Sunday, October 9, 2011

What's in a day?

At a recent staff meeting, I asked our new staff members to share their experiences working in other child care centers. As they talked, more than one mentioned how much more structure there is in my class than in these other centers. Which surprised me, because I tend to think of my classroom as being very flexible. We do have set routines that we follow each day. We have breakfast at the same time, change diapers, have some small group experiences, snack, and so forth throughout the day. We have activities or experiences planned for certain days or times.

However, while we do things in the same order each day, most of the day children can choose where they want to play or what they want to do. If they are involved in an activity, we do our best to give them as much as they need or want to explore with that activity. If it's a nice day outside, we try to spend more time outside. We've even gotten to the point that they choose what they want to take outside with them. There are few items that I insist they keep inside, mostly because they are easy to lose in the grass.

We were saving this bowling activity to use inside on a rainy day.

Taking art and writing materials outside gives them a quiet choice outside.

At the same time, when we offer an art project, water play or other small group activity, children are free to choose whether or not they participate. We offer the same activity for several days because we know some children will get too busy or interested elsewhere on a given day.  We have also been known to scrap an activity altogether because the children have some up with a better idea, or at least a more interesting idea to them.

This painting activity happened after nap one day simply because one of the children at the table asked if they could paint. As you can see, others chose to join in while the rest finished their snack.

Which leads me to wonder what they meant by structure. When I think of structure, I think of the daily routine. Could they mean the underlying discipline and self control? Or the consistent expectations and rules? I'm curious to know what others think.


  1. hi Shelley, I found your wonderful blog when you linked up to the outdoor play link this week & I love it. I am amazed to find so many kindred spirits on the blogoshere! This post touched a nerve with me as I had a prospective parent visit on Friday & her 1 comment that jarred with me was 'but you are more structured than other settings, I heard' (a positive in her eyes) I found myself trying to reason that having a set routine is not the same as structure and that children are free to choose where & when they play at activities. But perhaps I do need to rethink what exactly 'structure' is & should I wince when I hear the word!!

  2. Kierna- I am still contemplating what they meant by this. I am starting to think it relates to the way we interact with children and the having a primary caregiving system. They weren't used to having much, if any, one-on-one time with the children because they came from places with much higher ratios and the caregiving system was new to them as well. I have been following your blog for a bit and love the ideas!