Category Archives: reggio emilia

Month 9 Week 2: No right brain left behind?

A fellow mom friend invited me to a trial Glenn Doman class last weekend. Curious, I took B along for a 1:15 hour fun, fast and furious “right brain” lesson at Gymnademics. Affiliated with Doman’s Institutes For the Achievement of Human Potential, the bambino class (5 mos – 1 year) mainly covered bilingual language (English with a little Mandarin, conversational and thematic words), psycho-physical (visual tracking, lifting, twirling, balancing, pull-ups, backflips, group interaction) and music and movement activities.  Flash cards were a key tool as they believe the right brain functions at a high speed, registering input as images and processing them all at once, so the faster the stimulation, the more the brain is activated.

This was a new experience for us and I was somewhat skeptical that the babies remembered, let alone understood what they saw at the pace the cards were flashed – surprisingly though, most did pay attention. I was also informed that the class basically introduces a set of prepared activities which parents are then equipped to replicate daily at home. Overall, B managed to stay focused, even enjoying some of the stimuli.  More importantly, it got me thinking about the merits of engaging a child’s “full brain” esp. in the early years, plus ideas to incorporate at home, e.g. building up his vocab with real, beautiful pictures and big clear words, using slides or my iPad to make homemade flashcards.

There seem to be three main right brain schools:  Glenn Doman, Shichida and Heguru.  In Asia, success – be it academic or work – has typically been associated with left brain abilities such as analytical and critical thinking, and right brain abilities such as conceptual and creative thinking have largely been the domain of a niche group (artists, designers, consultants, etc.).  No surprise that these rational, competitive based skills are dominant in local formal education from 6 years on.

However, even kiasu Singapore acknowledges that this system could be outdated in the future, possibly marginalising or failing to develop the potential of our children today.  The bigger the change, the bigger the resistance — and it’ll take years for the local education system to truly evolve away from a focus on academics and grades. Meanwhile as parents, we could also reflect a more wholistic brain approach at home with our kids under 6 years (or enrol them in preschools that support this).  I’m not yet sure about joining further Gymnademics classes as I need to better understand Glenn Doman’s approach and results. It would be good though to supplement the open ended Reggio inspired play that B’s been exposed to at the Blue House, esp. after he turns 1 in a few months.
For updates, reviews and more, like me at Finally Mama on Facebook.

Month 9 Week 1: Going going going

B is 9 months old!  At 39 weeks, he’s officially “outside” mommy longer than he was inside (he arrived early).  We just had a regular check up where B got his final pneumoccocal jab, which leaves one more jab for the year i.e. MMRV sometime in November, after his 1st birthday. Reminder to self: feed him eggs (yolk, then white) beforehand to test for allergies

What’s new:

1) Weighs 9.7 kg, 73.5 cm long, 47 cm head circumference, tracking at 90+ percentile among his peers. Still our big headed tall boy 🙂
2) Crawls faster, pulls up to stand, cruises and climbs.  Unfortunately, all this newfound mobility doesn’t quite make him sleep more soundly but rather he’s up practicing day AND night!  We’ve caught him standing up in his bed and calling for us many times =0 Meanwhile, we continue to find new areas to babyproof as he’s on the go
3) Celebrated our first national day as a fully Singaporean family.  B got his first passport and mugshot, and I officially renounced my Malaysian citizenship for Singapore
4) Eating finger foods and mashed (not finely pureed) meals

In addition to tagging along with mommy for errands and weekly home playdates, we’ve also started going to Blue House parent-and-baby discovery programs. Their Reggio Emilia inspired early childhood approach and infant and toddler atelier is quite remarkable, quite a contrast to the dime-a-dozen care centers / indoor playgrounds in Singapore.  We may also check out baby signing, Kindermusik or right brain classes like Gymnademics – Glenn Doman, Shichida, Heguru, et al.

Lastly, we kinda had to register B for the June 2013 toddler group intake at a nearby childcare center as he’d already been waitlisted since I left work full-time (unintended!) and this was the latest we could defer till.  The other preschools on my shortlist had a 2-3 year waitlist, so for now, if you can’t beat em ….

For updates, reviews and more, like me at Finally Mama on Facebook.

Month 4 Week 4: Childproofing creatively

While babyproofing our home, I challenged myself to think about redesigning for both safety and play.  As I’ve just started, the final result might take weeks (months? years? continuously evolve?) so I’m blogging ideas along the way that expand on the early play concepts from the meet up a fortnight back.

  • Children don’t play in order to learn, they learn while they play
  • Children need to feel a sense of belonging with the freedom to establish a culture and social world with their peers
  • Adapt to children’s ideas rather than structure their ideas to fit the adult’s. Projects with directions and planned activities are fine in moderation but more time (80% in their early years) should be spent in open-ended, self-initiated free play. Children these days spend too much time in settings that focus on structured educational, enrichment and recreational activities.
  • Emphasize the enjoyment and value of the “process” of playing and creating, more than the finished product. Let children express what they see, hear, feel, think – and then find solutions and modify experiences to maximise creativity. Children should expect to “make mistakes.” Accept unusual ideas and solutions – suspend judgment!
  • Facilitate creative play indoors and outdoor:
    • Provide long, uninterrupted periods (45–60 minutes minimum) for spontaneous free play
    • Encourage children to manipulate the environment to support their play
    • Recognize the value of messy play, rough-and-tumble play, and nonsense play as well
    • Allow time to explore all possibilities, moving from popular to more original ideas, considering opportunities for challenge and age-appropriate risk-taking
    • Draw on everyday problems, observations and objects
  • Provide a variety of materials to stimulate different kinds of play—blocks and construction toys for cognitive development; sand, mud, water, clay, art and food stuff, other loose open-ended materials for sensory play; dress-up clothes and props for pretend play; balls, hoops, climbing places, and open space for gross motor play:
  • Provide play-space(s) that allows age-appropriate easy, independent access to explore:
    • Cosy reading corner: Place books into an appliance box surrounded by rugs, pillows, blankets, armchair — where both adults and children can read together. Use voices for the characters in the books you read. Change a book into a talking puppet. Make up stories!
    • Open art center: Put a table next to an easel, tub of playdough, low shelves filled with supplies like crayons, glue, staplers, tape, scissors, cardboard/heavy/wrapping paper, collage materials (i.e. odds and ends – stickers, buttons, beads, scraps, etc.)
  • Increase opportunities for rich symbolic role play. Pretend play engages children in the same kind of representational thinking needed in early literacy activities. Children develop complex narratives, link objects, actions, and language together in combinations and narrative sequences
    • Change the furniture around and lay out a basket of props, clothes, etc.
    • Picnic on the floor instead of the usual table meal
    • Turn a chair/table over and make it a boat, car, house, bed, cave
    • Modify a corner into the home of the three bears, a rocket ship, a vets office, etc.
    • Build towers and bridges with wooden blocks, tubes, empty paper rolls
  • Go outside! Natural landscapes outdoors provide rich, diverse, multi-sensory experiences; opportunities for noisy, boisterous, vigorous, physically active play; physical challenge and risktaking that are inherent in the value of play; rough, uneven surfaces, development of physical strength, balance, and coordination; and natural elements and loose parts that children can combine, manipulate, and adapt for their own purposes.
  • Show your appreciation of your children’s creativity. Laugh, document, display and discuss often. Share works they are proud of.  Play on their terms, taking an interest, asking questions, offering suggestions, and engaging eagerly when invited – ride the slide, put on a hat, assume a role, etc.
  • Accept and love them for who they are!

Sources:

– Mary Ann Kohl’s article on Fostering Creativity

Month 4 Week 2: The Hundred Languages of Childhood

The child is made of one hundred
The child has
A hundred languages
A hundred hands
A hundred thoughts
A hundred ways of thinking
Of playing, of speaking. 
 

A hundred always a hundred
Ways of listening of marveling of loving
A hundred joys
For singing and understanding
A hundred worlds
To discover
A hundred worlds
To invent
A hundred worlds
To dream 
 

The child has
A hundred languages (and a hundred hundred hundred more)
But they steal ninety-nine
The school and the culture
Separate the head from the body

They tell the child:
To think without hands
To do without head
To listen and not to speak
To understand without joy
To love and to marvel
Only at Easter and Christmas
  They tell the child:  To discover the world already there 

And of the hundred
They steal ninety-nine. 
 

They tell the child: That work and play
Reality and fantasy
Science and imagination
Sky and earth
Reason and dream
Are things
That do not belong together
And thus they tell the child
That the hundred is not there 
 

The child says: NO WAY 

The hundred is there

Loris Malaguzzi (Founder of the Reggio-Emilia approach)

Month 4 Week 2: Observation is listening with your eyes

Attended my first local Parents and Babies Meet Up today around advice for early years kids. Couldn’t have asked for better timing as I’ve just started thinking about how and what to do with B lately, plus any changes needed with our home, caregivers and his weekly schedule to best foster his growth. Thanks to Shona Sanosi of the Blue House Nursery for her insight and guided tour on how they’ve developed a child-originated, teacher-framed curriculum inspired by the Reggio Emilia approach. I’m even more convinced that I too can approach things a little differently (wholistically?) for B.  Programs offered by Gymboree, Julia Gabriel and others here may supplement, but ultimately, it all begins at home…. with me!

Some food for thought:

  • 5 developmental areas:  Cognitive (learning, problem solving), Social and Emotional (independence, interaction, self control), Verbal (speech, language comprehension and use), Physical – Fine Motor (small muscles e.g. fingers), Physical – Gross Motor (large muscles e.g. sitting up)
  • 3 stages of early childhood play: Solitary (first year), Parallel (~15 months on), Cooperative (~2.5 years on)
  • 100 languages of children! (and school and culture have stolen 99)
  • 3 key teachers:  Parents, Teacher (or next closest caregiver), Environment
  • Encourage solo play NOW even if it’s 10-15 mins at this time. Step in to affirm, distract, suggest but don’t set rigid times or move on too fast
  • Keep an open, uncluttered environment throughout the home, not just in the kid’s room.  Have space for teacher and child.  Use shelves for display and discovery, not storage.  Think “kid friendly resort.”
  • Observe your child’s interests and preferences and build on it. Suggest new projects, activities and experiences based on what he does/says/enjoys. Let the child lead (in playtime) and you extend.
  • Use open ended questions to think, communicate and imagine, e.g. “Why mommy?” “I don’t know. What do YOU think?”
  • Be flexible and respectful. A project that may seem like it’s been running for ages, a silly question or art that doesn’t look like art could be significant for your child
  • Set up a prepared environment. Provocation BEFORE your child enters playtime supports better and longer play
  • Store everyday stuff that could be repurposed for playtime, e.g. bottles, covers, ribbons, boxes, etc
  • Many mass market toys do not expand creativity.  Find simple ways to transform toys and their positioning to keep them in good condition and sustain interest. E.g. rotate the baby gym, offer daily sensory boxes/baskets)
  • Have realistic expectations. Keep play age and mood appropriate.  Reassure and comfort, not challenge when he’s sick, hungry or tired
  • 3-6 months is a perfect time to start!
  • Need to find out more about Montessori vs Reggio Emilia 🙂

For updates, reviews and more, like me at Finally Mama on Facebook.