Starting Free Choice Play Centers at the Beginning of the Year

One of the most challenging pieces of free choice play for many teachers is how to start without complete chaos. Here are a couple of quick and easy tips for successful free choice play centers…

IT ALL STARTS WITH THE CHILDREN’S OWNERSHIP

OF THE CENTERS AND THEIR ENVIRONMENT

starting centers

Provide the students with ownership of the free choice play centers from the start.

  • While taking a tour of the building, discuss how every room has a name that allows us to know what happens in that place.
  • In the classroom, talk about how each center has a purpose and specific activities. Describe some of the options in each center and allow students to brainstorm ideas such as in dramatic play, the students can care for the babies, for the animals, cook dinner, write a recipe, bake cookies, etc.; in the free choice art center, they can build a sculpture, draw or sketch a picture, design a collage picture, etc. Post the ideas that are generated by the students in each center along with a visual.
  • Allow the students to determine a name for each center such as Construction Site or Creation Station. The students can also create tags to show where items belong for easier cleanup.
    • Encourage creativity in the drawing and designing of the center signs. Allow students to use found materials to be creative such as pieces of yarn, pictures or letters from magazines, buttons, pipe cleaners, etc. Also show them how they can make objects stand out from the sign with loops, arches and so on
  • Have the students be detectives to notice how the center looks in a cleaned-up.  state- paying attention to the details. Allow students to share how we demonstrate respect for materials.
  • Allow the students to brainstorm expectations for center time. Generate a list of 3-5 expectations, write them on a poster along with a visual, and have all students sign the class contract for center time.

Clean-up is another common concern of teachers. See Clean Up after Play Centers and Student Jobs for Clean-Up Time

Continued Need for Deep Breathing

One of the best ways to help children prepare their minds and bodies to be ready to learn is through deep breathing.

Deep breathing is a quick and efficient strategy for lowering stress in the body. When we breathe deeply, a message is sent to your brain to calm down and relax.

At this time of the year and especially during this up and down year, it is important to remember to teach our students to stop and breath when they are feeling lonely, upset, aggravated, frustrated, bored, irritated, cranky, etc. AND it is important that the adults in their lives model this strategy frequently!

NOTE: Notice the emotion vocabulary words (lonely, upset, aggravated, frustrated, bored, irritated, cranky). Let’s help children to be specific about their feelings- are they sad because they are lonely or because they are frustrated? The greater depth of emotion words that we can assist children in using and be able to discern how they are feeling with more precision, the more specific we can be with providing useful, intentional strategies plus it is teaching our students to have emotionally rich expression.

FREE DOWNLOAD: Spring Themed Deep Breathing and Calming Strategies…

Also check out Winter Themed Deep Breathing Strategies (four strategies) at

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Winter-Themed-Deep-Breathing-Strategies-6256399

Winter Themed Deep Breathing Strategies journeyintoearlychildhood.com

AND

Teaching Deep Breathing: 16 Strategies https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Teaching-Deep-Breathing-16-Visuals-of-Different-Ways-to-Breathe-Deeply-4289195

Deep Breathing Strategies: Winter Themed

One of the best ways to help children prepare their minds and bodies to be ready to learn is through deep breathing.

Deep breathing is a quick and efficient strategy for lowering stress in the body. When we breathe deeply, a message is sent to your brain to calm down and relax.

Here are some fun strategies to teach the children in the winter months…

Visit Winter Themed Strategies for Deep Breathing or send an email to journeyintoearlychildhood@gmail.com to receive the document at no charge

Mindfulness Strategies for the Holidays

Children are not naturally mindful of their feelings, their own self-worth, and the positive attributes of others. We need to explicitly teach students strategies to be present and be mindful of themselves and others. Mindfulness has been demonstrated through a growing body of scientific research to have a positive effect on mental health and well-being. Practicing mindfulness has been documented as an effective strategy to regulate emotions and feel compassion and empathy.

FREE DOWNLOAD of some mindfulness activities during the holiday season

SEL Remote Style: Deep Breathing with Mr. Turkey

One of the best ways to help children prepare their minds and bodies to be ready to learn is through deep breathing.

Deep breathing is a quick and efficient strategy for lowering stress in the body. When we breathe deeply, a message is sent to your brain to calm down and relax.

Have fun practicing deep breathing to calm the brain and the body to be ready to learn. We still have two to three days (depending on the school district) for some purposeful, target-driven learning to occur. Use this turkey deep breathing to add in some holiday fun while preparing the mind so that the learning will stick!

Reframing Our Words

Reframe Our View of Behavior journeyintoearlychildhood.comREFRAME OUR WORDS for POSITIVE OUTCOMES

We can reframe the way we view behavior to look through a lens that all behavior is a form of communication or a need for skill fluency practice (need for the behavior to be explicitly taught with precise language and practiced multiple times in multiple situations).

We also reframe our requests to students to specifically teach what we DO want students to be doing. We are teaching the correct behavior instead of giving attention to the incorrect behavior.

Using positive, precise language to help support the development and practice of social and emotional skills.

EXAMPLES:

STATEMENT REFRAME to the POSITIVE and/or to the PRECISE
Don’t run. Use walking feet to stay safe.
Don’t yell. Use a quiet voice to be ready.
Don’t touch the wall. Keep your hands locked in front of you to stay safe. (behind you). (make sure students understand the vocabulary of in front and behind)
Walk nice. Walk on the line a shopping cart length behind your friend to stay safe.
Listen to me Eyes are watching me, ears are listening to my voice, hands and feet are still to be ready.
Put away your coat. Hang up your coat on the hook in your cubby to be responsible. (remember that “put away” at home might mean throwing the coat in the corner)
Stop playing with your mask. The mask needs to stay on your face. We are being kind to ourselves and each other by wearing our mask. We will go outside soon for a break.
Don’t grab it from your friend. Everyone has their own supplies. Please use the items in front of you or raise your hand if you can’t find yours.

Many children need explicit, direct teaching of skills. Below is a resource that may help.

Two Versions- click on the links to view them at TpT- then sign up for my blog and send me an email at journeyintoearlychildhood@gmail.com and let me know which version you would like to use. I will send it to you at no cost.

I Can Be an Incredible Friend Social Story

I Can Be an Incredible Friend- tools to stay safe when I want a toy

Social Story for tools to use when I want a toy or item

I Can be a SAFE Friend Social Story
Uses the word SAFE to teach tools for when a child wants a toy or item. Send an email to journeyintoearlychildhood.com and I will send you this resourse at no charge.

10 Frames in Early Childhood

10 Frames are magical tools to build number sense in our young children instead of just rote counting. A strong sense of “10” will enable children to see relationships between numbers. Children need to first develop this strong understanding of the numbers 1-10 before they begin to work with larger numbers.

10 frames

They are two identical rectangles stacked on top of each other divided into five equal segments- thus a “10 frame.”

A 10 Frame is a tool to help children be able to visualize the quantity of numbers, compose and decompose numbers. A 10 Frame supports children’s knowledge of 10 by visually seeing patterns and numbers. For example, if the top row of 5 is filled and the bottom row has three, we want children to be able to automatically think of this quantity in relationship to 10 and state that the quantity is 8 because two are missing.

10 Frames can be incorporated into the curriculum throughout the day- not just to use only as a tool during math time.

EXAMPLES…

Allow children to play with 10 frames during free-choice play time…

10 Frames in Early Childhood
journeyintoearlychildhood.com

journeyintoearlychildhood.com

Allowing children to play with 10 Frames during free-choice play centers

Incorporating 10 Frames into a Behavioral Challenge…

10 Frames Reward system journeyintoearlychildhood

Taking Attendance using a Question of the Day and a 10 Frame…

10 frames question of the day journeyintoearlychildhood

Allowing students to produce the number posters for the classroom…

We are Teachers provides some great hands-on activities to play using a 10 Frame.

Follow Up on Teaching Deep Breathing

first pageLast week we talked about why it is important to teach students how to breathe deeply and different techniques to use.

Research tells us that children usually need to take at least 5 deep breaths and children who have experienced trauma may need to take 7-10 deep breaths.

It is helpful to give students a visual to count the breaths they are counting. Not only does this help them keep track of the number of breaths but also gives them a cognitive skill to focus on to move their thinking from flight-freeze-fight to frontal lobe, rational thinking.

Students can count on their fingers or use visuals in which they move a piece from one area to another. Deep Breathing free resource. The resource includes a board for both 5 and 7 deep breaths.

Teaching Deep Breathing

thumbnail for blog

Teaching Deep Breathing

Why:

1.Breathing influences all other systems in our bodies. Slowing our breathing and being conscious of our breathing helps us to calm our nervous system. Therefore, this is a skill that students will need throughout their entire lives.

2. Easy to do anywhere – with no equipment- it is portable!

3. Produces a relaxed state of being

4.Can be calming

5. Improves oxygen to the brain which in turn improves our thinking ability

6. Provides us with a sense of control

How to Teach Deep Breathing:

  • Teach each technique – one at a time to the entire class when everyone is calm and in a good mood.
  • Show visuals of each technique and post them in a place where students can use them as reminders.
  • Practice, Practice, Practice at all times of the day. Students need lots and lots of practice so that the techniques can be used automatically in times of stress. It takes LOTS of practice to become an expert.
  • Teach students to recognize signs of stress, frustration, and anger such as face getting hot, clenched fists, heavy breathing, crying, sweating, scrunched eyebrows, pounding heart.
  • Teach students the difference between short, quick, shallow breaths and long, deep, calming breaths. We want students to be using deep breathing since short breaths can actually make anxious feelings increase.
  • Model and role-play different situations practicing self-talk such as “I am upset that he took my toy. I can breathe like a bear 7 times.” “I am nervous about the fire drill. I can take 7 bunny breaths.” “He cut in line. I can say, “It’s okay” and take 7 deep breaths.”

for blog

11 Different Cards of Visuals for Teaching Deep Breathing

note: Send me an email at journeyintoearlychildhood@gmail.com, let me know that you signed up for my weekly blog and I will send you this resource for free.

Sensory Bottles: Why Use Them and How to Make Them

Why Use Sensory Bottles and Directions to Make journeyintoearlychildhood.com

UPDATED POST:

Young children often have difficulties with self-regulation in response to an emotional or sensory-based stressor. We often use strategies in the classroom such as talking to an adult, holding a weighted animal, doing wall push-ups, gently squeezing hands and so on. (see Cozy Corner Strategies – visuals that help children choose how you feel and a strategy to help).

Sensory bottles can be added to the Cozy Corner or Safe Spot in the fidget box. They help children be able to focus on one thing to calm the body and mind. Shaking the bottles, which won’t harm the bottle, is also a great way to get some proprioceptive input.

Bottles can be made in a variety of different ways to accommodate different needs:

Be Kind Sensory Bottle journeyintoearlychildhood.comBe Kind bottle:

This bottle needs to be shaken. Shaking the bottles, which won’t harm the bottle, is also a great way to get some proprioceptive input.

Ingredients:

  • 2/3rds of the bottle with water
  • Optional: add some blue food coloring and/or fine blue glitter
  • 1/3rd of the bottle with baby oil or vegetable oil

 

Sound Sensory Bottle journeyintoearlychildhood.comI Am in Control bottle:

This bottle makes the sound of rain. Sounds in the bottle assists students who are auditory learners and will still their bodies to hear soft sounds more than focusing visually.

Ingredients:

Sticks

1/4th cup of beans, rice or beads (beans and small beads together make very cool sounds)

(add more sticks until it makes a sound that is pleasing to you as you move the bottle upside down and back upright)

 

Focus Sensory Bottle Slowly Falling Items journeyintoearlychildhood.comFocus bottle:

Adding items that sink slowly or float to the top and items that sink fast provide children with an immediate satisfaction of action but then also slows their breathing and nervous center as they visually anchor their attention to the items that are moving slowly.

The bottle in the picture contains Perler beads that slowly float to the top and small pony beads which quickly sink to the bottom. It is quite cool to watch when they are both in the middle!

Ingredients:

Clear dish soap (I found that Dawn is the thickest and therefore, works great but it is more expensive than other brands. Other brands work just as well, especially if you don’t make one with Dawn first to have a comparison!)

A couple of tablespoons of Perler beads (these are beads that you place on forms and then iron to melt them together).

A couple of tablespoons of pony beads or other small beads. (My beads were very small, so I added double the amount of small beads as compared to the Perler beads).

ALL BOTTLES:

You can use any container of your choice. My favorite is Voss Water bottles. They are a perfect size and the label comes off so easily and cleanly. The middle bottle is a Protein 20 Drink bottle with rain scenes wrapped around it. I have also used Bai Water bottles- the wrapper comes off VERY easily- just pull up and I cut a circle to glue to the top bottle cap to cover the writing on top.

I used a Cricut to cut the letters but you can also print words on clear shipping labels, cut them out and attach to the bottle. (Words and Rain scene to be printed on 6 per page clear shipping labels)

Remember to glue the lids on!!

rain sensory bottle directions and labels to place on bottles FREE DOWNLOAD journeyintoearlychildhood.com

rain pictures on 6 per sheet clear shipping labels for calm down sensory bottles