top of page
Children sit next to each other on a classroom carpet. One child has her hand extended, thumb raised.


Susan Roberts

Susan Roberts

December 1, 2020

After attending Lisa Murphy’s webinar on Saturday my reasons for spending my career in Early Childhood Education was confirmed. If we are in this field, we believe children are our first priority. We believe we should teach at their pace and to their interests, and that having a rich, stimulating environment is very important. The challenge has always been how to do what directors and child care teachers know is best for children within the constraints of lesson plans, pacing expectations, standards and other rules and regulations.

Can this be done? Can we teach based on the research of how children grow and learn and still comply with all of the requirements of our center? Yes. But we need to know the “why” behind the “what” of what happens in our classroom.

Dr. Peg Oliveira, from the Gesell Institute for Child Development, reviewed the milestones of child development at a Childcare Resources workshop in 2019. If you went to the workshop you were provided, Foundations of Child Development Birth – Age 5. Most curriculum programs and standards are based on similar child development milestones. The milestones indicate what your children should be practicing and doing by age. You will probably have a span of development from one year before and one year after the age you teach, i.e., if you teach 3’s you will probably have children who are developmentally from 2 1/2 to 4.

You may be doing a unit on winter.

That’s a challenge here in Florida. Here are some ideas to a provide stimulating, language rich, environment for learning.

Read any book that has snow.

  • How is the winter in Florida different from the book? Encourage discussion.

  • Ask questions about experience with snow: How do you think it feels like, looks like, texture? What happens to it? How do the characters prepare for being in snow? How do animals move, and what do they eat when it snows on everything?

  • Compare and contrast with Florida winter.

  • For responses that are not on topic re-ask questions, “I see, but what do you think about?” Or use “Hmmm”, “Interesting!”, “I see!”. (Open ended questions, feedback loops, self-talk, vocabulary development, parallel talk, repeat and extend)

Investigate cold and melting using a dollar store white table cloth or shower curtain and ice cubes. Do this outside.

  • In a small group have each child put an ice cube on the plastic. What do you think will happen? Why? Will all the water puddles look the same?

  • Relate melting ice cube to what happens to snow. Trace around the puddle made by the cube with a permanent marker. When you come back together as a large group compare sizes and shapes of puddles. Count children and count puddle shapes. Are the numbers the same?

  • Color puddle shapes in with paint. You have a work of art!

  • Or you can sort buttons, bean, animals, etc on the mat. It also makes a great mat for messy activities.

  • This activity can also be done on the sidewalk with chalk. No shower curtain needed! (Language development, states of matter (solid to liquid), science inquiry, math concepts of number, size, shape)

On a messy mat put a tray of Oobleck (made by the children).

  • Put out a collection of cranberries, small pine cones, small branches, pine branches, leaves, tweezers or tongs. Let the children put the items in and out of the Oobleck and experience the textures.

  • Where do all of these things come from? How would you describe how they feel? (Fine motor skills, states of matter, and language development)

Bring in children’s summer hat, winter hat, sandals, boots, coat, swim suit, scarf, etc. and have children discuss if items would be worn in cold weather or warm weather. (Language development, critical thinking, textures/materials)

These are just some examples of providing an exploratory and stimulating environment for children. Think beyond your given curriculum. Are these experiences potentially messy? Yes! Is it worth it? Yes!

If you are having fun and being inquisitive and creative the children will feel it and be excited in their learning also. You are setting up their environment for them to learn and advance in their development. They are getting their cognitive, physical, language and social/emotional needs met and will have a memorable time doing it! Lucky children, successful you!

If you need any of the resources below or assistance with planning your environment contact Susan for further information.

* If you participated in Lisa's November workshop, this book was provided to your center as part of technical assistance.

A teacher reads a book about winter to a preschool class
Children play with a block of ice using their hands and a paintbrush
A teacher tells a story during circle time
bottom of page