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Early childhood education has been my life for over 30 years. I have taught all age groups from infants to 5-year-olds. I was a director for five years in the 1980s, but I returned to the classroom 22 years ago. My passion is watching the ways children explore and discover their world. In the classroom, everything starts with the reciprocal relationships between adults and children and between the children themselves. With that in mind, I plan and set up activities. But that is just the beginning. What actually happens is a flow that includes my efforts to invite, respond and support children's interface with those activities and with others in the room. Oh yeh, and along the way, the children change the activities to suit their own inventiveness and creativity. Now the processes become reciprocal with the children doing the inviting, responding and supporting. Young children are the best learners and teachers. I am truly fortunate to be a part of their journey.

Saturday, May 4, 2013


Three weeks ago, I wrote a post about a Big Box Incline - Wardrobe Box.

Here is the very last picture from that post.  Two children are standing on the lip of the table, one of them in plastic high heels from the dress up corner.

I have been thinking about that picture a lot over the intervening weeks.  Why?  Because I wondered why would children climb up on the lip or even think of climbing up on the lip of the table.  Is it just to be able to see the corn tumble down the box incline?  Is it to get a better view of the corn tumbling down?  

Maybe.  But I began to think that perhaps children need physical challenges so they are always creating their own---whether we like it or not.  These two children are definitely working on balance. In addition, think about the muscle groups they used to step up on the lip and the opposing ones they will use to get down.  Seeing their actions through that lens, elevates their actions.  (The pun is intended.)

Through this new lens, I reviewed the pictures I took of the children's actions and operations around the incline.  The more I looked, the more challenges I saw children set up for themselves.

A child reaching as high as he can became a child stretching and balancing and coordinating his pouring actions.

When those actions are multiplied and you have several friends trying to do it at the same time, a child also begins to understand his or her body in space and in relations to others.  (What you see below is six children basically in the same space scooping and pouring corn.  Turn taking?  Nope, they are negotiating with their bodies in real time.  So this physical challenge definitely has a social component.) 

When you want to get corn from way under the incline, you not only have to stretch, but you have to bend and flex your body and keep your balance all the while you are coordinating your muscles to scoop some corn and then reverse the operation without spilling too much.

When you try to catch the corn inside the box, you have to move and adjust your arms and hands with speed as the kernels race on by.

If you are trying to catch corn at the bottom on the outside of the incline, you will need speed, too, because you do not always know where to position your scoop to catch the corn.  In addition, you will have to use your sense of hearing to anticipate when the corn will fall out of the bottom of the incline.  That physical challenge then incorporates an aural component.

If you are trying to sweep the corn from under the table, you are facing many of the physical challenges as the child scooping the corn from way underneath the incline, except now you are doing it lying down.  Sweeping while lying down is definitely a physical challenge.  Have you tried it lately?

Sometimes the physical challenge involves strength.  The two girls pictured below are moving the full tub of corn from one end of the table to the other.  That takes strength and coordinated movements by the two girls.

Sometimes the physical challenge is a fine motor challenge.  The child below is trying to pour corn with a coffee scoop into a small hole he discovered on the side of the Box Incline.

I am beginning to think that children are always creating physical challenges for themselves. Some are generic like reaching as high as you can to pour.  Some will be specific to the space like reaching way under the incline to scoop.   

Of course, there are some physical challenges that are hard to categorize or even venture a guess as to what was the prompt.  Take, for instance, the picture below.
Can anyone help me figure out the physical challenges here?  

Children are driven to challenge themselves physically in oh so many ways---whether we like it or not! So as a teacher, when you are faced with the physical challenges the children actuate, are you going to stop them, restrict them, encourage them, or simply let them go?


  1. I'm not sure that last child is seeking a physical challenge so much as a sensory extravaganza!

    1. She has commandeered my chair which has wheels so that might be adding a little movement to that sensory extravaganza.

    2. Agree with the sensory component. These days, how many times do children get to feel the sensation of bumpy, gritty pieces on the bottoms of their feet and between their toe? Heaven.

  2. Yes, I agree - it's a sensory exploration. How about some barefoot sand and water tables!! (Mandy in Aberdeen, Scotland)

    1. Why not? I just might have to set something up so the children can go barefoot in the sand---indoors!