My growing toddler

I have come to a stage in motherhood where my little pēpi is growing before my eyes and it seems like such a long time ago where he was rolling around on the floor, picking up anything and everything and in the mouth it goes. The transitioning stage from two – three years old is such an important time for any child’s development and also where they make the most connections within their brain that shapes the person they will become. My son, Kawai is 2 and half years old and I have seen such a developmental shift socially, physically, emotionally and his ability to understand. The relationships he has formed with his pāpa, brothers, grandparents, kaiako and other tamariki is truly something amazing to watch over. Relationships are very important for brain development as this is how we learn to communicate. Kawai has been with me at Play Learn Grow from 5 months old, I do believe this has played a massive impact on all these areas of his development.

Does your toddler seem to think they know everything? Because they are beginning to talk in sentences, and sometimes say things in a big confident voice, it’s easy to think your toddler is more grown up than they really are. I know from raising a young toddler, Kawai is very vocal and he will tell you what he wants and how he is feeling. My role as a parent is to always stay positive, encourage his curiosity, staying connected even while redirecting or correcting. Our toddlers feed off the energy that you present them with. Having a calm, chill presence around Kawai has definitely rubbed off on him. We are always striving for our tamariki to be confident and competent learners and communicators. (Ministry of Education, 2017).

Have you ever looked down and realise that your toddler is no longer there? I’ve had my fair few experiences of this moment and it is usually at supermarkets or shopping malls. It gives you that heart drop moment where the worst thoughts come to your mind about where your toddler is. They usually run away because they are most likely excited, love the freedom of running or simply bored. Tips and tricks to keep them occupied while you’re out and about is to get them involved on your trip to the mall or supermarket, let them help push the trolley. Kawai loves helping me put the items in the trolley and crossing the item off the shopping list. He also loves putting food in there that I eventually take out when he is not looking… that’s just what toddlers do.

Empowering our toddlers is a great way to stop those tantrums from arising. Making them feel powerful and confident in their ability to do tasks by themselves makes them competent little learners. They LOVE to learn by doing. Household chores are a great way to involve your toddler, it may add some extra time to what you are doing but they are learning and gaining new skills for the future and you’re bonding. For instance, Kawai loves taking out the compost and he considers that ‘his job’, he also enjoys helping me clean the shower with a scrubbing brush. Other examples of getting your toddler to help can be washing vegetables in the sink, wiping the table or kitchen top, passing you the clothes to hang on the washing line or washing pots and pans (unbreakable dishes) in the sink. Getting a good stool so that they can easily climb up and down is a great way of getting them involved in the kitchen and learning about food. Remember, these are life skills that your toddler will learn to develop as they get older, in return make your life easier.

Our toddlers are no longer little babies who is dependent on us 24/7, they are growing before our eyes and every moment is so special and critical for their development. I’m lucky to still be breastfeeding Kawai, even though sometimes I want him to stop, I love having that bond with him that started as soon as he entered the world. There is that connection that I have with him that he gets with no one else and I will be forever grateful to be able to breastfeed for so long. Cherish the moments that you have with your toddler because before you know it, they’ll be leaving the nest and walking through life on their own. It’s these important years that shape the person they will grow to be.

“Poipoia te kakano kia puawai”

Nurture the seed and it will blossom

‘Ako’ – To teach and to learn

Since begining my teaching journey I have been discovering my philosphy of teaching and what leads and guides my teaching practice. What I really love about working in a childcare centre is that I can learn something new everyday from my tamariki. It’s amazing how curious and smart they are to be able to teach kaiako about the world through their eyes. It recognises the knowledge that both teachers and learners bring to learning interactions, and it acknowledges the way that new knowledge and understandings can grow out of shared learning experiences. The principle of ‘ako’ affirms the value of the pair and group learning approaches in which students interact with their peers, teacher, tasks, and resources. These are very effective approaches for teaching and learning te reo Māori.

A great example of this happened the other night, I heard my 2 year old, Kawai in the bath singing a nursery rhyme I was unfamiliar with. He was singing it over and over again and wanted me to sing along with him. I asked if he could teach me the song that he knows, and he continued to sing;

Hey diddle, diddle!
The cat and the fiddle,
The cow jumped over the moon;
The little dog laughed
To see such sport,
And the dish ran away with the spoon.

I searched the song up online to learn how the tune goes and there was a YouTube clip, once Kawai heard the song his face instantly smiled and he started to sing louder and louder telling me that this was the song he learnt at school. I was amazed to see how confident he was singing the song and the joy in his face when he got to the end of it. I sat with him while he was in the bath and he taught me the song by repeating it over and over. This links strongly within my philosophy of teaching by embracing the concept of ‘Ako’ and having a reciprocal learning relationship with our tamariki. Empowering our young tamariki to share their learnings with the kaiako and surrounding whānau to build whanaungatanga within our learning community. Kawais development in the Pukeko room at Play Learn Grow has been immense. He comes home every day singing waiata that he has learnt, telling me his favourite books that his kaiako read to him and I can see his actively taking part in their class day to day routine.

This was an incredibly proud moment I felt as a parent, observing the learning and seeing his development be nurtured throughout the centre and bringing that home to share with our whānau. Our national curriculum Te Whāriki states that, “all children will be empowered to learn with and alongside others by engaging in experiences that have meaning for them.” (Ministry of Education, 2017, p. 13).  Early childhood centres play such a massive part in our young children’s lifelong learning. I’ve experienced the impact on our tamariki being a kaiako in training also having my baby go through his early learning journey in a ECE centre.

Top 7 tips to teach pre-schoolers to share

Sharing is another skill for pre-schoolers to learn, and for most it is not innate or natural. It is a learned skill. Young kids love that special toy and don’t know when they will get it back, or worse if they will ever get it back. This is a challenge to learn to interact socially and play together. As many year 1 primary school teachers have told us, this is another benefit of quality early childcare education. At Play Learn Grow ECE our skilled and experienced teachers are about to nurture these skills.

Play Learn Grow children from our teachers encouraging sharing in a nurturing and caring way

1) Set limits in advance

With my own kids sharing a favourite toy was tough. Just like at Play Laern early childcare education centre, we set equal time limits in the interests of fairness. I am aware of some whanau telling us another great use of the Watercare four minute shower timer – as a visual cue that shows toy time!

2) Recognise pre-schoolers’ feelings

Seeing that children may be concerned about not getting a favourite toy back, you can recognise their feelings. I asked today “are you worried you will not get your smiley face ball back”. This triggers the answer by body language with a head nod (for yes). I explained “I understand your concern, but you will get it back, we have to share so others don’t miss out. You can play with it later today”. It is irrelevant they choose not to play with it later in the day, that was their choice. This used manaakitanga by caring for the mana of the tamariki. Bonds get built from skilled teaching like this.

3) Correct bad sharing behavior
If or more likely when a situation occurs where a child if upset or reacts negatively to another child playing with a desired toy they wanted, then explain about sharing and they can have a turn after others also had a turn. Now a quick note for some parents expecting big things of their just turned 2 year olds – this takes a lot of practice at home and at preschool. At Play Learn Grow we have observed that very few under 3 years old are able to understand sharing without a lot of training at home and at our ECE Centre, and even then it is not perfect as they are so young. The great thing is get to practice at Play Learn Grow. We teach sharing and correct bad sharing behaviour, and after a while it becomes second nature!

4) Modelling good behaviour

Seeing sharing in action is great. At home you can do this even as an adult sharing things like chocolate, drink (from different cups or glasses) or even the TV remote. Point out when a family member sharing and praise them with “thank you for sharing {Dad} or whoever did the sharing”. This also helps create a nurturing culture of sharing.

Too often sharing opportunities are botched when it is someones turn and just a passing “cheers”, “thanks” or “ta” are stated. Until sharing is fully engrained it is best to use the sharing as a learning opportunity.

5) Share with your child

Try some activites with your kids that involve sharing, like basic games. We have done this with Duplo blocks and alternate so that one block is placed by each person participating in turn. Talk about sharing, turns and praise good behaviour.

6) Praise

Praise is such a powerful tool. When you say well done Hamish, or well done Deepika, children really feel good about themselves and their behaviour. When they do a good job of sharing make sure you tell them. Our Centre Manager at Play Learn Grow ECE has a wide range of phrases for praise including “well done Harper, great sharing”, “good playing Arihia, Sarah and Paiku love playing with you”, and “well done team, isn’t sharing fun?” asked as a question to reinforcement the teamwork and fun experience sharing is.

7) Preparation

Many parents are a bit anxious about a play-date with another child. It is important to prepare you child as the host of this event so your child(ren) understand that when Pat and Jen come over, they’ll need to share some toys. I have found it useful to pick out a few toys prior with my children, and to hide away that very special toy (or two) so they are not sharable, which minimises the risk of an emotional disregulation event or outburst.

Benefits of Clay

At Play Learn Grow, Kaiako provide clay for the children to explore, manipulate and experiment. This gives them the opportunity to be creative and understand concepts of shapes, colours, numbers, letters and form whilst having lots of fun.

 Activity set up: For this activity set up, we have dry clay, bowl of water, wooden rollers, potato mashers, string and shells.

Tamariki saw this activity in the afternoon, were seen to be sitting quietly and relaxed. They were able to explore with their senses, stay focus and concentrated on their own creation.

They were moulding, patting and pushing the clay flat on the table. Some of the tamariki added water into their clay and used both hands to squash it together, so you could see the clay running through the gaps of their little fingers.

Some had created shapes, (eg) ovals, circles, squares and triangles. One particular child made different sizes of clay balls, and sequenced them up in sizes.

Clay also helps develop the small muscles in their fingers, hand and eye co-ordination, known as fine motor skills as they pull the clay into pieces.

Children can express their thoughts and ideas as they mould the clay to take on the form of their imagination.

Clay provides children with opportunities to build on their knowledge, verbalise their thoughts and ideas.

Ministry of Education (2017), stated that Children learn through play by doing, asking questions, interacting with others, devising theories about how things work and then trying them out.

Children experience an environment where their play is valued as meaningful learning and the importance of spontaneous play is recognised.

Benefits of reading to our tamariki

Our tamariki absolutely love reading. If we continue to read books to them while they are young, we are making it fun and hopefully starting a love for reading. There are so many books that you can find, that your tamariki would love.

There are many benefits that our tamariki will learn from reading. While we are reading, our tamariki are using their imagination and they enter into another world where they become the character and get to see what happens. MAGIC! Some of the benefits that come with reading are that they have a deeper understanding about the sounds of the letters, the words, and the language that is used. This will help with their literacy skills as they get older and become more familiar with letters and the words. Through reading to them, and gently turning the pages over, you will get them to respect and value our books by showing them how to look after the books. While reading along, you spark the child’s imagination where they imagine themselves there in the story and be amongst it and can also create their curiosity. This can strengthen their connections in their brains and can improve their concentration with them having the ability to focus.

Reading can also help them develop both their social and communication skills by learning more language. This can help our tamariki to learn about the world around them, helps extend their knowledge and understanding their culture and others around them. It can help them with their emotions by the books talking about a wide range of topics, where it can give them some understanding around a new or frightening experience and can help them to acknowledge and work on their emotions that come with it. Especially emotions that they don’t get themselves. They can remind themselves that the character in the story felt the same way and they did this to help themselves out so they could do the same.

It would be really beneficial if you could possibly add reading into your daily routine and making it a consistent part of your daily routine.

Having a variety of books available will also be helpful and give your child the opportunity to choose a book they think they would enjoy.

Here are a list that they would love.

  • The Very Hungry Caterpillar
  • Giraffes Can’t Dance
  • Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do you see
  • The Day the Crayons Quit
  • We’re Going on a Bear Hunt
  • The Rainbow Fish
  • We’ve Got a Boat

Why is scissors cutting skill so important?

In the Tui room, all the tamariki have access to the scissors at any time of the day. They can easily grab it from the art corner with a magazine or a piece of paper. Cutting is a fun, relaxing activity that the children love to do, whether is cutting out a picture in a magazine or simply cutting a line or shape on a piece of paper. The educational outcome from cutting with scissors is much more than just fun. There are so many benefits that a child can get from cutting with scissors.

Fine motor skills

Cutting engages three fingers at the same time, thumb, forefinger and middle finger. It requires children to open and close their hand continuously while holding onto the scissors with these three fingers. This motion creates a perfect workout to build up the muscles in children’s hands. It is important to work on these muscles because they are also used for holding a pencil or pen to learn to write and draw.

Hand-eye coordination

Cutting involves seeing, analysing the visual input, and hand-eye coordination to cut out the outline of an image. It boosts a child’s hand-eye coordination which plays a crucial part in self-help skills such as feeding themselves, putting on their shoes and clothes.

Bilateral coordination

Bilateral coordination is the ability to control both sides of the body at the same time in an organized way. It is tricky for a child because each hand is understanding its own task. Cutting, in this case, requires a child to use scissors with one hand while the other hand is holding onto a piece of paper and turning it around to get the right angle. Practising bilateral coordination is beneficial for a child’s self-care skills such as zipping up a school bag or jacket.

If your child is transitioning to primary school and has showed interest in writing, cutting would be an excellent activity to build up the foundation for writing skills. Start with something easy like cutting a line and then move to cutting out some shapes with smooth angles. Please remind your child to hold the scissors properly, and always have the thumb pointing up.

Easy cooking activities for toddlers

10 easy cooking activities your kids will love!  

At Play Learn Grow our teachers are experts at getting creative, having fun and providing messy play environments for our tamariki.    It is much easier in our West Auckland ECE environment where we have the resources, the space and plenty of patience!  But there are also fun ways at home you can introduce cooking and food to your children that don’t involve so much mess! Below are 10 fun activities that also help to develop your toddlers fine motor skills, literacy and numeracy too.

  1. Measuring

Pull out the measuring spoons and teach your children how to use them.  You can do this with any ingredients in the house and your kids will love it – compare sizes and weights (small/large/heavy/light etc)

2. Pouring

Learning to pour accurately is a great tip to learn and works our fine motor skills.  You can do this with water or any other liquid you have in the house.  Play a game and try not to spill any water when you pour between bowls and vessels.  You could even try making ice blocks which they can enjoy once they freeze.

3. Stirring

Stirring ingredients is a basic cooking skill children can learn while they are young. If you get them involved while they are young, this is always a good task for them.  It also gives their arms a good workout!  Any recipe will do that involves mixing with a large spoon.

4. Preparation

Find an easy recipe and read it aloud to your child.  Then you can walk through the preparation steps with them before baking gets under way.  Understanding the importance of preparation before starting an activity is an essential life skill to learn.

5. Planning

Talk and include your children when it comes to meal planning.  Ask them about the meals they eat– breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks etc, and then have them help you write the shopping list or check the fridge/pantry to see what ingredients you already have.

6. Food washing and preparation

Get your children to help washing or peeling vegetables or other ingredients.  The more hands-on experience they have with certain foods the more likely they will be willing to try it.

7. Recipe creativity

Talk with your children about the food tastes that they like, and let them come up with some creations themselves. My children love to add cheese to any savoury meal, and love coming up with different smoothie ideas and crazy names like the ‘green monster’. 

8. Try something new

When you go to the supermarket, ask them to chose a new fruit or vegetable that they can add to a recipe.   Let them select one new thing to buy – on the condition they have to try it!

9. Fastfood at home

There’s no avoiding the love most children have for fast food, but you can adapt this by making a ‘happy meal’ at home.  I do this with the children’s lunch box – cooking chicken nuggets or mini burgers using other things I have in the house.  It’s much healthier and the children are just as excited by their lunch box dinner as they are by a trip to McDonalds!

10. Colours of the rainbow

Have fun by finding all the colours of the rainbow in your kitchen – they can be in food, utensils, appliances, plates and bowls..anything that you can find.  Be careful of the sharp objects with little ones though.

The benefits of learning a second language

Here at Play Learn Grow we embrace biculturalism, multiculturalism and diversity at our centre.  There are so many ethnicities found in our suburb of Kelston, it provides a wonderful opportunity for our tamariki to learn about them. Language is often the best place to start.

We are so proud to have staff and children from many different cultures and that speak more than one language (Te Reo, Samoan, Tongan, Chinese, Hindi, Fijian, Russian – just to name a few!). 

We incorporate Te Reo into our daily life at Play Learn Grow and our children love it, especially the singing.  There are so many benefits to introducing our children to different languages and cultures.

And it is never too early to begin learning a language: it’s fun, it promotes healthy development, and the many cognitive and social benefits will last a lifetime.

As a parent, you do not need to know a second language yourself, there are so many online resources to help you.

Here is a helpful link for te reo for example:

Write out simple words, post them around the house and use them when communicating with your child.   Learn a few expressions yourself and use them in everyday life at home.  Remember singing is a great way too to teach our children, so google the most popular toddler songs in the language of your choice.  You should find yourself some great catchy examples, even some well-known English songs that have been translated into other languages. 

Here are just some of the reasons why learning a language puts your child at a significant advantage:

1)It gives them a head start

Children who are exposed to another language before age five use the same part of the brain to acquire that second language that they use to learn their mother tongue. Younger learners are also uninhibited by the fear of making mistakes, which is sometimes an obstacle for older beginners.

2)The earlier they start, the longer they stay!

The length of time a student is able to devote to learning a language has a direct and positive correlation to cognitive development. Longer sequences also provide the opportunity for learners to grow alongside the additional language and culture, developing a deeper connection as they mature.

3)Feed Their Brains

Research shows that learning a second language boosts problem-solving, critical-thinking, and listening skills, in addition to improving memory, concentration, and the ability to multitask. Children proficient in other languages also show signs of enhanced creativity and mental flexibility.

4) Boost Their Academic Achievement

The cognitive benefits of learning a language have a direct impact on a child’s academic achievement. Compared to those without an additional language, bilingual children have improved reading, writing, and math skills, and they generally score higher on standardized tests.

5) Nurture Their Curiosity, Cultural Sensitivity, Empathy, and Tolerance

Children who are exposed early to other languages display more positive attitudes to the cultures associated with those languages. The experience of learning a language introduces them to the world in ways they might otherwise have not experienced.

6) Don’t Hesitate: Go for Two… or Three

Surprisingly, young children are not confused by the introduction of multiple languages at the same time. Not only do they naturally navigate multilingual environments, but acquiring a second language early in life primes the brain to learn multiple other languages, opening a world of opportunities for later on.

Explaining Covid to children

Kids Health New Zealand have put together some awesome resources to help us explain Covid 19 to our tamariki.

Sometimes keeping it simple is best, but some young children have such inquisitive minds they need to know more information before they can relax.

It’s up to you as a parent to decide how much information your child needs (or doesn’t) need to know – but the links on this website can provide you with guidance on how to tackle this tricky topic. You’ll find a Wiggles video in this link also, which keeps things light and fun but shares the important message of hand washing and social distancing.

Wa Whakapai – Tidy up time

Lately we have realised that wa – whakapai (tidy up time) is not working as well as we have been hoping for. We put on our tidy up song and away the tamariki went, running around in circles, running  to hide under the table, escape to play outside, sitting down and playing or the odd few ‘helping’ by picking up the toys and placing them under the bed, under the table or in the different baskets or drawers and not in the right places. They’re actually doing what you have asked, just not how we were wanting.

One way is to show them by pointing out the objects by naming them and saying the colours of the objects to make it easier for them to focus on one thing at a time. “….name…. can you please pick up the blue blocks and put them into the lego box?.” Usually it works really well but another way to get them to understand that every object has a home where they belong. By teaching our tamariki where objects belong, we are teaching them by showing them we are respecting the environment. If we kaimahi (teachers) and whanau place the resources away after our activity, then our tamariki will slowly get used to doing too and become a habit. With this happening our tamariki will respect the environment they play in, then they will understand it’s value and the importance of belonging somewhere