Light Panel Early Learning Bucket

With a multi-age group in a licensed family childcare home it can be difficult to balance the needs of all the children. Nap time is especially challenging when I need to be able to supervise the youngest children napping as well as the older ones who do not. It can be tricky to find quiet activities for the older preschoolers that will keep them engaged without disturbing the little ones who need to sleep.

In my current group, the older three and four year old children seem content to independently look at books or do puzzles over and over again during quiet time. However, I was beginning to feel like maybe I should introduce some other activities to expand their learning opportunities. I have a small light panel that rarely gets used because it is too small for group activities and too delicate for toddler use. The older children seemed interested in using it but I didn’t have many accessories available to use with the light panel.

I received the Light Panel Early Learning Bucket from Quality Classrooms to provide some additional resources.  Personally, I feel the ‘bucket’ is a little difficult to store – square or rectangular containers are easier to fit efficiently on shelves.  I like that the individually packaged materials in the bucket make it convenient to select which items we want to use without having to dig through all the little pieces.

At first, the children simply tried to fit as many items as possible on the light panel but didn’t seem to have any other goal.

Eventually, they started to sort the pieces by shape and colour and then use them to make pictures.

This one is a ‘car’.

With a little guidance they practiced some numeracy skills.

This light panel is too small to accommodate all the letters so the children couldn’t use it to arrange them all alphabetically.  Instead, we’ve been working on recognizing and matching the letters in printed words.

This has proved to be a little frustrating when they want to try spelling words that have more than one of any letter as the set contains only one of each.  I think it would be nice to have smaller letters and more of them.

Some of the literacy and numeracy activities we’ve tried to do require more assistance than they or I would like – we do value independence.  These children much prefer using the shapes to create pictures and patterns which is a wonderful child-led activity.  As an additional quiet time activity the light panel and accessories have offered an interesting variation but will never replace the books and puzzles that they love so much.

Written by Cheryl, an experienced ECE II who runs her own daycare (Cheryl’s Child Care).

Geoboard Light Table Play

So you may expect the following information to show a geoboard being used in the traditional way with elastic bands. Apparently that was not as appealing to my Grade 2 daughter as these beautiful counters and beads:

 I did leave out rubber bands but they were ignored.

Instead, the counters and beads seemed to be more attractive.

The counters are part of this Manipulative Kit for Light Table:

and the beads are from this Giant Transparent Beads kit.

The counters look amazing:

These geoboards are transparent and can be purchased at Quality Classrooms here and are perfect for the light table. They also come in 5 x 5 and 11 x 11 and a variety of colours.

Maybe next time we will use them for what they have been designed for!

Or maybe we will just find another awesome use.

Who knew geoboards could look so great!

Open-Ended Playing with the First Look Light Table Kit

Look at this great resource!

So as you probably know if you are a regular reader, I am a big fan of light tables. Adding light to an activity, brightens everything, including attention span!

This was the first time we tried out this resource, the First Look Light Table Kit so I laid it all out, showed Daisy the contents and let her explore. There are over 300  pieces in this kit and I couldn’t fit them all on the table!

Daisy set to work matching colours:

Clear Big Buttons were matched with colourful leaf, flower and butterfly transparencies.

Here Daisy has matched the shapes of the Clear Big Buttons and the Fancy Stringing Rings

I have realized the importance of letting children explore independently, without the restrictions of set tasks or outcomes. Simply playing.

The rule:

New Resource = Open-Ended Exploration

The chance to fully explore a resource without the pressure of outcomes, allows children to follow their own thought patterns and investigate their own theories.

As teachers, we are often too quick to narrow a resource into a set learning activity and then we wonder why students are playing with the resources rather than doing the activity we set! The pressure of following curriculum and meeting teaching targets means we often sacrifice open-ended exploration.

ECE’s are wonderful at setting up explorations free from set outcomes. “Invitations” are happening frequently in daycare and preschool rooms. This carries into kindergarten where teachers still recognize the need for play-based learning.

My wish: play-based learning with open-ended exploration continues through elementary school.

Is this possible while still meeting curriculum targets?

My answer is yes, what is yours?

Sorting Fruit by Colour

All that gorgeous fruit from the Avalanche Fruit stand was just asking to be used in other ways. One of the ways we played with it was sorting by colour on the light table.

Daisy instantly decided on her method. She started picking out the blackberries nearest to her and putting them on the purple paper.

Rose watched Daisy for a few seconds and then got to work on her oranges, again choosing to work on one type of fruit at a time.

Both flowers working away happily.

Rose’s hand was struggling to lift with the tweezers and she was about to drop the tweezers when I asked if her hand was tired.

A response of ‘yes’ stimulated a mini-lesson from Daisy on how to use the tweezers. She explained patiently how to place her thumb on one side and two fingers on the other. Very cute.

Counting with Transparent Chips

I loved using invitations to play with my children. Sometimes these invitations are independent and others I join in on.

In this case, joining Rose allows me to spend a few minutes one on one between chores. I focus totally on her and ignore the chaos for a quick break.

We used:

I set up the option of paper and crayons also.

Rose started by counting the chips and placed them carefully on the number.

I didn’t direct, just allowed her to lead adding information such as “yes, that is a number 2” or “yellow”. She is learning colours and doesn’t always get the colour correct. If she names an incorrect colour I will correct it with “it is blue” but we certainly don’t stress about the necessity of knowing all the colours yet.

She liked the added challenge of trying to pick up the chips with a mitt on. It was entertaining.

Counting out five. This is a number she tends to avoid. Not sure why. Her counting usually goes like this; “one, two, three, four, six, seven..”

This was an extension lead by Rose. She placed the counter on the paper and said, “Please colour mama” so I obliged. Hey, who doesn’t like to colour. We named the colour together as we drew.

Learning Opportunities:

  • Identify and name colours
  • Count to ten
  • Sort by colour
  • Match colours

Building Imagination with Bricks

These gorgeous transparent bricks have been played with lots by Rose. She loves pouring them onto the light table and organizing them to her fancy. Daisy has not been so into these gorgeous blocks so I set her a challenge.

These little people are outside and need shelter. It is windy and cold (not hard to imagine, considering where we live) and they need four walls and a roof to keep out the cold.

This was all Daisy needed to inspire some building. I had never thought about it much but block building is not something either of my children chose to do unless I lift the blocks out and model some building. I sat down and played alongside them.

Rose chose to play for a few minutes then decided to bug her sister by sitting on her chair. She tends to wander around then come back to the task at hand. I counted and she would last 3 to 4 minutes, play elsewhere for 3 to 4 minutes and then return to the light table.

She returned 3 times before losing interest.

Daisy continued to build, ignoring Rose’s antics.

The roof was quite a discussion. After a little questioning:

“Does the roof need to be bigger than the building?”

“What do you think we could use?”

“Can you see anything flat and the same size as the base?”

I gave up and suggested she use another prism base. This idea was met with a look of frustration and a sigh.

“No mama that would be too slippery and the wind will blow it off”.

So having been told, I left her to search for a roof. When I came back five minutes later she proudly announced she had finished and her people were warm.