Foundations of a Community

At Islington Village, there are plenty of opportunities for celebration and special activities. Just recently, we planned a Tropical Day for all to participate in. After sending out the photos from the day via email, responses from parents were that of appreciation as well as remarks on staff involvement, it's great how the teachers participate. 
Our staff at Islington Village are encouraged to participate in special planned days, just as much as the children are. We find that this truly depicts the sense of wholeness and community that we strive for at Islington Village. Having the caregivers be so engaged with the children on out of the ordinary days, fosters strong bonds and relationships between the caregivers and children.
With such a busy centre, and so many great caregivers, it's a goal for us to maintain active and cooperative relationship between caregivers. Once a month even, staff enjoy socials which occasionally involve out of centre experiences, like bowling, or dinners out. Most recently, staff planned and organized a potluck lunch at the centre. Staff organized the menu so well, there was definitely a feast!
Annually, at Islington Village the staff, children as well as families gather in different means to fundraise for varying causes. We want to encourage and involve parents in our fundraising, as we support the community and important organizations. In November of 2015, Islington Village staff and children sold various flavours of cookie dough, with the proceeds being donated to The Geneva Centre for Autism. Brainstorming and planning for this year's fundraiser has already begun, as it's such an important opportunity for us to give back. Stay tuned!
This type of closeness and friendship amongst caregivers, families and the community, models closeness to the children. We strive to inspire children, to be kind, generous, understanding, as those are the foundations of a community.     

Support System

Countless times, as caregivers, we can recall seeing those displaced little running shoes, oddly left shoe on the right foot, and right shoe on the left foot. It's a daily occurrence with children who are exploring self help skills and fostering independence. At Islington Village we appreciate those efforts the children present, when dressing themselves. For us, those are meaningful opportunities of learning and exploration.
The children in toddlerhood, for example, are just beginning to explore sense of self. 
This self exploration, incidentally, is where the term terrible twos comes from. It refers to the child beginning to grasp the idea of self concept; meaning, "I have a voice", "I can make things happen". A fancy name is autonomy, however, it means independence, by initiating their own activities, setting own goals, persisting and decision making.
So from toddlerhood on, children experiment with independence and achieving goals by putting on their own shoes, or when potty training, putting their pants back on for instance. As educators and caregivers, we try not to discourage this exploration and self discovery that children are going through. The majority of the time, in the beginning stages at least, we leave children with their backwards pants on, because we want to let the children know we respect their efforts and they did a great job on their own. Once they have mastered the skills of actually applying the pants, one leg at a time, every time, that's when we can begin to provide positive remainders to switch their shoes, or try again.
 The wording you choose is crucial to the self esteem of fragile toddlers. Try using statements that acknowledge the behaviour and action, but gently include a reminder. For example, “You should be so proud of yourself, I see you put your shoes on all by yourself. Let’s try again, by switching the shoes around”. Statements like this acknowledge the child's efforts, including praise, but allow for caregiver support. That's what our role truly pertains, supporting children in their social, emotional, cognitive and physical learning.

Cork Board Gallery

   Displaying artwork and creatives is one of the best ways to showcase the learning and development of children, of our age groups. At Islington Village, caregivers use multiple methods of displaying daily creatives from strings and clothes pins in the windows, to recently installed cork board galleries.
   When choosing a medium to showcase children's work, it is key to note that the work should be accessible and visible to children, as well as the parents who are curious to see what their children are up to all day. In our experience, children are always curious and excited to revisit their work. 
   The cork boards allow for ample display of our children’s creative work, and are versatile; caregivers are able to rotate the work regularly, making sure to one day display Johnny’s painting and the next day showing off Jenny’s crayon sketch.
  At Islington Village, caregivers strive to encourage creativity and imagination by putting the emphasize on the process of creative work, rather than a product at the end. This is also encouraged by providing a classroom environment that allows children to explore and play, openly, and based on their interests. Through toddlerhood on, the classrooms are situated to have an open creative shelf, where the children can mix materials, and explore freely.
   At Islington Village we encourage exploration and creativity, of all means, and through these cork board galleries, we show appreciation and respect.


Graduating Class of 2016

   Islington Village Child Care Centre first opened its door in February 2013, enrolling little ones into our infant program. Now, those little ones aren't so little anymore, as we recently celebrated their graduation from Islington Village, on June 22, 2016.
  The majority of the graduates had attended Islington Village, from the very beginning, so this celebration was definitely a special one for everyone involved.
  Throughout their time here, the children seemed to take a great interest in drawing and colouring. Everyday there were handfuls of papers being sent home, creations from Minions, subways, to jungle animals. Therefore, it seemed fitting to organize the graduation ceremony in with a colouring theme. 
  The group, the largest we’ve had yet, prepared songs, poems, and a book reading, to present to parents and families. First, the group walked out to the Graduation March, with their caps, excitedly waving to moms and dads sitting in the audience. The graduates showed a great focus when beginning the celebration with the Good Afternoon song. The practice and hard work had paid off!  Next they sang, The Last Day, I’m a Little Graduate, and even gave the audience a taste of letters and sounds they had learned through Jolly Phonics. 
   For Islington Village, it's important to celebrate milestones and achievements, especially when this was a celebration for all. 

Congratualtions to the Graduating Class of 2016!


Celebrating Families

    With Father’s Day just around the corner, at Islington Village we love to honour our daddies in many ways! The children, in each classroom, create gifts of colours and craft. And the staff, prepare a welcoming table of coffee and morning snacks for all the daddies. We even mark a day on our calendars to “dress up like dad”.

  Not only do we celebrate daddies, we celebrate mommies and we celebrate families, which really connects to our slogan at Islington Village: “a community to learn and play”. We are a community which embraces all types of family dynamics and structures, and we strive to celebrate that uniqueness. Everyone should feel welcome in the  early childhood community.
Programs should also respond to families’ unique needs, making people feel welcome; that is our goal at Islington Village.

  This sense of welcoming and celebration at Islington Village  allows children to feel trust. Our caregivers have a strong bond with the children they care for. And as families and caregivers, we want to make everything right and wonderful for our children. And it is by giving them a strong sense of self-love, self-concept, and self-esteem that we prepare them to learn what life is all about.

Family, community and belonging at the centre of it all,  is what will guide children to building self esteem and positive self concept.


Nature in Early Learning

With Earth Day finally here, the conversation of nature and the importance of our environment has begun. Everything about the environment can be introduced from toddlerhood to school age including and definitely not limited to the animals and wild life in your area. How simple it is to program based on the interest of perhaps the geese wandering around the Islington Village yard. From then on, the experiences can transition into defining other birds or even for  the JK/SK group,  discussing and or asking questions about the migration patterns of Canadian Geese.
     To get started, your own sense of wonder, more than your scientific knowledge, will inspire
and sustain a child’s love of nature. Your sense of awe will be contagious to the
Explore and learn together. 
       Try to focus on “experiencing” rather than “teaching”. Then take your lead and cues from the children after you have provided the opportunity for them to interact with the natural world.
  As building blocks and the term “scaffolding” is used in early learning it defines the concept of learning step by step, mastering one skill and building upward with the next set of skills. This can be translated to the initiatives pertaining to Earth Day. We need to teach children to love the Earth, before we ask them to save it. In order to let the children embrace the nature around them, on a daily basis, we organized for the JK/SK group to clear out the planters in the entrance yard of Islington Village. After clearing out the weeds, they dug out holes, mixed up soil and planted perennials. 
   With this experience and activity available to the group, the children learned what it takes, step by step to plant flowers. Each portion of the process was discussed as they had a million and one questions. Questioning, “ why is the ground so hard?”, “why do we need to pull the weeds out?”, “ why are the flowers different colours?”.
   All of these wonderings have a scientific aspect, however it also instills problem solving skills, cause and effect exploration, even social skills of learning and relating to the environment and the  community around them.
More information on the deeper, more scientific reasons to engage your children in nature, and starting of the discussion of ecology and preservation… 

Multiple Intelligences

   As educators and parents we are constantly observing, supervising, and interacting with children through play. Play is the most vital form of learning, however that learning does happen in different styles. Each child is unique because of his or her own particular learning style. It is through this unique style that each child learns best. Theorist, Howard Gardner, identifies numerous multiple intelligences that indicate the natural ways people are most comfortable learning. This, of course, is what you are observing as your children freely play with the toys and materials available to them.           
   Learners are identified as visual/spatial, linguistic, logistical/mathematical, musical, physical, interpersonal, or intrapersonal, or even naturalistic learners. It's important to note that, according to the multiple intelligences theory, children are not restricted to just one way of learning, they might have both primary and secondary learning styles. We need to be able to adapt different learning styles into all aspects of our interactions with children. 
Visual/Spatial Learners
  These learners love color, pictures, and images. They enjoy painting and drawing. Having chalkboards and easels in the play space will allow for ample play and exploration. Visual children delight in looking at pieces to see how they go together, so make sure you provide lots of activities with your large wooden building blocks and table blocks in the manipulative area, provide lots of puzzles and connectors to keep these children engaged.
Linguistic Learners
  Learning about letters and words stimulates this child. Try playing with magnetic letters, or  initiate letter recognition and name recognition by displaying children's names during circle time, posting names on a manipulative job board, or labelling lunch seats with name tags. Provide lots of paper and markers as even very young preschoolers pretend to write their names. Linguistic learners also thrive in story time, with the display of books. To expand, use puppets and props to tell stories. 
Logistical/Mathematical Learners
  You’ll find this child counting the number of blocks in his newly constructed tower. The learner with this style will love the counting challenges as you read many Robert Munsch books that have a pattern storyline, and three count plot. Play dough is even great for this style learners when you introduce cookie cutters and shape cutters, exploring geometry.
Musical Learners
  The musical learner can have fun dancing, chanting and singing songs. This child will enjoy when you read the silly rhythmic verses in  Five Little Monkeys Sitting in a Tree. Encouraging children to use accompanying finger puppets or counting out the Five Little Monkeys, also introduces math elements, for a well rounded experience.
Interpersonal Learners
   The child with this style learns best in a group setting, through talking, interacting, and playing with others. You'll notice this child learns to organize players while they develop original games with their own rules and regulations. Social skills of cooperation and turn-taking is fostered as well. Encourage interpersonal children to learn to share responsibilities through dramatic play, while playing with the giant dollhouse that everyone crowds. You can also involve the children in team-building while putting their toys away.
Intrapersonal Learner
  An independent worker, this child is reflective and a good analytical thinker. Playing with trains, cars and trucks encourages these skills. Maneuvering the digger trucks,  the child makes his own decisions about how and why to dig. Provide materials for active, gross motor play while fostering a free, individualistic spirit, with bikes and scooters in the playground. For an older intrapersonal learner consider creating a special notebook for this child to keep a journal about their private thoughts, which fosters school readiness with note taking and writing skills. 
Naturalistic Learner
  Children way back in the day may have majorly been naturalistic learners, without all these Play Doh, Lego, Fisher Price innovations. Because this learner is tuned into nature you need to provide some props for observations  and exploration outdoors; supplies like binoculars, compass, and bug keepers. To assist the naturalist in learning more about various species and plant and animal classifications, provide informative books as resources and references in the classroom, like the great collection of National Geographic books we have in our JK/SK classroom.
  Keep in mind,  even though  various toys and ideas have been pointed out as relevant for specific learning styles, a toy might bridge several styles. For instance, a number puzzle is appropriate for strengthening a child’s logical/mathematics, physical, visual, and intrapersonal skills. Besides providing children with toys and activities related to their strong individual learning style, be sure to introduce them to other approaches as well to expand their exploration for optimal learning. 



Music & Creativity

    As we recently introduced a weekly music program at Islington Village, we thought we’d include and introduce some background information about music and its capacity to fosters all domains of children's skills. Creativity tends to define colouring, painting, and drawing. However, in the early learning context it actually includes all types of expression. 
    Music is a natural outlet for creativity and self-expression. The sheer joy of making music in a group promotes socialization and a wonderful feeling of belonging. 
  It can bring shy children out of their shells and calm more energetic personalities. Music has a great influence on the character and aura of the classroom as well, as we use quieter calming music to relax and tone down extremely busy play.
    Music can stimulate slower learners and help attention–challenged children focus. For many of us, singing is the most natural way to express ourselves musically. 
   Singing often occurs in the context of learning a song, which involves listening, remembering words, understanding words, pronouncing words, remembering, and singing a tune – and coordinating all these skills in a very short period of time, which is outlined as a cognitive skill for all age groups. 
  However, many children will not participate in singing activities, either due to cultural influences or innate personality traits; cueing immediate thoughts of those more shy children in the classroom or at home. Rather than simply singing, it is important to apply all areas of expression, for example using instruments and rhythm, for those that are not interested in singing.
  Instrumental experiences include more than social skills, also involving more fine and gross motor movement, in some cases, and coordination, outlined as a physical skill. Music is a vital part of children’s lives, and when they can make music themselves, it is immensely satisfying for them, emotionally gratifying as well. Rhythm instrument activities are a wonderful way to share the joy and excitement of music with young children.
   Some varying ways to include and experience rhythm music and expression using shakers:
(turn on a cd of instrumental music with a steady beat. Have the children copy you as you play the shaker in different ways)
•   Tap shaker into the palm of your other  hand
•    Hold shaker upside down and shake
•   “Rub” shaker on the floor
•    Shake high in the air
•    Rub shaker on arm
•    Hold shaker horizontally in both hands  and shake
•    Shake “out and in” – hold arm straight out in front, then bring it back in
•    Make circles in the air with the shaker
•    Shake up and down
•    Shake side to side
•    Shake shaker behind your back
•    Rub shaker on your tummy
•    Gently tap shaker on your shoe


Provisioning the Environment

   In early learning settings the environment is not only defined as the physical placement of furniture, and materials it also includes the caregivers program, the noise levels, even the socio-emotional aura. Setting up your classroom is a key aspect of programming and provisioning the environment to suit the children's needs and fostering emerging skills.
     The space in which these children spend the majority of their days influences their behaviours as well. Our young children learn how to act and respond based on their learning space. For instance,  openness in  the centre of the classroom may invite them to run across the area.
     In terms of toys and materials, if few materials are available to use, children will create interesting happenings, including conflict. Variation and actual quantity of materials is key in creating a classroom that is effective and safe. If materials are hard plastic, the children are invited to be rough with the objects with little concern for their treatment. When a flower arrangement is on the table, they will learn to visually examine the flowers and gently handle the delicate material. Children learn to be respectful of their environment if they have opportunities to care for beautiful objects and materials essentially giving them the benefit of doubt. 
    Additionally, a variety of music and instruments can expand the sound world of young children, while developing musical enjoyment. Singing in circle time and during transitions encourages the children to discriminate sounds and identify familiar patterns. Not only the physical act of playing music or singing songs aids the play environment, but the music you choose to play during free exploration has a grand affect on children’s behaviour. For example, in one of the toddler groups, when the children were being overly excitable and perhaps aggressive, the caregivers chose to switch out the hyper cd to one that they use during sleep time. This slower pace, relaxed music took down the level of noise and stimulation for their  hyper behaviour. 
  Children respond differently, based on the design and feel of the environment in which they live. An effectively designed classroom and program  has the potential for positively influencing all areas of children's development. Basically, the best learning happens in a nurturing environment that  plans appropriate opportunities. This environment can support the development of behaviours that are valued in our society, such as cooperation and persistence. 


From Negative to Positive

No running! Don't hit! After about a hundred times this really does get irritating, like a broken record. Not surprisingly children of all ages do seem to drone it out these rules near the end. 
   Rather than setting limits and rules in a negative context, positivity is a better option. 
Phrasing limits in a positive way focuses on what to do, rather than what not to do. When parents and caregivers offer these positive statements, they reinforce for children what is appropriate, serve as desirable models of communication for children to imitate, and decrease the likelihood for children to respond with defensiveness or resistance.
   In the older age groups, a discussion can be had about ‘rules’ for the classroom. This allows the children to be involved in the organization and everyday routine of their classroom. We recently sat with the JK/SKs to brainstorm appropriate behaviour in the classroom. Obviously, the first rules that came up with raised hands was no running; instead we jotted down, walking feet. Instead of writing down and listing the behaviours we want to avoid, we listed the behaviours and attitudes we encouraged in the class. For example, a simple rule of no interrupting to wait your turn. 
   For educators and parents, during the chaos of the day, it can be difficult to freeze for a few extra seconds before spewing out a direction children. But that few extra seconds, to stop, think and rearrange your words truly makes a difference. For the simple fact of, again, emphasizing and focusing on appropriate behaviours rather than constantly acknowledging inappropriate ones.