All this week, my preschool is one of the thousands across the nation that is celebrating The Week of the Young Child (WOYC). For many parents, you may have received flyers and seen posters that have heralded the arrival of this exciting week; some of you may have wondered ‘That sounds very nice, but what is the Week of the Young Child, anyway?’ There may be many more of you that will be wondering ‘Why are you doing it? What is the intended point?’ Well, worry no more. These are some questions I hope to help answer by the end of this post.
To first understand the WOYC, it helps to understand its origins. I’m not going to burden you with any lengthy history lectures, don’t worry about that! But it helps to understand the heft of the organisation that has put the WOYC into motion; that organisation is the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). The NAEYC is one of the largest, non-profit, education and advocacy groups for early childhood; they promote furthering of research, education, and professional development and they center their focus around children ages birth through age 8 years old. They firmly believe in developmentally appropriate practice, involvement of family in the child’s education, and keeping teachers on top with continuing education. Understanding that some of the greatest scientific and educational minds back WOYC really helps give the movement some great momentum!
So every year, the Week of the Young Child is a week long event when the NAEYC wants to increase public awareness and education about young children, their needs, their abilities, and better ways for families, educators, and the community as a whole to help them grow! A theme is established with suggestions for activities, projects, and events by the NAEYC, but it becomes truly exciting and inspiring when local communities take the themes and interpet them their own way. And today, with social media, many preschools and early learning facilities are able to upload images and videos of their classrooms participating in daily activities on the NAEYC’s facebook page, and you can see children contributing to WOYC all across the entire nation! This is the kind of stuff that I get really passionate about, I am not kidding you.
So What’s Going On In WOYC 2016?
We’re two days into WOYC already.
*For Music Monday, the children in my classroom each picked out musical instruments, we sat in a giant circle, and took turn requesting song favourites as we tried our best to play with rhythm. We enjoyed talking about different instruments make different sounds. Some children brought musical instruments from home, and we enjoyed hearing the new sounds they shared with us. And of course, plenty of singing!
*Today was Taco Tuesday, this day was terrific! We read a delicious story titled Dragons Love Tacos by Adam Rubin (a student brought us this book to read, great idea!) We got really hands on, mashing and cutting avocados to make guacamole, stirring and rolling both flour and corn tortilla dough, and having tacos with the works for lunch! We also kept the conversation going with talks of different things we could put on our tacos, other things that are good to put in our bodies, what ways can we keep our bodies healthy…the hands-on activities are fantastic ways to keep the kids both engaged and so entertained they don’t even realise they are learning.
For the rest of the week, I thought it might help if I offered some ways that parents and guardians at home could help tie-in the different daily themes. It’s a powerful thought; literally thousands of children across the country are celebrating this same event all week, and all in the idea of bettering our young ones and trying to make the next generation that much more intelligent, creative, and happier!
*Work-Together Wednesday: The goal of this day is to help enhance math and science skills through building activities. You want to think, blocks, blocks, ramps, Lego, and blocks! If you have a child that is already an avid block builder, challenge them to build something that they don’t normally build: have them count only thirty blocks and then ask them, ‘Now, what can you build with these blocks?’ If they come up with something pretty quickly, take away five blocks and have them try again. An easy and fun science experiment with a ramp is simply take a ‘ramp’ (cardboard, a tray, a long wooden building block) and then take an assortment of objects. Next, have your child guess which ones will roll down the ramp (if they are old enough to grasp the concept, tell them that this is called a ‘hypothesis’!) Now, test your hypothesis! And of course, you can’t forget the joy of building pillow forts!
*Twin Thursday– Our center has chosen for this day to be designed for helping children in each classroom build relationships and develop their social skills. Whilst this may deviate a little from the NAEYC’s ‘Artsy Thursday’, this is what I meant about centers being able to interpret the themes for the betterment of their children and their needs. For Twin Thursday, our kids drew names and randomly picked a twin, they also agreed on a colour; on Thursday they will both dress up in this colour. There is also going to be a focus on working as a team to get things done, helping children come out of their comfort zones to build new friendships and develop their social skills, etc. For your child at home, you could engage them with activities such as a three-legged race, where you would tie yours and their legs together and cooperate to get from one place to another. You could put on a blindfold and have your child give you verbal directions on where to walk (I recommend this in your living room or another safe place!)
*Family Friday– I love this one. It’s all about letting the child share photos and stories about their family with the classroom and the classroom recognising that ‘the family is at the heart of supporting our youngest learners…the NAEYC applauds family members’ role as young children’s first and most important teachers’ (The NAEYC’s wording for this was too perfect, I could not have said it better myself). You can help prepare your child for this day by printing some copies of family photos they really enjoy, writing some stories or notes on the back (this way, we teachers can use them to prompt them if needed for story-telling), or maybe asking them to dictate to you something they love about their family.
The WOYC really is an awesome concept. It’s about focusing intently on the ways children learn, about getting families and the community both aware and involved, and about trying our best to make it as fun as we can. I hope you guys enjoy celebrating our young ones; I know I have one heck of a time teaching them!
Looking forward to hearing your thoughts,