Monday, December 3, 2012

Guest Blogger Wendi; Day 1!

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Today I would like to introduce one of my favorite mommy blogger Wendi Holmes.  She has an amazing blog that i suggest you check out:

One of the reasons why I like her so much is because of how she plays with her son Jake.  Many of you know I try to be a complete “hands on” mama with as much interactive learning playtime as possible.  Wendi is the same way, and I love reading about all of her ideas!  

I really miss teaching. Like, a lot these days. I'm not sure if it's the beginning of year itch or what, but it's definitely been on my mind a lot lately. I kinda feel like I'm missing out on using one of my biggest strengths, but am SO very thankful that I have the opportunity to stay home with Jake. With that, I've always been excited about having planned teachable activities with my kid(s) and I'm hopeful to start making this more of a priority with J. So, here's a few teacher & mama thoughts combined, with hopes of trying to incorporate more blog posts about this topic in the future.

Play: the spontaneous activity of children

Over the years of being an early childhood teacher, I've recognized how important play is in a child's development. We would hear it over and over in our CD courses. I've sat through many trainings, read many books, and observed many children throughout the past 10 years. It's way more than just having fun for them. It's engaging children in their cognitive, social and higher level thinking skills, without them even realizing it.

For instance, when I used to work with younger kids (preschool aged), I would make sure to have bins with play items (play food, purses, dolls, pretend jewelry, blocks, cars, animals, etc.) to let them have creative play time. It wasn't academic things like math manipulatives or reading counters. We scheduled play into our daily routines. It was also a good way to encourage good behavior and let them strive towards something that they always looked forward to. A positive reinforcement; a reward.

Or, when I would be doing guided reading time (small groups for reading), the rest of my students would be partaking in structured literacy stations. All of the stations would be academic based, but I would also always have one "play" station. This may be a sand station, playing games, building with blocks, or a pretend imaginative type of play (example: puppets). While it can't necessarily be measured in the success of a test, it builds their curiosity, which then, strengthens their willingness to learn. 

My favorite time to watch my kids was when they wanted to play teacher. They would literally sit the same way I would, pull their hair back like I did (girls), say the same things I would say, try to write like me, etc. It really made me realize how important my every action was and that they were always watching. Anyways, through all of this, I've learned that play is essential to a child's learning. They learn the benefits of working together and how to problem solve on their own levels. It's a direct, hands-on type of learning.

So, taking off my teacher hat and putting on my mama hat... I know these principals and the importance of such a thing. But, it's harder for me to turn that on as a mom. When I was teaching, I had to be "on". As soon as the first student walked in my classroom each morning, I was responsible for them and their success in 1st grade. Not only academically, but it was also my job to make them feel confident, important, special and loved. I had a challenge and I was motivated to achieve that. 

Don't hear me wrong, I am motivated and challenged to teach Jake and to raise him to be a caring, fun little boy. And actually, I have an even higher calling, to teach him about Jesus Christ and his indescribable love for us. But, it is definitely easy to go about, day to day, without sitting down to actually play or motivate myself to have intentional time with him. I'm not walking into a classroom everyday and turning my teacher self "on". I'm waking up and staying in the comforts of my own home. I'm in my pj's with my hair on top of my head. It's easy to get lackadaisical. It's easy to forget the importance of having designated play time with my son. It's a lot easier to think about the errands I need to run, what's for dinner, or to remember to text my friends. I am the first to admit that my to-do list can become my higher priority very quickly. Or I sometimes compare myself to my husband, Wade, (who is a PRO at playing) and I think he is so much better than I am. But that's not true. We just play in different ways. I may not be wrestling with Jake or pretending to be dunking the balls in the hoops, but I can definitely act silly, turn on my goofy teacher voice when I read him stories, or come up with ways to make him think outside of the box with creative play.

Also, it easily becomes a distraction to me when Jake looks content playing by himself, because he is good at that. But that's no excuse for me to think that he isn't craving my one on one attention. Now is the time I have with him before any other kids join our family. This is the moment I need to be teaching him that I am present in his life, that I want his attention, and that he is important to me. I want him to know how to pretend play and how to build those skills.
With all of this said, I've been really trying to set aside time these past few weeks to play and learn with Jake. He's just now getting to the age where he can really focus for a few minutes (NOT long, but a few minutes). Like mentioned above, I've always dreamed of being able to have a little "learning spot" for my kids at home. I'm not necessarily meaning homeschool, but set aside time, activities, and ways to use my teacher skills with my own kids. 
So, I decided it was finally time that I go through some of my many boxes of school stuff. Granted, I taught 1st and 2nd grade, but I have tons of materials he can enjoy now. He's loving my manipulatives and crafty items since his play is more on a sensory and fine motor level. Babies require a different type of play, obviously, than elementary aged kids, but he still loves to explore new things.

Here are a few ways I've tried to be more creative with his play time... besides his regular toys. (I'm actually planning to put up a lot of his toys in bins and pull different ones out everyday. I think he's in sensory overload with all of his many toys and doesn't even play with half of them anyways.)

Dying to read more, aren't you!  For the next few days we will have some of Wendi's amazing activities to do with your child!  See you here tomorrow!

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