Monday, January 6, 2014

He Danced! A Tale About the Impact of an Early Childhood Environment

For those of you that don't know me personally...I am a...oh, how do I explain this...I'm a LOUD person.  I'm full of KAPOW! and PIZZAZ! and have a fairly vibrant personality. (admittedly, people have told me I am full of other things as well...but, this is a PG rated blog, so I won't mention what!)  If I know I am going to be in a potentially gloomy basement from 7:30-5:30, five days a week...I'm going to need some KAPOW! and PIZZAZZ! to keep me going.

This explains why my child care space looked like this for 7 years:

KAPOW!
PIZZAZZ!!

For seven years, my space was vibrant.  I dare say it was VERY vibrant.  It suited me and my crew well for all of those years.

Then....along came Ethan.  Ethan was the sweetest child.  He was kind, he loved to create and build.  He was fantastic in every way except one.  He would not dance.

What's the big deal?  Who cares if this child danced?
Well, I live in South Dakota. The winters can be very long, and we don't always have the opportunity to get outside and stretch our legs and RUN and JUMP and be free.  Dancing, is one of the ways we can do those things indoors.

We danced a LOT.

Everytime we danced a lot, Ethan would cry a lot.

He and I finally reached an agreement that he could leave the room when we danced.  This solved the problem of crying, but Ethan was not getting to RUN and be FREE and get his GROOVE ON ;).  I chatted with his mother about this.  She too was perplexed because Ethan danced at home, all the time.  So...it wasn't a complex that his dance moves didn't make the cut..he could dance and he loved to dance.  So then... WHY would he not dance when he was at my home?

Ethan wasn't able to explain why he didn't like to dance at my home, and my brain was exhausted trying to figure it out, when finally, it dawned on me.  I wondered if the ENVIRONMENT was just loud enough for Ethan, that when we added fast paced music and loud, quickly moving friends to the mix, it was too much for Ethan.

My walls were in dire need of a new paint job, AND...it was my Birthday and I didn't really need anything else, so I asked my husband to paint the child care space for me.  (My husband cringes when I have a paint brush in my hand.  I am the kind of painter who just wants to see the color on the wall.  I rarely take the time to tape off anything or protect the carpet.  This is a lovely way to be as it gets me out of many painting projects in our home!! :D)

And so......Leroy painted.  He painted over a weekend.

On Monday.....Ethan danced!   
HE DANCED, HE DANCED, HE DANCED!!!

So then, what was the "magical" solution to quiet down my space and give Ethan an opportunity to enjoy the chaos that happens when a group of young children dance?

I chose a soothing grey for the majority of the walls with a creamy yellow in the kitchen and messy-play area, and a calming combination of two shades of aqua in one cozy corner.

This calming shade of grey allows for my children to be all the KAPOW! and PIZZAZZ! that I and my crew can handle in a day!
I have a thing for stripes and found a way to appease my desire for stripes in my life AND keep the environment cozy too
You can see the soft yellow in the background in the space where we eat and do our messy-play.  A dear friend of mine painted a tree that extends out onto the ceiling...that is the brown trunk you see with the friendly frog at the base.  (Side note:  This child has just built a tower on the shop vac hose and is awaiting the results when the vac (on BLOW) is turned on)

Another angle showing the other side of the space. 
Side Note: We are enjoying dancing with bubbles (Bubble Oodles by Gymboree are fabulous for indoor play... I do the blowing, they do everything else.  The blower that comes with the bubbles creates these teensy tiny bubbles that quickly fills a room)
Notice how the walls just fade away and let the play residue take center stage as it should.
How did I get my crew to stand in this perfect line?  It's simple.  I didn't have a thing to do with this other then snap the picture.  They did it on their own.  They are owning this idea, this moment and all of the learning that is occurring.  They are working as a team with a common goal.  Their goal is to fill that big yellow tube with balls (see the jars full of balls that they are holding). This is what happens when children are allowed to lead their learning. Oh..and notice the nice, soothing walls too ;)


So, the next time you have a child that displays either strange behavior, unpleasant behavior, bizarre behavior or you-name-it behavior....perhaps it's NOT the child...perhaps it's your environment.  Stop trying to fix the child, and fix your environment instead.

1 comment:

  1. This is exactly what pediatric occupational and physical therapists talk about when we discuss the sensory systems. All of us need to take in information, process and form a motor or behavioral response. By modifying the environment we can make a enjoyable sensory play space. I love the gray walls so the children can focus on playing.

    Nothing drives me more crazy that seeing an elementary classroom loaded with materials all over the walls with a spelling list thrown smack dab in the middle for the kids to copy.

    We all have sensory preferences and learning styles. Great job on modifying the environment!

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