A Day in the Life of Early Start
Early Start……starts early. Try as I may, I can’t seem to ever get us all there on time with shoes on and diapers clean. I’m starting to think the pigs might fly if I did. Nevertheless, we have a packed three hours of development fun twice a week. Here’s a little window into Whitney’s Early Start days.
WORK TIME. When we arrive, we grab her “work basket” and a seat at the table. All the kids (Dylan included) have their name and picture on chairs, cubbies, etc.. The workbox has a collection of fine motor and cognitive items specific to what Whitney is working on: i.e. sorting by objects (spider vs. caterpillar) and color, putting things on pegs, pulling (arm/hand strength), puzzles (matching and turning the pieces to fit). The basket keeps getting updated as her skills develop.
CIRCLE TIME. We sing a Good Morning song and each kid takes a turn walking across a balance beam to pick their picture off the school bus and velcro it to the school house. The teacher introduces a collection of icons the kids get to choose from that represent various songs and activities.
One of my favorites is a song where they have instruments and they learn to stop and go with the music. I also love the firetruck song because the kids are adorable with the props. Other fun things are: shaking pompoms fast/slow, up/down, on your head/knee; practicing oral motor skills with recorders and blowing bubbles; looking in the mirror to see putting on a hat or coming under an umbrella; and of course, dancing the hokey pokey.
MOTOR ROOM. The kids each take a turn picking what they want to do from two pictures. It was amazing to see Whitney make choices this way – pointing to things, in the beginning it seems like an accident but over time I began to trust that she was really communicating. For a while there was a blind girl in her class and they would hold up the foam from the trampoline and the rope from the swing to let her choose that way – it is beautiful to see each kid interact more with the world around her. After all the kids choose they run around and burn off some energy. Whitney loves the mini-stairs and admiring herself in all the mirrors.
SNACK TIME. It’s a time for oral motor development, but also a big opportunity for communication. The school uses icons for snack so the kids can point to “more” and “yogurt” or whatever. Snacks sometimes attempt to introduce new textures (crunchy vs. slippery) and flavors. There are a number different warm up activities to snack we do that involve touching the mouth and cheeks to “wake up” the muscles for eating. My kids have no trouble putting away food, but these same activities also help Whitney control her mouth/tongue when she’s not eating and also develop clearer speech.
PLAY TIME. Before Whitney could walk she pushed around a weighted shopping cart to build strength and coordination. We either head out to the playground or if it’s cold we go to another room where there is an obstacle course set up with tunnels, beams, rocking things, and a bounce house.
ART. Sometimes it’s stickers, sometimes it’s crayons or markers, sometimes it’s paint that gets EVERYWHERE. The focus is sensory play, so they want her to get into it, and boy does she. We’ve retired a few good outfits thanks to art.
GOODBYE CIRCLE. After a little free play the kids gather again in their chairs and the teacher blows bubbles and reads a few stories (and my kids sit enraptured). We sing Goodbye and the kids take their pictures off the school house and put them back on the school bus.
We’ve loved our time at Early Start (through the County Office of Education). Whitney has learned so much this past year in her little class, as well as in the two years before when we went to Baby Group. We are currently in the middle of a summer school month and then Whitney will start Pre-Kindergarten with the public school district in August. Thank you Early Start for all you’ve helped us with in the past three years! We’re really going to miss all our friends there!