Friday, June 8, 2012

The Power of Reactions

Children like to cause reactions. 

They like to know that they made something happen, it makes them feel powerful.  I saw an article in Oprah's "O Magazine" where adults were sharing their favorite childhood memories, and the memory that spoke the loudest to me was this one: "I remember rolling an apple down the hallway.  I must have been very young because I remember feeling this overwhelming satisfaction that I had made something happen."

Making something happen is very powerful for a young child.

A toddler spots a tower...what will they do?  Knock it down.  Why?  To see the reaction. Not only will the tower fall down, which is a reaction...but they will also, more often then not, get a reaction out of the tower builder too.

A child kicks a ball.  It rolls.  More often then not...they will kick it again, just to see if the same reaction will happen.  If their cause (kicking) will have the same effect (rolling ball).

We, as early childhood professionals need to provide opportunities for young children to make things happen...for them to explore their world through cause and effect, for them to cause a reaction.

Why is this important? 

Young children crave reactions and the power that accompanies them. They will find a way to cause reactions whether good or bad.   So..give them opportunities to create reactions, so they don't look for ways to cause a negative reaction in you or the other children!

The following ideas actually evolved from a failed one.  Both include the always crowd pleasing combination of baking soda and vinegar. 
I thought it would be fun to use a sifter to sprinkle baking soda onto puddles of vinegar.  Sadly, baking soda is too fine, and it falls right through the sifter.  

(dah dada daaaah!!) Plastic salt shakers to the rescue!  Same concept...just a different mode of transportation and execution for the baking soda!  Just look:

The environment is set.  Supplies are ready.  Pipettes, cups of colored vinegar, shakers of baking soda, and an empty container sitting on a non-slip mat (I learned to do this the hard way...when children are focused, containers can slide away and land on the floor!!).

Squirt.....then shake, nice and neat....this of course didn't last long as the container filled with a kaleidescope of colorful vinegar and fizzing reactions!  Soon there was shaking and squirting, squirting and shaking...reactions everywhere!

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It was fun to observe as the fizzing puddles started to appear.  One puddle, then two..then giant puddle, all contained by the walls of the bucket.


Lots of teamwork created a BEAUTIFUL rainbow, and a container-sized puddle of fizz!

baking soda and vinegar reactions
Squeezing, grasping, muscle control (if the shaker hit the vinegar, it would clog the holes of the shaker making it useless) and working together....all valuable life-long skills. forward to ANOTHER day.......

Brace yourself for.....


Remove the container, and set that vinegar and baking soda reaction free! 

****IMPORTANT NOTE:  BEFORE setting the vinegar free, we all sat down and talked about the fact that there was now vinegar in the spray bottles, and we must not spray our friends or the grass (and of course, we talked about WHY, if you give guidelines remember to explain the WHY).  My crew did WONDERFULLY at following those simple guidelines.  Why?  First of all, because they LOVED the opportunity and didn't want to lose it. They also thrive on opportunities to earn our trust.
 "Danger" makes young children feel responsible and important...children respect danger.  Is vinegar all that dangerous?  Of course not...but just enough to garner an opportunity for trusting!*****

fizz, toes, sensory
Free the vinegar!! (just keep it out of the grass!!)

 Little hands and fingers need strengthening.  The more opportunities for squeezing the better!  Finding the right motivation is the key.  Children will try and try until they are successful if they are provided with the right motivation!


I first filled the bottles about 1/4 of the way with water, then the coloring and then the vinegar.  Water downed vinegar gives you the same reaction and makes the vinegar last longer!  Later, we added one more element that caused a fun change to the on!

First the shaking

Then the spraying...ahh teamwork!!
There is a lot of learning to be found in causing reactions. Both negative and positive reactions hold many lessons and provide children with life-long skills. 

Negative reactions (causing someone else to react to something we did in anger or disapointment is what I consider a "negative reaction") teach us about feelings, consideration and respect.  We learn how to express our feelings with words and feeling of compassion.  We learn an awareness of how others feel too.

Positive reactions can hold a treasure chest full of learning....teamwork, expressing ourselves, sense of pride, learning from trial and error, persistance, cooperation, sharing and patience just to name a few!

Collaboration at it's finest.  Erik took the lead roll and felt great importance when he told Amelia when it was time to shake more baking soda on.  They made their own pile of fizz for about 3 minutes...that's when the other children needed Erik and his purple vinegar STAT!
Thanks Erik!  Purple was just what this fizzing puddle needed!
 For an added twist, I added bubble solution to the vinegar bottles...this causes a slower, foamier fizz.
I loved all the teamwork that came out of this.  I thought there would be teams of shakers and sprayers, but it was fun to watch the sprayers join forces to create colorfull puddles of fizz!
I have found, that when provided with opportunities to cause positive reactions, most young children show little interest in hunting down negative reactions. One of those reasons is they just don't have time because they are consumed with the task at hand.  The other is their desire to cause a reaction is satisfied.

Teamwork is a good thing, yes...BUT there is something to be said about having all the supplies to yourself!

If you're going to set the vinegar's only fair that you set those piggies free too!!!
Make sure there are opportunities for children to learn through cause and effect every day!  These opportunities can be as simple as kicking or throwing a ball, they do not need to require a lot of supplies or set up.
Here is a quick list of some of our favorite "cause and effect" activities off the top of my head:
  1. balls of all sizes
  2. parachute with various objects to be tossed around (if you don't have a parachute grab a bedsheet or table cloth)
  3. water and cups
  4. rice and cups
  5. ANYTHING that can be poured and dumped
  6. ramps (see post for ideas)
  7. paint brushes and water for outside play (my crew LOVE to paint the cement with water and make it change color!!)
  8. bikes, cars, push toys
  9. Squiggles (see post)
  10. baking soda and vinegar variations  (see post)
  11. goop (see post)
  12. bubbles (post 1 and post 2 about bubbles)
  13. shop vac  (toy #1 at my house!  A shop vac that is STRICTLY FOR PLAY) My crew LOVE to suck up colored rice or fluffy pom poms, then turn it off, open it up and dump their hard work out just to do it again!  They also love the blow side (my shop vac sucks and blows).  We have a blast blowing light plastic ball-pit balls around the room, silk leaves or silk flower pedals too!  On the suck side we love to see what objects the suction is strong enough to pick up (books, various toys, containers, paper etc.) 
  14. "Rainbow Rain" -- at an easel, the child colors lines with washable marker at the top of the paper, then sprays the lines with water and watch as the colors run down the paper!
  15. Absorbing colored water with papertowel.  Put out cups of colored water and pipettes..let the children squirt colored water onto the table, then lay a piece of paper towel on as the colors are absorbed into the paper towel.   
This is a small list that will hopefully get your creative juices flowing!!
Once again, I firmly believe:  PLAY COUNTS!!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

One Thing Always Leads to Another

All that was plopped was a 10 ft. plastic raingutter bridged between two tables and held in place with sticky putty (that you use to hang things on the wall) and a mixture of magnetic items  ( 1-2" pipe cleaner bits, paper clips and magchips) and mag-wands.  ****KNOW YOUR CREW!! ARE THESE ITEMS SAFE FOR YOUR PARTICULAR GROUP OF CHILDREN??****

My only expectation was that the children would discover moving the items in the raingutter using the mag-wands UNDER the raingutter.   We had previously made some other discoveries through magnet play, and I wanted to see if they would take that knowledge and apply it to a different situation. 
At first, my crew used the mag-wands on top of the, but not as fun as what I had invisioned.  I quietly observed...and waited for more discoveries.
Eventually, through trial and error, the discovery I was patiently anticipating happened.  Superman (on the right in the above photo) discovered it completely by accident...actually, it was flower child on the left that discovered it, but it was Jack's wand that made it happen.  Flower child saw the pipecleaners mysteriously moving as Jack was just carelessly dragging his wand along the outside of the raingutter..,  They both were thrilled, even though Superman really didn't have a clue as to what he had done to cause such excitment!

As always happens when children are given TIME to PLAY, one thing leads to another.  My crew (or as one of my reader's refers to young children, my "littles"  LOVE THAT!!) added the next plop: metal balls from a Magtastik set I bought several years ago.  ****please note, this toy has been recalled due to some smaller pieces in the set...BUT, the metal balls that came in it are AWESOME for magnet play!*****
Two year old Molly is making things happen, a BIG deal for a two year old!

Adding the balls created conflict.  Conflict in play is a GOOD THING.  How else can we practice conflict resolution if we never have conflict?  The balls took up the entire space in the ball could go past another ball.  The other conflict was the pipecleaner pieces made it difficult to maneuver the balls.  Problem solving and conflict resolution....both resulted in teamwork.... LOVE IT!!

As interest and motivation fades, we "professional brain developers" get the esteem honor of assisting in one thing leading to another.  We can have just as much fun as the children by staying one step ahead of them and quietly plopping new things that takes the current play in yet another direction. 

After observing some pretty impressive conflict resolution and problem solving,  I thought it would be fun to add some color mixing to this activity.

Enter plop #3 stage right:  paint. 

The "littles" had removed the assortment of smaller magnetic objects (pipe cleaner bits etc.) in order to run the balls more smoothly (YES! Problem solving!), so I just quietly squirted in some yellow paint and stepped back to observe.  OH THE EXCITMENT!!

One color isn't nearly as fun as two!  So blue was added next, and shortly was requested!

I love that the children cannot see their hands when they are doing this activity.  It helps with their spatial awareness (aka:  proprioception....just being aware of where our parts are in space and moving them where we need them to be without looking at them).  I also love that they were making things happen in an entirely new way!  How empowering!

Gavin is testing his own hypothesis:  Can the ball be passed from one magnet to the next?

The child on the right was having a lot of trouble with her ball getting stuck in the paint, and the magnet losing contact with the ball.  She showed a tremendous amount of persistance...never once did she give up...she just tried and tried and tried.  Persistance is a very valuable, life-long skill! thing led to another with a little assistance from me.  As the larger magnetic balls started to get difficult to manuever from the increasing amounts of paint,  I traded them out for the smaller magnetic balls similiar to these available at Discount School Supply (mine are slightly bigger then regular marble size, the ones on this link have a 1 1/4 inch diameter)
The awesome thing about the magnetic marbles is they are smaller, and can squiggle all over the place, leaving behind really fun trails!  They could also STRING together (which happened to be our mystery word on this day!)

The children were mesmerized by the squiggles they were making in the paint.  (Squiggle would be a GREAT mystery word to accompany this activity as well!  You could combine it with this SIMPLE plop)

Ty was proud of his discovery...the balls can string together AND he can make them hang from the side!!

The boys are testing previous knowledge with new materials...SUCCESS!  It works! 

Working independently together.  When the moment arises, teamwork was incorporated in an otherwise independent moment.  Then enter in problem solving when each boy's marbles stuck together making a string of marbles.  How to get them unstrung without touching the paint-covered marbles.  It was interesting to watch the problem solving through trial and error.  They finally resolved that they had to touch the marbles.  Neither wanted to take the time to get messy -- it was quite humorous to listen to the debate! :)

Ty ( on the right) is demonstrating his previously discovered technique of taking the marbles up the side of the raingutter as Ethan prepares to lead his marbles past Ty's. The forethought and planning involved in order to orchestrate this was very impressive.
The moral of this post: 
  • Give children TIME TO PLAY. 
  • Let one thing lead to another. 
  • Be present, think ahead and be prepared to assist when necessary in order to help one thing lead to another.