Tiny Trees Principles
Daily and Seasonal Rhythms
Programs approach each day the same, greeting children outside upon arrival and so the daily rhythm starts and is consistently the same each day. There are slight differences, such as Monday is nature walk day, Tuesday is painting day, Wednesday is play dough, Thursday is bread making and Friday is drawing. Children instead of having to memorize the days of the week, something that is very abstract to a young child, they learn the days of the week based on the daily activity. The daily rhythm provides the children with predictability and gives them the opportunity to relax and learn from their environment. They learn after a few weeks that after drop off is free play followed by snack followed by inside play, followed by hand washing and stories, followed by lunch and then nap, followed by snack and then pick up. The importance of having it the the same is so children don’t become anxious, they will be calmer and more engaged in this environment. The transitions are not so much based on clock time but following what feels right, it is the order that matters more than the time it happens at. The order should be created with the idea of having in-breaths, a togetherness and out-breaths, a time to release with little to no structure.
Themes which include books, yoga, meditations, ongoing crafts and stories is related to the seasons. Programs have seasonal celebrations as well. The menu might slightly change and small adjustments made to toys in the environment based on the surrounding seasons to help nourish yourself and the children.
Relationship Based Care
Young children learn from each other and those that they are watching and listening to. The relationships you build with the children is far more important than teaching letters and numbers. Providers are teaching the children to trust through creating a safe and loving environment. There is less challenging behaviors and struggles between peers when there is a strong positive relationships between the caregiver and the children. Providers value their connection with the children and through that connection children will be able to learn the necessary academic skills needed for school entry.
The programs focus point is nature based in home childcare. This means that as much as possible programs spend a large portion of the day outside. They start the day outside and end the day outside, making drop off and pick up transition smooth. If it is a long day there may be another opportunity to go outside in the middle of the day. Camps are based on an all outdoor day. Depending on the weather and environment the daily or seasonal rhythm may vary. Here in Alaska it gets very dark during the winter, we adjusted by hanging up lots of outdoor lights and continued to have drop off outside during the entire year.
The importance of outside time is that it gives children the opportunity to connect to nature and the world around them. Learning about edible plants, and the animals that live outdoors. Taking care of animals and caring for gardens. Children learn to appreciate the outdoors and become confident and strong.
Child Led learning
Programs have our seasonal themes that have different monthly components such as yoga, meditation, songs and stories. Within those themes and monthly focus caregivers follow the child’s lead. Caregivers don’t have each day planned out with tons of activities or to do lists. If the children are interested in why the water isn’t running in the creek by our house we may
spend some time talking about rain, weather and how the creek works. Children will become more engaged and take more away from something that has meaning to them and that they are engaged with in a hands on way.
Daily Life As The Curriculum
Children learn through real life experiences. Within the program children get the opportunity to participate and observe practical life experiences. Children help with laundry, dishes and cleaning. They learn how to care and tend for animals and mother earth. Children observe care givers picking up litter on nature walks or learning about edible plants. Learning colors can naturally happen by folding different colored napkins or towels without any direct teaching children will at their own pace become aware and interested in the difference between the colors. While helping to set the table children learn all about appreciation and thankfulness when it comes to a meal, they observe all the hard work that goes into preparing a meal and then with a meal time blessing can thank the food and all the hands that helped create their meal. With a table nicely set and children helping prepare the meal we find that they rarely having any challenges with gobbling up the meal. In this day and age a lot of children have no idea how things get done with the amount of time spend using technology. But giving them the opportunity to rinse their dish or help dry it or sweeping the floor, the children learn about the process. These daily tasks of the home are the handwork of young children. They gain confidence and are empowered when they help keep the home clean.
This is play when there is no agenda set, children are given space and time to create whatever they can imagine up. Toys or lack there of help create this type of play. The outdoors is especially perfect for open-ended play. With just a mud kitchen, some rocks, sticks, pots and pans, a little fort to hide in, children can create anything imaginable. The kitchen can be a store, a market, a home. The stories that are told before or after lunch also help create images for children to use, because when they hear a story without pictures they have to create those images themselves.
Multi-Age Family-Style Model
Tiny Trees focuses on multi-age care being an integral part of the program. Children from birth through five attend in home programs. The multi-age model creates a family, it is especially ideal if the program can take place in your actual home. Younger children are nurtured by the caregiver and the older children observe this and participate. The younger children observe the different developmental levels and play of older children. It is much easier for a toddler to learn from a 4 year old than for a toddler to learn from another toddler. They have different thoughts on their mind. A multi-age program flows smoothly and everyone takes care of each other. A room of all two year olds is most likely going to end up in a toy and biting battle. The idea is that children that are not ready for primary school but need to be in care have a second home, a place they feel comfortable, safe and well loved.
Appreciation and Imitation
Young children learn from the adults around them. From birth they are observing, watching and listening to their world. As providers and caregivers your job is to go about your day in a way that is worthy of imitation. Your actions should be purposeful, intentional and done with love. Working with young children is hard work so it is also important to take time for yourself, find things that feed you too. Children will move slowly and intentionally if they are observing you moving this way. If you take care of our environment, your home and yourself they too will want
to take care of these things in the same way. Children will play out different experiences they have seen or heard. It is your job to let them have the opportunity to see and hear kindness, caring and loving actions and words.
We live in a very fast paced and materialistic world. This principle called simplicity is the idea that we need to slow down and there is no need for a lot of stuff including toys. It is not necessary to have multiples of each toy so every child can have one, to eliminate sharing challenges. It is actually better to have less options, it creates more imaginative play. The toys should be simple and have the ability to take on many different forms, such as wooden blocks and silks. The environment has a soft feeling and a homey glow. Couches, lamps, tables and chairs, dressers for extra clothes, real plates and cups. Children are able to be careful with fragile items if they observe the adults taking good care of those same items. The toys in the classrooms are made of natural materials, as much as possible avoiding plastic toys. The feel of a wooden chicken in your hand is much different then plastic animal. If a child's environment is simple they engage more with each other and can go deeper into play schemes. The outdoor play space is also simple, as your program continues to develop you can build structures with the children. There is no need to have it all perfectly created before the start of your program. Children feel valued and helpful when they get to participate in the creation of their play space. It is much more exciting and fun to walk on a balance beam they helped create than for them to walk on one that just appeared because you built it over the weekend.
Boundaries and Discipline
Challenging behaviors usually stem from a child asking for connection and boundaries. Relationship based care provides just that. We help children feel safe by providing them appropriate boundaries and being the one in charge. There is no need for time-outs, spanking or yelling. A child who is having a hard time with a friend, during transitions or at drop off/pick up is usually asking for someone to hold the space, someone to step up and make the decision, someone to be in charge so that they can go back to being a kid. We are responsible for setting boundaries and holding them with firm respect. We let children work through conflict on their own as much as possible, if it looks as though someone could get hurt from a hit, push or bite then we step in calmly to let the child know we can’t let that happen. We may stay closer for a few days to specific children or have a finger game to redirect attention.
Adults thrive on consistency and children do as well. You want to be consistent in your rhythms, your language around and with the children as well as your actions. Having the meal time routine the same every day will make the transition become fluid and with little hiccups. Always going inside after snack will create consistency and the children will learn to expect inside time always after snack and so the struggle of going inside will be elevated. Songs, stories, finger plays, yoga and meditations are repeated day after day and changed only monthly or seasonally. This gives children the opportunity to really learn the songs and develop deep images for the stories.
Trust is built into the relationship-based care model. You have to trust the children and the process of childhood. Children will learn to climb the slide when they are ready, don’t put them at the top of the slide when they are unable to get there themselves that creates a false sense
of confidence in a child. Trust that the children can solve challenges between themselves, your trust in them will build their trust in themselves.