Monday, September 29, 2014

A new post, a new year!

Well, it has been quite some time since I have put pen to paper (or should I say finger to key) here on this blog. A year has gone by. How does that happen? I guess life has a way of making us busy- and if we are too busy living to write blog posts, well then I guess that's OK. But, I would like to try to start up again, so here we go...

Dream Family Mongolia successfully finished up its second year and has started into its third year. We are still trying to raise funds, find an appropriate building and find a place to set down some roots and get our official registration. In the meantime we have moved to a slightly bigger apartment and have had many children and families return, as well as taking on some new children.

We are happily settling into our new space and really making it our own. The children are loving the new "block room" we have been able to create and all the joyful building, planning and construction that is happening there is so awesome to see! 

I love how both the girls and the boys are choosing to spend time in the block room :-)

Aside from the building there has been lots of reading, pretending, creating, baking, singing, dancing, modelling, painting... and above all PLAYING! We had a "meet the teachers" evening with the parents early on, and one of the things that we really highlighted to the parents is that the children will be doing a lot of playing, and that's OK. In fact that is so VERY important and at the very core of our programs. 

Parents participate in a typical "circle time" and read through the handbook together

We also had each parent make a poster for their child, including any words of love or encouragement that they wanted to share with them, and giving them materials to get creative. I was SO proud of their efforts, and the children were so excited to see their own posters the following Monday. I am looking forward to this next year working alongside these parents and children. I am believing for lots of wonderful things to come!

We were so thrilled at the parents enthusiasm and creativity in making posters for their children

What a delight to see them enjoying them together :-)

In our entrance way each child has a poster that has been made especially for them by either Mum or Dad or big brother 

You are loved little ones!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Figuring things out...


I watched this unfold the other day, and it was really interesting. Amin Erden found this old camera and was very intrigued with it. He spent some time looking at it, exploring it, figuring this thing out. He didn't need me to tell him "hold it this way", "press here", "do this, do that". All he needed was a moment to look closely at something for himself, think about it for a bit, and then he was happy to move on. Since then he has had a go at the camera that actually works, and has been exploring a little bit of photo taking (which almost all children are naturally fascinated by) but I am so glad that I caught this little moment of deep exploration (a spontaneous hug from a friend didn't stop him in his tracks- he was really engaged in this!), even if it was brief. It showed me again children's hunger for knowledge, for experiencing things for themselves, for thinking outside of the box, for research- for doing what they do best! :-) Give your children the space to "figure things out" and then marvel as they explore an follow up on those ideas and discoveries!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Learning to love reading...

"There are many little ways to enlarge your child's world. Love of books is the best of all."
- Jacqueline Kennedy

I have written about children and reading before. I am sure that I will write about it again, because it is something that is so important, and that I am very passionate about. Reading is such a vital part of our lives. Yes, for every day important things- reading a recipe, reading and writing a note, sending an email... all of those. But it is also so important for opening minds, broadening world views, discovering possibilities, imagining, dreaming... and enlarging a child's world, as Jacqueline Kennedy put it so beautifully.

I spotted Enerel reading to herself the other day. It was so awesome to watch this little person "read" the pictures as she saw them. She can't read the words (just yet!) and her story that she read did not sound the same as the one the author wrote. But... what she is doing here is developing her love for books, developing her love for words and creating a story, developing her skills of making meaning from pictures. So much happening!

 I caught some of it on video... (watch it, it is great!) :-)

I later noticed that she happened to be sitting on a pile of books.

"What's this?" I asked her. "These are my favourite books. I'm going to read them when I finish this one!" :-) Wow! A confident, enthusiastic and competent reader- right here!

Reading is so important- so please let your children read! Whether in the classroom or at home- read to them, read WITH them, let them read to their teddies, or to a sibling or a friend, let them read to YOU, let them freely explore books and help foster a skill (and a joy!) for life! :-)

Monday, September 2, 2013

Simplifying... when less is more

As a teacher I love to provide the children in my care with lots of different materials to explore, lots of items that will draw interest and curiosity, and the 'real-deal' items (rather than just replicas) for children to interact with. However, at Dream Family, our space is very limited and I realised that we had got stuck in a bit of a rut. The children were playing the same kind of play day in day out, bringing out ALL of those items, and then in the end having a lot of work to do when it was time to clean up.

Many days our big room would end up like this- generally quite orderly and engaged play (although sometimes it would just look like a bombshell had hit it), but EVERYTHING would be pulled out and used on the floor, and the pack up time was a huge work.

The items were well used, and well loved, and well worth having, but I decided that it was time to simplify things a little. For the time being I have removed all of the dress-up clothes and kept only a basket of silk scarves and a few hats. All of the accessories such as sunglasses, purses, jewelry, handbags and extra plates and cups and boxes and containers and wooden food have been packed away.
We now have a collection of natural materials and loose parts in our dramatic play area, lots of wooden bowls and plates, we kept the tea set and the cutlery and some plates and bowls.

Some of the natural materials and loose parts we have included are:
  • pinecones of various shapes and sizes
  • shells
  • drift wood
  • seed pods/ gum nuts (these came from Australia)
  • river stones
  • glass pebbles
  • dried rose petals
These are mostly stored in wooden bowls, baskets and wooden trays. With all of those extra items gone from the cupboard we have a shelf free to store some of our wooden toys that had been previously packed away because we didn't have enough space for them.
 Doesn't that look inviting? Who wouldn't want to come and play here? J
 These shelves have been de-cluttered and now hold an array of interesting props and materials...
Keeping things simple- too much choice can be distracting and at times overwhelming.
From some of the other shelves we removed the big plastic trainset and some other plastic connecting toys. In their place is now a little shelf for children to play with butterflies and froglets and caterpillars or other lovely little props.
Invitation to play... 
 Invitation accepted!
A little corner to look deeply....

The small wooden animals, gorgeous painted African plate and glass paper weights (which make all things delightful when gazed through) are an inviting combination.

On the opposite wall we have organised our cds a little better, and have added some loose parts to our block corner. I love that we have so many plants- they seem to have accumulated somehow! Come winter these will be just what we need, when the outside world is white, white, white!

We're loving the beautiful flowers that are blooming at the moment!
Our little book nook and a shelf with some treasures: finger puppets, small cloth animals, beading/threading materials, hungry caterpillar props, magnetic cars...

A closer peek- a lovely felt and pinecone bird mobile, a Thai elephant puppet, story stones...
More often than not this phrase rings true:

Less is more! J