How we Remember Together: Educating Children on Remembrance Day

poppy, Remembrance Day, Canada,education, crafts, arts.

On November 11th each year, Canada commemorates Remembrance Day, which marked the end of World War I in 1918. It may also be commonly known as Armistice Day. 

On Remembrance Day, Canadians take time to honour the men and women who have served and continue to serve Canada during times of war, conflict, and peace.  

The poppy flower is the symbol of Remembrance Day. In his 1915 poem “In Flanders Fields,” Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, a Canadian poet, soldier, and physician, paints a piercing, evocative image of poppy flowers growing on the makeshift graves of those fallen in the Battle of Ypres.  

Today, the poem continues to be a part of Remembrance Day ceremonies in Canada and other countries throughout the world. The poem, written after the death of a close friend, was first published in Punch magazine and led to the adoption of the poppy as the Flower of Remembrance for the British and Commonwealth war dead. 

The importance of talking about Remembrance Day with children: 

Celebrating holidays in every culture focuses on teaching traditions, history, and the reason a group of people cares for one another. Remembrance Day is the time to talk to children about the importance of honouring the history of Canada and the previous generations of Canadians. For many, this is the time when the older members of the family have a chance to share their personal stories. 

Holidays build a strong bond in a family and community, promoting feelings of security and belonging. The seasonal nature of some holidays creates a sense of predictability and comfort in the familiar for young people.  

At the end of October – the beginning of November children will see poppies on the lapels of the people around them, and the Poppy Boxes in stores across Canada. Talking to them about the history of the day can help them make sense of what they observe around them. 

Gaining accurate and respectful understanding of Remembrance Day, broadening their worldview, and creating a context for their experiences can become powerful learning outcomes for children.

Commemorate Remembrance Day with children of different ages: 

If your centre chooses to include Remembrance Day activities in your curriculum, there are several ways you can do so.  

For preschoolers and school age, focusing on veterans could help educators to discuss the idea of service and peace without broaching the complicated topic of war. Remembrance Day also gives us an opportunity to talk about the privilege of living in a safe country, and how those serving in the Canadian forces provide support and assistance to those in need overseas and at home, for example, during natural disasters, such as blizzards, floods, etc. such as during the 1997 Red River Flood. 

To encourage youth to participate in Remembrance tradition, The Royal Canadian Legion created a Teaching Guide in order to assist Canadian educators, by providing them with brief notes on Canadian history and its important symbols, Remembrance songs and poems, as well as suggested activities. 
Remembrance Day, education, children, graves, veterans, poppies.

The teaching Guide offers several craft activities that can be offered to children of different ages. 

  • Draw or paint a poppy and put it on your window 
  •  Craft a paper poppy
  •  Paint a poppy on a stone to put on the gravesites of Canadian Veterans

Remembrance Day Activities & Crafts

Remembrance Day, poppy, education, craft, children, Canada, veterans, sympathy, education, crafts, art.

Remembrance Day Craft Kit: 

Our convenient Remembrance Day Poppy Craft includes materials for 50 poppies – tissue paper and chenille stems – as well as a teaching guide. Watch the video below for easy-to-follow instructions. 

Video: Remembrance Day Poppy Craft

Activities for preschool and school-age children: 

To engage a child in an activity, we can set up what is called a ‘provocation’ in the Reggio Emilia philosophy. Similar philosophy is behind the painting/drawing trays in the Montessori approach. Debra Honegger from Journey into Early Education defines a provocation as “deliberate and thoughtful decisions made by the teacher to extend the ideas of the children.

Teachers provide materials, media, and general direction as needed, but the children take the ideas where they want. This allows children to develop skills of creativity, inventiveness, and flexibility in thinking, planning and reflecting.”  

Open-ended, process-based activities promote children’s creativity and individuality, foster their sense of self, and allow them to explore and express themselves freely. 

Loose Part Poppy 

Remembrance Day, loose part poppy, arts, crafts, children, education.

Offer a child a frame with a pipe cleaner or two, for stems, and a variety of materials (pom poms, buttons, beads, foam shapes, pieces of felt, wood, etc.) in green, red, and black – and watch them create a poppy. Each flower will be unique! Some might even work in 3D! 

Process based art opportunities allow children to create independently. Through free exploration they learn the physical properties of the materials, their own abilities, and are not limited in their experimentation. Such opportunities foster children’s sense of autonomy and trust in their own creative abilities. Process art is child-driven, and the result of such experience is unique and individual for each child. 

Suggested Materials: 

Remembrance Day Suncatcher  

It is traditional to display poppies on our windows on Remembrance Day – and what better way to let children’s creativity shine but with a vibrant suncatcher? 

Remembrance Day, sun catcher, education, children, crafts, art, learning, diy.

Prepare a flower-shaped frame made of black paper and glue an insert of tracing paper inside it. Provide the child with plenty of tissue paper pieces, the middle piece (a circle of black paper with a fringe, cut with scissors by a teacher or the child), and a glue stick.  

Attach the completed poppy to the window – and watch the sunshine and glow through it! 

Suggested Materials: 

Activities for the younger ones: 

It is challenging to come up with an activity for infants, especially when trying to start a conversation on such a complex topic as the history of service and commemoration. At the age 0 to 18 months, children perceive the world on a sensory level. They are attracted to bright colours, new textures, and so on. We can provide the youngest children with the experiences that they will grow to associate with the season and Remembrance Day. 

Sensory play is important for children, because it provides fun and engaging experiences, while allowing children to explore, experiment, and make observations. It is proven that sensory play helps to build nerve connections in the brain; encourages the development of motor skills; supports language development; encourages ‘scientific thinking’ and problem solving; and can involve mindful activities, which are beneficial for all children. 

Remembrance Day Sensory Bin: 

Remembrance Day, education, children, sensory bin, poppies, Canada, infants.

Offer the child a bin full of red, green, and black, age-appropriate materials with different textures, to touch, squish, and poke! 

Suggested Materials: 

Those who choose to commemorate Remembrance Day and to observe it in childcare centres, emphasize the importance of the conversation about the past, so we don’t forget its lessons and can continue learning from it and growing, remembering and honouring the sacrifice of those who served and continue to serve in the times of war and peace. 

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders fields the poppies blow 
Between the crosses, row on row, 
    That mark our place; and in the sky 
    The larks, still bravely singing, fly 
Scarce heard amid the guns below. 
We are the Dead. Short days ago 
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow, 
    Loved and were loved, and now we lie, 
        In Flanders fields. 
Take up our quarrel with the foe: 
To you from failing hands we throw 
    The torch; be yours to hold it high. 
    If ye break faith with us who die 
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow 
        In Flanders fields. 

John McCrae

Social-Emotional Learning through Literature

Social-emotional learning (SEL) is a methodology that can help children of all ages to better interpret emotions, fully engage with their feelings, and show empathy and compassion for others. Through emotion regulation and decision-making, SEL helps children to build meaningful relationships, reach their goals, and have more understanding of the world around them. 

Social-emotional learning is a key to becoming a great learner in early development. It’s the process of children uncovering their own emotions while simultaneously becoming aware of the emotions of others. Social-emotional learning helps develop empathy and compassion, helping them become better leaders and better humans. It is a critical point of personal growth that educators can amplify through lessons and conversations. 

The connection between literature and SEL does not get enough attention but is just as important as STEAM learning, dramatic play, and many other areas of early learning. Literature is a wonderful opportunity to help SEL shine, through studying, discussing, and engaging with each other. SEL fits seamlessly into any school curriculum and can be an innovative part of any classroom.  

What are the five types of social-emotional learning skills?  

There are five SEL competencies that are applicable to the classroom, home, and community. 

-Self-awareness – ability to identify emotions, develop a growth mindset, and recognize strengths and weaknesses.  

-Self-management – having ownership of regulating emotions, controlling compulsions and achieving goals.  

-Social awareness – the ability to see things from the perspective of others, appreciate people’s varying abilities, put an emphasis on diversity and show empathy.  

-Relationship skills – this includes but is not limited to communication skills, problem-solving, and resolving conflicts with others. 

-Responsible decision-making – thinking before making a choice and ensuring you are aware of the consequences. 

All five of these types of ideologies help students to live their best lives emotionally and teach them social skills that can support them throughout their years of schooling and onward.  

two children sitting with yellow smiley face balloons

What books can I use to form connections with SEL and literature in my classroom? 

Have You Filled a Bucket Today is an award-winning and heart-warming book that encourages positive behaviour as children see the importance of expressing kindness, appreciation, and love daily. This book highlights the effects of our actions and words on the well-being of others and ourselves. 

book cover of Have You Filled a Bucket by Carol McCloud

The Understanding Differences book set is a wonderful series about children of various abilities, such as children with wheelchairs, leg braces, and those who are deaf. Educating children on disabilities is crucial for inclusivity and embracing differences. 

The Focusing on Feelings book set helps children gain a better understanding and introduction to feelings that may be not so pleasant, such as loneliness and isolation. These four books include The Very Long Sleep, The Cloud, The Lost Stars, and Momo and Snap are NOT Friends. These books are gentle but effective in illustrating dark and sad emotions, helping children put a name to their feelings. 

The Emotions Book Set features four different emotions; angry, sad, happy, and scared. These books use big, full-colour photos and rhythming text to illustrate kid-friendly situations and feelings. 

The Way I Feel is a great book about how feelings are not necessarily good or bad; they just simply exist. Kids need words to name their feelings, just as they need words to name all things in their world. Strong, colourful, and expressive images that go along with simple verses help children connect the word and the emotion. Through this book, children will learn useful words and will have many chances to open conversations about what’s going on in their life.  

Dealing With Feelings… contains eight different emotion books: Happy, Jealous, Worried, Shy, Sad, Proud, Angry, and Caring. Each book in the Dealing with Feeling series looks at a different emotion commonly experienced by young children. The books help readers to identify their emotions and provide tips and advice on how best to express and deal with them.   

What products can I use to integrate SEL in the classroom? 

The Feelings Friend helps open a window into children’s emotions. It comes with an assortment of facial features in its front pouch. It can be used to connect facial expressions, comes with cards, and has a detailed usage guide included.    

The Self-Regulation Stones are designed to help children express their emotions when they can’t find the words to do so. Choosing an image that represents their emotions enables them to represent how they’re feeling, what triggered this feeling, and how it can be managed constructively. Recognizing an emotion and understanding it more fully will enable healthy self-regulation, supporting children’s development and engagement with others. It is very useful for mindfulness activities inside or outdoors. 

The Express Your Feelings Pocket Chart is a visual tool used to help identify & share emotions. Every day students enter the classroom feeling slightly different with different emotions. They may be excited to come to school, or they may have had a tough morning at home. This pocket chart allows students to identify their emotions and share them with their teacher in a safe way. They can also choose to flip over their craft stick for a more private experience. It helps children identify and express their daily emotions in a safe and productive way. 

Emotiblocks comes with a set of characters with interchangeable pieces which enable children to freely create likeable characters: there are over 100 possible combinations. This game comes with activity cards and is an entertaining tool to help children become familiar with the main emotions. 

Emotiblocks game for kids

How can I make SEL fun? 

There are lots of ways to have fun with SEL. When children are comfortably introduced to SEL in an entertaining way, they are more likely to indulge themselves in their learning. That’s what makes the Emotions Detective from Miniland such a great tool. Emotions Detective is a cooperative game with which participants will discover how to control their moods. It includes cards that on one side conceal an everyday action and on the other shows a scene that provokes anger or sadness. The little detectives will have to find out what it is all about to then come up with solutions that lead to a positive feeling.  

The Mindful Kids activity is a boxed card deck that includes 50 creative mindfulness games, visualizations, and exercises split into 5 categories that help children feel grounded, find calmness, improve focus, and practice love and kindness. It comes with tips on individual cards, easy-to-follow instructions, and 8-page instructional booklet show modifications that make these activities inclusive for children of all abilities. 

Making SEL a visual concept is made easy and fun with the Good Behaviour Buckets. Students learn how to fill their buckets with kindness, attentiveness, and other positive social-emotional skills with these Good Behavior Buckets. Positive behaviours land in the sunny orange bucket, while negative behaviours land in the stormy purple bucket. Stick the 30 pre-printed social-emotional behaviour stickers onto fun trackers (suns, hearts, and stars for good behaviours; clouds, lightning bolts, and raindrops for challenging ones) and start tracking! 

buckets for good behaviour with compliments for kids

The All About Me Feelings Activity Set is a fun game designed for social-emotional learning. Learn all-new social-emotional learning skills with these feelings-filled counters! It helps kids start talking about happiness, sadness, surprise, anger, and more! Counters are also good for sorting, matching, and counting fun.  

Discover and explore emotions in art class with the Mix and Match Emotion Stencils. Each ethnically diverse boy and girl represents a basic emotion. Start by tracing each of the stencils and discuss the emotions they represent. Students can create more subtle emotions by mixing elements. There are over 30 different combinations! 

Teach emotions recognition, dexterity, and coordination with the fun fishing game, Emotions Fishing. The magnetic fishing rods pick up the faces which have stainless steel parts that won’t rust in water or sand. It includes 18 different emotions pieces, 4 magnetic fishing rods, 6 of each emotional expression (happy, sad, angry, upset, worried and surprised) in 3 skin tones. 

small child playing a game of fish with faces instead of fish

How can I involve SEL in English discussions?  

Change the way you are asking questions. Instead of asking factual questions to determine whether the class was participating, ask more opinion-based questions encouraging your class to describe the emotion of the characters in your study. For example, instead of “what struggle does the main character face?” try “when the main character is struggling, how do they deal with it?” “How would this situation make you feel?” This prompts children to think critically and emotionally, helping to connect and uncover their own feelings.  

Encourage first impressions. When reading a story as a class, ask them about their expectations for the novel and then follow up afterward to see if their initial expectations were met. Ask about their emotional state while reading and encourage them to open up. This is a great exercise in comparing before and after emotions and showing the difference between initial impressions versus after. This exercise can help show students that it is important not to judge a book by its cover – in a literal sense – and to have more compassion.  

Positive affirmations and journaling. A terrific exercise in SEL, having students write a journal and asking them to write nice things about themselves and note how they are feeling each day can help students find a reflective hold on their emotions. This is a great way to familiarize themselves with their feelings and boost self-esteem. Writing positive affirmations for children encourages them to have a positive thinking process and constructive mindset. It can do wonders for children’s self-worth. Just like humans internalize negative messages, they can internalize positive messages for themselves too. Some good examples of positive affirmations include, “I am strong”, “I am important”, “mistakes don’t define me”, and “I am kind”.  

Promoting active listening. Social-emotional activities require cooperation and listening in group settings. Teach students to use the SLANT strategy; sit up straight, listen, ask and answer questions, nod your head, and track the speaker with your eyes. This helps engage children and provides tips and skills for listening and engaging in conversations that go beyond the classroom. 

Create a vision board. Art meets SEL with this fun and interactive activity. Cutting up pictures and magazines and turning them into a personalized board of goals, dreams, and favourite things into a clear picture of hopes for the future is a creative and enjoyable way to display aspirations. It helps kids figure out what they want to do, inspires them, and keeps them accountable for their goals. Did they strive to eat more fruit this week, or spend more time outside? The vision board is a perfect way to illustrate accomplishments and aim for the sky with weekly, monthly, and yearly goals.  

small girl making a scrapbook

What are some inspirational items I can add to my classroom to promote SEL? 

The Emoji Expressions Rug is great as children love to express their emotions through emojis. With Emoji Expressions in the classroom, you can encourage children to get in touch with their feelings and either share with others or discuss privately with you. 

Yoga Mats are great to store in the classroom for relaxation and de-stressing activities. These are lightweight and durable mat and provides a stable, non-slip surface. They also roll up for easy storage. 

The Grow For It! Mini Bulletin Board Set is a beautiful way to encourage students to blossom with a whole garden of encouraging phrases. Its unique metal flowers add the perfect finishing touch to and display. It comes with 8 inspiring signs, 2 blank signs, and 8 flowers.  

The best part of social-emotional learning is that it never gets old – not only can it be used in all stages of life, but it is also never too early to start the realization and practice of emotional regulation. It encourages children to develop as an individual, a learner, and as compassionate friends. It also can help the classroom become a more welcoming and enjoyable place filled with kindness.  Who knows – you might even watch your students begin their journey to becoming the best versions of themselves.  

young kids sitting on a swing

The Importance of Educating Indigenous Culture

Raising awareness of human rights issues has been crucial to making progress on educating future generations. In order to move forward, we must reflect and educate on the past.  Learning about Indigenous Peoples, places, experiences, and history is an important step forward for each Canadian to take on the path to reconciliation.   

“Change starts with us, and in order to teach the truth we must learn the truth.”

What is the purpose of June 21st, or National Indigenous Peoples Day?  

June 21st is an opportunity for everyone to celebrate the cultural richness and contributions of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples. For many centuries, the first inhabitants of Canada would celebrate the arrival of the gorgeous summer weather and the excitement of the new solstice, which is why it is celebrated on the first day of summer. It is celebrated as a sacred and spiritual day and a great opportunity to acknowledge the powerful contributions of Indigenous Peoples in Canada.  

Who are the Indigenous People of Canada? 

According to The Canadian Encyclopedia, there are three categories of Indigenous people in Canada; Inuit, Métis, and First Nations. The Inuit people primarily inhabit the arctic northern regions of Canada. Métis people are of mixed European and Indigenous ancestry and live mainly in the Prairies and Ontario. First Nations people were the original inhabitants of the land now known as Canada, often occupying territories south of the arctic. As of 2016, 4.9% of the Canadian population identifies as Indigenous.  

“As Canadians and educators, it is important to acknowledge and educate ourselves and others about the history and culture of the Indigenous people. “

Tools for Teaching  

Inuit Stories Series. The Inuit Stories Series are five children’s books featuring beautifully illustrated legends from Canada’s northern communities. Four books (Fishing with Grandma, The Legend of the Fog, The People of the Sea and Siuluk: The Last Tuniq) were written by Indigenous authors and one (Painted Skies) written by a field botanist who lived in Iqaluit. This is a great way to introduce children to stories from Canada’s northern Inuit communities. 

five books about Inuit culture

Wheel of Life Rug. The Wheel of Life Rug depicts a traditional Indigenous Medicine Wheel. The Medicine Wheel emphasizes a holistic approach to maintaining balance and equilibrium in life. It is an equal circular shape, which represents constant movement, change, and growth. The Medicine Wheel is a symbol of connection as it represents reason, emotion, belief, knowledge, and how they all come together to create a harmonious and peaceful balance. Each of the colours represents different things, from earth elements to directions to groups of people. It signifies interconnectivity and different interaction of physical, mental, and spiritual realities. 

a traditional Indigenous medicine wheel

The Sharing Circle. The Sharing Circle is a book about a young boy named Matthew who cherishes his First Nations culture. It includes seven children’s stories about First Nations’ spiritual practices and culture. It is a great introduction to the symbolism and legends of First Nations’ heritage, and it was written by Mi’kmaw children’s author Theresa Meuse and beautifully illustrated by Mi’kmaw illustrator Arthur Stevens. 

The Sharing Circle book, stories about First Nations Culture with an image of a dream catcher and other Indigenous items

Teepee Craft Kit. A Teepee was a common way of housing that First Nations used for shelter and warmth. They were cool in the summer and warm in the winter, and some were even big enough to hold 30-40 people comfortably. They were created with buffalo hide fastened around very long, large wooden poles that were up to 15 feet in height. Sometimes, these homes were arranged in a circle so that young children could play in the center with their mothers still able to watch nearby. The Teepee Craft Kit can help educate children about the history and culture of Teepees while enjoying an exciting craft project. It comes complete with everything you need to make 24 tepees. 

A Teepee craft featuring beads paper, crayons and more

As Canadians and educators, it is important to acknowledge and educate ourselves and others about the history and culture of the Indigenous people. We have a responsibility to be good allies to the Indigenous community and to help spread a word of acceptance, awareness, respect, and reconciliation. It is crucial to encourage the next generation to be accepting and encouraging members of the community. Change starts with us, and in order to teach the truth we must learn the truth. 

Here are some additional helpful resources for educating children on Indigenous topics: 

Encouraging Aboriginal Cultural Identity at Home and in Child Care 

We Learn Together: A resource guide for bringing Canadian Indigenous Culture into the classroom 

How We’re Teaching Indigenous History to Our Kids 

National Indigenous Peoples Day: Talking to our Children

Loose Parts for Literacy and Numeracy 

Loose parts are not a new concept; children have been playing with loose parts for centuries. Since the beginning of time, children have used their creative little minds to create something out of nothing. What exactly are loose parts, you may ask? Loose parts are one of the finest forms of imaginative play. Beginning as a remarkable term coined by Simon Nicholson, loose parts are materials that can be moved, carried, built, taken apart, rearranged, or combined in multiple ways. The purpose of loose parts play is that the child oversees the direction, and learning is left open-ended. Have you ever given a child a toy, but they seem to have had more fun playing with the packaging it came with? That is a perfect example of loose parts play!  

“The purpose of loose parts play is that the child oversees the direction, and learning is left open-ended.”

Perhaps the most remarkable part of loose parts play is that it can be combined with so many things when it comes to learning. Loose parts are all about connections and forming relationships with different objects to learn all about exactly what they can do – and what they cannot do. Loose parts leave no stone unturned; from language to math to art, the opportunities are infinite. 

 Here are some ways you can incorporate loose parts in literacy and numeracy: 

Literacy 

Loose parts can help with reading and writing proficiency through various activities. One of the best functions of literacy with loose parts is storytelling. Children creatively play with loose parts to encourage symbolism and sequence, which boosts their ability to understand literacy in many ways. Children will create stories with the individual items and tie them together to create a world beyond imagination.  

Symbolic play can look different in so many ways; one example is acting out stories they are familiar with. For instance, using small loose parts such as craft sticks and pipe cleaners to act out classic fairy tales such as Goldilocks and the Three Bears. This helps with literacy, memory, and pattern recognition since they are remembering a story and acting it out themselves. If you want to be less specific, give them a theme such as nature, animals, or places and watch the incredible stories and scenery they create. A small stone can become a jewel stolen by an alien, and a tree block can become a magic wand; the potential is endless. 

Numeracy 

Numeracy is the ability to understand and work with numbers. Especially to children, numbers matter; for instance, how many gifts are under the tree, who had a longer turn, how old they are, how many sleeps until their birthday, and many other numerals are particularly important to little ones. However, studying numeracy presents its fair share of challenges as well. Geometry, fractions, and operations are a few of the common difficulties in early mathematical learning. That is where loose parts come in; they are a great physical and tangible representation of concepts that children often struggle with.  

play stones with numbers on them

Number pebbles and word pebbles are great for use in sand, water, or the outdoors! They are durable and great to inspire children to explore and the numbers and letters engraved on them. They can be used to teach counting, sorting, the alphabet, and learning short words.

Craft supplies. Loose parts play does not get any better than crafting! It is a chance for children to create whatever they want through so many different mediums. The Makerspace STEAM Builder Set includes an assortment of materials to help students imagine, create, share, and generate lots of innovative ideas. This set is perfect for combining STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and math) learning with loose parts to bring in an unforgettable learning experience. 

child playing with balloon

Trays can be used to count and display various loose parts. From the Natural Tinker Tray to the Natural Flower Tray, trays are ideal for a wide range of collecting and early math sorting and stacking activities, both indoors and outside. They pair well with any type of sensory stone!  

wooden tray filled with small natural items

Loose parts are a terrific way for children to positively identify letters. The Feels-Write Letter Stones can help children touch and feel their way to recognizing letters. Children can also use small loose parts to trace the shapes with their fingers and then take paper and write them on their own. A fun game to implement with letter stones is to hide these stones around and create a scavenger hunt. This is a way to condition letters into the forefront of children’s learning minds, and they will become increasingly familiar with the alphabet. 

What are the benefits of loose parts? 

Longer attention span. Loose parts can help children attain a longer attention span. Once a child starts to seriously immerse themselves into their play, they tend to lose track of time and become so focused on their task that everything else slowly disappears. This is an exercise that can positively influence other areas of life such as paying attention during class. Their brains are more familiar with concentrating on specific tasks for extended periods of time, and loose parts play is an easier way for them to concentrate for way longer than they would on a guided and specified task. Plus, incorporating learning into loose parts play can help make the most of your time with engaged learners making for an easier teaching session.  

Assists fine motor skills. Manipulating objects, no matter how big or how small, help develop both fine and gross motor skills. Lifting, counting, and sorting are all great early skills that help to involve muscle groups form properly and appropriately such as holding a pencil. Additionally, it helps hand eye coordination which prepares children for other aspects of learning, prepping their bodies for things like throwing a baseball or football. 

three children sitting and learning

Problem-solving skills. Loose Parts can help develop problem-solving skills. Through loose parts play, children get to make decisions about which parts they want to use. Along with building and engineering, young students are gaining many skills like adapting and experimenting with new things. To create their loose parts masterpiece, students need to select what materials piece the best together for their environment. Their original ideas may need adjustment; that is okay! Through these challenges, children get to learn how to fix and tailor their projects to make things work.  

two children holding their snowmen made out of crafting material

“Through loose parts play, children get to make decisions about which parts they want to use. Along with building and engineering, young students are gaining many skills like adapting and experimenting with new things.”

How can I help teach Math and English by supporting loose parts play? 

Take notice in their play. Part of observing and supporting children in learning about numeracy through loose parts is exactly that – simply observing. Take notice in what children are creating and tell them (without stating any opinions) what you see. “I notice you have a pile of read bears and blue bears.” This provides a chance for children to vocalize their experiences and enforce the recognition process. 

Ask important questions. “What can you tell me about this?” or “What is your plan with this?” can help steer children in the right direction and invoke new thoughts in children. It helps keep them on track and it continues their thinking process, encouraging them to think even more about their creative process and what exactly they are creating, keeping them engaged.  

Elaborate on what they have already produced. Have you taken notice of a certain child’s interest in a specific topic? This is a wonderful way to broaden their interests by adding to these themes. For example, a child who may be interested in stones and rocks might love an introduction to crystals and minerals, or measurements and weights of certain objects. Help them fuel a passion for knowledge by offering suggestions for similar interests. 

Tips for loose parts: 

Loose parts do not have to be expensive! Loose parts are all about the experience, and not necessarily about the specific part itself. Small and simple loose parts such as coloured flat wooden shapes or transparent irregular shapes can go a long way. Children are the most imaginative people you can think of; you would be surprised to see what they produce even with the simplest of things. 

Take loose parts outside. With the beautiful weather heating up, this is a wonderful time to combine learning with play and take advantage of the outdoor classroom. Children can also use natural pieces such as pinecones and sticks as loose parts. 

Loose parts are customizable! It does not have to go big or go home. Loose parts can be whatever you want them to be, small handheld items or extravagant projects. Loose parts can also work for any age; there are no limits to creativity. Since it is such a flexible part of play, loose parts can work for any and every child. 

Now that loose parts have become more familiar, implementing them for literacy and numeracy in your classroom should be a breeze. Children will thoroughly enjoy learning through play, especially when they feel in control and are able to make easily identifiable connections from the classroom to their own lives. Loose parts are a wonderful way to connect children with hands-on learning and take a break from the books. Loose parts support the development of freedom and creativity while helping young learners become excited about learning; it helps to learn to feel more like fun and less like a chore.

three children sitting down and smiling

“Loose parts are a wonderful way to connect children with hands-on learning and take a break from the books.”

Making the Most out of Holiday Crafts 

Children and teacher making holiday crafts and smiling

Why are winter and holiday crafts important? 

There is nothing more special than the holidays. It’s cold outside, children are jumping with joy and excitement, and it’s the perfect time to create special memories with friends and family. The countdown of how many sleeps until Christmas, making snow forts and snow angels, and of course, all the presents. The holidays are the perfect time for gift giving – and gift making too. It’s a perfect time for kids to get crafty, and since they aren’t usually big holiday shoppers, crafting with homemade gifts is a fun way to get them involved in the gift-giving spirit.  

It’s a perfect time for kids to get crafty, and since they aren’t usually big holiday shoppers, crafting with homemade gifts is a fun way to get them involved in the gift-giving spirit.  

Play and creativity go hand in hand, and it’s important for children to spend some time playing creatively both inside and outdoors as part of their daily routine. However, as we all know sometimes playing outside in Canada’s harsh winters isn’t always the best option, which makes staying inside to create crafts a much more appealing activity during the frigid dark months. Crafting is a super enjoyable way for children (and adults) of all ages to be creative and have fun and celebrate the upcoming holidays!  

A child hands cutting stars for winter crafts

How is making crafts beneficial to learning?  

Crafting goes beyond being a playful activity and has many fundamental aspects of early development. Crafting requires hand eye coordination, practice, and patience, all of which are important parts of gaining more control over their abilities and strengths. Crafting helps build resilience, since their work may not come out perfectly the first time, teaching them they must continue to try, try and try again! For little ones, crafting can even help children identify shapes and colours. Crafting also benefits literacy, as children are learning to identify words with the shapes, materials, colours and objects they are using. Asking questions like, “Why did you choose that colour?” and “Tell me about what you made.” helps them learn new vocabulary and have a deeper understanding for verbal instructions and listening skills. 

Crafting helps build resilience, since their work may not come out perfectly the first time, teaching them they must continue to try, try and try again! 

Crafts are an enjoyable way to use learning through play, as it helps improve fine motor skills and encourages children to continue to improve in daily tasks and helps them learn to follow instructions. Fine motor skills are great for development as they use those small muscles in their hands for everything. Their bilateral coordination skills improve as they learn to use both hands at the same time in a repetitive way. It doesn’t really feel like hard work, and it allows imaginative and creative thoughts to be showcased and explored. Additionally, it boosts pattern and counting recognition! 

Child cutting a DIY Christmas tree craft

What are some must have crafting materials?  

  • Construction paper. Multicoloured construction paper is stellar for crafting, as it has so many versatile uses. It can be used simply for the background behind a painting or drawing or used to make cut out shapes to glue onto another piece of paper. There is nothing construction paper can’t be used for! 
  • Glitter. While you do have to be mindful of the mess, it can be lots of incredible fun. Glitter can be used in any drawing or painting and used as the finishing touch to any crafty art project!  
  • Glue sticks. These can be used for almost anything when it comes to crafting! Just be mindful that younger kids may need to be monitored while using them.  
  • Pipe cleaners. These can be used to bend and twist to create any shape, animal, or creature imaginable! 
  • White craft fluffs. Perfect for snow themed crafts!  
  • Bead treasure box. It’s no secret kids love beading with crafts, and this is perfect as it comes with a variety of colours and beading thread! 
  • Rainbow paper bags. Perfect for children taking home their favourite crafts and creations!  
  • Felt paper. Felt sheets are easy to cut, glue and sew. Perfect for your felt art projects, this quality and versatile felt is a great craft item to have on hand!   
  • Classic Craft Activities Box. An assortment of wiggle eyes, chenille stems, pom poms, craft hair, fluffs, glitter glue pens, craft sticks, sequins and spangle. What else could you need? 
A wide variety of colourful craft supplies

What are some fun DIY Crafts to do?  

  • Paper snowflakes. Paper snowflakes are a classic when it comes to winter crafts, and they can be used to decorate and brighten up any room! Help the children learn to hold the paper and assist them with carefully making incisions in the folded paper to form the perfect snowflake. Remember, each snowflake is unique which makes this craft even better! Working with toddlers or children who are too young to be using scissors? Don’t stress! Pre-cutting the paper snowflakes and allowing them to colour and draw on them is just as effective. 
  • Gift tags. Cutting out shapes of coloured construction paper using a cookie cutter and gluing a matching piece of felt on it creates a simple, easy and adorable gift tag that can be given to children’s relatives or friends. This is also a great way for children to practice writing their names on paper and using markers! 
  • Melt free Snowmen. Using white felt, cut out snowman shapes for children to decorate. Small paper cut outs in the shape of mittens, top hats, or any other cute snowman accessory can be glued on! String them all together on some twine to make all the little snowmen come together! 
  • Painting a holiday scene. Using paper and paint, help children paint winter scenes with objects like snowmen or snowfall. This can be done with all types of objects as well such as sponges and different styles of paint brushes to help create texture. Simple, quick, easy and allows kids to help create something creative, completely unique and outside of the box! 
  • Use a free printable colouring page. Colouring pages are timeless, and super quick and easy! For a fool proof and go-to craft that you just can’t go wrong with, printable colouring pages are your answer. Colouring is a wonderful crafty way to take it easy and relax. Bonus: there are so many to choose from online, so you’ll be sure to find the perfect holiday page for your kids to colour!  
  • Decorate the room. Hanging the homemade decorations around your space can help it feel more cheerful and including children in the process can amplify the fun! Allow children to help you design the space with holiday cheer by assisting them with placing fun holiday objects all around the room. 
Three children playing with colourful construction paper for crafting

What are some other fun holiday activities I can do with kids?  

  • Writing a letter to Santa. Christmas time and the holidays are an extremely exciting time for children, and the anticipation is just as important as the actual event itself. Print off a free Santa letter template and allow children to fill them out and mail them! For younger children, help them draw or cut our pictures from magazines of what they want for Christmas. This helps children improve on their literacy skills and it’s a fun way to get them even more excited about the upcoming holiday! 
  • Make hot chocolate. Use packages of hot chocolate or premade and reheat and give cups of this to the kids. Allow them to pick out things they want to add to their drink, such as mini marshmallows, sprinkles, or little candy canes to allow children to customize their drink!  
  • Holiday themed sensory play. Using a sensory table, allow children to play with many different winter textures – things such as bubbles and ice. Allowing toddlers to play with these mediums is a great addition to regular sensory play and will be sure to put a smile on their face! 
  • Singing a holiday song. Children love singing and dancing – and what better way to help get them in the spirit than a memorable tune? Play some of your favourite holiday classics and encourage children to sing and dance along. Music is a great device for memory and comprehension, and it adds lots of holiday spirit!  
  • Reading a holiday story or watching a holiday movie. There are lots of fun books that children will enjoy about the holidays, and it’s nice to just sit back, relax, and watch or read something joyful to help get into the holiday spirit! Grab some holiday drinks or snacks to go with it. Perfect for right before the holidays arrive!  
Little girl colouring with a pencil crayon

What are some tips for making quick and fun holiday crafts? 

  • Don’t make the crafts too long and complicated. If the crafts are difficult to follow or take a long period of time, children tend to lose interest and stop participating. Choose crafts that are appropriate for the age group you are working with. 
  • Don’t create limits. Colouring outside the lines and making crafts on the more abstract side is a wonderful for kids to show their creativity and experiment with new shapes, colours and textures! Don’t try to control the craft, just watch their little minds creative imagination take flight! When children are finished or have had enough with crafting, let them be done.  
  • Make sure appropriate attire is worn. Advise children and parents to wear comfortable clothes that are okay to get messy in, especially if painting is happening! 
  • Create a safe space for crafting. Ensure the space you are using to craft in is safe and can accommodate everyone. This designated space also provides less stress when it comes to clean up time, since you know that is the purpose of your space and it doesn’t interfere with other areas like play or eating spaces! It also helps children recognize that this is their safe crafting space, and it is okay to get a little messy! 
  • Participate with the group! Creating a craft along with the group shows you want to be just as involved and excited about it as they are. It helps encourage students to enjoy themselves!  
  • Compliment their work. Nothing feels better than hearing “Wow, what a great job!” after completing an art craft. This motivates children to continue to push themselves and want to continue participating in craft activities in the future and helps boost their self-esteem! 
  • Just have fun! Holiday crafting is about getting in the holiday spirit and creating fun art projects that all can enjoy. Don’t make it too serious and don’t allow children to get down on themselves if they are having a hard time! Remember, crafting is all about enjoying the moment so don’t take it too seriously and remember to have a good time! 
Two small children playing with Christmas Bells

How can I use holiday crafts to educate children about the world and help them learn? 

Holiday crafts are a wonderful way to help celebrate the end of the year and get children feeling happy, excited and help make sure everyone feels included. It’s important to remember that not every child celebrates the same holiday, and we should remember to acknowledge all backgrounds and celebrations.  Encourage kids to share the way their family celebrates the holidays and help teach them about all the different celebrations – Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza and more. This can help your space feel more inclusive, and it is great way to help children learn more about diversity and learn more about their friends.  

Another special way to help celebrate all different holiday celebrations is using a sharing circle to share memories and various customs and traditions they celebrate at home. Ask children what their favourite part of the holiday season is and share what makes them unique! Is there a special food they indulge in during the season? What about family members they get to see? What are their favourite outdoor holiday games or sports? Use this opportunity to learn more about the lives and cultures of the kids in your centre! 

Will quick and fun holiday crafts benefit your centre? 

Crafting helps children learn independence while working on projects, but crafting skills go much further and yield far beyond that. It is a special time of development for young children that help them build small skills that will be beneficial for a lifetime. Crafting is about patience, fun, thinking outside the box and creating fun art to share with family and friends! Holiday crafting is a special way to bring your group together, and help watch them grow, learn, relax, express themselves and enjoy a fun activity all at the same time. Crafting is a perfect example of how sometimes the simplest things create the best experiences and memories. It helps children learn skills and practice hand eye coordination without even feeling like work – just by painting, drawing, and having fun!  

Five young children holding Christmas presents

Promoting Diversity and Inclusivity in the Classroom

The new school year is back in full swing, and we want everyone in the classroom to feel included. Promoting our differences can be a touchy subject, but it is extremely important. All students are different in their own unique ways, which means their learning needs can be different too.

So why is diversity and inclusivity in the classroom so important? It helps educate kids about the society we live in with many different ethnicities, orientations, abilities and how to be aware of all our different unique qualities and building compassion for everyone.

Encouraging kids to be themselves and celebrating their differences creates better thinkers, supports self-growth, self-esteem, identity and makes them feel welcomed as part of the group. It provides tools they need to be the best learners – and people – they can be. Raising awareness about issues in society in a way children can understand can promote diversity. Teaching values like kindness, inclusion, and educating kids on how they can be sensitive to other people’s feelings when it comes to physical and non-physical differences can influence them to grow up to be positive leaders and members of their community.

Encouraging kids to be themselves and celebrating their differences creates better thinkers, supports self-growth, self-esteem, identity and makes them feel welcomed as part of the group.

Promote Diversity

Here are some ways to make your classroom more inclusive and promote diversity with your students:

  • Invite kids to have a “culture day” and encourage them to learn more about their heritage. Bringing stories, objects, pictures, or books about their culture is a fun way for students to learn more about themselves and their peers.
  • Host open discussions about injustices they have experienced, and brainstorm ways to help fight inequality in the classroom and in their personal lives.
  • Take field trips to cultural and historic events and places in the community.
  • Invite speakers and advocates to your classroom that have first-hand experiences to share about diversity and inclusion.
  • Asking for feedback and ideas from fellow colleagues can help ensure you are growing as an educator.
  • Offering diverse reading materials featuring distinct cultures, languages, beliefs, and abilities can help them feel represented, appreciated, and understood. Make sure these materials are offered in different forms to accommodate different learning styles, such as audio, physical, and visual forms of learning.
  • Participate in writing letters with global pen pal programs to connect students with other students just like them, across the world!
Teacher standing in the classroom with a book answering students questions about diversity

Inclusion Teaching Strategies

Diversity and inclusion in the classroom also mean assisting students who may have a more challenging time learning than others and providing them the tools they need to succeed. Meeting with parents and kids and getting to know your students to find resources that help them thrive is necessary to help them reach their goals. These needs can be different for every child.

  • For some students, learning challenges are caused by a lack of ability to focus, and sensory toys are a clever way to help get their fidgets out.
  • Sometimes students just need a break from their day, and a quiet peaceful space can really help them relive stress and unwind
  • Noise sensitivity can also be an issue, so giving students resources to block out the noise while focusing on reading or other tasks can help them collect their focus
  • Make yourself approachable to talk to about different learning styles, needs, and accessibility to solutions.
  • Offer alternative seating arrangements for students with difficulty sitting still
  • Communicating with kids and communicating with their parents to help build meaningful relationships and to find out what learning resources they may need.
Children of different cultural backgrounds embracing each other

Teachers contribute to shaping the minds of today’s kids and turning them into great future leaders. By hosting activities, having conversations, and encouraging more personal growth, we can build a more inclusive and diverse environment for all learners. It is important to make sure we applaud positive behaviours and use the classroom as a safe space for all students – regardless of what they look like, where they come from or how they learn!