INFANT, TODDLER & 2/3's
Karen Paskiewicz, Infant/Toddler Coordinator & Associate Director
Math experiences have been heightened by the use of loose parts in all of our classrooms, from collections of containers and wooden rings in the Infant Room to a box of boxes and lots of colored tiles in the Toddler rooms.
The role of the teacher is to observe, acknowledge what we witness, and sometimes, only sometimes, ask just the right questions to extend or understand what the child is figuring out. Play is the child's work and through their play it is evident just how mathematical infants and toddlers naturally are...
It is astonishing to observe the thinking process of the children when they are investigating such open-ended materials.
Early exposure to math concepts like sorting and classifying, grouping, measuring, spatial relationships, one-to-one correspondence, and patterning all come into play while exploring open ended materials. The children in our Infant and Toddler rooms have lots of time and materials to investigate an understanding of a material or a question they want to explore. A collection of wooden rings has potential in all 5 classrooms to expand a child's thinking and problem-solving in math.
In the Infant room the wooden ring will be touched and mouthed as an infant explores the dimensions of the object, explores the properties of it, and possibly experiments with grouping and sorting collections of rings. In the Toddler and 2/3's classrooms those same rings become a material to compare, measure, collect, group, and stack - all requiring the toddler to think in mathematical terms about the size, shape, and color of the rings as well as spatial awareness and symmetry when balancing and stacking.
The shelves of the Infant, Toddler and 2/3's classrooms often look like an old antique store, with collections of similar sized or shaped objects. In the classrooms the shelves are an invitation to the child, to offer them a chance to think and wonder about a certain material or a question they have previously thought about. How and what is presented comes from the teachers' observations of the children's play and previous experience with classroom materials. In our classrooms we have noticed how loose parts offer children the freedom to create, investigate, and think deeply about a material which created for them even more questions about what they can do with the material.
These questions, from the child's own wonders, are what the teachers look to to expand or learn more about in order to offer more resources, whether material or a scaffold of ideas, to see what they may discover next.
So just what are our children learning as they play with loose-parts, you ask yourselves? Just take a look at the assortment of pictures that have been collected through the past two months, displayed on the lobby bulletin board.