was! They responded to MY reactions... "Hey friends... look what"s growing in the sensory bin!", "Pine cones!"
Choosing not to fill our "water-table" with water has become common-practise in our nature daycare.... we have wooden blocks, felted gnomes,legos, buttons and so many other tactile things to use.... why use water when it's not absolutely necessary?
I guess, I'm trying to subliminally "educate" our children to make less waste , and preserve our water storage..... I'm not sure if they truly understand this yet... but perhaps down the road they may come across my blog and put 2 and 2 together.... until then.... sorry families, pine cone bird feeders, beeswax blocks and popsicle stick frames will be coming home this month...
I don't think parents really miss these child built necklaces.... buttons have the same effect I feel.... don't get me wrong....
I still have a hard time passing by the 2 for 3 bucks sales on pasta... now I just buy it, and save it for our Christmas food hamper.....
pasta necklaces taste better with a full tummy,
not an empty one.
Thanks for reading.
Using water beads as a tactile experience.... Ethical?... who benefits from this?
Using re-purposed yarn for musical interpretation.... what else could we do with this material?..... should all materials with multi-purposes be donated to those less fortunate?........... How do we teach our children ethically about waste, re-using , recycling, re-purposing?.....
I recently attended a workshop with a colleague from Little Bears on storytelling. Jane Cobb was the presenter, and story teller. This full day Saturday workshop was for Early Childhood Educators to become more comfortable with sharing stories, learning rhymes and teaching songs.
Meredith and I had the same hopes for this workshop. We both felt that we were in need of some new and exciting songs to add to our mundane arsenal of (tricks) we use at our circle times. Hopefully, Jane could teach us some finger plays, transition songs and easy-peasy sing-a-longs for our upcoming long winter days ahead.
Well, I soon found out two very interesting facts about myself that I did not know. Firstly, I am a terrible story teller (or, let's re-phrase... story learner)... my short-term memory is unbelievably bad. And secondly, I learned a lot of sing-along songs as a child in Girl Guides which are re-surfacing again... and apparently, I do know a lot of songs, rhymes and finger-plays..I've just forgotten them over time!
This is how our workshop began....
Jane started off by telling us a story about the Gunniwolf, (Here's a condensed version)....."Once there was a little girl who lived with her mother at the edge of the deep, dark forest. The mother always told the little girl, "Whatever you do, don't go into that forest alone. Because if you do the Gunniwolf might get you!" The little girl promised that she would never go into that forest alone!....
The story goes on and of course the little girl ventures into the forest to pick flowers and eventually encounters the Gunniwolf! She sings a little song, "Kum-kwa...Ki-wa....Kum-Kwa....Ki...wa....Kum-Kwa, Ki-wa,... Kum Kwa-Ki-wa." and it puts the Gunniwolf to sleep. She runs away as fast as he can (slapping your hands on your knees to the rhythm of the pit-pats)... Pitty-pat, pitty-pat, pitty-pat, pitty-pat! but up gets the Gunni-wolf and he chases after her! And when the Gunni-wolf runs he makes a sound like this, "HUNKER_CHA....HUNKER_CHA.....HUNKER-CHA....HUNKER-CHA!" ... and...He catches her again...
So she sings him her , "Guten-Sweeten song" and he falls a sleep, and she runs away again. This happens a few times over, and finally, the last time the Gunni-wolf falls asleep, she runs as fast as she can home and slams the door. And the little girl never, ever goes back into that deep dark forest alone again! The end!... cute story!
We broke off into smaller groups and were asked to re-tell the stories over again, remembering to use the same key phrases, sing the little song, pat our knees when the little girl ran, make the scary sound of the Gunni-wolf chasing the little girl, and finish with the lesson-learned ending..... easy enough, right? Hmmmmm........
There are some people in this world I suppose who could hear a story once, and be able to repeat it again right away. I am not one of those people...in fact, I am not even close to being one of those people! I need a piece of paper with the story in front of me... and I need the important parts that I cannot forget highlighted.... and THEN I need time to rehearse... like days...or even weeks!
There were people in my group who could re-tell this story almost verbatim right away.. this was amazing to me. These people, are story-tellers! I believed.
Jane Cobb has written; to my knowledge, two books on rhymes, and storytelling, "I'm a Little Teapot!" and "What'll I do with the Baby-o?" she truly has a talent for captivating large groups of people, including adults for a 7 hour workshop.I wish I was more like Jane. I found her workshop challenging, (the remembering part, but super fun and inspiring!)
When I got home, I was so excited to see my little ones and hear about their day. It was (Soccer-Saturday) so I had missed three games... and they had much to tell me!
Half way through dinner, my little Eva asked me what I learned today at my class. (she doesn't skip a beat, my little mini-me)...
I told her that I learned how to tell stories! ........WOOPS! That came out wrong... because as soon as those words slipped out, I couldn't suck them back and you know she got so excited and asked me to tell her a story!
I didn't have my sheets! I didn't have the chance to highlight it yet, or practise it, or rehearse it for days!
"Come on mom... tell us!" all three prodded together.
Oh My Gosh, I thought, okay, I can do this! Think, think! Remember the key components, "The beginning, the mother leaves to town, the little girl sees flowers near the edge of the forest, she picks the flowers, the song she sings, the Gunni-wolf catches her, she sings him to sleep, she starts running , he chases her and the sound he makes,do it three times over until finally the little girl get's home safely)
"Okay," I said quietly....".But it's a scary story, and you might not like it, because you have to sing a song when the little girl picks the flowers, and you have to make this deep, grunting sound when the Gunni-wolf chases the little girl!" I warned.... "Gunni-wolf" Jaysun asked excitedly..."What's a Gunni-wolf?"
"Tell us!"... they giggled out loud.... so, I told them the story.... I started out, "Once there was a little girl who lived with her mother at the edge of a deep dark forest. The mother always told the little girl, "Whatever you do, don't go into that forest alone. Because if you do the Gunni-wolf might get you!" The little girl always promised that she would never go into the forest alone.......
and you know what... I didn't remember ALL of the things I should have in the right order, and I forgot to pitty-pat my knees until the second time the Gunni-wolf chased the little girl, and I'm pretty sure the tune for the little girls song was totally off, but they didn't know that! Somehow, I remembered it... there is definitely something to be said for repetition and practise! Not only did I remember that story, but two others, and many many songs that I had forgotten the tunes of from back when I was in Girl Guides! I completely shocked myself..a well deserved imaginary pat on back for moi!
"Well, if you liked the story about the Gunni-wolf, then you'll love the story about the frogs!"
"FROGS?".... my children chimed in again.
"When I was a little girl, my grandpa, Parley Garfield, told me he could talk to the frogs. And I believed him!....
and that's how story-telling begins, Jane Cobb would be proud, I'm sure.
Secretly, I am really trying to become a story-teller... I practise when I can, but mostly I read from my highlighted sheets so I don't mess up the important parts. I am intrigued with this new found-love of story telling, and I hope that this might somehow spark the interest of other educators or parents out there....it truly is a gift to carry on forgotten stories to our own children, in hopes it peeks their interest a little, or in the very least, keeps their brains fresh with imagination... and if I intrigued you with my stories and you want to know more about Parley Garfield and the Frogs, you'll just have to come visit me during circle time to hear the rest... or ask Eva... she's got it down pat now!..."Knee-deep! Knee-deep!"
Thanks for reading!
"After nourishment, shelter and companionship; stories are the thing we need most in the world.!" ~ Philip Pullman
This is my backyard.. well almost. If you walk out my back gate, in about a minutes walk this is what you will be looking at... amazing! It's breathtaking, in every season. We visit here (almost) daily, we walk around the groomed pathway, careful not to get too close to the edge... the edge....the water...the fall into the water... (insert mommy-panic face)...I think about this pond a lot. I have had many dreams about this pond... and water... and falling.
When you are responsible for other peoples children there is no room for error. I can proudly say that no child has ever fallen into this pond... ever. My own children who are now 10 and 8 however have fallen into this pond.. many times.(okay, not fallen really, slipped is a better description) They quickly discovered (as did I) that it is very shallow along the edges and very, very mucky! This helps me be a little calmer when we go on our nature walks, but the fear of what-if never really goes away completely. I still hold the hands of my new little two's in September as they learn to navigate their way around the winding pathway surrounding this pond. I still occasionally raise my voice, and ask the children to "use walking feet", and stay together as a group. Water makes me extra nervous...(I'm not sure I will ever feel any differently when I am responsible for 8 children's safety) but once we are around the pond, I feel myself calm again, and more open to enjoy my surroundings.
Children are natural risk takers! They are courageous and amazing climbers. They show little fear around bodies of water, slippery rocks or grassy fields taller than they are. As an educator, I try to encourage risk... "What might happen if you..." maybe I might even give them an encouraging "verbal push".... even the non-walking toddlers in my Infant Program at Little Bears scramble themselves up tricky paths falling over every two or three feet but never giving up. (Yes, we take our non-walkers on walks in the forest!) What I have begun to realize, is truly how capable children are! Especially in nature. There has always been wet slippery branches covered in moss to climb, slimy wet cobblestones to trip us up, and muddy lagoons threatening to swallow us whole. Just being outside is a risk, but obviously, one I'm willing to work through since bubble wrapping our children is not an option.
Every day risks make us stronger, smarter, healthier and more aware of our own bodies.
I found this quote which I feel relates well to this post.
"It's impossible." said pride.
"It's risky. said experience.
"It's pointless." said reason.
"Give it a try!"..... whispered the heart.
As always, thanks for reading!
A beautiful water fall along our path way. The children are not able to climb this water fall however they like to "fish" in the water pond below it. Climbing this structure would be a potential (high risk) as it is more than 12 feet high at the very top.
I have been meaning to start this blog for some time now... probably years! Somehow, my own children, my businesses, my husband, my health and fitness goals.... everything has slowed down this process in many ways.... until today.
I have much to say...
I have so much yet to learn...
I'm trying every day to be a stronger leader, have an positive impact on the children I care for and the educators that I employ.
I am an emotional writer, as you may soon realize and I get very passionate about the topics that directly impact my work, and my family.
I have learned a lot about myself and my career as an early childhood educator over the past (almost) 19 years. My hopes are to share my thoughts, my questions and things that I grapple with daily about: current practise, relationships between caregivers and children, children and their surroundings, my beliefs around children's capabilities, nature, holistic learning environments and always; my ever- changing....... " Image of the Child." I would like to thank you for taking a moment of time out of your precious day to read my posts. I hope to inspire you along the way, and perhaps open your eyes (and hearts)to the beauty of children in nature.... and why I love my life as an early childhood educator and mother of three!
* "The wider the range of possibilities we offer children, the more intense will be their motivations and the richer their experiences." ` Loris Malaguzzi on the Reggio Emilia classroom.