The area of the pre-school room that I have chosen to critically evaluate is the dress up area. Our pre-school consists of 20 children aged 3-4 years old spread over two sessions, and comprises both boys and girls. In our pre-school we have two polish children, one boy and one girl, who speak both English and Polish, one Chinese girl and one Zimbabwean boy. The rest of the children are Irish. Our pre-school room is one large room in a general childcare facility, located at the rear of the building adjacent to the after-school room, and opens out onto the outdoor play area.
The development of a learning environment which supports children‘s learning, socialization, interests and needs, is one of the foundation stones to quality early years curriculum and service. According to Aistear, taking time to develop a good indoor and outdoor learning environment will assist in the development of your curriculum and provide a welcoming and supportive learning atmosphere for the children.
There are two roles for the adult in preparing this environment: organising it and resourcing it. In a pre-school room the space should be divided into interest areas i. e. child-sized areas rather than in a single large group space. The supervisor should create well-defined areas of interest that encourage a variety of types of play and helps children see and experience the choices on offer. As you enter our room, the room the sinks and wash up area are to the left, as are the toilets.
To the right is the table top area and arts & crafts corner. To the rear of the room, the book and reading corner is on the left hand side adjacent to the construction area, the dress up stand is along the back wall, and the home corner is a separate area on the right hand side.
Our building is relatively new and the room is bright and airy, with most of the toys and equipment in a good state of repair. There is no obviously old or shabby area that needs attention. Primary Research In deciding which area of the room needed improvement, I needed to conduct some primary research. The areas of assessment and planning have become increasingly important in childcare. In order to support children’s learning and development, providers must support each individual child by providing appropriate opportunities, experiences, activities, interactions and materials within the daily service.
Therefore, I decided to carry out an observation on the children playing, and an informal interview with the children. Observation and assessment processes can be used to identify the effectiveness of the setting, specific areas of the setting, specific activities and the practitioner.
Through observing the children and/or the learning environment we can revise plans and, perhaps, changes to the environment, to improve provision. In carrying out my research I: • observed the children when they were playing using a trail record observation sheet to determine the most and least popular areas of interest.
• observed how the space and organisation of the environment was supporting or hindering play • interpreted what I saw and heard in the play • used the assessment information gathered in planning for improving the play areas. The children were invited to participate and give their opinions on the room during the informal interview with the group. Indeed consulting with the children in relation to the development of the space and materials can be empowering for the children and give them a sense of ownership.
The results of my research indicated to me that the book area and dress up areas were the least utilised areas of the room during free play time. The book area didn’t overly concern me, as we incorporate reading and storytelling into our curriculum during the day, but I was concerned to see the lack of interest in the dress up area. Home Corner/ Dress Up Area The dress up area should be a very active area in the preschool room where children engage in a lot of role play.
When children put on dress-up clothes and pretend to be grown up, they are discovering more than how it feels to dress as an adult. “Pretend play” helps children to understand how other people think and feel. It gives children the opportunity to discover new experiences or new places they can see only in their imagination. This is called symbolic thinking and is indicative of Piagets pre-operational stage of development. Symbolic thinking is an important, complex skill necessary for many tasks in life, including language and communication, social skills, and even algebra and geometry.
When we watch children playing in dress-up clothes, we notice they often use problem-solving skills they see adults use. Negotiation and shared responsibility become easier when children are pretending to be adults. They are gaining a sense of adult rules and expectations. Sometimes children may find the dress-up area a place to confront fears and work through stressful situations. By pretending to be a doctor or a monster, a child gains a sense of power over the unknown, or by acting out a traumatic event and talking about it, it becomes less scary to the child.
Furthermore, engaging in dress up play can help further develop practical skills, as little fingers are learning to tie, zip, button and snap. Providing dress up supplies and dress up time allows young children to practice these skills without the pressures of time constraints. Preschoolers will be building fine motor skills and improving self-help while using their imaginations, enjoying creative play and having fun. Dress up play also encourages language skills as kids discuss amongst themselves what they are wearing, the colours and textures of the clothes, and the roles they are playing.
Proposal of Recommendations From my observations, I saw that the children often bypassed the dress up stand on their way to other areas, or at times even forgot that it was there. When the children did stop and have a look, they usually pulled out one costume, put it on and ran off to play elsewhere. Our dress up area consists of a child sized clothes rail with 4 costumes 1 x fairy, 1 x princess, 1 x bob the builder, 1 x fireman, and two baskets with some doctor/nurse paraphernalia, a few scarves, a straw hat, a couple of Halloween masks, fairy wings, a crown and a plastic gun.
It became obvious to me from my observation and interview with the children that our assortment of dress up clothes was completely inadequate, both in quantity and in variety. Our costumes were limited to a number of fairytale or cartoon characters, with no reference to ordinary everyday practical contexts. I also realized that we were sadly lacking in accessories, to enable the children to adapt and change the outfits on a day to day basis, thus maintaining interest and motivation.
Furthermore, the location and display of the dress up clothes needed attention, to attract the children to this very important play area. Rather than the dress up area existing as a separate area, it should be incorporated into another relevant interest area such as the Home Corner, to help extend play between areas. I picked up on this concept from observing the children, when one child dressed up as a fireman and then went to the Home Corner to “put out a fire” in the kitchen.
Of course it comes naturally to children when engaging in symbolic or pretend play to link areas such as dress up and home corner. In conducting some reading and research into how to effectively organize a dress up area, I learned that the area should be attractive and inviting to children, yet well organised in order for children to discover and explore various costumes, accessories and items of clothing. There also needed to be enough space to allow groups of children to play in the area at the same time. Materials and equipment should be kept visible to the children and easily reached.
The supervisor should make sure that the shelving is low level and that dress up equipment is within easy reach of the children. Choosing see-through containers allows the children to see what is inside without taking it from the shelf, or using labels on the outside of the boxes would help the children greatly in choosing items and also at tidy up time, which is an important part of the High/Scope philosophy. In addition to these criticisms of our dress up area, I realised that we have not made any effort to bring cultural or ethnic diversity to our selection.
In developing the home corner and dress up area, you should take the profile of the children attending your service into account. Our pre-school has 4 children of different ethnic backgrounds attending, and we as room leaders should endeavour to include their ethnic clothes, music, dance, food and customs into the room, as well as those of other ethnic groups also. Implementation of Recommendations I had an informal meeting with my pre-school colleagues and the centre manager to outline my observations, and proposal of recommendations for improving the dress up area.
From this meeting we came up with the following plan of action: |Improvement Area |Action Required |Delegated to |Comments | |Location of dress up area|To be moved to, and incorporated into |Myself & |The layout will be changed one afternoon| | |the home corner |colleague |after playschool session | |Display |Additional rail needed |My colleague |My colleague was to purchase items after| | |Two coat racks to be fitted on wall | |funds made available by manager, and | | |Baskets to be swopped for clear storage| |arrange for assembly with caretaker | | |boxes | | | | |Two additional boxes req.
| | | | |Full length mirror req. | | | |Variety |Additional costumes req. |My colleague |Funds to be made available by manager | | |Additional everyday clothing items req. |Myself |for purchase of costumes. Other items to| | |Ethnic clothing req. |Myself |be sourced by myself via request for | | |Variety of accessories req. |Myself |parental contributions and charity | | | | |shops/ jumble sales | |Curriculum |Dress up time to be strategically |Myself & |We will do this through drama, music and| | |incorporated into curriculum |colleague |dance activity.
| Therefore to follow through on our plan of action, our centre manager made €100 available for the purchase of necessary items and additional costumes. My colleague went to Home base and purchased the coat racks, child clothes hangars, storage boxes and mirror, and then purchased a child sized clothes rail in Smyth’s as well as some new additional dress up items. These items included a policeman’s costume, nurse’s costumes and some additional props.
Dress up clothes should ideally comprise a wide variety of clothes which reflect the occupations of family members, local customs and people in the community, and should not be limited to superheroes or stereotyped dress up clothes. We re-arranged the home corner incorporating the dress up area on a Thursday afternoon, and my colleague had the caretaker fit the coat racks on the wall beside the clothes rails and the mirror. I sent home a letter with the children requesting donations for our dress up corner including a variety of accessories, and I also included the request in our pre-school newsletter.
I also asked all the staff in the childcare facility for same. I made sure to specify that all donations should be clean, in a good state of repair and non hazardous for children. I included a list of suggested items which would be greatly appreciated. The response was overwhelming and we took in approximately 5 black refuse sacks of items for use in the area. I went through all the items and took out what I felt was appropriate. These items were washed and sanitized, and double checked by my colleague and centre manager for any safety hazards.
I took the remainder of the dress up items given to us, and donated them to our nearest Barnardos charity shop on behalf of the pre-school. This list of items I requested was as follows: |Phones |Old Hair Dryers – Cords Removed |Sunglasses | |Small suitcases |Hats |Large fabric pieces | |Purses & Wallets |Aprons |Belts | |Baby items such as bottles, dodies, babygro’s, |Ties |Feather boas | |blankets etc. | | | |Empty toiletries i. e. shampoo bottles, facecream jars|Scarves |Jackets or shirts with buttons, zippers and | |etc.
|Capes & Shawls |snaps | |Sponge Curlers |Tool belts |Crowns | |Handbags |Uniform items |Shoes with laces | |Small dresses |Football kit |Wands | |Leg warmers |Gloves | | We managed to procure most of the items requested via donations, and the families of the foreign national children very kindly donated some items of clothing and accessories from their cultures. For example the mother of the Chinese girl very kindly gave us a piece of Chinese silk fabric and a Chinese fan, whilst the Zimbabwean family gave us an ethnically printed tunic and a small turban style printed hat.
We carefully displayed all our dress up items so as to make it interesting for the children to try different combinations, and make it easy for them to find things. Dress up clothes were put on hangars on the rails, hats and belts and aprons etc. were hung on the coat racks, whilst scarves and other accessories were stored in clearly labeled storage boxes and baskets at the base of the rails. A special basket was filled with props such as wands, microscopes, toy swords and other such items to bring fantasy to life.
One very important new addition to the dress up area was a full length mirror, which was fitted to the wall beside the rails. This is very important in maintaining interest in the dress up area, and helps the children to observe and assess their choices. Furthermore, allowing kids to self-verify the results of their work is very Montessori. The overall result is that we now have a first class area which the children love. The time spent in the dress up area and home corner area in general has increased hugely, and the children have great fun trying different combinations of costumes.
[pic] [pic] Bibliography Harding, Jackie Meldon Smith, Liz “How To Make Observations & Assessments” 2nd Edition Hodder & Stoughton UK Hayes, Noirin “Early Childhood An Introductory Text” 1999 Gill & MacMillan Dublin Madigan, Imelda “Defining, Assessing and Supporting Quality in Early Childhood Care and Education: The High/Scope Ireland Model http://www. cecde. ie/english/pdf/Questions%20of%20Quality/Madigan. pdf Miller, Patricia H “Theories of Developmental Psychology” 2002 Worth Publishers US.
Sylva, Kathy Lunt, Ingrid “Child Development: A First Course” 1982 Blackwell Publishing UK Aistear – National Council for Curriculum and Assessment www. ncca. ie www. education. com http://www. ehow. com/how_10055611_set-up-fancy-preschool-classroom. html#ixzz29Hs4JKT9 http://www. kildarechildcare. ie/wp-content/uploads/Guide-to-Play-The-Learning-Environment. pdf http://education. scholastic. co. uk/resources/144269 http://www. sagepub. com/upm-data/9656_022816Ch5. pdf
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