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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

 

 

 

Music and Instruments in Room One

Posted on March 30th, 2017. Filed under: General News, Room One News.

Music in Room One

 

Music brings people together. Through music, children take an inner experience and move it into a shared creative experience. Group music-making releases energy which can be channeled in creative, productive directions. Children learn about themselves and others by playing music together and by listening to each other — tapping into hidden courage that can be played out by singing together or discovering the inner resources to listen quietly to another child’s playing.”
– Judi Bosco
Certified Music Therapist

Music is a big part of our days in Room One. We sing karakias before all of our meals, sing and dance during the day (especially during our mat times), have music playing during our sleep times, and often have music playing in the background of our day.

Recently, we have been experimenting with sounds through a collection of instruments. Nicole likes to sit in a small group, and talk about each instrument and how it makes its noises, and then pass the instrument around the circle so that each child can try it out. Once the children experience each instrument, they get to choose the one they want to play, and Nicole will play a melody on the xylophone, while the children sing along and play their instrument. We have discussed that sound makes vibrations, and that the vibrations come into our ears. Especially when using the triangle, the children can experience the vibrations by closing their eyes and Nicole will strike it with its beater, and the children can feel the sound waves near their face. They also learn about the vibrations when they hold the triangle on the floor, or in their hand, rather than the ribbon, as it makes a different noise because the vibrations go into the floor or their hand.

There are many benefits to experiencing music in an early childhood setting, as well as in childhood in general. With regards to our Early Childhood Curriculum, Te Wh?riki:

Communication Goal 4

Children experience an environment where they discover and develop different ways to be creative and expressive. Children develop:

  • confidence to sing songs, including songs of their own, and to experiment with chants and pitch patterns;
  • an increasing ability to keep a steady beat through speech, chants, dances, or movement to simple rhythmic patterns;
  • an increasing familiarity with a selection of the art, craft, songs, music, and stories which are valued by the cultures in the community;
  • an expectation that music, art, drama, and dance can amuse, delight, comfort, illuminate, inform, and excite;
  • familiarity with a variety of types of music, art, dance, and drama as expressions of feeling, mood, situation, occasion, and culture.

Music also provides melodic and rhythmic patterns, which help the brain to develop its pattern deciphering skills as well as memory. Children tend to be able to learn and memorize words and ideas when put to a melody. Music is also a creative experience, and we want to allow our children to express themselves in whichever means speak to their inner self – so providing these opportunities throughout the day help the children to become comfortable and confident in expressing who they are.

The past few weeks of musical instrument activities have shown the teachers that the Room One children are highly interested in musical experiences. The Room One teachers will be creating more opportunities for the children to create music alongside more singing and dancing! If you come into the room and hear music playing, songs being sung, or see children dancing, we hope that you join in!

Ethan experimenting a new way to make music and sound.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Getting Ready for School

Posted on March 14th, 2017. Filed under: General News, Room Two News.

In our Room 2 learning environment we are dedicated to nurturing our children to become school ready. There are so many important aspects that contribute to becoming school ready. Some are social learning, developing relationships, developing values that make us who we are, learning about respect for ourselves as well as others, learning how to deal with conflict in peaceful and respectful ways while maintaining some social justice. All of these attributes combined make a confident school ready child who learns as many self help skills as possible to feel that they can truly cope with everything. The component that responds to the literacy areas are met through an  introduction to the beauty of words, sounds and rhythms that the children learn to identify through simple rules using vowels (that are in every word) and consonants. The sounds are in a sequence of cvc (consonant, vowel, consonant) and kept to a maximum of three. This keeps the vowels as a short vowel sound and the children can manage this relatively well.

Knowledge of letter sounds will help with future writing and spelling skills as the children navigate the school learning environment. They are also learning about the value of sounds and how they form words. In the photos we are using vowels (the children know them as the helping sounds) to construct their sounds into pseudo words (unknown words that have no meaning). The idea is that they are forming words with their growing knowledge of the concept that sounds (letters) form words. The vowels are used in the middle and the consonants are chosen from a separate pile to form the beginning and end sounds. Sequencing principles are understood by sticking to the rules.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Links to Te Whariki:

Communication:

Continuity between Early Childhood Education and School.

Children moving from earlychildhood settings to the early years of school are likely to:

-have language skills for a range of purposes-have considerable experience with books and  be rapidly developing secure vocabulary, grammar and syntax.

-recognising the distinctive characteristics of book language and be ready to consolidate concepts about print.

A Visit From Fern the Lamb

Posted on July 31st, 2016. Filed under: General News, Room One News.
Baby Fern the lamb

Meet baby Fern, BBC’s new lamb!

Last week, we had a very special visitor to BBC. Fern (who will be living with us full time once she is a little bit older) spent some time in the Over Two’s outdoor area, and in Room One, where the Room One children had a chance to feed her with her bottle.

Fern is only a week old, and was orphaned at birth, so she was adopted by Building Blocks Childcare. We are looking forward to having a lamb with us in the paddock as the children will spend time caring for her and watching her grow.

Animals can be effective tools in child development, as they can teach empathy, responsibility and nurturing and caring skills. Children become exposed to different aspects of nature and early science concepts when helping out at the farm, and become very inquisitive about the natural world.

We can’t wait until Fern is with us full time!

IMG_3666 IMG_3665 IMG_3664 IMG_3657 IMG_3655 IMG_3653 IMG_3651 IMG_3650

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Exploring with Paint and Tools

Posted on June 15th, 2016. Filed under: General News, Room One News.

We love to create a number of different sensory exploration experiences in Room One. The other day, Nicole set up an experience that consisted of watered down paint, straws and scoops, and let the children explore.

They loved the consistency of the watery paint, as it made it fun to scoop and stir. A lot of the children liked using the straws in a similar fashion to paint brushes, but some of them decided to blow through the straw to make the paint move along the page.

 

India-Rose uses a straw to blow the paint around the page. Ryker pours the paint onto his page.

 

We Love Play-dough!

Posted on May 31st, 2016. Filed under: Room One News.

In Room One, we often play with play-dough, and we aim to involve the children in the creation of it as well! It is similar to baking, where the children learn to follow step-by-step instructions and see early science concepts come to fruition when all of the ingredients change state and become a gooey, elasticky dough.

Shamil loves getting the children involved in the creating process.

Play dough is an excellent way for children to develop their fine-motor skills as they build up strength in their hands. They love to practice patting, rolling, and squishing the play-dough with their fingers. This will help with pencil and scissor control later on. Play dough also helps the children express themselves creatively and can be very calming and soothing. Although it is discouraged, some children even find it tasty to eat!

We generally make a large batch, but if you scroll to the bottom of this post, you will see that we’ve attached a smaller recipe you can use to make at home for your child/children. Try adding food colouring and/or different essences (i.e., vanilla, lemon) to add to the sensory experience.

Here are a few photos from some of our play dough experiences:

Play-dough mixture: stirring process Play-dough mixture: adding salt

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups plain flour (all purpose)
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup salt
  • 2 tablespoons cream of tartar
  • Up to 1.5 cups boiling water (adding in increments until it feels just right)
  • Food colouring and/or essences (optional)

Method:

  • Mix the flour, salt, cream of tartar and oil in a large mixing bowl
  • Add any food colouring or essences TO the boiling water then into the dry ingredients
  • Stir continuously until it becomes a sticky, combined dough
  • Allow it to cool down then take it out of the bowl and knead it vigorously for a couple of minutes until all of the stickiness has gone. *If it remains a little sticky then add a touch more flour until just right*

 

Enjoy!

 

Planting Our Garden

Posted on May 25th, 2016. Filed under: General News, Room Two News.
The children are back in the garden!

The children are back in the garden!

 

The Room Two children are back in the garden again, for the first time this winter. Before planting the winter vegetables (spinach, cabbage and silver beet), they had to pull out the big weeds, then give the dirt a good dig to loosen up the ground.

This was the first visit to the garden for some of the children, but a few of them are veterans. We love having the garden as a part of our outdoor environment as it provides the children with many exciting and engaging learning experiences.

Angie revisited and discussed how to plant the plants, and examined each different plant’s roots with the children. She discussed the what the roots do for the plants and how important they are for survival. The children were all eager to be a part of this and showed a real enthusiasm to listen and observe. They also showed an empathetic side during the planting process, as they were supportive, kind and caring to one another and their plants.

In reference to our Early Childhood Curriculum, this experience links to many of our learning strands and goals, namely: Te Whariki Belonging Goal 2. This experience fostered a sense of belonging, as we observed the children feeling proud and connected to their work. This increases their sense of knowing that they have a place, and that their input is important and integral to the running of the programme. Please refer to the link above if you would like an in depth description of the curriculum goal.

The children have been revisiting the garden to water the plants on sunny days, and to check on their growth and development. This experience will be ongoing as the children develop a sense of responsibility, and watch their little plants grow and flourish.

 

We would also like to give a special shout out and thank you to Lachlan, who took such wonderful pictures, which allowed Angie to help the rest of the children with the watering.

 

Room One Makes a Volcano

Posted on May 19th, 2016. Filed under: General News, Room One News.

May 2016

While playing in the sandpit, the Room One teachers suggested that the children build a volcano! They were extremely excited and each grabbed a spade to pitch in.

IMG_2821

Next we got some baking soda, vinegar and red dye. We mixed the dye and vinegar together, put a bit of baking soda in the top of the volcano, poured the liquid on top, and KABOOM! The lava exploded out of the top!

Activities such as this one are an excellent way to introduce children to science concepts and helps them to develop problem solving and critical thinking skills.

Be sure to ask your child their thoughts on their volcano creation!