Pinterest is an amazing tool for collecting ideas on different activities that can be implemented into your program to follow up on children’s interests and needs. There are loads of great posts and ideas on sensory play, loose parts play, inviting set ups, recipes for paints/doughs/science experiments etc.
But there is a downside to Pinterest. It is also filled with loads of posts of adult lead, adult focused ativities that are eye catching to us as adults, but do not have a child focus. A lot of these activities are from other countries that have a different approach to early childhood education and care, and different programming requirements.
It is up to us as educators to understand which activities we pin and which we ignore because they are not suitable for our needs and do not reflect the EYLF or NQS. I have come up with the following helpful guide to use when considering which activities to save to our own personal catalogue:
- Is the activity suitable for a range of developmental abilities? When we look at activities we need to consider our audience. Can all children participate, even those with additional needs or developing skills? If the activity requires children to possess certain skills and limits involvement from those without these skills, it is unlikely to be useful. The activity on the left is quite structured and requires a particular level of skill or a lot of educator support, whereas the activity on the right is looking at the same subject but allows for varying levels of development to enjoy the same activity.
- Is the activity open ended? By providing open ended activities we give children choice to make decisions and develop their own sense of agency. A lot of craft activities are very limiting as the children have minimal control over what is happening. This teaches children that their thoughts and opinions don’t matter. Open ended activities are also more inclusive because it is hard to do them “wrong” whereas structured activities can provide opportunities for failure, which is likely to impact positive emotional development. While both posts cover the same skill, weaving, the one on the left is quite controlled and limited, and the one on the right is open ended and allows for children to work on the skill without worrying about the end product being “right”.
- Is the activity meaningful? I always find it helpful to ask why we are doing an activity and what the child is getting out of it. If the activity isn’t meaningful for the child then will they really engage with it? There are lots of pins on Pinterest that ‘tick a box’ in terms of teaching a child developmental skills, instead of providing a meaningful experience of the children to engage fully with, while learning the same skills. The activity on the left is very limiting and may not really be teaching the child about circles, however the one on the right allows children to explore all sorts of different circles in whichever way they choose, making it more meaningful for the child.
- Who is doing most of the work? We often see activities that the child does very little work for, and most of the hard work is done by the educators. We have more than enough tasks to get through on a daily basis without giving ourselves extra work of cutting and finishing off the work of the children. This also sends a message to the child that they are not competent enough to do their own work. For example the activity on the left is done mostly by the educator whereas the one on the right says to the child that they are competent and capable and are free to explore.
- What is the rationale for the activity? Why are you planning the activity and where does the need/interest/skill come from? This is about thinking whether the child is the centre of the planning or you are interrupting the children’s interests to implement activities you think the children should be doing. For example if the children are interested, or need support, in counting and numbers you could do a structured Easter themed activity like the one on the left. Alternatively you could explore a more creative, open ended, child focused activity that has nothing to do with a celebration or theme but has to do with the children’s interest like the one on the right.
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