Saturday, March 7, 2015

Activities to do in kindergartens / pre schools?

Montessori pre schools  in Sri Lanka

What's happening currently with pre schools in Sri Lanka?

Recently some of our friends had a discussion regarding Montessori activities in Sri Lanka. All of them are mothers of toddlers and we had very insightful thoughts sharing on the activities of different preschools. Then we realise that most of the activities taken place in the name of Montessori system is very different from the approach initiated by Maria Montessori. Some of those are really too much of theoretical education for a small child of 3-4 years and it makes them really pressurize and robotic.

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Later I had another hilarious discussion with one of my friends, who attached to one of the preschool in Colombo. This was part of our conversation.

Q - So what are your usual responsibilities, other than looking after children? I asked.

A - “Well I help the kids with drawing, letter writing, we sing , dancing training , draft home work sheets, take print outs, then I do advertising for the pre school etc”.

Q - What do you guys do for advertising other than paper adverts and hand bills?

A -“Well we take pictures of children when they do activities, post them in our face book page regularly and tag their parents. So most of the time, when parents’ friends see those, they send their children too to our place” !

and from this year we are trying to get "Sugathadasa" stadium for sports meets and "Nelum Pokuna" for concerts. Then we plan to invite many potential parents who can spread good word about us.

Q- Isn’t it very expensive to hire those places?

A – Well parents like our activities very much. The competition here is intense.  So we need to keep up our standards. Parents think the same, so they are willing to pay.

Q – Don’t children play?

A – Of course they do. We have a large play area. They play for about 30 mins a day.

Q – What are the outdoor activities they do?

Well they play outside. What else to do outside?

 Things that would have been nice to do in a pre school

I’m not an expert or educated pre school teacher. That certainly is not my field. But after meeting parents from many pre schools in couple of countries, I thought may be I can share some outdoor activities other pre schools around the world do. So that our intelligent teachers and parents can have some valid analysis. I’m not trying to say these are good or bad. Some of these may not practical in Sri Lanka. But still here’s some food for thought.

Interactive learning activities done in pre schools / kindergartens around the world

1.      Gardening with children




 Gardening makes children more closer with the environment they live and gives them first hand experience on taking care of live things. It builds curiosity, hand eye coordination, patience , tracking, sorting and many more things.

Its very easy to do exercise with children in any small garden. Buy some safe gardening tools. Select easy grow as well as useful plants. Children will love to see flowers, fruits, vegetables coming in their plants.

2. Teaching them to climb  a tree


children can be taught / help to climb a small tree and may be build some toy house there if possible. Or have a bird feeder and feed the birds regularly. They can pick fruits and eat. They can collect fallen leaves and collect them in a compost dump. Use those back in their gardening times. There are lot of fun activities to do with climbing trees.

This by no way means to compromise the safety of the children. This is where you need to have trained kindergarten staff. Pick the place wisely. Monitor closely.

It can help children get an idea about balance of the body apart from the obvious nature lessons it teach. Teach them how to enjoy the scent of fresh flowers, how to feel the cool breeze , how to walk on a rainy ground and they will love them selves. Trees was my favourite childhood secret hideout places :)

3.      Playing in sand



Sand is one of the foundational parts of the ground. Children have been playing with sand for generations. Usually clean sand is stored and regularly changed in pre school sand boxes. Children can explore sand with many ways such as digging, pouring, building etc.

Sand play is a great way to build imagination of a child. It doesn't matter the age or the skill level of a child to play with sand. Adults can may be help a little bit for them to understand how the dry sand works and how it can be manipulated adding bit of water sort of ways. But creativity is up to the child.

And how difficult to find some sand in any part of the country? Compared to the high cost concert suits, buying few sand toy equipment such as spades, rakes, wheel barrow, excavator , drills, mills etc shouldn't be a big issue.  


4.      Cooking and baking with kids



Kindergartens all around the world does cooking with the young children and getting them to eat the food they made.

Cooking enhances social , cognitive , language and physical development skills. It gives an idea about mathematics and art.

Activities can be choose depending on the age of the child. Select the recipes children like, check whether you have equipment, whether you have enough staff for supervision etc.

You Can make a real dough with the kids and get them a chance to press it , roll it and feel it. Then they can cut it with shapes, bake it and eat the appealing food.

It is wise to teach a child how to make a sandwich. Well yes, a Sri Lankan child will never have to make a sandwich on his own till they really grow up. But hay, why not? Leave out sandwich, then think of a local alternative. Definitely not some hot tea. But something safe. While cooking, explain to children where the food originates, describe what they do, make them observe, involve and build a positive attitude.

5. Go for a hike with children


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How difficult it is to take children on a small hike? It need not be for a long distance. But a 5 - 10 minutes away place from the kindergarten. Its not very difficult to find a location except for few pre schools situated in the middle of the town.

Life is much busy these days and parents cannot always afford to take them on hikes. But without being close with the nature, environment , you can't really appreciate it. A nature bound hike can really give some mental relaxation to their little minds. Specially considering the race, the competition in Sri Lankan education system, this is a good break for them.

Parents force 2 year olds to  write letters and 4 year olds to write dictation for the semester exams sounds crazy. So it should be the duty of the educated pre school teachers and management to explain the value of some thing like this to parents.

If you are taking children out, please be aware of the place and road you use. There are drug addicts, kidnappers, traffic packed roads , irresponsible drivers who even use pavements , child molesters an what not threats. Make sure you inform parents and get anyone free to join.

6. Visit a farm or agricultural  field

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Sri Lanka is still an agriculture based country for some what. You can see paddy fields just as you come off from great Colombo boundary.

Farms are hard to find, except few private small scale farms in Colombo area. But in outstation areas there are enough farms.

Isn't it nice children learn where and how their rice come from? Isn't it nice to show them some work done at a vegetable farm? Children today are very theoretical. Even the adults. I have seen many excellent project reports in the agricultural sector. Theoretically superb. Not practical at all.

Show them many life options. Being an academic is not the only good thing about life. Build some interest in other things in life too. Its not easy to run a farm. But then its a way to healthy life and can earn money too. Its an expected result from the nature education.

Safety should be the main concern with any pre school activity. Please check with owners / authorities on poisonous chemicals use in fields, dangerous equipment, what shouldn't be touched by the children, whether there is a responsible officer to guide children through etc things.

7. Get the children to clean and wash the things in their surrounding


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Most important thing about this is, this should not be forceful. This should not be a way to make your life easy. You get paid for your job. So this is by no way getting some child labour. Please be very clear. This is just about giving an occasional chance to kids to clean together and get an idea about it.

Back in school, my home science teacher made me clean the lab every single week. Her excuse was, I'm tall and strong, so I can easily get on to a desk and clean the top of the wall ! Even at teenage ages, it was a bully. So leave this out, if you cannot do some research and reading on this before you do. Please keep in mind about the Sri Lankan culture too. Mothers end up doing all what not at home . So a child may get shocked if he was randomly asked to clean a class room. So make it a fun activity.

8. Teaching kids to make required outfits and decorations with trash and available stuff


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Even in small scale pre schools , parents have to spend thumping amount of money on concert costumes. Is there anyway these teachers can make some costumes with the participation of children without being such a burden to parents?

How difficult it is to make some matching hats, paste some feathers picked from the neighbourhood and make it beautiful? How difficult to paste some cotton wool in to a card board and make a rabbit outfit?
When it comes to suits, why can't you buy a big sheet of fabric and get the children to draw on it with fabric paint and then cut it in to sizes to wrap around a little body and make it a costume? Please teach children how to self produce the things they want.

This will give a good lesson to children through out life. Teach them you don't always have to buy cloths and decorations and shoes and what not. You can design , produce what you want. Let them be creative. Let them produce. Let them use their products. It will boost their confidence. They will start believing them selves. They will start to love them selves than hating another child with a more expensive suit.

Of course I know there are few instances where you have to stick to store bought cloths like if it is a traditional dance, then you need a traditional dance costume. But most of the times, its just songs and dances.






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