Fuzzy Bumps Borders - FREE

Download these new creations from TpT - click on the image above

What a day! As well as making these borders, I had the great delight in helping to care for my three beautiful nieces today, along with my daughter. She loves having some other children to play with.  We had hours of open-ended imaginative and creative play. I have recently extended my little house (now somewhat larger) and we had a rumpus room added. I wanted this rumpus to be known as the "play room" for at least the next 6 years. With bub #2 coming along, we have plenty of toys! We are so fortunate to have the space to allow for a "home corner", "creative or craft" corner, massive dress up box, two big bookcases and five nice big cupboards to house all the toys. It really is a 4 year olds paradise, and I have to say, part of me was fulfilling a long-held childhood envy. As a child, I had friends with a room like this and I have  longed for one ever since.  I am busy organising and labelling storage in the toy cupboards and will post some photos when it is finished.

This very free and open play space is a delightful balance for the structured activities my daughter loves. She does take after me, and I distinctly remember loving structured and "school-like" formal activities when I was young. Activities that some early childhood teachers might screw their noses up at - oh my goodness not a worksheet - don't give the children any sort of direction! Shock horror!

I am so glad that 12 years of teaching in K-2 settings has helped me to feel confident in what I have always believed, that most children need a little bit of it all. It is wonderful for them to "play in the dirt", express themselves with a blank piece of paper and a selection of art mediums and materials. But what joy some of them get out of being given a structured teaching lesson in a specific skill. What development you can then see develop over the following weeks and their clever little minds apply that knowledge to their own creations! My daughter is thankfully benefiting from a little bit of both worlds.

This has been in my mind constantly lately, as my sister has started and early childhood education degree. I have tried to offer her advice and suggestions as she tackles the assignments and discusses issues with her peers. I do remember the constant contrast between the different styles of teaching, and am trying to help her steer through the same conflicts.

It always made sense to me, to develop a teaching style that encompassed a little of all the theories - surely no one way is better that the others - it was just common sense to me.
Some children like the freedom of open experiences, others like and feel safe in more direct, explicit experiences. Should it not be our goal to provide both of these? Structured lessons or "teaching moments" to help move along the developmental continuum, open experiences to then apply that knowledge and new skill...

Last year, against everything I had been taught at university, I did a "directed drawing" lesson once a week in my kindergarten class. I will never forget the look of joy and confidence on the faces of my students. Some of the children had struggled all year to "draw" something they were proud of. As much as I told them their naive and scribbly sketches were wonderful, they did not seem to believe me. One little boy was literally jumping out of his seat when I showed him, step by step, how to draw a castle. Yes it was structured, but over the year I saw the confidence in the children increase and they applied many techniques  to other more "open" art and drawing lessons.

I have also been thinking about these issues after reading an article in my local paper about preschools. It is controversial, and I think for the most part our preschool teachers do a wonderful job, but I am interested in exploring the issues it raised, particularly that of the quality of instruction in preschools - teachers really using opportunities for "teaching". Have we been scared into thinking that if we just provide a lovely environment and give children time, they will somehow progress without any sort of structured teaching?   

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