Room One Articles

Baking with Children: 6 Reasons Why You Should Give it a Try

Posted on April 18th, 2018. Filed under: General News, Room One Articles, Room One News, Room Two Articles, Room Two News.

Baking with children may sound daunting – but it can be enjoyable and rewarding for everyone!
If you take the time to set up your baking space prior to inviting your child to join in (ingredients, tools, etc), you too will experience the benefits alongside your child.


Here are some of the reasons we love baking with the children at Building Blocks, and why we think you should give it a try at home as well:

 

1. Baking Teaches Patience and Calmness

When you think of baking, patience calmness aren’t always the first things that come to mind, but we believe that they are great lessons in baking with children. Firstly, in order to have a good experience, the adult must be calm and patient, and the child(ren) will follow. In an ECE setting, the children need to wait their turn to add an ingredient or stir things together, so they begin practicing patience right from the start.

Waiting for the food to bake in the oven is another practice of patience. Some foods take up to an hour in the oven, but children will learn that by waiting, there is a tasty reward at the end! Patience and calmness will translate into other areas of your child’s day, and they will learn that being calm during a process actually makes it more enjoyable.

2. Baking Assists in Fine-Motor Skill Development

Hand-eye coordination is needed when pouring ingredients into measuring cups, and into the larger bowls. Children will strengthen their grip as they hold and manoeuvre different baking tools. And kneading and squeezing doughs will strengthen muscles in their hands and fingers.

3. Baking Exposes Us to Practical Science Concepts

Baking is chemistry! The mixing of different ingredients bring about chemical, textural and taste changes in the food as you add them to the heat of the oven. Exposing children to these science concepts at an early age will get them excited about experimenting and problem solving in many areas of their lives. The article Teaching Science and Math Through Cooking explains it further.

4. Baking Exposes Us to and Helps Us Practice Our Math Skills

In following a recipe, children learn to recognize numbers and what they represent. Some of our children are too young to follow the recipe on their own, but we make sure to verbalize what we are doing (e.g. “1/2 a cup of flour, 2 teaspoons of baking powder”). It is more fun for children to learn about the concepts of volume and measurements through practical application.

5. Baking is a Wonderful Life Skill

Baking is a great life skill to obtain, and if children have the opportunity to practice it in a fun way, starting at an early age, the self-care aspect of it will be second to the enjoyment of it. It can lead into an interest in cooking, and into young adulthood, your child will feel comfortable and confident in the kitchen (and may even want to cook you dinners!)  Also, it is a great time during food preparation to nutrition and healthy eating options.

6. Baking is Fun!

Last, but most certainly not least, baking is fun! Getting messy with ingredients and batters, watching the changes through the oven light, getting sudsy and warm water to do the dishes, and of course, tasting your treats at the end, all make for a wonderful experience. It can be as long or as short of an experience as you make it, but it is quality time with the child, spent learning and growing together.

Check out some of our favourite recipes below:

Easy Cheese Scones

Gingerbread Cookies

Savoury Muffins

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Banana Loaf

We Love Our Farm: Caring for Animals in an Early Childhood Education Setting

Posted on April 5th, 2018. Filed under: General News, Room One Articles, Room One News, Room Two Articles, Room Two News.

 

At Building Blocks we are very lucky to have access to a large outdoor farmyard, where we learn and explore on the land and care for and respect our animals. This is a large part of our learning programme.

Currently Building Blocks is home for 2 sheep (Fern and Lola), 1 goat (Dave), and 8 chickens. We have had Fern since she was a baby, and she joined us back in July 2016. 6 of our chickens joined us back in November, after we had an incubator in Room One, cared for the eggs for 21 days, and watched them hatch. We have nurtured them and watched them grow into full grown chicks, and they are due to start laying in the coming month!

Each afternoon we take the children to the farm to feed the sheep, goat and chickens our food scraps from the day and collect any eggs the chickens may have laid. And on every Wednesday, we have “Farm Day,” where a larger group of children and 1-2 teachers head to the back paddocks and orchard for an adventure. The children get to roam around, play tag games, and interact with our furry, wooly and feathered friends.

Respecting the Farm and the Animals

Before each visit, we gather the children that will be attending and remind them of some of our ground rules. These include remaining calm, using gentle voices and hands, and walking feet around the animals. We are entering their home, and we need them to feel safe around us. When the animals feel safe, they will approach us and want to be handled.

The children are also reminded to stay within the same paddock as the teachers, to climb only on the designated fences around the trees, and to look out for their friends.

These boundaries are always respected by the children, because they love the opportunities of exploring the farm.

Children are learning:

  • that remaining calm around animals is rewarding, as it enhances their interactions and experiences with them
  • to take on responsibility in feeding the animals
  • about the circle of life, and how animals grow and change
  • where our food comes from – fruit comes from the trees in our orchard, and chickens lay eggs! (they’ve learned that you need a rooster to get baby chicks, because they often ask if we are eating baby chicks when we eat eggs)
  • that wide open natural spaces provide a blank slate for adventure
  • to take responsibility for their own exploration and learning
  • to care for their peers, older friends often hold the younger friends hands and help guide them
  • that self-care is important too when looking after animals. We must always wear close-toed shoes and wash our hands after every visit!

Caring for animals also teaches compassion and empathy. When children take the time to be consciously gentle with animals and experience the benefits, this translates into their day-to-day interactions with their peers, teachers and family. And having the wider space of the farm to explore provides the children with a sense of adventure, creativity and freedom.

“Pets are humanizing. They remind us we have an obligation and
responsibility to preserve and nurture and care for all life.”
~ James Cromwell

Further Readings

The Importance of Outdoor Play for Children

Nurturing Children’s Love for Animals

Learning Through Animals

Loose Parts in Early Childhood Centres

Posted on March 25th, 2018. Filed under: General News, Infants & Toddlers Articles, Room One Articles, Room Two Articles.

You may have already heard of the Theory of Loose Parts from your child’s teachers, but here’s a brief overview of what we’re talking about. At Building Blocks we are continuously evolving our learning programme through incorporating this theory. 

 

 

 

What is the Theory of Loose Parts?

Architect Simon Nicholson first proposed this theory in the 1970’s, stating:

“In any environment, both the degree of inventiveness and creativity, and the possibility of discovery, are directly proportional to the number and kind of variables in it.”

Nicholson believed that creativity and innovation are the product of an environment where children are able to interact with many variables (materials, shapes, sounds, smells, plants, animals, concepts, other humans, etc.), rather than born traits of the ‘gifted few’.

Loose parts enable children to “play, experiment, discover and invent and have fun,” creating a world of their own. If exposed to such an environment, children would grow into imaginative, resourceful and inventive adults.

How does this work in early childhood education?

PVC car ramp loose parts creationChildren are provided with toys that are open-ended and can be used for many purposes.  They can take part in the creation of their own environment and generate a space where play and learning are the one in the same.

 At Building Blocks we have our “loose parts” spaces in both the indoor and outdoor environments.  These locations are where we set up and return the different parts, but the children are able to collect, construct, create and transport these items around the centre. The freedom to move adds to their dramatic play and building experiences.

What are loose parts?

Loose parts can be natural or synthetic, and can be large or small. We have many natural items for the children to use in both our indoor and outdoor environments.

From pebbles to rocks, and feathers to toi tois, there is always something new. We are constantly adding and changing the items we provide, to extend the children’s play.

Sometimes the teachers add items, and have ideas of what the children will do with them. We have learned that they often use things completely differently. This is a perfect example of the theory in action.

The loose parts initiate creativity and imagination on a completely individual level.

We also aim to collect synthetic loose parts from our homes and our children’s homes. Open-ended materials such as hoses, ropes, bags, boxes and containers all encourage the children to use their imaginations. There are so many different things to collect and use!

Our parents often bring in recyclable items like yogurt cups, egg cartons, even empty mint tins.

We always want to add to our collection of materials in which the children can use their imaginations and extend their play.

If you have any ideas, talk to your child’s teacher, or feel free to bring things in and we will let the children explore. If you see your child walking around with a random item at the centre, we invite you to observe and listen to what they are using it for. It is amazing to see what treasures they can create.

What are some examples of the creativity we see?

  • Large PVC Piping has been used to transport water, balls, and even as car ramps
  • Milk crates are often used as trains, cots for baby dolls, or for stacking and constructing towers
  • Sawhorses are used for making tents and homes or creating obstacle courses
  • Blocks of wood are used as cell phones or for building houses for animals

And there are many, many more!

 

References

Download Simon Nicholson’s Theory here: https://ojs.lboro.ac.uk/SDEC/article/view/1204/1171

http://www.letthechildrenplay.net/2010/01/how-children-use-outdoor-play-spaces.html