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Chorus & Clouds Blog

Building Your Child's Toy Library - Stage by Stage

Building Your Child's Toy Library - Stage by Stage
One of the wonderful benefits to having our own learning studio is that we get to test drive our toys and quickly determine which ones have the longevity and encourage the exploration, learning and creativity that we're hoping to provide. Continue reading

What Is A Prepared Environment?

What Is A Prepared Environment?
By arranging the materials or toys in a thoughtful way, imagining them from your child's perspective, you can create an environment that will stimulate learning and creativity. Continue reading

Play Therapy and Learning Through Play with Anna Bardi

Play Therapy and Learning Through Play with Anna Bardi
In order to learn something through memorization it takes about 400 repetitions to create a synapse in our brain, but if we do it through play it takes only 10-20. Continue reading

Sarah Adams Talks Montessori at Home

Sarah Adams Talks Montessori at Home
Sarah dispels the myth that a Montessori home is supposed to duplicate a Montessori preschool, while getting to some of the core premises of the Montessori philosophy and how parents can bring those values and practices into their home. Continue reading

Play in the Early Years with Shauna Farrell

Play in the Early Years with Shauna Farrell

When we observe our children's play and allow them to lead their exploration and discoveries we are giving them the opportunity to foster their own learning at exactly the right time and stage for them. In turn, this experience will give them the intrinsic motivation and confidence to be lifelong learners.

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What Is Loose Parts Play?

What Is Loose Parts Play?

"Loose Parts" is a term first coined by artist and architect Simon Nicholson. He rejected the idea that only select people were "creative" and instead believed that introducing loose parts into children's environments would foster their creativity. In fact, Nicholson's theory extends to the children's input into the design of the space itself.

So what are loose parts?

Loose parts are materials, natural or manmade, that can be moved, manipulated, lined up, transformed, combined, taken apart and put back together in any number of ways. They can be used alone or with other materials and they come with no specific directions. There is no specific function or goal. Closely connected to loose parts play is the idea of open-ended learning. There is not a lot of difference in childhood between art and science, work and play - and all of it is learning! Open-ended materials and experiences encourage problem solving and are child-led, rather than adult-directed. However, the adult plays an important role in preparing the environment for open-ended learning experiences. 

Some examples of loose parts materials could be:

The adult's role in loose parts play could be setting up an "invitation to play" on a child height table. Offering a variety of materials in different baskets and containers within a defined work area like a tray would be one type of invitation. Another type could be a landscape created with coloured blocks, wooden animals and human figures, or a water table with bubbles, sieves and cups.

Once the invitation has been created it is up to the adult to step back and allow the child to lead the activity or use, interpret and manipulate the materials on their own. It is up to the adult to ensure the materials are safe and appropriate for the child so that the child is free to explore them. With this in mind materials set out for a child under three should be large enough that they are not a choking hazard.

Often when a child has an opportunity to use loose parts in their play we will see them making concrete connections and moving materials from one play area to another. For example, a plate of rocks will become "food" for their toy animals or "money" for their store. When children are allowed to integrate different materials creatively they are experiencing open ended learning.

Our Kitsilano shop is curated with the philosophy that child-driven, imagination based, open-ended play materials have longevity and unlimited learning potential.

Visit our loose parts play collection to help you build your own creative library of materials.

Contributed by Shauna Farrell

 

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Positive Guidance Strategies: Understanding and Guiding Early Years Behaviours

Positive Guidance Strategies: Understanding and Guiding Early Years Behaviours
We can look at guidance in a positive, wholistic and respectful way that will also teach a child to grow and be empowered themselves in a positive way. If discipline is reactive and negative it can stifle a child's need and ability to explore and learn. Continue reading

Mindful Parenting: Strategies to Nurture a Child's Developing Mind

Mindful Parenting: Strategies to Nurture a Child's Developing Mind

Our most recent meet up of The Nook had Ramina Khusnutdinova (Master in Educational Psychology and Clinical Counsellor) sharing the latest research on brain development, how a child's brain is wired, and how it matures.

In order to know what is happening when your child is reacting in a strongly emotional way we have to understand how the different parts of their brain work.

The brain stem controls bodily functions like heartbeat and breathing. It develops in utero.

The amygdala is responsible for our emotions and attachment. It works together with our brain stem to engage our "fight, flight or freeze" response. It is developed at birth.

The hippocampus plays a major role in memory and learning. It helps transfer learning from short term to long term memory and also plays a role in processing emotions, so can help us remember past experiences and the emotions tied to them. The hippocampus continues to develop until around age 2.5.

The pre-frontal cortex is responsible for our higher brain functions, such as reasoning, problem solving, comprehension, creativity and impulse control. It is not fully developed until age 25.

Dr. Dan Siegel, psychologist, researcher and author of The Whole Brain Child developed the hand model of the brain, illustrated below, to explain what happens when the child experiences an event that triggers their "fight, flight or freeze" response. On the right is the pre-frontal cortex engaged with the limbic system, hippocampus and brain stem in a cohesive way when the brain is not stressed. On the left is a brain under stress. The pre-frontal cortex is disengaged, the child has "flipped their lid" and can no longer respond in a reasoned manner.

What most parents have learned is that being asked to clean up their toys can trigger the same amygdala response in a child as being attacked by a bear!

So, what can we do?... As adults it is up to us to engage OUR prefrontal cortex during these periods of dysregulation and reconnect with our child to help them regulate themselves and re-engage their prefrontal cortex.

With younger children we can use a simplified animal model to help them learn how their brain works in a playful way. For example: an ape represents the brain stem (it takes care of breathing, heartbeat, running); an elephant represents the hippocampus (it is good at remembering and learning); a guard dog represents the amygdala (our emotions - it is there to protect us); a wise old owl represents the prefrontal cortex (how to be in control of your emotions, how to make good decisions).

When the guard dog is there and it's barking because of some sort of stress, the elephant and the owl disappear, so not only can the child not be in control of their emotions, but they can't learn anything new. (This is why we need to teach and talk about these ideas in a calm moment, not for the first time during a moment of stress). What we need to do is calm the guard dog. Ask your child what they need to do to calm down their guard dog. It might be a hug from a parent, a song, a hug with a stuffy. When the guard dog stops barking the elephant and the owl come back. It may be helpful to use pictures or toy animals to help illustrate this idea to your child.

You can model this idea with your own language. For example, "My guard dog is really barking right now! I am going to sit down and have a drink of water to help it calm down." When you are feeling upset you can model how you regulate your own emotions with your words and behaviour.

How can we nurture the brain from age 0-3 years?

Primarily, lots of movement, especially outside. A great practice is to start the habit of morning exercise. 

Children in this stage of development need plenty of opportunities to explore the world both visually and in a tactile way. When they dump a container of rice out on the floor they are not trying to annoy you they are exploring their world. Be creative with how you can provide situations that allow them to discover their world. Sensory bins can be a container filled with dried lentils and plastic animals to discover while sifting through or a basket filled with different textured scarves and ribbons.

Ages 3-5?

At this age they will start to ask lots of questions. They are beginning to develop a sense of logic. Nourish this type of curiosity about the world. When you don't know the answer to their questions offer to find out together. This will help them feel that their question matters, which will lead to them being willing to continue to ask questions and not feel inadequate when they don't have all the answers. If you want to avoid looking things up on your phone and increasing screen time for your child, offer to take your child to the library at a later time to find out. Showing an interest in what your child is interested in will also be a great bonding experience for the two of you!

By understanding how our brains work, you as the parent can step in and help an emotionally dysregulated child calm down by remaining calm and in control of your own emotions. Model regulating strategies by taking a moment to calm yourself first when necessary and explain to your child what you are doing. Emotional regulation develops with practice, but remember that prefrontal cortex takes a looong time to fully develop!

Contributed by Shauna Farrell 

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Mindfulness as a Family Practice with Carolyn Anne Budgell

Mindfulness as a Family Practice with Carolyn Anne Budgell
Our children (and all humans) seek CONNECTION and BELONGING. We need to let them know that their emotions are not too big for us. We can hold them and welcome them no matter what feelings are flowing through their system. What if we could offer compassion and presence for what they are feeling rather than deny or micromanage or fix or shut down? Continue reading