Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Why Play Musical Chairs When You Can Play Musical Hoops?

Have you ever watched children play Musical Chairs? When the music stops, the kids push and shove to get to a chair. The first child who doesn’t find a seat sits out of the game, all alone. As the game continues, the kids can get more and more aggressive, stopping at nothing to be the winner. In the meantime, the losers may feel left out, bored or upset. This game is an example of a competitive game. Young children feeling left out is one of the reasons I like to recommend cooperative games for early learning, where every child is a winner.

Competitive games can pit children against each other; during active games children may learn that, if you shove, push, hit or trip, you might gain advantage over the other players and win. Competitive games with just one winner means a whole group of losers. Young children generally play games to have fun and be involved; they don’t want to be quickly eliminated, rejected, left out, hurt physically or emotionally. (Who does?!)

Cooperative games include everyone. Every child is allowed to stay involved, there’s no pressure to win, no fear or anxiety about losing. Musical Hoops is a cooperative game for young children that helps promote self-esteem, sharing, kindness and teamwork as well as develops spatial awareness, gross motor skills and listening.

Musical Hoops

Materials Needed:
One hoop per child
Music/CD player and CD

How to play:
1. Scatter hoops in available space either indoors or outdoors.
2. Each child stands beside a hoop.
3. Start the music and instruct the children to walk around the hoops, making sure not to touch them while the music is playing.
4. When the music stops, each child steps into the nearest hoop. Tell them that it’s fine if more than one child ends up in one hoop. In fact, encourage it!
5. Start the music again and remove a hoop or two. When the music stops, the children step into the nearest hoop.
6. The game continues with you starting and stopping the music, gathering up more hoops and the children scrambling to all fit into the remaining hoops.
7. Musical Hoops ends with one or two hoops on the floor and all of the children working together to make sure everyone finds a place inside a hoop (even if it’s just one foot inside the hoop). It’s crowded but lots of fun!

• Vary the locomotor skill children use to move around the hoop each time you restart the music. Ask the children to jump, gallop, skip, march or walk on tiptoes.
• When the music stops and children stand in the hoops, ask them to count and/or show with their fingers the total number of people in their hoop.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Trike Traffic Town

May is National Bike Month. A fun way to celebrate with young children is to go outside and set up a Trike Traffic Town course on the blacktop or concrete using cones, traffic signs, chalk road markers, directional arrows and children on trikes, scooters or any favorite wheeled toy. (Don’t forget to provide each child with a properly fitted child-size or toddler-size helmet.) This activity also provides a perfect time to reinforce bike safety and the “rules of the road” on your playground.

Before children attempt pedaling through Traffic Town, teachers should ask them to stand shoulder-to-shoulder on the side of the course and watch as you direct one child in demonstrating the how-to’s of the course. Verbally describe directions for each part of the course, i.e., “ride around the cones,” etc.

Next, line up the first riders on their trikes, at the start of the course and tell them to follow the leader, while you guide them safely through the course. Emphasize that Traffic Town is not a race and they should not speed through the activities. Stress to the children to keep some space between them. If a traffic jam does occur, tell the children to please wait patiently and not to rush their fellow trike riders.

Materials Needed:
10 Colored cones
6 Cones with Holes,
6 Traffic Signs,
Arrow Spots
2 Nylon Jump Ropes
Bubble Wrap or Textured Packing Material
Sidewalk Chalk

Traffic Town Course

1. Put the GO Traffic Signs, in the hole in top of a cone. Children on trikes begin here. Teachers may want to stagger the starting time of each child.

2. Put ONE WAY Traffic Signs, in hole in top of a cone. Place the 6 Colored Cones about 4-6 feet apart from each other. Using Sidewalk Chalk, make directional arrows around the cones to make a zigzag slalom course. Following the arrows, the trike riders zigzag from the right of one cone to the left of the next, and so on until they complete the 6 cone slalom course.
3. Place 2 ropes horizontally on the ground, parallel to each other and 2-3 feet apart to create a crosswalk. Put the yellow School Crossing Sign in the hole in top of a cone. Set it in front and to one side of the ropes. The trike riders continue traveling but must stop and wait for “pedestrians to cross” (other children or parents/teachers.) If no one is in the crosswalk, riders can proceed forward over the ropes.

4. Place several long strips of bubble wrap on ground. Put the yellow SLOW Sign in the hole in the top of a cone. Set it in front and to one side of the bubble wrap. Tell children that there is “Roadwork in progress. It’s a bumpy road,” as they drive their vehicles over the bubble wrap.

5. Set up 4 colored cones side by side horizontally in the middle of the traffic town. Put the DO NOT ENTER Sign in the hole in top of a cone, and place it in front of the 4 cones. (Tell the children that “The road is blocked! It looks like there was a rock slide!”) Place the Arrow Spots on the ground in front and to the side of the cones, indicating the direction the drivers must turn to maneuver their trikes around the blocked roadway.

6. Put the STOP Sign in the hole in top of a cone. Here. “We’ve come to the end of Traffic Town. Let’s do it again!” Using the remainder of the Arrow Spots, direct trike riders back to the beginning of the course.

Children will want to repeat traveling this popular roadway over and over again. Be alert to children traveling too fast and not being able to manage the curves safely. Children at this young age are figuring out what their muscles can and cannot do.

This activity promotes...

  • Gross motor development (using the large muscles of the legs and arms)
  • Visual discrimination (ability to recognize the traffic signs and arrows to follow directions)
  • Bilateral coordination (using legs to pedal the trike and arms to steer the trike)
  • Spatial awareness (children moving in the space with other children on trikes)
  • Traffic Town also fosters cooperative play and turn taking as well as dramatic play while preschoolers pretend to be “drivers” and following the road.