Early Childhood Articles


Napping in Early Childhood Programs, by Tami Barbour

Why Don’t We Make Them Come to Circle Time?  by Tami Barbour

Rough and Tumble Play in Preschool by Tami Barbour

Rough Play: Are Boys Inherently Violent? ABC News

Name Calling in Preschool  by Tami Barbour

 Napping in Early Childhood Programs, by Tami Barbour

Posted on May 16, 2014 by Tami Barbour

Last week, I read the article, Children and sleep – A Real Health Issue, and I wanted to share it on the blog today.  Maybe because it is May the 16th, it is 39 degrees out,  and it is drizzling rain AND I want to nap instead of doing real work.  So my compromise is sip my coffee while I  write about napping:)

The article was a very concise write up of what I have been reading about for years:  GOOD SLEEP IS CRITICAL FOR EVERYONE, ESPECIALLY CHILDREN.  Lack of sleep is connected to being at high risk for obesity, chronic disease, developing ADHD, and it is detrimental to learning.  The author shares, “Up until age five, naps are an important part of healthy sleep habits. Research shows that young children learn best when they are able to nap during the day. The brain is active during sleep and helps to transfer information learned earlier in the day to a different part of the brain that controls long-term memory. The ability to focus and control behavior are affected if children do not get adequate sleep including a daytime nap.”  http://extension.psu.edu/youth/betterkidcare/news/2014/children-and-sleep-2013-a-real-health-issue

In another article, Daytime Naps Enhance Learning in Preschool Children, http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/09/130923155534.htm the author shares Rebecca Spencer’s research on napping preschoolers. Spencer is concerned because with the surge of information on the importance of early learning, the shift is to take naps away to make more time for learning.  However, she concludes that, “children should not only be given the opportunity, they should be encouraged to sleep by creating an environment which supports sleep.”  Her research conclusively showed that children were better able to remember what they had learned after an average nap of 77 minutes than without one.  Specifically, “While the children performed about the same immediately after learning in both the nap and wake conditions, the children performed significantly better when they napped both in the afternoon and the next day,” the authors summarize. “That means that when they miss a nap, the child cannot recover this benefit of sleep with their overnight sleep. It seems that there is an additional benefit of having the sleep occur in close proximity to the learning.”

Wee Friends offers a quiet environment conducive to good napping in both classrooms and our teachers value naps.  For the preschoolers we often get requests to discontinue napping and we do work with parents and respect their wishes.  However, I wanted to offer some research as to why we value the nap.   As always, ya’ll know I love to talk about this stuff.  So, I’d be happy to dialogue and brainstorm with any of you on how to ensure your child is getting enough rest during the day.

When you can’t figure out what to do, it’s time for a nap. ~Mason Cooley

Stay warm today!


Other links on sleep:

Your Guide To Healthy Sleep http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/public/sleep/yg_slp.htm

Napping Helps Children Retain Memory, Learn New Skills Read more at http://www.redorbit.com/news/health/1113116770/children-learn-more-retain-memories-with-naps-040914/#KctKWGROeTodObpC.99

Napping Helps Children Retain Memory, Learn New Skills Read more at http://www.redorbit.com/news/health/1113116770/children-learn-more-retain-memories-with-naps-040914/#KctKWGROeTodObpC.99

Napping Helps Children Retain Memory, Learn New Skills http://www.redorbit.com/news/health/1113116770/children-learn-more-retain-memories-with-naps-040914/#KctKWGROeTodObpC.99

From Learning in Infancy to Planning Ahead in Adulthood: Sleep’s Vital Role for Memory http://www.cogneurosociety.org/sleep_memory_cns2014/

Infant Sleep Research: Bedsharing, Self-Soothing, and Sleep Training http://scienceofmom.com/2012/03/09/infant-sleep-research-cosleeping-self-soothing-and-sleep-training/


Why Don’t We Make Them Come to Circle Time?  by Tami Barbour

This is a question that was asked earlier this week and it is one that has been asked over and over throughout the years.  Every time a parent asks a question, and we answer it, we then huddle together as a teaching staff and reflect on our practice.  Is our practice still relevant? Is it working? Why DO we do it that way?  We value your questions because they keep us on our toes.  Without those questions we lose opportunities to question, reflect, and respond.   So bring them on!

So for today, I wanted to share a few very recent examples of our philosophy in action and then share our discussion about why it’s ok with us if a child opts to do their own thing instead of choosing to join a large or small group activity.

Earlier in the week, Miss Laurie created a 3D neighborhood project and invited the children in small groups to come and join her at the art table.  The reply by one child was, “But I don’t want to do that”.  He wanted to go to the workshop and create a train.  And he did, indeed, go and create a train.  And there was a teacher offering him one-to-one support to build his train. And we know that while he was at the workshop, he was intrinsically motivated to give his all to that work.  Best practices are to provide him the materials and support to build his train.   And we did. And he built a train that day.

Still this week, a younger child moved into group, then out of group as her interest waxed and waned.  However, from the other side of the house, as soon as the group of children started singing, she moved her body back to the group and joined in enthusiastically.  She was clearly paying attention to the group, even while she busied herself with her own interests.  When she came to the group time, she wanted to be in the group.  When children want to be there, it is a powerful tool in having a positive, structured group time.

Today, the teachers walked through Wee Friends and invited friends to join them in a sensory/science project of making Ice Wreaths to share with our birds (Thanks Jennifer and Lindsay for the idea and materials!)  All of the children chose to come to the table.  They all wanted to be there and they stayed and they cooperated for the duration.

Later in the morning, our 3D neighborhood project re-emerged to get its next layer of finish.  Some of the children eagerly grabbed paint brushes and went to town (excuse the pun).  Others continued their work in other parts of the classroom and then joined.  Others declined to join in this morning, but may choose to work on it later.  All of that is ok because when they are at the table they are fully invested.

So, back to the question, “Why don’t we make them come to circle time?”:

We offer an environment full of choices (academic, social/emotional, creative, and physical), but we allow the child to choose what choices they make.

  • Building focus and attention is a prime goal.  What they are doing at the moment is the most important thing and the teachers are there to support and extend the play.   Not to interrupt it because we are arrogant and believe our agenda is more important than what they are learning in their moment.  http://oregonstate.edu/ua/ncs/archives/2012/aug/preschool-children-better-attention-spans-more-likely-finish-college
  • Children learn when they are interested in what is being taught.  Otherwise, just watch them in a large group situation with all of the large group distractions: they pick their noses, they pick at their friends, they squirm, they look around everywhere.  Until they are about 4.5 years old and then something happens.  Then, we find that they are sponges and they really want to know EVERYTHING we can tell them about EVERYTHING.   Force it on them sooner and they have closed the door at 4.5 years rather than swinging it wide open for us. Research backs this….http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/20056147/ns/health-childrens_health/t/should-preschools-teach-all-work-no-play/
  • Children learn when they are ready for what is being taught.  Were you one of those children that they tried to teach algebra in 7th grade and you just didn’t get it?  I was.  I was an awesome student and no matter how hard they tried and I tried, it didn’t make sense.  Until it did, later, when my brain was ready.  Reading concepts for children are the same thing.  We immerse them in literacy (stories aloud individually and in small groups, daily writing opportunities, modeling writing,  teachers always available for conversations that build language, music that utilizes rhythm and rhyme, learning materials that support literacy, etc)  We give them the pieces of the puzzle and when their brains are ready it clicks.  It always does.  The article below states, “Most children learn to read by 6 or 7 years of age. Some children learn at 4 or 5 years of age.”  We know this to be true.  http://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/preschool/pages/Helping-Your-Child-Learn-to-Read.aspx?nfstatus=401&nftoken=00000000-0000-0000-0000-000000000000&nfstatusdescription=ERROR%3a+No+local+token

Children learn the concepts when they are working on something else nearby.  We see this over and over when they talk to us about what they heard at the perimeter of the circle.

  • Circle time is the least effective direct teaching that we do.  That individual conversation that a teacher has with a child is also direct teaching and it is the most effective.  But, that’s another whole blog in itself.
  • Wee Friends honors the individual child, their individual development, and their individual interests.  Through this, we cultivate a lifelong love of learning.

So really, it’s more than ok with us that our Wee Frienders can opt out of a group time.  At the core, we know it is a gift we are giving the children.  We know that we are offering a gazillion opportunities for small group times and large group times and that we trust the children to know which ones will be valuable to them.

Rough and Tumble Play in Preschool by Tami Barbour

Throughout the many years of providing childcare, I have gone through the various stages in my comfort level in allowing the boys to play more physically (aka rough and tumble play).  Initially and for several years, I forbade any rough play from occurring.  Wow, that was tricky because even though they were great kids that listened well, the little dudes were like magnets.  And forbidding this type of play yielded a steady stream of corrective action and negative attention for these developing boys.  So, about 5 years ago I did some research on the topic!  (Raising Cain, The Trouble with Boys, High Scope Curriculum, etc.)  Since then, I have taught this topic in my CDA class several times and presented workshops on this topic at the Early Childhood conferences.

In my research and by observing our children, we know that climbing over one another and rolling around also helps young children:

  • understand the limits of their strength
  • explore their changing position in space
  • fulfill their need to have lots of physical touch
  • find out what other children will and won’t let them do.

Teachers and parents may worry that children are being aggressive when they are rolling around on the floor, but you can tell rough-and-tumble play from genuine fighting.  In rough and tumble, children will be smiling and laughing. Once they’re finished, they’ll keep playing together.  Children who are really fighting each other will separate once the fight is over and their faces and body language show that they have gone too far.  While rough and tumble play can sometimes lead to real fighting, it is rare in our setting.  The children are craving positive physical contact and that is why they are engaging in this type of play.  If the rough and tumble play becomes aggressive in any way, we intervene and redirect the kids.

The play fighting ages and stages are:

  • Babies and toddlers enjoy exciting movement, as long as they feel safe. Toddlers and babies like to be bounced on knees or lifted into the air. It’s best to be gentle with young children, though, to avoid any accidental injury.
  • Toddlers love playing chase, tickle games, and spinning around and dancing. This kind of active play works best when the child is wide awake and not expected to go to bed or sit quietly any time soon.
  • Preschool and Elementary school children starting at the age of 2½ to 3, they are the biggest rough-and-tumblers.  (Notice the contact sports that junior high and high school boys choose: wrestling, hockey, basketball, football…so they haven’t really outgrown the need for contact, they have just redirected it!)

I feel very strongly that boys in our current anti-violence and totally over-reactive society have been given a raw deal.  The message we give girls is a very positive: what lovely flowers you have drawn, you are feeding your baby so carefully, thank you for waiting so patiently, etc.  The message we give boys is so different:  you are being too rough, you need to sit still, you are too loud, you shouldn’t be drawing dinosaurs dripping with blood in your journal, we don’t have superheroes or and we NEVER use guns not even for play, and on and on.  What comes naturally to boys mostly seems to be “wrong” in our cautious classroom and homes. We can teach boys to be respectful and responsible while appreciating and supporting them for who they are.  We cannot treat them like they are “defective girls”.   Preschool teachers have so much power on how boys view school for the rest of their lives.  Will they see school as a place that accepts them or will it be viewed as censoring and punishing.


Rough Play: Are Boys Inherently Violent?

If you are a new parent watching your boys grow, it may be alarming at times to see how often you find them re-enacting violence or how drawn they are to games of war, cops and robbers, and other variations of the good guy/ bad guy theme. And in a society where violence has reached alarming norms on entertainment that is often accessible to children, it’s easy to be a little concerned, but is it the media or are boys inherently violent when playing? And if so, is it necessarily a bad thing?

If you think back on your own childhood, no matter your age, it probably doesn’t take long to remember that this is no new trait in American society (and other cultures are no different). If you were a boy, you likely played the same war games with your own buddies if you weren’t have roughhousing matches in the backyard that somehow never resulted in broken bones but looking back probably could have.

If you are a woman, you probably remember wondering just what made those boys so crazy, right?

The truth is that boys are naturally hard-wired for a certain degree of aggressive behavior, and many educators believe that restricting this is restricting healthy natural activity and may be a significant reason for the huge gap in intellectual development between girls and boys that has appeared in our schools. It appears that even the more aggressive forms of play are a chance for the child to act out their imagination, but even more than that, you’ll find if you observe that when you break up an imaginary play session and restrict these children from playing aggressive roles, the energy and enthusiasm for the game is no longer sustainable.

Psychologists go even further to suggest that role of a hero gives children a chance to act out their inner desires for building moral ideals into true ideals. Boys have an inherent need to be dominant and to control a situation by separating the good from the bad, and often that comes in the form of an antagonist.

And as far as having a propensity for being the bad guy, this may not be much reason for alarm either. While another chance to use the imagination in full force, some psychologists also believe this kind of play gives us a chance to act out the battle between the good and bad that exists within all of us and give that struggle some life in a harmless and healthy way.

Indeed, there is no correlation between children who play violent games on the playground and young men who end up in jail. Children outgrow these games and find other places to place their energy, and the nature of their play is rarely if ever an indication of where they go from there. There are always exceptions, and common sense dictates when things have gone too far, but be careful to think that all aggressive play is a bad thing.

Article Source: http://www.abcarticledirectory.com


Exerpt from “Name-Calling and Teasing: Information for Parents and Educators”

“Name-calling and teasing are common with very young children. Preschool children display teasing, typically playful teasing, by laughing at others, saying silly things, and at times innocently commenting about something new or different about a child. Young children say what is on their mind and have not yet learned to filter comments. Based on the reactions of others, children begin to learn what it feels like to be teased as well as how to respond to teasing. Young children are aware that things they do can hurt others, but their teasing or name-calling tends not to be deliberate.”

Wee Friend Philosophy

In our preschool classroom, name calling has always been a rotating behavior challenge that comes and goes depending on the ages and chemistry of the children.  Right now we have a lot of 3 & 4 year old boys, so it is very present!  I have attached a name calling article and will distribute a paper copy of another article I have about superhero play next week.

As teachers, we are:

  • Determining whether the name calling is playful (as it most often is!) and determining whether all the players are receiving it as playful.  (Remember, we as adults role model playful name calling all of the time.  Children want to practice what they see role modeled and are bound to make social mistakes when doing it!)
  • If it is playful and all players are happy with it, we do not intervene.  (Example, You silly willy goosey woosey!  Hey, pumpkin head! You are a bad witchy witch!)
  • If anyone is unhappy, we encourage the unhappy child to communicate the request that the other child/ren stop.  Our program is based on respect for one another and if a child is upset by the name calling, we intervene.
  • We react to name calling, but do not overreact to it.  Name calling that isn’t playful is done to explore their power over others.  If we overreact, we give the child power and this only serves to encourage repeated behavior.
  • A good portion of our name calling is rhyming:  i.e. Tami, pami, slammi, etc.  Sometimes the kids find it funny, sometimes they do not.  Since is it so prevalent right now and getting too big of a reaction throughout the day, we have told the children that they can rhyme other words and redirect them into rhyming objects rather than friends names.  (Ex. Laurie, pourie, tourie and we would ask what items are around they could rhyme: chair, fair, dare.)  If they are not cooperative in this, then we ask for them to be alone with their rhyming.