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ENCOURAGING CREATIVITY AT DAY CARE
By Fiona Lohrenz
The safety and well being of the kids at our day care is our primary responsibility as providers. Although we may often feel as though we are merely umpiring bedlam we are not simply caretakers but facilitators, charged with the important task of developing every aspect of these growing individuals. Encouraging creativity and imagination is a vital aspect of this facilitation role. Children are guaranteed a richer and more complete life if we have opened the door to multiple creative outlets. Here are some pointers on opening those doors.
Kids will learn to grow and appreciate the arts, culture and beauty following even small amounts of exposure to same. When possible arrange brief visits to the art gallery, museum or craft fair so that kids get an overview of different forms of art. Introduce music to the curriculum by playing different styles of music and have the kids dance and move about plus arrange trips to see plays and musical performances. Get out on nature walks to show the kids first hand the natural beauty surrounding them, introduce sand and water for experimental play and discover the multitude of creative activities available in the kitchen. Reading is vital and should be encouraged. Stories at story time can become rambling yarns that become plays that take on a life of their own. No limits!
Kids have a natural, inbuilt love of music. Get the musical instruments out (improvise with household items if necessary), let them rock out (suffer the headache... it's a good cause!). Get a sing song going and make up new words, act out the songs and help make music come alive as an organic, malleable instrument. The subsequent endeavors may well be dubious (songs that are vaguely punk rockish rather than melodious, artistic attempts that resemble puke) but all expression should be praised and discussed.
Creativity demands that there be mess so allow it. Neat and tidy playrooms tend not to encourage creative spirits so put your happy face on, roll up your sleeves and revel in the mess. Laying newspapers, spreading a tarp and using art aprons can help minimize some of the damage. Don't attempt to direct the artistic efforts unfolding around you just let them develop. Freedom of expression leads to personal works of art no matter what age the artist. If your help is requested lend a hand, discuss works in progress, ask questions but avoid critiques.
Many and wondrous are the benefits of imaginative and creative play. Experimentation with verbal skills is likely as children feel less threatened in imaginary situations. Active problem solving and expression of fears or concerns are also encouraged via role play. A child will grow in confidence as his heretofore untapped talents are released through creative endeavors. Welcome to the magical land of the imagination where boredom is no more!
IMPORTANCE OF AFTER-SCHOOL DAYCARE CURRICULUM
After school activities are the rage of the day but the importance of an appropriate daycare curriculum to structure these activities shouldn't be underestimated. With about $500 million invested in these programs and more than 10 million children attending them in America alone, the popularity of these activities cannot be overlooked. Everyone understands the need to develop new skills, gain more knowledge and keep the children safe when parents are working.
Healthy relationships between the children attending the after school and the adults running the program are key to success. Often, children may confide in an adult member who is in the unique position of being neither parent nor teacher. These kids are growing and changing and this type of positive emotional interaction is vital in helping them deal with personal issues.
Direct contact with professionals can be an inspiring experience. Children are very much impressed by the knowledge and experience of these adults. Young people gain a lot of knowledge and experience when they deal with experienced adults and older youth who serve as teachers or mentors in these programs. These mentors are different from the teachers in the school and children are more likely to draw inspiration from them.
After school activities that are managed professionally by people who are successful in their own fields of expertise will produce children who are more enthusiastic and successful. Simply being in contact with this passion and knowledge will produce positive learning results. Most after school activities can be broadly classified into three - recreational, educational and society-oriented. The final category generally applies when kids are older and have opinions on specific interests.
Educational activities aim at furthering the knowledge of the child. Different techniques are used to improve memory, general understanding and awareness. Programs such as intensive memory training and speed mathematics are educational after school activities. Many subjects can be covered to improve the child's general knowledge in addition to help with homework and reiteration of class work. Thus academic programs have a definite edge over the fun and games, especially if parents feel that their child has a lot of catching up to do.
Fine arts, sports, physical games, board games etc and painting are included in recreational activities. Fun is the driving force behind these programs. Inevitably a competitive element will appear as children become more proficient. Encouragement to improve one's skills comes in the form of competitions, theatrical events and sporting occasions.
When we compare the merits of the two kinds of activities, the recreational programs often have more meat. Firstly, children do not enjoy learning unless they themselves feel curious about something. Most academic programs are standardized courses that are not too flexible. They have a general purpose and a well laid out methodology. After a number of hours at school, the child may feel bored. Further study may overwhelm him and make him feel frustrated. Burnout is very much a possibility here.
Recreational programs provide a welcome break from the monotony of learning and studies. The mental challenge and the physical exertion make the child feel a renewed zest and a pleasant sense of fulfillment. Group activity teaches him social skills, discipline and patience. It is a proven fact that children involved in extra curricular activities get better grades than others. Sometimes closing the textbooks and playing a game may be the best way to handle your studies.
Consistent, thorough evaluation is vital regardless what after school program you choose for your day care. You will have to measure the children's progress. Your daycare curriculum may need modification if progress is not satisfactory. The child should also have the freedom to reject an activity if and when he feels bored with it. The perfect daycare curriculum combines a balance of both recreational and academic so that children are challenged at every level. This way, children can have fun while they learn.
DAY CARE PUPPETS
Puppets can mean many things to preschool children. Self expression and creativity in children can be enhanced through puppet play. It can instill a love of dramatics, encourage speech from otherwise reluctant orators and greatly improve communication between teachers and children. Having children assist in the production of home made puppets make them the obvious choice. Generally, puppets fall into four different categories.
Hand puppets are somewhat like a three fingered glove comprising a fabric body with a hole for each arm and one for the head. Simply trace around a child's hand for size and use a small, light ball, foam or polystyrene ball for the head. Cut a hole in the ball to accommodate fingers and encase the ball in fabric so you can stitch or draw a face and hair. You can go wild with the fabrics you use for the body and have detachable features so that one puppet can be many characters.
Stick puppets are easily made using a piece of wood with a head stuck on top. A wooden ball will work for the head with painted or detachable features. A piece of fabric, with holes for arms, can quickly be transformed into a magnificent cloak. If you are in need of a quick fix stick puppet simply use a wooden spoon, envelope in a dramatic cloak and hey presto!
Animal puppets are made by attaching obvious animal features to an old sock is an easy way to make animal puppets so, whiskers and beady eyes makes something rodent like, felt ears and a trunk generally denotes an elephant (let your imagination run wild!). Cut the head off old vinyl toys or remove the stuffing from a beat up stuffed animal and hey presto - recycled animal puppets.
Finger puppets are made using stretchy fabric covering a small bead or piece of foam will suffice for these puppets. A cape style tunic is the body with a pipe cleaner running through the sleeves functioning as arms. The fabric of the head should be securely stitched to the cape. The success of a finger puppet is in the details, the tiny features and accessories make each one special.
MAKING A PLAY HOUSE
Use an arch on top of a table or the window of a play house, complete with curtains, as a theatre or stage upon which your puppet ensemble can strut its stuff. Now let loose your little puppeteers.
Owning and operating a day care for 10 years provides Fiona Lohrenz with lots of material for her child care articles. Not to mention her childcare website and DVD guide to Starting a Child Care business at www.startchildcare.com.
This article was submitted by Fiona Lohrenz for electronic reproduction June 2, 2008. After School Curriculum was added September 16, 2008. Day Care Puppets was added October 16, 2008. Thank you Fiona for your contribution.
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