Small is Beautiful offers development support to preschool children in a unique way and in choosing this path moves well beyond generally accepted practice.
Term Two report by Danielle Watkins
During Term Two I have been lucky enough to experience a range of professional development opportunities. These have been presented within the Centre as well as outside of Small is Beautiful. The first workshop was with Liz Yeats, sharing her knowledge about the Griffiths Development Checklist and the second one was a workshop about autism by Neil Stuart.
Liz Yeats gave me a great understanding of what stages are critical for children aged three to five. Liz spoke about different activities and tasks that show us ways in which we can strengthen these stages and provide support for achieving new milestones. Liz spoke about our busy books and pointed out which activities have fundamental processes for child development. All SiB’s busy book activities provide our learners with a range of fine motor movements, help develop bilateral skills (working both sides of the body), develop correct pencil grip as well as learning about colours, animals and patterns.
Along with busy books we also integrate different movements, dances, songs and stories into our mat times. Each mat time is different from the previous ones and all children have equal opportunities to join in and have some fun. The children can’t wait to listen to their favourite songs as well as the chance to get hold of the stretchy cord or Lycra.
While we develop ways to enhance a child’s fine and gross motor movements we also try to develop ways to provide a positive, inclusive environment to allow children to feel at home and comfortable.
Another workshop was about strengthening early learning opportunities in autism in early childhood settings. Autism is a learning difficulty I have been involved with through general life experiences as well as my work and study. While I have personally been influenced by unique learners it comes to my attention that there are effective ways in which we can support these learners. It is fundamental to my teaching practice that I develop ways in which I can help children become strong, competent and confident learners. While we develop ways to support children who are on the autism spectrum, Neil reminded us that ‘it is not the autistic child that needs to change, it is us’. He gave this example: for the autistic child it is as if they are always walking down a dark alley. Do they really know what is at the other end? Are they confident to explore and widen their horizon? Do they feel safe to continue or do they stop and react with fear?
Neil spoke to us about ways in which we can work through these situations to ensure these children are comfortable within their surroundings, remembering this might have to happen multiple times in one day. Together it is important we keep open our communication and allow all children to be able to work through areas where they don’t feel safe.
Val was approached by award-winning researcher Dr Qilong Zhang to co-author a research article on SiB’s system.
In May 2016, Dr Zhang and Val presented a 45 minute interactive workshop in Rotorua at the Early Childhood Council’s Annual Conference.
The results of Dr Zhang’s research can be read in Early identification within inclusive early childhood curriculum: an ethnographic study from New Zealand, published in the journal “Early Child Development and Care” 2018.