Hands on Patterning and Loose Parts Play

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For the past few months, I’ve noticed H has been showing an increased interest in patterns (which she so endearingly pronounces “pattrins”). She points them out in clothing, when we walk outside, in food and in her play.

While she still has a simple understanding of patterns, not having quite realized the full definition or complexity of what constitutes a pattern, she shows pride in being able to recognize them.

To deepen her knowledge and understanding, we’ve read these books which are part of my personal collection.

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I’ve been wanting to give her a hands-on way to create her own patterns and further investigate the concept. This morning, I finally set out a very simple activity for her on the still-crumb-covered kitchen table. By sharing how our experience unfolded, I hope to show you all the potential of loose parts (basically collections of items that can be used in many different ways).

I provided a tray that had two elements: dried kidney beans and yellow crystals. Originally I was not planning on prompting her and just wanted to see what she would do, but I thought some guidance might help, so all I did was ask her, “Can you make a pattern?”

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I was pleasantly surprised by her attention to detail as she carefully ensured the kidney beans and the gems all faced the same direction (she turned the kidney beans so that they would all be vertical and placed the gems on the widest side).

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When I saw that she was able to successfully create a pattern with two elements, I introduced a third: pink milk jug lids. She adjusted her pattern to incorporate these.

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When she could no longer reach one end of her pattern, she started working at the starting end. It was interesting because she did not know how to reverse the pattern since she was working in the opposite direction. I had to prompt her with saying the pattern out loud in the opposite direction – by drawing her attention to this fact, she was able to extend her pattern in the opposite direction correctly.

I was further impressed when she created a little game. She removed the milk jug lids and asked me, “What’s missing?” I said, “the lids!” and she said, “You’re correct!” She proceeded to removed the beans and then repeated her question.

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She then undid her pattern and started arranging the parts in shapes saying things like “I made a square! I made a circle!”

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After making shapes she decided to sort the pieces on the table and said “My bean collection is all done!” Even though I haven’t used the term “collection” in my dialogue with her, I marveled with what an intuitive term it was for a three year old to be able to refer to her loose parts as “collections”. After separating the three elements, she proudly exclaimed that she had three collections.

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H really enjoyed playing with the loose parts. She looked at the tray and noticed there were empty spaces so asked me for more. I went on a hunt around the house trying to find a jar of pennies I knew we had somewhere but was unsuccessful. I returned after ten minutes half-hoping she had lost interest, but she hadn’t. She was still sitting there. I checked the pantry and gave her some raw pasta and a pouch of blue beads. She happily announced that she had five collections and then said, “I’m mixing them up. They are having a big party. Tada!”

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After this, she loaded the tray back up, sorting the loose parts and said something about the parts going for a train ride. She noticed that one space was still empty so again asked for something to fill the space with.

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At this point it became clear that her play was transforming from being a mathematically inclined activity to open-ended dramatic play. She said the parts were soup for her friends that were sick. I offered her a pot and wooden spoon which she gladly accepted. She added blue beads to the pot commenting that they looked like rice.

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She asked me for some bowls for her soup and went on to pour some “soup” and feed her stuffed toys. She declared that they felt better after eating the soup but still needed to rest.

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When she was done playing, she resorted the pieces and left the tray on the floor. Seven hours later when she woke up from her afternoon nap, she approached the tray again and this time, mixed various elements in the pot. She poured the soup into the bowls and let her friend Lammie have a taste. She also fed me with the wooden spoon and then pointed it at my stomach so that Baby could get a taste too.

Loose part play is promoted by play advocates all around the world. It’s something my daughter really enjoyed in her toddler years. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to provide as many opportunities for it as I would have liked this past year (however it’s always in the back of my mind). By looking at how her play evolved over the day, I hope that you too, can see the value, depth and potential of this type of experience. She started with something more structured (but it was still based on her interests and initiative) and explored patterning, sequencing, geometry, counting, sorting, fine motor development, language and dramatic play. I’m curious to see what she will do next and how a broadening understanding of various patterning sequences will translate into her play.

 

Some Words and Photos from our Customers!

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Over the past three years, I have been incredibly blessed to meet some fantastic customers (some who have become good friends) through my work with Discovery Dome. In case you’ve ever wondered about what I do or the types of products I stock, I encourage you to give this post a read! Go all the way to the end as I’ll be sharing some important information 🙂

“I have bought several items (books and toys) from Discovery Dome and have been incredibly satisfied. The wooden heirloom, fair trade, non-toxic alphabet blocks (available in different languages) are a favorite of mine.
When I visited, Madiha took the time to sit with me and explain the benefits of each book/item. It’s really helpful that her education is in early childhood and development, as she was able to draw my attention to pros and cons of certain books that I wasn’t aware of. I love that the majority (if not all) of the items she carries are representative of various ethnicities and cultures. There is a beautiful and wholistic intention behind Discovery Dome, which is evident in the way Madiha interacts with her customers and in the items she chooses to stock. I strongly recommend Discovery Dome.” – M

“Everything they carry is addictive and you can’t just buy one cause there is soooo much variety! and even after you’ve purchased something for your little one you keep coming back for more for gifts for friends and family. All the products they carry have been personally reviewed and recommended by the owner (who has a little one of her own). This is especially great if you are a new parent or don’t have any kids of your own, just let her know the child’s age and gender and she will provide some great recommendations. Great service and quality products! … I’ll be BACK!!” – F

“I bought 2 books from the “I can” series, and a “Build a Masjid” toy for nephews/nieces for Eid, and they loved them! I also received a book from the same series and a Prayer Time Doll set for my son for Eid, and he absolutely loves them both! After seeing more of Madiha’s products, I couldn’t resist and also bought the Arabic Words Flash Cards, and I am extremely satisfied with this one too.
The best part of this experience was how wonderful and patient Madiha was all along. She was very accommodating with everything from payment method (she accepted email money transfers because I didn’t have cash) to helping me pick the best toy for my nephews/nieces. I will definitely continue to check Madiha’s latest additions and keep adding to my collection of educational toys/books. I was also fortunate enough to hear Madiha at a Story Circle Time, and she has an incredible story-telling and singing talent. Along with all the other kids, I was captivated the whole story time! Keep me posted with any future Story Circle Times Madiha  – A

“I am extremely satisfied with all the products I have bought  I bought a whole bunch of eid decorations, goody bags and presents for nieces and family and everyone loved it! The goody bags were loved by all the kids and I cant say enough about how happy I was with the services.

I would highly recommend Discovery Dome to all my family and friends!” – M

“I had the pleasure of co-hosting a children’s Ramadan costume party with Madiha and, just like her products, her services and creative skills are outstanding. She designed a wonderful treasure hunt with Ramadan relevant rhyming verses at every station’s clue, eventually leading to a treasure box full of chocolate coins which the children were elated to uncover! She also went through the trouble of cleaning dozens of baby food jars and proposed that the children paint them to make little lanterns- these were a hit with young and more mature children at the party! My favourite moment, however, was her fantastic performance during story time, where she entertained and engaged the little ones by narrating stories, singing songs and even employed a beautiful handmade felt board to add a lovely visual touch. 

I have purchased many of her books in the past and will continue to do so because she stocks the best quality in children’s Islamic lit. This time, I also invested in “Eid Mubarak” and “Adab” stickers which were used in the piñata, as well as for the Eid cards the children made. They were great quality and exactly what I was looking for.

I look forward to working with Madiha in the future. Her professionalism and expertise in her field as an early childhood educator makes her an asset in our community.” – S

When I started Discovery Dome, I intended to have a retail element, but I knew that’s never all that I wanted from Discovery Dome. At this point in my personal and professional life, I have chosen to focus on other aspects of my initiative and am therefore clearing out all of my existing inventory! I have some great products left, specifically Uncle Goose Wooden Blocks (these are sustainably-sourced and lightweight, high-quality blocks that come in various themes and languages and can be used in a number of ways!) and a range of books from Wisdom Tales and Saffron Press (Universal lessons and stories from different cultures and time periods). We also have stationary including cute Muslim-themed greeting cards, notebooks and stickers. Below are a few examples of what we have left (we have more!) – all selling at COST PRICE!

I look forward to hearing from you!

-Madiha

Tools are Cool- Post #4: Cardboard Construction

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Anyone with a young child has probably learned a few things about children and play. One of these revelations is that you don’t need to spend a lot of money to entertain or engage children. This moment is probably most acutely realized after you hand an infant a new toy and they spend more time playing with the box the toy came in, than the toy itself.

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Boxes hold beautiful potential and offer a world of possibility for children. Similarly, other materials like paper, cardboard and paint can often help support children’s ideas of what the box should be.

This packaging from Ikea provided weeks of play for H in the months of January and February. It was almost like a five-sided box that had natural creases on two of the sides. H instantly declared that this was her boat and began fishing. Some time later, by simply undoing the sides, it became her rocket ship.

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Her rocket ship play lead to a discussion about direction and soon she was heading east to Montreal. She transferred this knowledge to our car rides and started asking/suggesting what direction we should drive in.

Sometimes she went on solo trips and sometimes she went with friends. Sometimes only her friends went and she bid them farewell.

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I extended her play by providing paint and stickers so she could decorate her rocket ship the way she wanted. There’s nothing exciting or captivating about this. This is my way of engaging her with everyday things on short notice. That being said, I know it’s empowering for her to make things her own.

The next day, while I napped, she quietly decided to take matters into her own hands…and legs. It was another one of those magical moments where I stood frozen wondering why this always happens to me! After our last few food colouring disasters in the fall, I stored the paints and food colour in the basement (out of reach) but thought leaving them in the kitchen for less than the one hour we were home before we had to go to swimming would be no big deal. Lesson learned!

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A trip to Costco gave us another box. This one became her official boat.

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While none of these experiences required special tools, I was really excited to provide H with this cool tool set I came across online. We bought it locally from Lee Valley Tools.

I knew she would still be a little young to really make the most of it, but it was really empowering for her to use the scru-driver and actually watch the
“screws” turn into the cardboard.  She looked at the packaging and said that she wanted to make a dollhouse, so we used yet another Costco box and an old pull-ups box.

As I expected, H wasn’t fully engaged in this process because it was challenging (and she got distracted by playdough). She helped with attaching some of the pieces and provided her input, for example, when I was trying to add in stairs she said, “How about we use a string instead?” So we did. But she does enjoy playing with it. It’s currently on display in our playroom. To further extend this process (and to distract her when I needed a few minutes), I gave her stickers to decorate the house.

 

Then of course, her imagination soared. I happened upon this scene later and could only to try to guess what had happened here…image_2.jpeg

There are a variety of tools designed for various purposes and to carry out various functions. The tools we explored in this series had to do with building and construction because those are the ones H was interested in when we started, but I look forward to introducing other types of tools related to art, cooking and gardening as the year progresses since she has also grown to be quite interested in those areas. Hopefully it can help broaden her perspective and understanding of tools and provide her for more opportunities for fine motor development.