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Archive for December, 2013

Cozy areas at home

One of the most common questions I have from parents during conferences is the topic of guidance. Often times, I share with families various techniques and ways for families to adopt these new techniques at home. I not only use these techniques with families and in my classroom, but I also use these same techniques at home. I have the pleasure of being a mom to a one and a half-year old. As my daughter started nearing her first birthday I knew I wanted to use all of the techniques I had learned over my teaching career with her. One of the most important ideas I knew I wanted to recreate at home was a cozy area.

When a child is older we encourage the child to be a part of setting this whole process up as much as possible. I began to reflect about how could my daughter be a part of this process at such a young age. I completely believe that I am building her a foundation for self-regulation and understanding of her own feelings, but also knew that I would have to present the materials and techniques in  a different manner than I would with older children.  I began the process of creating a cozy area at home by purchasing frames that she could paint on that wood.  She decorated four frames. Two frames have sign language (we are teaching her sign language) stop and help.  The other two have two house rules we made. We then added soft items to the area including a large stuffed animal, a small pillow, and a large pillow covered in a soft blanket.  Beside the pictures are emotion faces. When an incident occurs, we point out the emotion and sign the emotion word as well. Under all of this is a basket with feelings books , two stuffed animals, and my daughters “blankie”.

As we began to set up the area we added a few items at a time so that our daughter could explore each of the items before it was all ready. We then did a lot of teaching about the items as they were added. We also did some role-playing as well. Once it was officially set up we began to use it. Any time our daughter was upset we would offer the opportunity to go into that area to as we call it “calm your body”. We continued this for several weeks and she would start to use it even when she was scared of loud sounds. We have now had our area up for about four months. She uses it often and also encourages her stuffed animals and me and my husband to use it as well.  When she comes out from calming her body we ask her if she is ready sometimes she will say no and returning by herself to her cozy area. When she is ready she returns and we talk about whatever the reason that sent her to the cozy area.  We might be talking about scary noises, feeling over excited, feeling mad, and/or sad.  Below are pictures of ours cozy area.

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20140101-094434.jpg If you have created a cozy area at home, tell us about it.  What worked? Didn’t work? What questions do you have?

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Cozy Area

One of the options to help children who are feeling over stimulated, sad, angry, or just need some quiet time is a cozy area.  In our classroom, the cozy area is tucked under the stairs of our classroom loft.  The children can bring a blanket or stuffed animal here if they need that to help  calm their bodies.  The area is in an area which is in a spot that does not have a lot of traffic.  The area is protected by staff and other children for children to have the opportunity to have this time.  Often times, when I am having a long day/week, I set time aside for myself to relax.  This may be taking time for me by reading a book, taking a warm shower/bath, or going to bed early.  This space is designed for children to be able to take time for themselves as an adult would and relax and/or calm before returning to their room and peers.

In my classroom (a three, four, and five-year old room), we use a tool called ECERS-R which stands for the Early Childhood Environmental Rating Scale-Revised.  The rating scale is composed of 43 parts and two of the 43 parts is a discussion about space and private areas for children.  The section labeled “space for privacy” reads that a “high quality program would have more than one space” available for children. Spaces for privacy include areas where children have the opportunity to work alone or with one other person.  In our classroom, we have spaces like this around the room including the computer, the provocation (a table designed to spark children’s interest about an item and sketching, scientific inquiry, and conversations can occur) table, the reading area, and a large adult sized chair by the children’s cubbies.  These are all spaces our children can gravitate to if they need some time to themselves or with only one other friend. According to ECERS-R, “the soft furnishings in the cozy area must allow a child to completely escape the hardness of a typical early childhood classroom.”  Our cozy area is equipped with a bean bag, stuffed animals that are nearby, a chart developed by Dr. Becky Bailey which offers children an opportunity to identify their emotions and which technique they will use to calm their bodies, and books nearby if a child needs those to calm their body.

As new children come to our room, we model and teach about the areas available to the children.  Children who have been in our program before also teach the new children how to use the areas as well as checking on them as they begin to feel better.

Do you have one in your classroom? If so, what is in this area and how do the children use it?

Stay tuned as I will share how to make a cozy area at home next time I blog!

Until next time,

AIH

Space

Last week, I posted about space.  If you haven’t seen it yet, check it out here.  With that post, I was hoping for all of our followers to think about their spaces whether it be their classroom, their child’s room, or even their own room and begin to think about what space does to a child, an adult, or you as an individual.

As adults we can remove ourselves or prep ourselves for situations that are over stimulating or overwhelming. As an adult, if I am overwhelmed in a situation I can do many things.  First and foremost, I can recognize that is how I feel. As soon as I am able to do that, I can begin to find ways to help cope during this situation.  I can take some clutter away, dim the lights, work through some of the clutter and take a break, or even take my work to a less cluttered space if needed.

Let’s think about children.  How do children tell us they are overstimulated?  What does it look like as a one year old, two-year old, preschooler? What opportunities are we giving them to cope? If not, how can we offer them opportunities to handle the over stimulation?

Please comment below answering any or all of the above questions. I will continue to post on space over the next weeks.  Stay tuned!

-AIH

Reflections as an adult about space

Close your eyes.  Think about a room where at least five things are going on at the same time.  The noise level may be at various levels including levels of loud and soft, sounds of music, and other conversations fill the air.  Now think about your body in this space.  How do you feel? What might you do if more activities happened? You were not feeling well? You had something exciting happening in a week? Your tired? Open your eyes.

Begin to reflect think about these ideas before you go any further.  Feel free to post your ideas on our blog!

Now after you have reflected think about your children whether they be your own children or those in your classroom.  How do you think they are feeling in the same scenarios described above?  Keep in mind, some of these children have never been to school before, might not have the language or exposure to calming their body and they have only been on this earth for one to five years (or older depending on where you work/live with)?

Keep this post in your thoughts and reflections on your drive home tonight.  I want you all to be able to have some reflection time before I begin to offer ideas for you and your children!

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