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Early Years Bulletin

Autumn 2015 vol 3, no 1

Focus on Pre-K and K editors: Jennifer Baumgartner & Cynthia DiCarlo

Contents p. 2 Children’s Books

The Critical Importance of the Arts in Preschool by Wendy L. Hardy, University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg, Greensburg, Pennsylvania


aving taught creative arts class at the university, preschool, and elementary levels, as well as having observed countless early childhood and elementary classrooms, I am concerned about the state of early childhood arts education in today’s schools. In many schools, the arts are considered unimportant or out of reach of school budgets. In other cases, standardized test scores and school sports are considered more important. Over the last 10 years, the percentage of elementary classrooms in the United States that have visual arts instruction has decreased from 87% to 83%, and the percentage of elementary classrooms with drama instruction has decreased from 20% to 4% (Armario, 2012). Yet arts are important for education, especially for young children. Art should be taught early and often to be most effective. Arts experiences allow children to build skills with tools and materials, grow emotionally, and try new things with a sense of independence and autonomy. Additionally, the arts strengthen problemsolving and critical-thinking skills and encourage self-discipline while engaging the senses, increasing body awareness, and building fine and gross motor coordination. Arts education should be “viewed as a vital part of the curriculum,

p. 8 Understanding the Development of Executive Function in Infants and Toddlers p. 12 Suggested Books for Infants and Toddlers p. 13 Physical Literacy in Early Childhood p. 20 Activities for the Classsroom

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The Economic Power of Quality Care As early childhood professionals, you know the importance of quality early experiences for young children. Unfortunately, quality care experiences are left out of most economic calculations. The new Social Wealth Economic Indicators model, from the Caring Economy Campaign (, shows that caring for people and nature is essential for a strong and equitable economy. The Social Wealth Economic Indicators show the benefits of public and private investment in care, not only for care professionals themselves, but also for the economic competitiveness of nations. These indicators give child care advocates a new tool with which to fight for better compensation and better care, thus creating a stronger, more prosperous future.

Early Years Bulletin

Autumn 2015

Children’s Books

Susan Catapano, University of North Carolina-Wilmington

Child, Lauren THE NEW SMALL PERSON. ISBN 978-0-7636-7810-4. Sommerville, MA: Candlewick Press, 2014. 32 pp. $17.99. This book features Elmore Green, a child of color, who was an only child until a small person came to live at his house. Instead of getting to eat all the jellybeans from his uncle and be the center of his parents’ attention, Elmore had to share the spotlight with the small person. Elmore could not watch his favorite shows and the small person knocked over Elmore’s toys. The small person followed Elmore everywhere and even moved into his bedroom. Finally, Elmore starts to see the value in having a small person in his life who understands and looks up to him. This is a perfect book to read when a new baby is expected or to include in a text-set on siblings. Ages 4-8.

in reunions, vacations, and other typical activities. Although the photos are very diverse, all of the pictures do seem to represent middle-income families. This book offers a chance for children from diverse families to see themselves and their families in a book. Ages 4-8. Jenkins, Steve, & Page, Robin NATURE’S PERFECT PACKAGE: EGG. ISBN 978-0-54795909-2. New York, NY: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015. 32 pp. $16.99. This informational text describes how eggshells protect animals born in the wild. It describes animals that lay eggs and those that start out as eggs but are born live. The illustrations of eggs include one of an unhatched dinosaur egg, to indicate how common it is for an animal to start life in an egg. Information is included on number, composition, and protective properties of eggs, and where they are carried. There are also descriptions of animals that eat other animals’ eggs. Finally, the book examines what is inside the egg and how a hatching animal gets out of the egg. A glossary provides more information about all of the animals presented in the book. This book is a good addition to a science area in a classroom. Ages 4-8.

Weidner, Teri ALWAYS TWINS. ISBN 978-0-8234-3159-5. New York, NY: Holiday House Books, 2015. 32 pp. $16.95. This book is beautifully illustrated and describes the special relationship between twin ducks. They look just alike but they enjoy doing different things. They argue and help each other when one gets into trouble. This book is a good addition to a pre-K to 1st-grade classroom if there are twins in the group. Ages 4-8.

Dodd, Emma WHEN YOU WERE BORN. ISBN 978-0-7636-7405-2. Sommerville, MA: Templar Books, an imprint of Candlewick Press, 2015. 24 pp. $12.99. Emma Dodd’s simple, yet beautiful, illustrations and text make this book a perfect first read-aloud for infants and preschoolers. The story describes the joy at the birth of a baby—from elephants,

Rotner, Shelley, & Kelly, Shelia M. FAMILIES. ISBN 978-0-8234-3053-6. New York, NY: Holiday House Books, 2015. 32 pp. $17.95. Rotner and Kelly use photography to highlight different kinds of families. The topics covered include family size, composition, diversity, adoption, same-sex couples, and extended families. Photos show families engaged

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dog with a comical face to tell the story of going to the beach on a sunny day. The dog must bring his hat, goldfish, umbrella, and lunch. He has a busy day and heads back home when the sun is setting. His only problem is worry about whether he forgot something. This book would be a good read-aloud for young children as the school year either ends or begins, to initiate discussions about what did or will happen on their summer vacations. Ages 5-8.

to seals, to humans. This book is part of Dodd’s Love You books. Ages 2-5. Knapman, Timothy, & Benson, Patrick SOON. ISBN 978-0-7636-7478-6. Sommerville, MA: Candlewick Press, 2015. 32 pp. $17.99. In this story, Raja, a baby elephant, and his mother are on an adventure through the forest. They must slip past crocodiles, a large snake, and a roaring tiger to make it to the top of the mountain. At every turn, Raja asks when they can return home and his mother says, “Soon.” Once at the top of the mountain, they survey the beautiful world. Their adventure home takes them back the way they came and they recall each of the animals they saw along the way. Ages 2-5.

Jonsson, Maria ASTRID THE FLY. ISBN 978-0-8234-3200-4. New York, NY: Holiday House, 2015. 32 pp. $16.95. Astrid is a fly that enjoys taking chances by flying close to the water in the sink and to the open oven. One day, when the refrigerator is open, Astrid flies in to get a piece of her favorite thing, Danish salami, but the door shuts before she can fly out again. Although her family has tried to warn her about some of the dangers in the house, she was not prepared for the cold, dark refrigerator. When the door is finally opened, Astrid flies out, warms and dries her wings, and vows never to go near the refrigerator again. This charming book has interesting illustrations and includes facts about flies. It would be a good addition to a collection about insects and bugs. Ages 3-7.

Ward, Helen SPOTS IN A BOX. ISBN 978-0-7636-7597-4. Sommerville, MA: Templar Books, an imprint of Candlewick Press, 2015. 40 pp. $16.99. This delightful story of individuality addresses the concept that we are all unique. A guinea fowl notices he does not have spots like the other guineas so he sends away for some. When they arrive, however, they do not look like the other guineas’ spots. There are big and small ones, and some that light up or are colorful. He finally decides that he must please himself with how he looks, rather than others, and chooses the spots he likes. This is a great book for a theme on “All About Me” or building selfesteem. Ages 3-7.

Rockwell, Lizzy A BIRD IS A BIRD. ISBN 978-2-8234-3042-0. New York, NY: Holiday House, 2015. 32 pp. $16.95. This informational text, in an easy reader format, gives facts about birds. The text describes things that all birds have in common: a beak, wings, and eggs. It also notes what is unique about different species of birds: wings can be used to swim or fly and a beak can be used to gather nectar or peck. Other critters with beaks, wings, and eggs also are discussed and their differences identified—a platypus has a beak but is not a bird, for example. This book is a good comparison and informational text for science curriculum. Ages 3-7.

Clark, Stacy, & Sneed, Brad WHEN THE WIND BLOWS. ISBN 978-0-8234-3069-7. New York, NY: Holiday House Books, 2015. 32 pp. $16.95. This book is a creative way to learn about the power of the wind. The story begins with what things are affected by the blowing wind—for example, a beach ball and sea grass—and moves into a description about how windmills work to create electricity. This book would be a great addition to the science area or a text-set on weather. Ages 5-8.

Stott, Ann, & Gilpin, Stephen WHAT TO DO WHEN YOU’RE SENT TO YOUR ROOM. ISBN 978-0-7636-6052-9. Sommerville, MA: Candlewick Press, 2015. 32 pp. $15.99. Ben and his dog are sent to his room because Ben was feeding the dog from the

Catrow, David FUN IN THE SUN. ISBN 978-0-8234-2945-5. New York, NY: Holiday House, 2015. 40 pp. $16.95. This well-known children’s book author and illustrator uses a small pudgy

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Autumn 2015 discussion of simple machines required in most early science curricula. Ages 5-8.

table. This book depicts a mischievous Ben, who is sent to his room often for things like chasing the cat with the vacuum cleaner or not doing his chores. As he waits for his “release,” he writes a letter of apology and then works on various projects, such as sharpening his pencils and taking his hamster out of the cage for exercise. Ben doesn’t have to wait too long for his release because he shares a room with his brother, who is sure to be sent their room soon. His mother won’t keep them together for fear of more mischief. This book is a good addition to a collection on behavior and selfregulation. Ages 4-8. Schneider, Josh EVERYBODY SLEEPS (BUT NOT FRED). ISBN 978-0544-33924-8. New York, NY: Clarion Books, an imprint of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015. 32 pp. $16.95. This rhyming text notes that all creatures must sleep. The pets in the house, the animals in the jungle, the chickens on a farm, and the fish in the ocean all sleep. But Fred has so many things to do, like shouting, jumping, karate chopping, and hunting the legendary Sasquatch at bedtime. Finally, Fred falls asleep, shhhhh. This book is a great read-aloud, especially at naptime. Ages 3-8. Gill, Timothy, & Numberman, Neil FLIP & FIN: WE RULE THE SCHOOL. ISBN 978-0-06224300-3. New York, NY: Greenwillow Books, an imprint of HarperCollins, 2014. 32 pp. $14.99. Flip and Fin are sand shark twins. This joke book follows the twins as they tell jokes to anyone on the ocean floor who will listen. The illustrations are colorful and depict a variety of ocean life. The jokes are silly and young children will find them delightful. Ages 4-8. McCully, Emily Arnold 3, 2, 1, GO! ISBN 978-0-8234-3288-2. New York, NY: Holiday House, 2015. 24 pp. $14.95. This I Like to Read title combines colorful illustrations with easy-to-read print. The concepts covered in the book include physics and counting. The elephants decide to play school and build a rocket ship with a tube and rope. They attach it to a tree using a pulley system, and launch it with a lever system. This would be an excellent book to start the


Lundquist, Mary CAT & BUNNY. ISBN 978-0-06-228780-9. New York, NY: Balzer & Bray, an imprint of HarperCollins Publisher, 2015. 32 pp. $17.99. This book about friendship features two children dressed like a cat and a bunny. It will enhance a unit on friendship and be a favorite in the classroom library. They do everything together; they were even born on the same day! One day, one of the other children asks to play a game Cat and Bunny made up and Bunny says sure. Soon, all the children want to play and Cat runs away to play alone. It isn’t long, however, before Cat realizes it is more fun to play with Bunny and all the other children. Ages 4-8. Ashdown, Rebecca BOB AND FLO. ISBN 978-0-544-44430-0. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015. 32 pp. $17.99. Another book on friendship (to go with Cat and Bunny), this easy reader features two penguins on their first day of preschool. Ages 4-8. Krumwiede, Lana, & Pizzoli, Greg JUST ITZY. ISBN 978-0-7636-5811-3. Sommerville, MA: Candlewick Press, 2015. 40 pp. $15.99. This great book is an extension of the preschool favorite, “Itzy Bitsy Spider.” On the first day of Spindergarten, Itzy decides to drop the Bitsy part of his name and just go by Itzy. The story unfolds as Itzy finds out it is hard to be a big spider and maybe it isn’t so bad to be called Bitsy. This is another good first-day-of-school book. Ages 2-5. O’Neill, Gemma MONTY’S MAGNIFICENT MANE. ISBN 978-0-76367593-6. Sommerville, MA: Candlewick Press, 2015. 40 pp. $15.99. Monty the lion has a magnificent mane. It is so magnificent, he gets into trouble by letting the meerkats play in his mane until they tangle it. Then, he gets too close to the fish in the waterhole and a crocodile bites off a large part of his mane. Everyone is in danger as the crocodile chases Monty back to where the meerkats are playing. Monty saves the day and realizes his pride for his mane is not as important as his friendship with the meerkats. Ages 3-7.

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Early Years Bulletin

continued from page 1 one that helps prepare children for productive and successful lives” (California Department of Education, 1997, para. 1). Children exposed to art are more likely to become well-rounded adults with an appreciation for the arts, even if they do not display proficiency in a specific art form. The “basics” of literacy are still an important element in the education system; national, state, and local standards for learning these basics abound, even at the preschool level. However, there are generally no specifications as to how to facilitate instruction for students. It is possible, therefore, for classroom teachers to meet basic standard requirements while exposing the students to the arts through integrated lessons, themes, and units. In order to implement an integrated arts curriculum, a basic understanding of arts education is helpful. In many instances, teachers may think they need a particular talent in music, art, dance, or drama in order to teach those subjects. Although an arts specialist is important in leading arts programs in schools, any teacher can teach integrated arts topics throughout the curriculum. By the time young children reach elementary school, many think they don’t like music or that they cannot sing. Early childhood educators can overcome these obstacles in different ways. For example, using children’s books, poetry, or finger plays can be an effective means of integrating arts. Arts specialists can also help create units and lessons that are truly integrated arts activities. Furthermore, teachers could work with community volunteer artists who can serve as mentors, partners, and instructors, thus facilitating ongoing professional development for both the arts specialists and the classroom teachers. Collaboration among arts educators, early childhood educators, community artists, and community-based arts organizations is the ideal method for furthering the arts by engaging young children in real arts experiences. Art or Crafts Is there a difference between art and crafts? Many teachers use the terms interchangeably. While both are important for different purposes, they are quite different and educators must be aware of the differences while teaching an art lesson, an integrated arts activity, or a

craft project. Art for young children involves exploring, discovering, and thinking in order to express themselves, and the outcome is unknown. Art is about the process rather than the product. The end result may not be on the level of a Rembrandt or a Copeland, but it will be an original work by the child that represents his or her thinking and feeling. Crafts, on the other hand, typically reinforce the topical theme and reproduce ideas put forth by the teacher. Many teachers (and parents) appreciate crafts for their cuteness, similarity, and neatness. In crafts, the product is emphasized rather than the process. Crafts are not necessarily bad. It is just important to use the word “art” when children are creating art and “craft” when they are making a craft project in order to differentiate the terms. This is an important difference to note and clarify in both the teachers’ and the students’ minds. Teachers can feel at a loss when it comes to locating authentic, process-based arts activities for their classrooms that represent creativity and choices for children. Listed below are simple arts experiences in the four arts categories for preschool/pre-K classroom teachers to try: Visual Arts—making collages with various materials of children’s choice, dripping liquid watercolors on coffee filters in various colors (this could be done either indoors or outdoors), sculpting in different mediums in order to feel the various textures, weaving with yarn and other natural materials on either a small wooden loom or a plastic cup with cuts made equidistant around the cup, painting with a glass marble inside a cardboard box lid. For the marble activity, tape a piece of construction paper in the box and drip in a few drops of various colors of paint. Students can roll the marble by rocking the lid back and forth, spreading the paint in different directions. Students also can use various art materials (sequins, cotton balls, rice, pipe cleaners, glitter, buttons, etc.) to create unique free art creations of their own. Music—composing music by making sounds on objects found around the classroom, such as tables; tapping repeating rhythm patterns on various body parts; making high or low pitches that sound like different animals; listening to classical music and moving to it continued on page 6


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Autumn 2015 * Children should have daily opportunities for aesthetic expression and appreciation through art and music. * Children should be able to experiment with and enjoy various forms of dramatic play, music, and dance. * A variety of art media, such as markers, crayons, paints, and clay, should be available for creative expression and representation of ideas and feelings. * Activities should make connections between visual arts and other disciplines. * Students should reflect upon the characteristics of their work and the work of others.

(fast/slow, start/stop, high for higher pitch/low for lower pitches); coloring to classical music on large pieces of paper based on how the music makes students feel. Movement—providing various materials, such as scarves and ribbons, to accompany children as they experiment with movements; using locomotor movement to move through space at different speeds, heights, and weights like animals; practicing various yoga poses; tossing a bean bag back and forth with music to develop fine motor skills. Drama—using puppets to incorporate different voices and having students create their own unique puppet interactions and characters; creating prop boxes (such as a pizza parlor, beauty salon, gardening, travel) to allow students to pretend with different specific scenarios; pantomiming movements of the teacher and then each other in silent “charades”-type activity.

These guidelines and standards show that, at a national level, the arts are valued by organizations setting standards for all children in all subject areas. Some of these mandates pertain directly to early childhood education. For example, the Arts Education Partnership produced a set of guiding principles for early childhood educators for integrating the arts throughout all resources for young children.

Art Curriculum in Schools Schools in the 21st century face challenges with regard to arts curriculum implementation. If a school has an arts specialist, he or she may face insufficient compensation, possible inadequacies in arts and pedagogical skills, an absence of interaction with other arts teachers, and insufficient administrative support. Additionally, non-comprehensive instruction across the arts curriculum, insufficient resources, an undervaluing of the arts, a lack of quality school and community partnerships, and insufficient facilities can further thwart productive arts education within school districts. These roadblocks to arts education trickle down and impact children and society. Learning Standards It is important for teachers and schools to realize that instead of taking time away from the core subjects, arts can be integrated in such a way as to make those core subjects more meaningful and engaging to students. In order for arts to be taught and valued in the classroom, standards must be in place. National mandates, such as developmentally appropriate practice from the National Association for the Education of Young Children (1997) and the national visual arts standards from the National Arts Education Association (1995), detail criteria for arts inclusion in early childhood education, such as:

Arts Activities Arts for young children involves allowing children to explore, experiment, and express themselves in an environment that is safe and secure. In true art activities, children draw from their inner resources and allow their creativity to flow. With young children, this creativity is primarily fostered through exploration. Allowing children to experience hands-on activities with diverse materials promotes creative expression at a critical time when young brains are developing rapidly. The arts can also foster positive peer and social group interaction and community connections, through outreach into the greater artistic world. The arts also allow children to connect to their own cultures or other cultures. Teachers can assist in directing these connections and group interactions by creating positive and meaningful arts environments and experiences. Teachers can support children’s art explorations in many ways, particularly by ensuring that children feel safe in their environment and in the production of the arts. Teachers should refrain from making personal comments on artistic or musical creations in order to avoid pushing their viewpoints on the children’s personal creations. continued on page 7


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continued from page 6 Educators also need to recognize the importance of divergent questioning in artistic experiences of young children. Using open-ended questions, such as, “What ideas were you thinking of when you painted that fish?,” encourages young children to reflect on the developmental processes involved with artwork and allows teachers to monitor and assess the comprehension of each individual child. Early childhood educators can become advocates for young children and the arts by attending trainings, taking advantage of continuing education opportunities, and utilizing community resources. This will allow them to become more familiar and comfortable with all areas of the arts in order to use them in the classroom on a daily basis. When the teacher fully embraces a well-rounded, integrated arts education, children will benefit and see the value of the arts in their lives. Resources Andang’o, E., & Mugo, J. (2007). Early childhood music education in Kenya: Between broad national policies and local realities. Arts Education Policy Review, 109(2), 43-52. Retrieved from Armario, C. (2012, April 2). Elementary school arts classes reduced, report says. Huffington Post. Retrieved from www. Blatt-Gross, C. (2011). Understanding artful behavior as a human proclivity: Clues from a pre-kindergarten classroom. Journal for Learning Through the Arts, 7(1). Retrieved from ERIC database. (EJ985608) Bredekamp, S. (Ed.). (1986). Developmentally appropriate practice. Washington, DC: National Association for the Education of Young Children. California Department of Education. (1997). Arts work: A call for arts education for all California students. Sacramento, CA: Author. Drew, W. F., & Rankin, B. (2005). Promoting creativity for life using open-ended materials. Spotlight on young children and the creative arts. Washington, DC: National Association for the Education of Young Children. Epstein, A., & Trimis, E. (2002). Supporting young artists. Ypsilanti, MI: High/Scope. Ferguson, C. J., & Dettore, E. (Eds.). (2007). To play or not to play


is it really a question? Olney, MD: Association for Childhood Education International. Geist, K., & Geist, E. A. (2008). Do re mi: That’s how easy math can be. Young Children, 63(2), 20-25. Gluschankof, C. (2008). Music everywhere: Overt and covert, official and unofficial early childhood music education policies and practices in Israel. Arts Education Policy Review, 109(3), 3746. Gronlund, G. (July 2008). Creative and thoughtful strategies for implementing learning standards. Young Children, 63(4), 10-13. Hernandez-Candelas, M. (2007). Policies for early childhood music education in Puerto Rico. Arts Education Policy Review, 109(2), 27-32. Ilari, B. (Nov/Dec 2007). Music and early childhood in the Tristes Tropiques: The Brazilian experience. Arts Education Policy Review, 109(2), 7-18. Ji-Hi Bae, N. (2004). Learning to teach visual arts in an early childhood classroom: The teacher’s role as a guide. Early Childhood Education Journal, 31(4), 247-254. Kohl, M. F. (n.d.). Art vs. crafts. Retrieved from www. Lasky, L., & Mukerji-Bergeson, R. (1980). Art: Basic for young children. Washington, DC: National Association for the Education of Young Children. Mikow-Porto, V. A. (1998). Improving basic education for all learners: The role of arts education. SERVE policy brief. Washington, DC: Office of Educational Research and Improvement. Retrieved from ERIC database. (ED429917) Moskowitz, E. S. (June, 11, 2003). A picture is worth a thousand words: Arts education in New York City public schools. New York, NY: Council of the City of New York. Retrieved from ERIC database. (ED480205) National Art Education Association. (1995). National visual arts standards. Reston, VA: Author. Spearman, C. (2000). Arts education: Searching its own soul. Arts Education Policy Review, 101(3). Retrieved from ERIC database. (EJ654727) Stephen, V. P. (1996). The visual arts and qualitative research: Diverse and emerging voices. St. Louis, MO: Association of Teacher Educators. Retrieved from ERIC database. (ED394980) Woodward, S. C. (Nov/Dec 2007). Nation building-one child at a time: Early childhood music education in South Africa. Arts Education Policy Review, 109(2), 22-42. Young Children and the Arts. (1998). Making creative connections. Washington, DC: Arts Education Partnership.

Early Years Bulletin

Autumn 2015

Focus on Infants & Toddlers editors: Laura Hooks & Nur Tanyel

Understanding the Development of Executive Function in Infants and Toddlers

by Nur Tanyel, University of South Carolina Upstate


n a child care center or preschool classroom, we often hear comments such as the following:

complete a task and planning, organizing, and adjusting emotional responses to social situations are some of the executive functions demonstrated by young children. Such skills begin to develop in infancy and continue throughout adulthood. Researchers agree that three dimensions work together to produce competent executive functioning: working memory, inhibitory control, and cognitive flexibility.

“She had that puzzle first—you need to wait for your turn.” “It is time to calm down and be quiet before we can start reading this book.” “We need to clean up before we go to lunch.” “Use your words, and tell me what you need.”

Working Memory. Working memory is the capacity to hold and manipulate information over short periods of time. For example, working memory allows us to remember and connect the information in one paragraph we read to the next paragraph. It allows us to organize our thoughts in order to take the necessary steps to solve a problem. Additionally, working memory helps children follow instructions, take a turn, and remember directions given by teachers or parents between activities (Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University, 2011).

Most teachers, parents, and child care practitioners use similar phrases as they urge children to stop, think, and sequence routines. The adults are asking children to focus, work with the information in mind, filter distractions, and make transitions in order to demonstrate self-control and self-regulation. We are born with the capacity to develop the skills necessary for self-regulation. However, mastery of these skills depends on our experiences from infancy through adulthood, as we practice them through repetition in care, school, and home contexts. Completing most tasks requires coordination of cognitive processes that direct, connect, and organize information in the brain, which then is expressed in behavior. This complex process is referred as executive function. This article will discuss the cognitive components of executive function and offer suggestions to parents and practitioners to help children practice skills that will help develop such cognitive processes and ultimately self-regulation.

Nine-month-old Kerri is playing with a scarf on the mat. Janette takes the scarf, covers her face, waits for a few seconds, and then removes the scarf, saying “Peek-a-boo!” Kerri smiles and squeals at Janette. Janette then puts the scarf on Kerri’s face and waits. A few seconds later, Kerri removes the scarf and smiles. Janette says, “Peek-a-boo!” Kerri smiles, looks, and tries to cover her face again and then says, “Boo!,” with a big smile.

Executive Function Cognitive Components The development of executive function skills is associated with the development of an interrelated neural network of systems, including but not specific to the prefrontal cortex part of the brain (Blasco, Saxton, & Gerrie, 2013; Kraybill & Bell, 2012). Maintaining attention in order to


As seen in this vignette, Kerri demonstrated working memory by hiding behind the scarf and pulling it away with a big smile after Janette’s invitation to play peek-aboo. These activities can be enhanced by hiding objects under the scarf and encouraging babies to find the continued on page 9

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thumbs or fingers for example. Other self-calming behaviors are learned, such as twirling hair or holding a security object (e.g., a teddy bear or a blanket). Parents and caregivers play a pivotal role in children’s development of inhibitory/emotional control. One of the key elements in children’s development is the development of trusting relationships and secure attachments (Frost, Wortham, & Reifel, 2008). Attachment is the most complex and crucial emotional bond that develops between the child and caring adults during the early years of life. Children take their behavioral cues from caring adults’ complimentary and responsive behaviors as adults model the appropriate responses and set reasonable expectations to promote emotional control. These strong affectionate bonds then become a secure base for expectations that will create a blueprint for future relationships and lead children toward emotional maturity as well as social competence (Greenspan & Greenspan, 1989). The intensity of children’s emotional reactions is determined by children’s temperament. Adults who model expression of emotions in acceptable ways within the social and cultural context help children develop awareness of different emotions. With this awareness, children eventually begin to identify and control their strong feelings themselves. Adults can help toddlers by recognizing, labeling, and understanding their emotions, which, in turn, helps young children gain control and develop emotional regulation. Adults can help infants and toddlers learn inhibitory/ emotional control and gain social competence by:

hidden object. Similarly, toddlers and preschoolers demonstrate working memory in simple memory card games or by finding specific objects. Adults may scaffold and strengthen working memory by asking questions such as: “What do we do next?” “What is behind the door?” “What do you think it is that you are feeling in the box?” “Would you like to draw a picture? Can you find the paper and markers on the shelf?”

These questions will help young children recall past experiences, events, and solutions, and apply what is recalled to current experiences. Working memory is a critical component of problem-solving activities, carrying out multi-step instructions, and becoming proficient at manipulating previous knowledge as well as mastering cognitive processes. Children with limited working memory may have difficulty remembering something shortly after seeing or doing it, or may struggle to stay on task. Practitioners and parents can provide visual support during the day to strengthen working memory. Pictures, symbols, and cues can be used to rehearse previous information in order to connect to the next activity. Verbal and visual reminders of daily schedules and routines also help enhance young children’s working memory. Pictures of toys on the shelf can be used to indicate where to place them after finishing an activity.

• Spending one-on-one time with individual children several times a day and adapting to their moods. Personal attention helps children organize their emotions and behaviors, especially when such organization is modeled by an adult. If the child is in an active mood, you might put on a song and dance together. If the child is in a quieter mood, simply holding the child in your lap and letting him or her observe your surroundings could be an appropriate strategy. Gradually, you may let the child take the initiative in deciding the activity. • Demonstrating emotional expression and regulation by reading books that contain emotional vocabulary and

Inhibitory/Emotional Control. Inhibitory/emotional control is the set of skills that children develop in order to filter thoughts, impulses, habits, and distractions, and ultimately respond in socially and culturally acceptable ways. Infants, toddlers, and preschool children learn to regulate their emotions as they interact with adults and their environment. Research indicates that inhibitory control relates to positive social and cognitive outcomes throughout the child’s life, which influences school success (Sasser & Bierman, 2012). Inhibitory/emotional control begins to develop from birth. Most infants appear to be born with the ability to calm themselves in times of stress, by sucking their

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Early Years Bulletin continued from page 9 situations. When reading books, using facial expressions and voices to model behavior will help the child not only develop the appropriate behavioral expression but also learn appropriate vocabulary to express emotions. • Helping toddlers clarify or elaborate on their intentions when they have difficulty expressing their emotions. Asking the child to verbalize their feelings will help them to stop and think about the emotion and what they can remember from their previous experiences, which, in turn, will stimulate the executive function. If the child is intensely crying, an adult may ask, “I can see that you are upset. How can I help you?” Or, “I cannot understand you. Take a deep breath and tell me what you need.” • Recognizing that children’s needs are important. Show empathy and caring to help children develop self-calming strategies. Recognizing and labeling children’s emotions and offering a calming activity will help them develop emotional regulation. For example, you may say, “I know you are worried today. Your grandmother is in the hospital, but her doctors and nurses will help her get well. Shall we read a book about what happens in hospitals?”

Autumn 2015 order to transition between activities, tolerate change, and have the ability to switch attention. Toddlers who are transitioning from home to child care are demonstrating cognitive flexibility by remembering the different rules of home versus child care. When parents or practitioners say, “We do not run inside,” it serves as a reminder to young children that it is acceptable to run outside but that walking is expected inside. Most children make this shift of change of rules without a reminder. However, some children will need not only verbal but also visual cues or even direct adult assistance in order to demonstrate such cognitive flexibility. In a toddler room, Lyle and Sam are playing with Duplo Lego blocks, while Mikaela, Jack, and Lilly are playing dress-up in the dramatic play area and Sophie is painting a picture at the easel. Keisha, the teacher, starts singing the “Clean-Up Time” song. Lyle and Sam start putting the blocks into the plastic containers, and Lyle says “Lunch, clean-up!” Sophie walks up to Keisha and asks for help: “Off, help.” As soon as Sophie has her smock off, she goes back to the easel in order to hang it up. Jack, Lilly, and Mikaela continue with the pretend play, ignoring the song. Keisha approaches the three singing the “Clean-Up Time” song and waits for them to begin cleaning up. Finally, Keisha stops singing and

As children get older, their feelings and self-calming devices progress from thumb sucking to labeling and expressing feelings, as they gain self-regulation with the support of sensitive and responsive adults (Katz, 2014). It is also important to emphasize that children who are considered slow to warm up or shy often engage in inhibiting behavior that is not obvious. Parents and practitioners can provide opportunities by demonstrating acceptance, scaffolding, and encouragement and allowing time for children to warm up to new activities and situations in order to build self-confidence and develop self-esteem (Blasco et al., 2013). Through this process, children will gain the social skills necessary to build and maintain friendships that will develop into social competence. Cognitive Flexibility. Cognitive flexibility is the ability to acclimate to change and set priorities according to the demands of change, and it enables us to adjust to different settings (Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University, 2011). Cognitive flexibility is particularly important for toddlers and preschoolers in

says, “It is lunch time. We need to stop playing and clean-up.”

As seen in the vignette, most children make such shifts with a routine reminder. However, some children will need not only verbal but also a visual cue or even direct adult assistance. A predictable environment that is responsive to children’s biological and temperamental attributes can help them gain cognitive flexibility. Creating predictable routines that are done in the same order every day, such as having an outside play time after morning snack time or a planned transition from lunch to nap time with a daily story time, helps children not only switch context but also develop cognitive flexibility. Providing visual cues for predictable routines will also help special needs and bilingual children. For example, pictures of children demonstrating the steps of the cleanup routine after snack time—washing hands and waiting in line—will reinforce cognitive flexibility. A small body of research suggests a connection between dramatic (symbolic) play and the development continued on page 11


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continued from page 10 of executive functions (Berk & Meyers, 2013). According to developmental psychologist Lev S. Vygotsky (1978), dramatic (symbolic) play fosters children’s executive function of self-regulation. During dramatic play, children use objects to substitute for events and other objects, and draw from experiences in their families, communities, or the wider world. For instance, the child pretending to be a parent follows the rules of being a parent or the child pretending to be a dinosaur conforms to the animal’s behavior. Therefore, dramatic play requires children to overcome impulse and switch to rule-regulated behavior, thus reinforcing cognitive flexibility (Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University, 2011; Kelly & Hammond, 2011). Suggestions for Practitioners • Provide opportunities to play memory games with infants and toddlers. Play peek-a-boo with babies often. Using an object, yourself, or the child in the game of peek-aboo will help develop working memory skills. Provide tools for toddlers who cannot reach for a hidden toy or a toy under the table. Ask questions such as, “How can we reach to the toy? What do you think we should do? Maybe if we used . . . , it may help us get to the ball.” • Establish a predictable environment. Create a predictable environment that is responsive to children’s biological and temperamental attributes. Keep the order of routines the same as much as possible. A predictable environment will help young children remember and practice the rules for each context. • Provide verbal and visual cues for children. Representing sequence of routines in pictures placed at the child’s eye level will remind the child what to expect and what is expected of him or her. Pictures of toys on the shelf indicating where they need to be placed after the play is over are good reminders of what is expected. Such pictures will also help children practice working memory and cognitive flexibility skills. • Provide opportunities for children’s dramatic (symbolic) play. Opportunities for dramatic play with various dressup clothes, dolls, pots and pans, paper, markers, figurines, cars, etc. will invite children to role play. Participating with the child also encourages him or her to practice cognitive flexibility skills as he or she switches roles.

• Provide opportunities for storytelling. Participate in activities to demonstrate storytelling and also encourage children to tell stories using props. Although toddlers have limited vocabulary, storytelling will not only stimulate language acquisition but also motivate working memory and cognitive flexibility skills. Scientific evidence on the development of executive function skills points to their significance for social and emotional competency as well as their impact on later development. Basic executive function skills begin to emerge by the end of the first year. By age 3, most children can organize themselves to complete a task, maintain focus in spite of distractions, remember daily routines, switch rules to different settings, and figure things out by using previous information and experiences. These skills—strong working memory, inhibitory/emotional control, and cognitive flexibility— are the foundation for reading, writing, and math (Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University, 2011). References Berk, L. E., & Meyers, A. B. (2013). The role of make-believe play in the development of executive function Status of research and future directions. American Journal of Play, 6, 98-110. Blasco, P. M., Saxton, S., & Gerrie, M. (2013). The little brain that could: Understanding executive function in early childhood. Young Exceptional Children, 17, 3-18. doi:10.1177/1096250613493296 Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University. (2011). Building the brain’s air traffic control system: How early experiences shape the development of executive function (Working Paper No. 11). Retrieved from Frost, J. L., Wortham, S. C., & Reifel. (2008). Play and child development. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Merill Prentice Hall. Greenspan, S., & Greenspan, N. T. (1989). First feelings: Milestones in the emotional development of your baby and child. New York, NY: Penguin. Katz, J. E. (2014). Guiding children’s social and emotional development: A reflective approach. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education. Kelly, R., & Hammond, S. (2011). The relationship between symbolic play and executive function in young children. Australasian Journal of Early Childhood, 36, 21-27. Kraybill, J. H., & Bell, A. B. (2012). Infancy predictors of preschool and postkindergarten executive function. Developmental Psychobiology, 55, 530538. doi:10.1002/dev.21057 Sasser, T. R., & Bierman, K. L. (2012). The role of executive function skills and self-regulation behaviors in school readiness and adjustment. Society for Research on Educational Effectiveness Research Report. ERIC Number ED530403 Vygotsky, L. S. (1978). Mind in society: Development of higher psychological processes. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.


Early Years Bulletin

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Suggested Books for Infants & Toddlers Press Here By HervĂŠ Tullet

The Day the Crayons Quit By Drew Daywalt & Oliver Jeffers

The Day the Crayons Came Home By Drew Daywalt & Oliver Jeffers

Beautiful Oops By Barney Saltzberg


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Early Years Bulletin

Physical Literacy in Early Childhood: Exploring Possibilities and Increasing Opportunities by Carla Vidoni, University of Louisville Amaury Samalot-Rivera, The State University of New York – Brockport Takahiro Sato, Kent State University


nitiatives to prevent child obesity and increase healthy lifestyles are a key aspect of public health policy. Early childhood is an ideal time to set the stage for young children to become “physically literate” (Maude, 2010). Physical literacy encompasses engagement in successful movement experiences that potentially promote a future active and healthy lifestyle (Whitehead, 2010). The National Association for the Education of Young Children and the Society of Health and Physical Educators (SHAPE America) have recognized that movement experiences impact the development of the whole child, and have established standards and guidelines related to physical activities in early childhood settings. SHAPE America suggests that acquisition and advancement of movement skills during the early years are crucial to individuals’ engagement in healthy lifestyles. With more than one in five U.S. children overweight (i.e., with body fat percentage 25-30%) and the rate of obesity in children (i.e., with body fat percentage above 30%) increasing, more time for physical activity in preschools and child care centers is clearly needed. However, some challenges limit the implementation of programs that offer appropriate movement and physical activity. Inadequacies in funding for equipment, indoor and outdoor facilities, space, and trained staff are some of the current barriers to achieving appropriate physical activity. These challenges can be met with small steps. The purpose of this article is to enlighten early childhood center administrators, teachers, and caregivers on how they can nurture children’s physical literacy by incorporating appropriate practices of movement and physical activity into preschools’ daily schedules.

Structured and Unstructured Physical Activity Time The former National Association for Sport and Physical Education, currently called SHAPE America, suggests that children who attend full-time preschool need at least 60 minutes of both structured and unstructured physical activity. Structured time refers to age-appropriate movement activities led by the teacher with the purpose of contributing to the children’s 1) learning and refinement of a variety of motor skills, 2) participation in simple and noncompetitive games that promote motor skill development, 3) maximized engagement in movement activities without being eliminated or waiting in lines, 4) involvement in balance stunts and simple tumbling activities, and 5) practice of rhythm and dance activities. Unstructured physical activity time refers to movement activities initiated by the children themselves. Unstructured time is recommended as an alternative to sedentary activities. Children can explore large outdoor equipment by balancing, swinging, and climbing; they also can play with balls, trampolines, balance boards, scooters, tricycles, or other wheeled vehicles (wearing appropriate safety gear). Taking children for walks around the school during unstructured time, changing distance and speed, can promote fitness as well as spatial, motor, and cognitive development. The structured and unstructured physical activity times can be divided into different small sessions (e.g., two sessions of 10 minutes, and two sessions of 20 minutes), with breaks or contrasting tasks to allow children to recover strength and maintain good energy levels. In order to provide children with healthy habits, sedentary


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Early Years Bulletin continued from page 13

Autumn 2015 Table 1. Fundamental Movement Skill: Prompts & Cues

time should last for no longer than 60 minutes. Teachers can break up long periods of sedentary activity time with quick and simple movement activities, such as “spin on your bottom,” jump or march in place, or even dance to a three-minute movement song. Both structured and unstructured times are opportunities for children to become physically literate, which encompasses motivation, confidence, physical competence, knowledge, and understanding. These opportunities occur when early childhood providers perceive that appropriate movement and physical activity are part of the holistic development and thus intentionally embed them into the daily schedule. Tables 1 and 2 show fundamental movement skills and body movements and related concepts. What Are Appropriate Movement Practices? Appropriate practices in movement skills for early childhood involve age-related foundational skills, which consist of fundamental motor skills, movement concepts, nonlocomotor movements, and body management skills. These skills are related to what movements our body can do, where and how the body can move, and the relationships between the body and our surroundings, such as people, space, and objects. Fundamental motor skills are related to locomotor and manipulative (i.e., object control) skills: • Locomotor skills allow movement from one place to another, including walking, running, skipping, sliding, galloping, leaping, hopping, and jumping. • Manipulative skills involve the manipulation and projection of objects, including catching, dribbling, striking, throwing, and kicking. These fundamental skills are complemented by: • Nonlocomotor movements, such as bending, twisting, balancing, turning, stretching, pushing, and pulling • Movement concepts related to body and space awareness, qualities of movement, and relationships such as above/below, over/under, around, fast/slow, clockwise/counterclockwise, and forward/backward/ sideways • Body management skills requiring integration of several qualities of movement, such as strength, agility, balance, flexibility, and coordination.


Prompts for Correct Performance/ Cues for Assessment

Locomotor Run

• Pump your arms • Heels close to buttocks


• Step & hop • Arms back and forth (opposition to legs)


• Side to side • No crossing feet


• Step-together (no crossing feet) • Look forward


• One foot behind • Lift up


• Two-feet together forward (horizontal) • Arms upwards


• Stretch one leg • Giant step

Manipulative Catch

• Watch the ball • Reach for the ball (catch with hands)

Roll (bowling)

• Tick Tock (Swing arm) • Bend knee

Throw underhand

• Tick Tock (Swing arm) • Point to the target

Throw overhand

• Side to target (point to it like a ‘T’) • Step & throw (make an ‘L’ with throwing arm)

Dribble (Bounce)

• Push the ball down • Use fingerpads (not a slap)

Strike (with hands)

• Palms up • Swing hand toward target (up or forward)

Kick (inside of foot)

• Swing leg • Sweep the ball

Children’s appropriate practice of foundational skills and their understanding of movement vocabulary can help them control their bodies and build a motor skills repertoire that will increase the likelihood of their future participation in physical activities. Teachers can encourage children to perform these movements during structured and unstructured time, but also can use them in the classroom for physical activity or language arts purposes. For example, index cards can be continued on page 15


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Table 2. Body Movements & Related Concepts MOVEMENTS THE BODY CAN DO: Locomotor & Non-Locomotor Balance








Transfer Weight




DIFFERENT WAYS THE BODY CAN MOVE: Time, Speed, Rhythm, Force Accelerate/ Decelerate



Fast/ Slow

Strong/ Light


WHERE THE BODY MOVES: Space Awareness Directions

Counterwise/ Counterclock

Forward/ Backward

Right/ Left

Up/ Down

Location/ Relation to

Ahead/ Behind

Around/ Alongside

Lead/ Follow

Near/ Far

On/ Off

Over/ Under

Self-Space/ General

Together/ Apart









continued from page 14 illustrated with pictures of how the body can move. These cards could be used to set a theme of the day. With a card indicating “balance” as the theme of the day, children can walk with one foot directly in front of the other or on a straight line while going to drink water, to the cafeteria, or even around the classroom. The teacher can ask a child to pick a book from the shelf during reading time, and balance it on her head, on the palm of one hand, or on the top of her hands (palms down). If the theme card indicates “walk,” children can walk sideways (cue: steptogether-step-together) during various transitions during the day. If children are walking in line, all of them can walk in sideways with right foot in front, and later return with the left foot in front. They can also walk on their tiptoes, on their heels, backwards, taking small steps, or taking large strides. Engaging Children With Disabilities Some children with developmental delays may be able to participate in the same types of activities with their typi-


cally developing peers. However, some might need to be involved in activities that help develop other abilities. For example, if the disability involves lack of muscle tone (i.e., hypotonicity), or excessive muscle tone (i.e., hypertonicity), or dysfunctional sensory integration (i.e., when one or more senses are either over- or under-reactive to sensory stimulation), it is important to engage them in movements that increase strength (i.e., increase muscle tone), relax and stretch muscles (i.e., decrease hypertonicity), and improve space and body awareness, coordination, balance, object control, and locomotor skills (i.e., improve sensory integration). Exploring Movement During Unstructured Physical Activity Time Mindfully observe and prompt children to perform different skills and concepts while playing or moving, such as: • Bend, twist, or stretch when placing light objects on a shelf or in boxes continued on page 16

Early Years Bulletin continued from page 15 • Perform certain tasks their non-dominant hand or with their fingertips • Balance on one foot and then switch to the other foot (ask them to count how many seconds they can they balance on one foot) • Bend their knees while pushing or pulling heavier objects, or piling up tires, boxes, bricks, toys, etc. • Balance objects on two hands with palms up and/ or with palms down, with one hand (palms up and/ or palms down), and then with the other hand; some objects (e.g., a beanbag) can be balanced on the shoulder, fingertip(s), arm, thigh, or foot • Move differently: walking slowly, quickly, backwards, sideways (facing right or left), on tiptoes, and on heels; jumping at high, average, or lower heights, and at short or long distances; marching with high knees, pumping arms in opposition (elbows bent back and forth, like running) or touching the left thigh with the right hand and the right thigh with the left hand. Movement and physical activity is more appealing when the environment is purposefully set up for it. Examples of equipment and materials that can be part of unstructured movement time (under the teacher’s supervision) are: 1) different types of balls (e.g., yarn, playground, beach, paper, tennis, whiffle, fluffy) to kick, bounce, strike, catch, and throw overhand and underhand; 2) hula hoops to roll on the ground (like rolling a tire), spin around waist and arms, and jump over like a jump rope; 3) balance boards; 4) tricycles; 5) old tires to roll, pile up, line up, and jump over; 6) scooters (apply safety rules); 7) CD player with music to inspire dancing; and 8) an outdoor playground. Suggestions for Structured Physical Activity Time Structured time can be divided into several small sessions of activities, and longer ones outdoors or in a multipurpose room. In the classroom, for example, a teacher can play a movement song every morning before breakfast while all the children perform the same kind of movements together (e.g., hokey pokey or functional skill activities). Another example is a fiveminute stretch routine that can be led by the teacher before and after a sitting activity. Since preschool

Autumn 2015 teachers are typically creative and imaginative, they will have no trouble designing a sequence of stretches using pretend play. For example, they could direct children to “follow the bug with our fingers” while the children sit with legs wide and extended, bending the trunk forward, and reaching with their extended arms forward as far as possible—pretending they are following a bug. Several yoga poses are associated with pretend movements (e.g., baby pose, downward facing dog, cat, and cow). Adding soothing music in the background can be relaxing. Longer sessions of movement activities can occur both indoors and outdoors, depending on the available space. Activities with parachutes, for example, provide opportunities to practice numerous movement skills and build health-related fitness, such as flexibility, muscle tone, cardio-respiratory endurance, and functional fitness (e.g., posture control). Since parachutes can be costly, pieces of stretchy fabric cut into squares can be more economic alternatives. Activities can be done with palms up or palms down grips, lifting the fabric edges to high, medium, and low levels (muscular endurance and flexibility); shaking light objects (e.g., yarn balls, paper balls) on top of the fabric pretending they are popcorn kernels (muscular endurance); holding the fabric while performing different locomotor skills, such as skipping, sliding, galloping, and marching, at high, medium, and low levels (cardiorespiratory endurance). Hopscotch Multiple, varied hopscotch patterns (grids) can be designed for small groups of children to play— remember that waiting time is detrimental to the healthy benefits of movement time. Children can jump forward with two feet together, feet apart, sideways with two feet together (moving to the right and then to the left), at different distances, over small obstacles (e.g., beanbags), and on one foot (hop). Different sequences of jumps can be created to challenge the children. Figure 1 shows an example of hopscotch. Obstacle Courses When designing obstacle courses with different tasks, avoid using speed (i.e., decreasing time in performance) to challenge the children when accuracy of the continued on page 17


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Figure 1. Example of Hopscotch

continued from page 16 movements is the ultimate goal. Obstacle courses may include 1) jumping over small, varied items (i.e., beanbags); 2) balancing on lines (drawn with chalk) or ropes on the ground; 3) going under and over objects (e.g., benches, chairs); 4) throwing a beanbag (underhand) into baskets, buckets, or boxes; 5) using a ball to strike (or roll between) bowling pins, cones, or empty bottles; 6) balancing an object (e.g., beanbag) on their hands (palms up or palms down), on their head, or other parts of the body while walking along various pathways. Pretend Play It is important to note that imagination, self-esteem, and interactions with others and with the environment are also attributes of physical literacy. Listening to a great story during reading time is exciting. Being part of the story can be even more exciting and help develop physical, cognitive, and social skills. During structured physical activity time, children can act out stories. Pretend play may incorporate movement vocabulary and performance of foundational skills into the story. For example, in a made-up activity called “Wake Up Bear,” the teacher narrates a story about children who live in a forest. The pretend house (point A of the activity) is an assigned space behind a line drawn on the ground. On the opposite side (point B) is the bear house. The assistant teacher or a child can be the sleeping bear, lying down on the ground over a mat or rug. The activity begins with the clarification that the bear is a pretend bear, not a real one, and with information about safety procedures (i.e., how to avoid accidents while playing). Then, the teacher starts narrating the story: “The alarm is ringing . . . it’s 7 o’clock. Let’s wake up, have breakfast (pretend to eat and drink according to children’s context). Let’s put our boots on, pick up


our backpacks, and go into the forest to wake up the bear.” As the children move from point A to point B, the teacher prompts them to perform particular motor skills (gallop, skip, walk backwards). They can stop on the way to imitate animals they see. The teacher might say, “Let’s fly at high level like that bird,” “Let’s jump forward like that frog,” “Let’s leap over the pond,” or “Let’s climb a tree to pick up cherries.” After crossing the “forest,” all the children stop in a designated area and the teacher whispers, “One, two, three,” and then the children all say, “Wake up bear!” Then, the children run back to their point A as the bear “wakes up” to chase them. There is no elimination or punishment if the bear reaches a child. The idea is to explore movements from point A to point B, and run from point B to point A. This activity illustrates how games or activities can be modified to incorporate specific knowledge and skills. Exploring Resources Ideas for lesson plans and preschool physical education curricula are available from several sources, including: • PE Central, a free website that offers lessons plans with a variety of motor skills ( • Spark (, which offers free samples of lesson plans; upon purchase, they offer teacher training and a whole curriculum set ( • SHAPE America provides a movement across curriculum approach designed by Rae Pica, which offers several ideas to integrate language arts with outdoor play ( earlychildhood/upload/MovementAcrosstheCurriculum-LeapInt-Literacy.pdf ).

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Early Years Bulletin continued from page 17 Conclusion First Lady Michelle Obama launched the “Let’s Move Child Care” initiative, a call-to-action to encourage child care and early childhood providers to meet five healthy goals: 1) nurturing healthy eaters, 2) increasing physical activity, 3) providing healthy drinks for kids, 4) reducing screen time, and 5) supporting breastfeeding. The physical activity goal supports SHAPE America’s recommendation for 120 minutes of daily physical activity time for children in full-time child care. The “Let’s Move Child Care” website ( provides a quiz to assess child care providers’ healthy goals and provide information about joining the initiative. In addition, it offers ideas for activities and shares successful stories from early childhood settings. Although the amount of time young children spend on structured movement practices and the quality of those activities may vary from one early childhood setting to another, developmental delays in motor skills and the prevalence of overweight and obese children clearly have not been sufficiently addressed. Early childhood is the time for prevention and for teaching healthy behaviors. Embracing physical literacy as part of holistic development and intentionally implementing appropriate practice of movement skills will positively impact the likelihood of children having active and healthy lifestyles. Resources American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance. (2012a). Head start body start - policy series: Policy action recommendations for physical activity and nutrition in early childhood settings. Retrieved from PolicyActionRecommendations_EarlyChildhoodSettings. pdf American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance. (2012b). Head start body start - policy series: What do the expert say? Retrieved from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2015). Child care and early education. Retrieved from http://www.cdc. gov/obesity/strategies/childcareece.html. Kirby, R. (2012). Cerebral palsy and birth defects: What is

Autumn 2015 the frame of reference? Developmental Medicine & Child Neurology, 54(8), 677-678. Maude, P. (2010). Physical literacy and the young child. In M. Whitehead (Ed.), Physical literacy throughout the lifecourse. New York, NY: Routledge. Meyer, C. S. (2012). Minds-in-motion: The maze handbook. Louisville, KY: Minds-in-Motion Inc. Press. National Association for the Education of Young Children. (2009). Developmentally appropriate practice in early childhood programs serving children from birth through age 8. Washington, DC: Author. Retrieved from http://www. National Association for Sport & Physical Education. (2009). Active start: A statement of physical activity guidelines for children from birth to five years. Sewickley, PA: AAHPERD Publications Center. Pangrazi, R., & Beighle, A. (2013). Dynamic physical education for elementary school children. San Francisco, CA: Benjamin Cummings. Schneider, H., & Lounsbery, M. (2008). Setting the stage for lifetime physical activity in early childhood. Journal of Physical Education, Recreation and Dance, 79(6), 19-23. Society of Health and Physical Educators – America. (2015). Early childhood policy guidelines. Retrieved from http:// Stagnitti, K., Malakellis, M., Kershaw, B., Hoare, M., Kenna, R., & Silva-Sanigorski, A. (2011). Evaluating the feasibility, effectiveness and acceptability of an active play intervention for disadvantaged preschool children: A pilot study. Australian Journal of Early Childhood, 36(3), 66-72. The Nemours Foundation. (2014). Let’s move child care. Retrieved from Trost, S. G., Ward, D. S., & Senso, M. (2010). Effects of child care policy and environment on physical activity. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 42(3), 520-525. Vidoni, C., Lorenz, D. J., & Terson de Paleville, D. (2014). Incorporating a movement skill program into a preschool daily schedule. Early Child Development & Care Journal, 184(8), 1211-1222. Whitehead, M. (2010). The concept of physical literacy. In M. Whitehead (Ed.), Physical literacy throughout the lifecourse. New York, NY: Routledge. Whitmore, K. F. (in press). Becoming the story in the joyful world of Jack and the Beanstalk. Language Arts.


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Activities for the Classroom editors: Patricia A. Crawford and April Mattix Foster

Word Sorts: Using Word Building Blocks to Bolster Literacy Development by Michelle J. Sobolak and April A. Mattix Foster Michelle J. Sobolak is Clinical Assistant Professor of Reading Education, at the University of Pittsburgh. April A. Mattix Foster is Assistant Professor of International Elementary Education at George Mason University.


he development of language skills is a vitally important component of early education. Finding engaging and meaningful ways to encourage young learners to expand these skills is a fundamental part of early education and a valuable tool on the path to becoming a reader and a writer. One way to encourage young students to develop a language skill set is to explore words through hands-on literacy activities such as word sorts.

form generalizations, and use those generalizations when they encounter new words as they read. In English, for example, approximately 80% of words follow a predictable pattern; therefore, learning how to find and work with these patterns is key to successful literacy development. This discussion will focus on the English language as an example.

Defining Word Sorts Word sorts are a developmental word study activity that helps early readers develop word consciousness. Word sorts focus students’ attention on various critical components of words—specifically sound, pattern, and meaning—by asking them to analyze words and sort them into predetermined categories. Through this activity, students are engaged in thinking about the similarities and differences of words and understanding relational structures between words through a tactile, hands-on activity. Students learn the predictable patterns of language, how individual words are made up of specific spelling patterns, and what those words mean. Word Sorts Within the Context of Literacy Development Word sorts are a powerful way to help students make sense of words and their structure. In fact, word sorts can help students organize what they know about words,


Types of Word Sorts Word sorts can focus on any of the three layers of English orthography: alphabet, pattern, and meaning. Alphabet sorts that focus on sound can include pictures, words, or both, as students are asked to match a picture or word to a chosen sound. Emergent readers benefit greatly from alphabet picture and word sorts as they begin to differentiate between beginning, ending, and medial sounds of words. Sound sorts can also focus on elements of phonological awareness, such as rhyme. The pattern layer maps onto the alphabet layer and accounts for the fact that English does not have a direct one-to-one correspondence between letters and sounds. Therefore, students have to learn to read and spell words with multiple patterns that represent the same sounds. When engaged in a pattern sort, students sort words so that the patterns are apparent. For instance, a beginning reader may be sorting the words cat, mad, sap, tap, rat, rate, tape, cake, made, and lake into short and long /a/ continued on page 20

Early Years Bulletin continued from page 19

• Ask students to either read each word or name

piles to discover the role that silent /e/ plays in determining the word’s vowel sound. Students also can sort words according to meaning. This type of sort is particularly powerful for supporting vocabulary development. A meaning sort can be utilized across content areas. For instance, an emergent reader may be sorting pictures of different types of transportation into transportation that happens in the air, through water, or on land. An older student may sort words based on prefixes or suffixes to explore shared meaning. A Quick Guide to Word Sorts Word sorts provide wonderful opportunities to develop literacy skills, and they are relatively simple for teachers to prepare. Here are some general sorting rules that are beneficial for all types of sorts: • When utilizing pictures in a sort, introduce all

pictures to students prior to sorting to ensure there is no confusion • For all sorts, provide explicit instructions so the intention of the sort is clear

Word Sort Type Alphabet Layer: sound sort

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each picture as they are sorting to ensure they are focusing on the sound, sound and pattern, or meaning of words • When a sort is completed, provide students with an opportunity to read all the words or name the pictures in each category and discuss why the words or pictures are sorted in the way that they are • Discuss the sort and ask students to make their thinking public—this is one of the most powerful aspects of utilizing word sorts. Examples of Word Sorts The following is an example of various word sort strategies utilizing the book Sheep in a Jeep (1987) written by Nancy E. Shaw and illustrated by Margot Apple. This book engages children with the comical tale of sheep who get their jeep stuck in the mud, and it provides teachers with a number of enriching word sorting options. Alphabet Layer: The first sort in the box below deals with the alphabet layer of language. Most sound continued on page 21

Words/Pictures to Sort

Teacher Notes

/eep/: jeep, sheep, heap, leap, weep

Introduce all pictures to students prior to sorting.

/ug/: tug, jug, mug, plug, bug

Use two pictures to guide categories. For example, use jeep and tug as category leads, and have students sort the remaining words into the matching rhyme category.

Pattern Layer: word sort

ee: jeep, sweet, sheep, cheek, street, weep, sweep, seed, beep, weed

long /e/ spelled ee and ea

ea: heap, cheat, beat, leap, cheap, teach, dream, feast, read, clean

Provide students with a guiding word for each category, such as jeep and heap, and have students sort the remaining words into the appropriate pattern category.

Meaning Layer: picture sort

farm: sheep, pig, cow, chicken, horse, duck, goat

animal sort: farm animals vs. zoo animals

zoo: lion, tiger, elephant, panda, black bear, monkey, zebra

rhyming picture sort


Introduce all pictures to students prior to sorting. Use two pictures to guide categories. For example, a teacher may use a picture of a barn and a picture of a zoo entrance for the students to use as category leads, or the teacher may use a sheep and a lion to signify the different categories.

Autumn 2015

Early Years Bulletin

continued from page 20 sorts in this layer, like the rhyming picture sort example, utilize pictures and are helpful for emergent readers. In this sort, students are focusing on the rime (the vowel and the letters that come after the initial consonant) of the word and sorting words based on this feature. As a rhyming book, Sheep in a Jeep provides many words that share the -eep rime. In this sort, the rimes -eep and -ug are utilized as they provide a clear sound contrast for students. Pattern Layer: The second sort deals with the pattern layer of the English language. Sheep in a Jeep provides an abundance of long /e/ words spelled with both -ee and -ea. This sort provides students with exposure and the opportunity to read words spelled with each long /e/ pattern. Since there is not a rule guiding the use of -ee and -ea to spell long /e/, frequent exposure to these words supports both decoding and encoding. Pattern sorts provide an opportunity to work with words that do not fit the pattern. For example, the following words could be added to the sort above to help students recognize that some words spelled with the chosen patterns do not have the long /e/ sound: head, steer, ear. Students would sort these words into a separate column that can be referred to as the “oddball category.” Meaning Layer: The last sort focuses on the meaning layer of the English language and challenges young students to sort and categorize pictures of animals that typically reside on a farm or in a zoo. The sort includes the two farm animals, sheep and pigs, that appear in the text.

Word Sorts in Action Word sorts provide multiple opportunities for students to engage in developing their understanding and recognition of sounds and letters, they allow students to gain deeper understandings of spelling through the manipulation of words, and they encourage students to develop more advanced levels of word comprehension. As a tactile literacy activity, word sorts can provide a rich array of opportunities for teachers to guide early learners on their path to literacy success. Additional Resources Word Study: A New Approach to Teaching Spelling (by Reading Rockets): article/word-study-new-approach-teaching-spelling Word Sorts (by Read Strong): wordsorts.html Teaching Ideas for K-6 Teachers: Words Their Way Creative Word Study Activities WordStudyActivities.php Word Sorts for Beginning and Struggling Readers Lesson (by lesson-plans/word-sorts-beginning-struggling-795. html?tab=1#tabs Word Sorts: The Heart of Word Study

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Early Years Bulletin, ISSN 2333-6226, is published quarterly by the Association for Childhood Education International, 1101 16th St., N.W., Suite 300, Washington, DC 20036. Articles published in Early Years Bulletin represent the views of the authors and do not necessarily reflect positions taken by the Association for Childhood Education International. Copyright © 2015 by the Association for Childhood Education International. No permission is needed to reproduce materials for education purposes.


Early Years Bulletin Fall 2015  

The Early Years Bulletin, published four times a year, brings together the voices of practitioners, administrators, researchers, and advocat...

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