Millbrook Case Study 3

Room Design: A Persuasive Argument

Posted by: Rhonda July 10, 2018

A Community Playthings Case Study

The church basement was less-than-ideal. It had, in fact, been previously used as a bowling alley. Could it possibly be transformed into a magical space for play and learning?

Armed with passion and imagination the director and staff at Millbrook Preschool in upstate New York faced this challenge. They envisioned spaces that would “beckon children in,” appealing to their need to climb, build, socialize, and create. “As educators, we always have to be willing to adapt, rethink, and reimagine until we get it right,” states former program director Maureen Sarma. “We have a moral imperative to make this a wonderful first learning experience for children.”

With help from Community Playthings room planners, this vision became a reality. See how it turned out here

Mud Kitch Blog image

Setting Up Your Mud Kitchen

Posted by: Rhonda June 26, 2018

“It’s mud season again and good things are being made,” writes Mary Rivkin. “How about a chocolate mud pie, decorated with yellow dandelions? Or a luscious cupcake sprinkled with sand and cherry petals?”

Concocting recipes with nature’s abundant materials has been a staple of childhood play for generations. Such play opportunities are increasingly rare for today's children, prompting many educators to create "Mud Kitchens" in their outdoor spaces. Need some advice in setting up your Mud Kitchen? Read Rivkin's article now.

June 29 is International Mud Day—don’t forget to celebrate with some mud pies!

Fine Motor 2

Hands at Play

Posted by: Rhonda June 19, 2018

Sara entered my preschool class struggling to cut with scissors, color with crayons, or string beads. Attempts to practice these skills resulted in frustration and certainly didn’t lead to improvement. While puzzling over how to help Sara, I attended a workshop presented by Dr. Christy Isbell, a pediatric occupational therapist.

“You have to go big, before going small,” was the take-away message. Balance, shoulder strength, and eye-hand coordination, are all foundational skills which have to be established before pre-writing skills. Pressuring a child to master fine motor skills before they are ready will lead to failure.

So we put the scissors aside for later and encouraged Sara to ride trikes, push doll wagons, and participate in parachute dancing. Remarkably (or predictably), without specially focusing on fine motor skills, she now is beginning to cut, draw, and string beads. Most importantly, she does it with great enthusiasm.

Find out more from Dr. Isbell in this article: Hands at Play.

mud painting

Mud Painting

Posted by: Rhonda June 12, 2018

The end of this month brings International Mud Day, but you don’t have to wait until then to enjoy one of nature’s finest, and most open-ended, art materials: mud.

If you can’t find a natural source (aka a mud puddle), simply make your own mud paint by mixing dirt with water until it’s nice and smooth. We started with thick paint brushes, but these were soon abandoned in favor of hands, as the kids discovered that the mud was a glorious form of finger paint. We also started with thick paper, which likewise was abandoned in favor of natural canvases—tree trunks, rocks, legs, and faces!

Unleashed from conventional art materials and requirements, the creativity of kids seems to explode. You’ll want to add mud painting to your list of summer activities so you can experience it for yourself.

Read more about the benefits of mud play here.


Irresistible Learning

Posted by: Rhonda June 5, 2018

Woodworking in Early Childhood Education

“Anyone who has witnessed young children tinkering away with tools in the woodworking area will know just how magical it can be,” writes UK educator, Pete Moorhouse.

However, despite the magic, many educators are afraid of the perceived risks involved in woodworking and the workbench has all but disappeared from preschool settings. Can this be remedied before we raise a generation of kids who have never used a real tool in their life?

From his years of experience, Pete shares guidelines to setting up a safe, productive woodworking area in your classroom. Yes, it is perfectly possible to teach 4-year-olds how to safely hammer a nail into a piece of wood! The deep concentration, empowerment, and pride visible in the face of a child constructing with real tools will win over any sceptics. Read Pete’s informative guide here.