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What We Do and Why

Music and Movement
Whether it is a lively dance tune or a gentle lullaby, even babies feel the force of music -- both emotionally and physically. Throughout the early childhood years, children are learning to do new things with their bodies. Young children are also learning that movement can communicate messages and represent actions. Most young children usually are right at home with movement. They begin to learn about the world by acting on objects and people, and "they think with their bodies" well before they think with words. This is why body movement activities are not only fun for young children but also a good opportunity for them to solve problems. Some children may have difficulty responding to questions which call for verbal responses. But when questions call for movement, children aren't limited by their verbal abilities. Through playing instruments children begin to differentiate sound and learn to match rhythm to marching steps or the music of a recording. Singing and playing music can set a mood in the classroom. Quiet soothing music helps to calm and relax children, while lively marching tunes make children more energetic and want to move. Music and movement are also social activities that help children feel a part of the group.

Art
Most young children naturally delight in art. They love the process of applying paint to paper, gluing things together, and pounding a lump of clay. Working with art materials offers children opportunities to experiment with color, shape, texture and design. As they engage in art activities, children develop an awareness and an appreciation of pleasant sensory experiences -- which is the beginning of aesthetic development. Using art materials such as paint, clay, markers, and collage materials, children express their individual ideas and feelings. As they view their own creations and those of other children, they learn to value and appreciate differences. For young children, the process of creating is what is most important, not what they actually create. Through their art, children express how they feel, think, and view the world. Art is an outlet that allows children to convey what they may not be able to say with words. Involvement with a rich variety of art materials instills confidence and pride. Art is enjoyable and satisfying for young children. It enables them to learn many skills, express themselves, appreciate beauty and have fun -- all at the same time.

Blocks
Blocks are open-ended play materials that allow children to create whatever they desire. There is no right or wrong way to build with blocks. Children can create whatever they want. Sometimes children start with an idea of what they want to make and the end product is something completely different; at other times three-dimensional designs grow as children place blocks together randomly or in patterns. The creations children produce with blocks are unique. Block play is an essential creative outlet for some children.

Meals
Breakfast, snacks and lunch time, like other scheduled activities, are exceptionally good learning times. Children can learn to serve themselves, to eat with a group, and to try new foods. They will learn to use utensils and napkins as their skills develop. They learn by watching others, which is one reason why teachers sit with children during meals. By our keeping health and safety as a primary concern, children learn to understand and respect each other’s food allergies, as well as family preferences and beliefs about foods. Children use gatherings, such as snack and lunch times as social times. Pleasant conversations at the table create a comfortable atmosphere for children to feel a part of a group. Children can also feel useful and proud of being able to help with mealtimes by setting up the table, sponging the table after eating, and throwing out their own trash.

Sand and Water Play
Children's explorations with sand and water help build various skills. By sifting sand and pouring water, children improve their physical dexterity. By joining others in blowing bubbles or making a sandcastle, they develop social skills. At the same time, they enhance their cognitive skills as they explore why certain objects sink in water and others float. Sand and water can be used as two separate activities. Each one on its own provides children with many learning opportunities. As a liquid, water can be splashed, poured, frozen and evaporated. As a solid, sand can be sifted, raked, shoveled and dumped. Play with each substance separately can be used to foster children's socio-emotional, cognitive, and physical growth.

Dramatic Play
Dramatic play, pretend play or make-believe is a very important part of our curriculum. In the dramatic play center children take on a role and recreate real-life experiences. They use props and make- believe about a wide variety of topics. The ability to pretend is very important to children's later academic success. When children pretend, they have to recall experiences they have had and re-create them. To do this, they have to be able to picture their experiences in their minds. For example, to play the role of a doctor, children have to remember what tools a doctor uses, how a doctor examines a patient, and what a doctor says. In playing the role of doctor, children have to be able to cooperate with other children and defend their own ideas. As children act out roles, they develop many new skills. They learn about themselves, their families and society. Engaging in dramatic play, they learn to judge and select relevant information. This is an essential skill for intellectual development. Children also learn from one another as they interact in socio-dramatic play. They learn to ask and answer questions and to work together to solve problems.

Manipulatives
Table toys include puzzles, various table blocks and other builders, beads and lacing activities and collections of objects (including shells, buttons, etc.). Children enjoy their variety and versatility. Rich in texture, color and shape table toys offer children challenging opportunities to learn new skills and concepts. Children develop creative problem solving and practice emerging math skills such as sorting, classifying and matching. Physical development is enhanced as children develop eye-hand coordination and refine small muscle skills. Children learn to work cooperatively in small groups, play simple table games and build together. They begin to demonstrate perseverance and self-discipline, as well as experiencing pride in accomplishment as they work at a task until it is completed.

Library
The library area or book corner can be an oasis in the classroom -- a place to get away from more active interest areas, relax in a soft environment, and enjoy the wonderful world of literature. When children are read to regularly and encouraged to look through books on their own, to listen to story tapes, and to make up their own stories, they begin to understand that pictures have meaning and that words tell a story. Their language skills grow through exposure to books with different words. Exposure to multi-cultural and multi-generational books and stories help children to begin to conceptualize how people are different and that our differences make us each special. Exposure to books and storytelling helps children understand that their feelings, fears, questions and problems are not unique to them. Acquiring a love for books is one of the most powerful incentives for children to become readers.

Language and Writing
In the writing area, children are provided with paper, pencils, crayons and other tools necessary to explore beginning writing skills. Children are encouraged to scribble and "write" throughout the day. We also work with children one on one and in small groups to nurture beginning letter recognition and the desire to communicate through written language. Sometimes children dictate stories to us, which we record in "books". Every day we read stories and sing songs with the children. We sing and chant with children to help them discover their voices, to practice using new words and to help them recognize rhythm. We read books to introduce new ideas and to develop pre-reading skills, but mostly to develop a love of books and reading. When we read to children we often ask questions about what is happening or encourage children to predict what will happen next. We also encourage children to repeat words, rhymes and phrases to increase their participation in and comprehension of the story.

Cooking
When they cook, children have an opportunity to learn about food, to be creative, and to prepare their own nutritional snacks. Lots of discoveries happen during cooking. When children see dough rise, they learn about science; when they measure flour, they learn about math. Following picture recipe cards, they learn skills that will prepare them for reading. And when we make and eat Mexican Tacos, Chinese vegetables, or Italian meatballs, the children learn to appreciate other peoples cultures. Cooking offers a special treat for children -- it allows them to do things adults do. When children cook in the classroom, we talk a lot about what they are doing. As we talk, children learn new words. They also learn to think about what they are doing. They describe what happens when water is added to dry ingredients. They solve problems, such as how much batter should be placed in a muffin tin to allow for the ingredients to rise. They can feel self-sufficient and also learn to make healthy choices about eating.

Outdoor Play
Outdoor play is fun for children and important to their growth and development. Opportunities to climb, jump, run, skip, hop, throw, catch and ride provide children with healthy release and a break from the more stationary activities of the class- room. Being outside allows children to stretch their muscles, breathe in fresh air, take in sunshine, and enjoy the freedom of space. But what goes on outdoors is much more than simply physical activity. Children advance in all areas of development when they play outdoors. The special qualities of the outdoor environment set the stage for unique experiences. Science, for example, comes alive when nature is explored and observed firsthand. Children can watch plants grow and follow the change of seasons. As children see the leaves change color, touch the bark of a tree, hear crickets and smell the air after a rain shower, they are using all of their senses to learn about the world. Social skills and language develop as children build castles together in the sandbox or work together to carry a heavy pail full of sand or water. Children learn to negotiate and compromise about the use of equipment.

Computers
At Munchkinland, we believe very strongly in the importance of blocks, table toys, books, sand and water, art, dramatic play, and the outdoors. We believe that these seven essential elements should be the core curriculum for all early childhood programs. However, we also believe that introducing computers is an integral piece of early childhood learning in our ever advancing society. Computers in the early childhood settings are both innovative and controversial. The two most common concerns are that computers are not developmentally appropriate for young children and that children working alone at a computer can become isolated and fail to develop social skills. We encourage children to work at the computer two or three at a time. This helps them learn from each other and develops social skills such as cooperation, sharing and turn taking at the same time. Teachers work closely with children while they use computers to assist and answer any questions the children might have.

Rest
For children who spend long days at the center, rest time provides rejuvenation for the afternoon program. Because children associate sleeping with home, many have a difficult time settling down. We understand this and recognize that it is to be expected. Each child has its own way of relaxing or falling asleep. Some drop off to sleep right away, some need to suck their thumb or a pacifier to help them relax, some have a special blanket or a soft toy that helps them feel safe and comfortable, many need an adult to rub their back to calm them down and others need a calming voice to read them a story or sing a special song. We plan a quiet activity for the group right before rest time, such as a group story, finger play or a quiet song. We play soft music during rest time to encourage a relaxed atmosphere and to help drown out background noises that might otherwise wake some children. We know that many children are allowed to wake up at their own pace, without the expectation that they will awaken quickly or cheerfully from a deep sleep. As they awaken, children are helped on with their socks and shoes when necessary and are allowed to sit quietly for a few moments looking at books or working puzzles until everyone is up and ready to begin afternoon activities.

The following is a sample of what a day in the life of your munchkin would be like at Munchkinland.

7:00 to 9:00

Arrival/Free Play / Breakfast / Small Motor Activity (Blocks / Manipulatives)

9:00 to 9:30

Circle Time / Music and Movement

9:30 to 10:00

Free Play (Sand and Water / Library / Writing)

10:00 to 11:00

Class Activity – Teacher Directed Activity (Art)

11:00 to 11:45

Playground / Outside Time / Gross Motor Play

11:45 to 12:15

Lunch

12:15 to 2:15

Nap/Quiet Time

2:15 to 3:00

Afternoon Snack / Circle Time / Story Time

3:00 to 4:00

Playground / Outside Time / Gross Motor Play

4:00 to 6:00

Class Activity / Free Play / Computer Time

6:00

Departure

Bathroom is used when needed throughout the day.

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