Santa’s Village: Small World Play

Small world play is acting out scenarios (scenes from real life, stories and/or imagination) in a miniature play scene, created with small figures and objects.Small worlds are often set up in a certain theme (construction area, pirates at sea, ducks in a pond) that are relevant and meaningful to the child at the time and they usually include a sensory element (water, sand, dry pasta, leaves, …) which adds more layers to the play.

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As with any kind of play, there are numerous ways in which small world play supports your child in it’s development. By providing children with opportunities to re-enact certain experiences, you are helping then to reflect on feelings and events in life in a safe way. While engaged in small world play, children can explore and experiment with different emotions and act out these scenes in their play.

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Small world play invites children to be creative, and boosts confidence when children are able to experiment with different (both new and familiar) materials and build something they think is awesome. It is also an excellent way to practice social skills (when for instance building a small world on a play date) where children can connect with each other and learn to take turns, listen to someone else’s ideas, compromise and so on.

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There are always many problems to solve in small worlds (“Not all the dinosaurs fit in my cave!”) and children learn how to work through these by reasoning and experimenting. Small world play helps to develop numeracy by giving lots of opportunities for grouping or sorting items and counting them (“How may small dinosaurs do you have? How many do go in your cave?” “Now, how many are left?”) Small world play is great for building language because it allows children to practice their language in a meaningful context. While playing, children are vocalising and learning about nouns, verbs, adjectives and prepositions and so on (“parking the red truck next to the yellow tractor”).

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Through small world play children get to learn about cause and effect while experimenting and manipulating different items (“letting a car go down a slope will make it go faster”). Children also get the chance to explore certain ideas in the world, like how a hospital would operate differently from a police station or a school and why. Children as young as 2 years old can engage in (simple) small world play and start telling their own stories.

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As part of our Christmas week, we constructed our very own version of Santa’s Village! Students used a variety of sensory materials to accomplish this. The figures utilized were one Santa and three elves made out of blocks. There were also polar bears and even a narwal that landed themselves in our village! In addition to this, we constructed log cabins out of Lincoln Logs and made it snow with flour!

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Bodies are water were created with blue glitter, and students delighted in making their figures and animals go swimming! Lastly, students decorated the landscape with toy candy canes and icicles.

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Circular Wreaths

The origin of the Christmas wreath dates back to the ancient times of the Persian Empire. During that time, wreaths were believed to be a symbol of importance as well as success.

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They were much smaller in size than the present ones and were known as ‘diadems’. Only the royal and upper class members of the society used to wear the wreaths as headbands, sometimes along with jewels.

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It is believed that other cultures became fascinated with this tradition of wearing wreaths and adopted them into their respective cultures. Somewhere around 776 BC, Greeks started placing wreaths made of laurel on the heads of the athletes who came first in the Olympic Games.

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Very soon, important military and political leaders of Roman Empire started wearing wreaths. One popular example from ancient Rome is Julius Caesar, who used to wear wreath on his head, just like the crown of a king.  The transition of the wreaths from a headgear to a wall/door decoration is not known with much accuracy. However, it is believed that once an athlete decided to save the headgear as a souvenir of his/her victory and since then began the tradition of using wreaths as a Christmas door/wall decoration.

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The tradition of using evergreen branches as a material in wreaths is influenced by the Egyptian, Chinese and Hebrew cultures who believed that evergreen branches are a symbol of eternal life. With the passage of time, the custom of Christmas wreath became an important tradition widely followed by people from different parts of the world.

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As part of our Christmas week, we enjoyed exploring the different decorations and learning about the history behind them! For this project specifically, students were broken up into groups of two. They were then instructed to trace a circle that was drawn onto the sidewalk with chalk. Lastly, they were instructed to place their wreath segments onto the circle!

Play Dough Evergreens

Play dough can be found in almost any preschool classroom.

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The most important benefit of play dough is the word “play”.

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When teachers introduce play dough, children are simply given opportunity to play and learn at the same time.

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There are several benefits to using this malleable substance.

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One involves fine motor control. An important aspect of exploring play dough is the use of those fine muscles in the child’s hands.

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Young children NEED to build their fine motor strength and control and time exploring play dough helps give those small hands a good workout.

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Play dough also offers opportunities to increase vocabulary.

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Time at a table with play dough is a terrific opportunity to naturally emphasize words like soft, squishy, roll, flatten, cut, squeeze, as well as just having simple conversation about what the children are doing with their hands.

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For some children, play dough is about making something but for most, it is simply about exploring the process and talking about whatever comes to mind during the process.

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For this activity, we created evergreen trees out of artificial pine boughs and green play dough. Everyone enjoyed creating their own trees, manipulating the play dough and having fun while doing so!

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Flower Foam Wreaths

Lateralization activities provide a great educational and developmental experience for preschoolers. As children grasp whatever implement they are working with, they are building their pincer grip which is crucial for writing skills.

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The more they do this, the more they learn about which hand is more comfortable for them.

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Lateralization activities are also a lesson in patience as students ever so slowly work their way through a project  with their chosen implement.

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This activity involved a creative way to practice our lateralization skills. Using pine boughs and floral foam, your little ones wove their very own wreaths!

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Green Apple Trees

Food preparation is not only a fun, engaging activity for children, but one that has been used for years as an important teaching and development tool for all ages.

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For one thing, hands-on cooking activities encourage a sense of pride and confidence. The act of following a recipe can encourage self-direction and independence, while also teaching children to follow directions and use thinking skills to problem solve.

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Working with food also inspires children’s curiosity, thinking, and problem solving, offering new opportunities to make predictions and observations. Additionally, creating meals offers authentic opportunities for students to understand and apply their knowledge of measuring, one-to-one correspondence, numbers, and counting. As they follow a recipe, children organize ingredients, follow a sequence, and carry out multiple directions.

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Lastly, chopping, squeezing, spreading, and mixing materials help develop a child’s small muscle control and eye-hand coordination.

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For this activity, we used our thinking minds and our strong muscles to create Christmas trees!

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Using apples as our “trees”, cereal as our “ornaments,” and cheese as our “stars”, we enjoyed following a recipe (with the assistance of colorful illustrations), constructing a tree, and then devouring our yummy snacks!

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Christmas Tree Play Dough

The evergreen fir tree has traditionally been used to celebrate winter festivals (pagan and Christian) for thousands of years. Pagans used branches of it to decorate their homes during the winter solstice, as it made them think of the spring to come. The Romans used fir trees to decorate their temples at the festival of Saturnalia.

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Nobody is really sure when fir trees were first used as Christmas trees. It probably began about 1000 years ago in Northern Europe. Many early Christmas Trees seem to have been hung upside down from the ceiling using chains (hung from chandeliers/lighting hooks). To create our own version of the early Christmas tree, we created our very own using play dough and jewels!

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Using play dough helps a child practice using certain physical skills with the hands when they manipulate the dough with their fingers. Children can practice skills such as pinching, squeezing or poking while they play with the dough. Lastly, using play dough helps a child practice using imagination and other cognitive abilities such imitation, symbolism and problem solving. This helps our little ones learn more about their environment as they make and mimics everyday objects with the play dough.

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My Really Long Christmas Tree

Measurement concepts are often a part of children’s interactions. “My dad is bigger,” “I can jump higher,” and “I have more Playdough than you!” are common comparisons that children make. From the child’s perspective, these statements compare quantity; however, they provide a nice introduction to measurement.

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Unfortunately, it is an often-neglected Content Standard in early childhood classrooms. Throughout the many projects we do throughout the week, we use both standard and nonstandard tools for measuring. Students are also provided with a multitude of measuring experiences throughout the year.

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For this activity, your little one was presented with a problem. They were given five strips of paper of varying length. They were then asked to sort them by size. The target words for this activity were long, longer, and longest. Young children are natural problem solvers. To increase vocabulary and the comprehension of new concepts, students are asked questions that facilitate further exploration. The purpose of this is to promote measurement investigations and an interest in “figuring out” the answer.

Père Noël

In France, Christmas is a time for family and for generosity, marked by family reunions, gifts and candy for children, gifts for the poor, Midnight Mass, and le Réveillon . There are many traditions, and they are strongly integrated into the celebrations of most French families.
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From a special meal on Christmas Eve, to the exchange of gifts, traditions vary across different regions of France, as well as among different families. The celebration of Christmas in France varies by region. Most provinces celebrate Christmas on the 25th of December, which is a bank holiday.
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French children put their shoes in front of the fireplace, in the hopes that Père Noël (aka Papa Noël ) will fill them with gifts. Candy, fruit, nuts, and small toys will also be hung on the tree overnight. For this activity, we placed pine boughs, candy canes, and small toys into our shoes for Père Noël!

Trimming the Tree

Christmas is a theme that offers activities for your preschoolers to explore family traditions together!

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It is such an exciting time of year and an exciting theme!

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Your preschoolers have been learning about each other’s family traditions, which brings about so many opportunities for learning about giving to others!

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Taking the time to explore the different aspects of this time of year can help give your preschoolers some perspective and understanding to it all!

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For this activity, we decorated Christmas trees! Using artificial trees, garlands, and ornaments, we lavished our creations with color and fun.

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Experiences like these grant children the independence to be creative and purposeful. When children choose how to play for themselves, they experience freedom in making those choices. They also begin to see connections between choice and the consequences or results of that choice.img_20191210_101519759

Open-ended materials can be used in many ways so children can decide for themselves how to use them. It is this intrinsic motivation that allows a child to regulate her own feelings and desires in order to keep playing.

 

 

Pine Bough Weaving

Using collanders and artificial pine boughs, we created our very own Christmas tree structures!
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This was a collaborative group project, and your little one enjoyed making our school a little more festive by poking pine boughs into a collander together with a partner.
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Twisting their garlands enabled them to make a variety of fun creations!
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This activity incorporated several developmental domains.
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When piercing the pine boughs into the collander, your little one was practicing fine motor control and hand eye coordination.
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The importance of hand eye coordination lies in your child’s ability to manipulate their environment. Simple hand-eye coordination techniques, such as weaving, are a great way to help your little one learn how to control their mind and their hands.
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These skills are transferable to literacy, and when your little student is then exposed to holding a pencil, crayon or pair of scissors, the coordination will be in place.