Category Archives: environment design

Teaching Infants to Play and Learn

Infants and Toddlers are learning how objects are used together which is why they love filling and dumping so much. During this 7minute observation what do you notice about the adult’s role in supporting the baby at play? What is the child learning?

(Of note- this is the last five minutes at the childcare center before the school closes for the day. This infant has been cared for from 8am-5pm- the last adult you see in the video his his mother)

Please observe first without distraction- we will be watching again.

Now that you’ve seen the video, please take a moment to watch again asking:

  • how is the baby
  • how does the caregiver respond to the baby
  • what motivates the child
  • what can you tell about the child’s relationships
  • what did you like about the observation
  • what would you change

Next week we will be watching this video again with Pikler Pedagogue and RIE Associate, Beverly Kovach on Facebook Live. Make sure you “like” us and stay tuned for participation details. (https://www.facebook.com/LittleLearnersLodgeSC/)

The Large Bead Stair

The construction of the large bead stair began as a problem to be solved in our outdoor classroom.  Each morning the children help open and set up the cognitive materials on the porch.  The Montessori bead stair is a quintessential math material which helps with one to one correspondence, links quantity to symbol and is used in higher end math materials, such as the teen boards, short and long chains, and operations.  Day after day pieces of the bead stair would get accidently dropped through the floor slats of the porch.  As a result, much of our time in the morning was spent replacing the missing beads.
Hanging Bead Stair
Hanging Bead Stair
One day a child remarked, “Oh!  I wish these beads were not so small!”  We started brainstorming a weather-proof, porch-proof bead stair.  It would need to be inexpensive and involve the children as much as possible in its construction.  We also wanted it to highlight the small Montessori bead stair located inside in the classroom rather than take its place.
Large Bead Stair
Large Bead Stair
It has been a beautiful point of interest for both the Toddler and Primary children as they walk by the material on the way to the playground and a valued addition to our math curriculum for the outside classroom.
 How to Make the Large Bead Stair:
Materials:
55 golf balls
2 tomato cages
white primer spraypaint
9 permanent markers or paint pens (red, green, pikn, yellow, light blue, purple, brown, dark blue, and gold)
Tools:
electric drill
wire cutters
needlenose pliers
Large Bead Stair
Large Bead Stair

 

Directions:
1. Wash and prime golf balls
2. Drill a hole through each one
3. Cut cages into 10 strips (3 inch, 5 inch, 7 inch……..up to 21 inch)
4. Bend a loop at each end and thread golf balls onto wires.
5. Add color to golf balls to match the small bead stair.
Once the tools came out the boys were all ready and willing to help!…drill the holes, cut the wire, and string the balls on in 1-10 sequence. When we were ready to add color, the girls arrived and organized themselves to apply color to the balls to match the small bead stair.   Kindergarteners checked in periodically to supervise and make suggestions (they have been working with the bead stair for years and are well-versed in managing others and chiming in with their expertise at this point in the year)…..
Community Building
Community Building

…and voila!  We finished and presented the large bead stair as complete and available to use!  It has shown to be quite inviting and enticing due to its appearance and location.  It has even called to young children who do not have a developed pincer grip yet but who are able to exercise a 4-finger grasp and strengthen their one to one correspondence.

As a larger indirect benefit, we have watched the primary children pass by and comment (as they always do after community projects) that they helped make that!

Relationship Matters: Table Manners

I was inspired by a recent email exchange between our Head of School, Megan Nordoff, and a parent of a child enrolled in the Primary Community of MMPSchool. 

Hi Bev and John,
Thought I’d take a minute today to pass along some tidbits from this
week with Marcus.  He’s been very cheerful this week starting with
early Monday morning relaying to us that he went camping and slept on
the top.  He was excited that we had oranges for snack and asked if
they were his oranges from his birthday.  I told him Ms. Nicole
brought them from Florida- he ate 3!  He also said that his Pops is
in Florida.  Late he and a friend did the number rods together,
quantity and symbol 1-5.
On Tuesday, he recognized 4 on the clock and exclaimed, “I am 4!”
and then asked “Am I 4?” to which I let him know “Yes, you will be 4
for a year and then turn 5.”  He looked absolutely flabbergasted!  🙂
He worked with a friend for a little while matching beginning sounds
of objects to the right letter and then went off to climb.  He had to
wait his turn as another friend wanted to climb alone on the
structure.  Ms. Amy reminded him to wait upon the other friend’s
request and he was a little tiffed at Amy for about a minute (arms
crossed and eyebrows furrowed).  He came over to me and showed me her
face.  I asked him if he wanted to tell me something.  He told me
Ms. Amy wouldn’t let him climb.  I reiterated that he could climb
after the friend was finished- she wanted to be alone on the structure
to concentrate on balancing.   He relaxed, got busy with something
else and eventually went back to climbing later.Hope you are having a nice day and hope this sort of info is helpful
to you at home and in communication with the OT.MeganP.S. He was so excited today that he was able to hang his purple
jacket on the coat rack with no help at all!

Megan,
Thank you so very much for this feedback. This is so helpful exactly what we need and truly appreciate your time, courtesy and attention.Please continue to send these updates. We meet with the OT & ST on Weds. mornings.You mentioned on our conference that Marcus often has trouble staying seated at mealtimes. We consistently have the same behavior at home. When you have a moment, could you tell me how you “scaffold” with him in these situations? I want to be consistent with your methods.He seems to be having so much fun at school this week.Thank you for your continuing communication.With our best,
bev & john

Sent from my iPhone

Montessori Snack
Montessori Snack
Hi Bev,

At school he stays seated but if he gets up to get something or go to the bathroom he can get sidetracked not come back with prompting.  Meal times can be difficult because they are sensory-rich so keep this in mind and try to see it from his perspective when you set your expectations.  I would take a look at environmental details first:
* he should be seated comfortably, waist at the table with bare feet touching a surface is optimal
* soft lighting (stay away from fluorescent)
* background music can be a disturbance
* visual distractions on table? keep it as simple as possible
* consistency wherever possible: dishes, sequence, seating arrangement
* timing of meal: is he hungry when you sit down?  after school snacks? is he starting to get tired?
* length of meal?  adults will prefer to sit longer….at lunch he sits for about 20 minutes
* food being served
* his buy in: has he been able to contribute to the meal/experience?
* expectations?  before, during, after?  clear his own dishes, etc.
* conversation: is it pleasant for him?
At school he is expected to take his dishes and scrape and wash his plate after he is finished.  This marks the end of the meal and the child does not return to the table to continue eating after this.  As they master caring for their own dishes then their desire to help expands to assisting with clearing the table and cleaning up the whole room for the next part of the day.   We are currently scaffolding Marcus with staying on task and completing the transition from getting up from the table, scraping, washing and leaving the sink.  He doesn’t complain about it but can get distracted and wanders away before finishing.
Just be sure that whatever limits you set that you’re prepared to stick with and follow through.  At the end of the day it is usually better to lower the expectations slightly since everyone is tired- otherwise you won’t be able to stay consistent on a daily basis.
Megan

Thank you for this, Megan! 
I followed your advice at breakfast & it went (almost 😉 very smoothly.
Very helpful.
Hi Bev,
I’ve been meaning to ask you.  I think this question from you regarding meal time is a pretty common one.  Would you be ok if I changed the names and shared it with others via our BLOG?
Megan

Of course!Sent from my iPhone

This Ain’t No Daycare Baby

I was a daycare baby.

In the ’70s, still relatively few families involved both parents working and if they did, extended family often took care of the little ones.  My parents, however, were members of a growing group of transplants without extended family who relied on two incomes to make finances work.  At the time, daycare options were limited. High quality care was virtually non-existent.

It wasn’t until I was 8 years old that my mom finally had enough.  A family therapist by profession, she couldn’t believe the challenges working families faced in finding a center with regard for CARING for young children.  Although her own children had aged out of a pre-school need, my mom’s mental health background fairly screamed, “If you want to make a difference, start with children.”

Infant environment 1980s
Infant environment 90s

In 1977 (77 being my parents’ lucky number) they dove in the deep end and to this day, both remain active in advocating for quality preschool education and support of early childhood professionals.

During the late 90s, in search of more meaningful work, I left the international commodity export trading industry to check out the daycare my family still owned in Charleston, SC.  Over the past 15 years, I’ve come to recognize that while the center does provide childcare services, the word “daycare” doesn’t come close to describing the work going on here. I’m saddened by the idea, however, that even after all these decades many of our children still only have daycare options available to support working parents. The long term ramifications affect the very fabric of our society.

Toddler Environment 80s
Toddler Environment 90s

What do I mean by  DAYCARE?

The best way for me to describe the difference between “daycare” and “early childhood experience” is to turn back to my first professional experiences as a food commodity trader where I sold frozen chicken- both as a commodity and the further processed value added versions- by the container.

When you evaluate childcare options as a commodity, the assumption is that all centers are equal.   As such, the only concerns would be- what is your tuition?  and-  how much can I get for that price, or what are your hours of operation?

While tuition and hours of operation certainly play into a family’s ability to afford or work the care into their professional lives, our experience has been that extended hours and lower tuition correlates to the quality of care your child will receive while away from her home.

Pre-K Old School
Pre-K Old School

Extended hours often mean children shuffle from room to room as teachers stagger in for their eight hour day.  Young children may find themselves in unfamiliar environments, with unfamiliar adults, amongst unfamiliar children of a broad age range.  Lower tuition typically relates to lower wages and professional development and benefits for the early childhood caregiver.  Both- extended hours and lower tuition- end up equating to teacher burnout and higher turnover.

An additional $1.00/day even for small schools with enrollment under 80 families can afford your preschool flexibility to lower ratios, add curriculum enhancements,  or increase teacher benefits adding to the well-being of its community.

Pre-K 2013
Pre-K 2013

Research continues to pour forth validating the critical importance of the formative years and the return on investment society reaps in providing a stable infrastructure for a quality early childhood experience.  Paradigms are shifting- our children are our greatest resource, the most valued of products we can produce.  Yet still, for the most part, the burden of treating them as such rests on the professionals and parents willing and able to deliver.

Parents on the hunt for childcare balancing the fiscal, practical and ideal can arm themselves with additional evaluative measures outside price and hours in making their assessments.  Consider-

1. Size matters:  schools with larger enrollment have a more difficult time offering cohesion in quality.  It is difficult getting to know families, children and faculty members as resources are pulled managing the administrative needs of large groups.

2. Administration guides school leadership:  what are their qualifications and how long have they served the program?  Often school administrators have little classroom experience which can inhibit their ability to resource teachers and parents.

Toddler Extension 2013
Toddler Extension 2013

3.  Facility investment:  do you see evidence of continued facility improvements?  Facility upgrades and curriculum additions demonstrate a continued investment on the part of the school leadership.

4.  Continued adult education:  in addition to teacher credentials, what was the last training offered and why?  Are parents encouraged to attend?  Most states require a minimal number of continued adult education hours for early childhood professionals.  Evidence that teachers are encouraged to extend training above these minimal requirements is a great indicator of how they are valued.

5.  Teacher retention:  many believe that it takes at least five years to become a good early childhood professional.  Find out the tenure of your preschool’s teaching team.  Turnover directly affects the quality of any program negatively.

Infant Environment 2013
Infant Environment 2013

On our part, you’ll find our tuition and fee schedule non-published.  It is shared in person upon touring the facilities in an effort to help provide parents much of the information they will need in making their assessment on who will care and provide for their child when they are away.

A special thanks to David Vigliotti for capturing our moments together at Little Learners Lodge and Montessori of Mount Pleasant.  Even before joining the teaching team in 2001, it is obvious through his photos that David has always shared an appreciation for the beauty presented in childhood and the dedication of parents and educators providing for young children.