Playing with Collecting, Organizing & Interpreting in Kindergarten

As you browse you are invited to be inspired and come learn alongside me, one of my goals for teaching mathematics in kindergarten this year was create opportunities for children to represent their mathematical understandings in ways that are meaningful to them – for example, by writing or drawing on paper, by using pictures and/or numbers and some words, by using materials such as blocks or stickers, pom poms.

This post is about my learning journey creating opportunities for children (It certainly does not capture the myriad of experiences, conversations, voices of the educators or children it is simply a reflection).  — OE19 collect, organize, display, and interpret data to solve problems and to communicate information

A Summary of Overall Instructional Strategies I used include:

  • having students generate questions that can be answered using simple methods
    for collecting data (e.g., by placing stickers on a graph);
  • providing opportunities to sort the same collection of objects in a variety
    of ways;
  • discussing ways to sort objects using obvious attributes (e.g., colour, size
  • providing opportunities to create and discuss concrete graphs,
    and pictographs;
  • providing graphing mats to help students organize data in people graphs and
    concrete graphs;
  • having students conduct surveys involving questions that have a limited
    number of responses (e.g., “What is your favourite colour?”);
  • discussing and demonstrating different data-collection methods (e.g., placing
    a picture in the appropriate section of a pictograph, making a tally);

Ice Cream Vote as students entered the classroom in the morning for sign-in. Children were encouraged to pick their favourite flavour of ice cream, each child coloured their very own ice cream scoop, we discussed the results as a class. (Instructional Strategy: Providing opportunities for students to vote in order to make class decisions). Favourite Colour this was our introduction to pictographs.

Clipboard Graphing Ideas students had the opportunity to use the various graphing templates to ask their classmates questions, or create their very own questions. (Not pictured: We placed various cutouts of superheroes, Disney movie princesses, pets, and movies-students could create their own questions using the cutouts see example photograph #5)

Posting Success criteria to describe, in specific terms and in language meaningful to children, our learning goals. This really helped in naming the learning we observed in the classroom, especially during play-based learning.

Math Words the math words that we used during our discussions were posted, this was used as a reference in conversations we had with the children. Some of our older Year 2 students were able to read them and refer to them during play.

Tally Marks Visual Tally marks are a quick way of keeping track of numbers in groups of five. Posted on the wall we had a visual of 1-10 One vertical line is made for each of the first four numbers; the fifth number is represented by a diagonal line across the previous four.


We worked on encouraging children to use tally marks as a quick way of keeping track of numbers in groups of five. The objective is that the child will understand that one mark is equal to one object.

Data collection often involves conducting a survey. When students plan and carry out surveys, they take ownership for identifying a survey question, learning efficient ways to collect and record the data, and organizing the data in different ways to make sense of them.


Tally charts are particularly useful for gathering and organizing data (A tally chart is a table with tally marks to show a valuable data set). Math Invitation: We placed various cutouts of superheroes, Disney movie princesses, pets, and movies-students could create their own questions using the cutouts. Below are some of the rhymes we used to help children remember when to cross on 5.

Classroom Graphing Mat

In the classroom students enjoyed using a graphing mat to help organize the objects. The graphing mat pictured was made by Sandy Gomes my partner in the Kindergarten classroom. If you don’t have one a graphing mat can be made using a plastic shower curtain. Grid lines can be created using electrical tape. Students categorize objects or pictures by placing them in the columns of the graph mat.

Playful Beginnings Organizing Data in Graphs:

The skills and concepts that students develop through experiences in sorting objects help children understand how data can be organized in graphs. Students learn that data, like objects, can be sorted into groups and categories.

As children develop skill and independence in gathering data, children were provided blank templates that allowed them to organize the data. Giving each child their own individual baggie of objects for them to sort and then organize independently provided them with a sense of ownership over their own work.

Concrete graph: In a concrete graph, objects are used to represent the data.
Each object is placed on a graph template (e.g., a graphing mat) so that students
can easily count and compare the number of items in different categories

Pictograph: Pictures or symbols are used to represent the data in pictographs. By organizing data into categories, it is possible to compare the quantities in
different categories on a graph.

With some of our students we introduced  titles, symbols–components that help to communicate information in a graph: (this was done in small groups or one-one with children during play-based learning. Some of our learning was focused on the following:

  • The title introduces the data contained in the graph.
  • Numeric values into which data are categorized.
  • In pictographs, symbols (e.g., pictures, icons) represent the data. Each symbol
    can represent one piece of data (one-to-one correspondence)

It all began with… Sorting

(Ongoing throughout the year sorting activities were always available to children however, focused sorting instruction took place in late September early October).

Sorting involves examining objects, identifying similar attributes (e.g., colour, size, shape), and organizing objects that “go together” into groups. Along with learning to sort, children learn to classify, that is, to identify a common characteristic of all items within a group.


Read Aloud: Bear Sees Colors, by Karma Wilson

Sorting Colours and Pom Pom Manipulatives 

I paired poms poms with a muffin tin and Bear color printable (from Students were encouraged to sort the poms, poms by color into the appropriate cups of the tin. Reinforce the colors from the story by talking about what Bear saw in each color as children sort their poms, poms. Do they remember what Bear saw that was red? Purple? And so on.

First, we tried the sorting activity in the Sensory bin and then placed it on the table, during play-based learning, this time the pom poms, could be sorted in whatever way the students wanted using the wooden trays.


I learned that students progress in their sorting skills when they are encouraged to find different ways to sort a variety of materials, when they observe how others sort materials, and when they reflect on different ways to sort materials.  Some questions I had handy to help me extend their sorting:

• “How did you sort these objects?”
• “How are these objects alike? How are these objects different?”
• “Why does this object belong here? Why does it not belong here?”
• “Which other objects belong in this group?”
• “What name could you give to this group?”
• “How could you sort these objects in a different way?”
• “How did Anhil sort the objects?”

(adapted from A Guide to Effective Instruction in Mathematics Kindergarten to Grade 3)

What I have learned: 

Throughout the day, we can create an effective environment to support young children’s learning of mathematics by providing mathematics experiences that focus on particular mathematical concepts and by identifying and embedding significant mathematics learning experiences in play, daily routines, and classroom experiences.


Our Trip to Ecosource Garden of the Valley

Our Trip to Ecosource Green’s 

Garden of the Valley was simply beautiful.

First, we meet as a class in our mindfulness circle. The children were led through a series of breathing, listening and relaxation exercises. This helped the children to understand and engage their senses, and tune into their personal well-being every day.

Students’ explored the garden using magnifying glasses, picked mint and made mint tea, used loose parts, tended to the garden. 


Students picked a handfuls or so of large mint leaves, washed them well and gently dried the mint with some paper towel.


Children love the natural world. An outdoor space that is rich in natural features can powerfully stimulate their sense of wonder and discovery. Where do ants live? Where do they get their purple colour? Looking for bees: Bee hunting, finding and following honeybees, is a mix of excitement and mindful meditation that provides valuable insight into the lives of bees.



Students found a quiet space in the garden to rest and explore the shells.

By providing props and making spaces that allow children to act out their imaginary worlds. Environments that facilitate storytelling and dramatic play. Set the stage for children to imagine themselves in many different roles.


Students explored a variety of shells on a tray so they could explore them in whatever fashion they wanted to. Students were observed using their olfactory sense to find out what the shells smelled like. (The answer? “Not much.” :-)) Students also used their sense of touch to decide if the shells were rough or smooth.

In childhood one is more open to sensory impressions than ever again in one’s life. Smells, sensations of heat, softness, weight, beauty and much more, form the basis of all of life’s later sensations.

– Eva Insulander, Swedish School Ground Designer and Planner

After meeting again and reflecting on our learning for the day, the children were given time for free play. During this time the students exercised their social skills while engaging in cooperative, imaginative play in the garden, and with loose parts. By encouraging the children to explore and understand the space independently, children are learning to be self-reliant.

Student voices from the garden…



“The water collected in the garden comes from the rain!” H.J.


“Our water smells like mint, we picked fresh mint.” A.F.


“There are so many bees looking for nectar.” T.S.


“This is our mini world, the animals love the garden.” M.D.

Children role play real-life situations through imagining scenarios and building small worlds. Plants, sand, and soil are materials that small children can relate to and manipulate for building and creating their own small worlds.




Our Butterfly Inquiry

“The children experiencing the transformation of the caterpillars to butterflies was magical. I can’t help but relate this experience to the uniqueness of teaching kindergarten and being able to learn and grow with the children. Metaphorically, they really do start out like little caterpillars that grow and grow over time and then one day, when they’re ready they spread their wings and fly.” -Wonders in Kindergarten


At its core, inquiry-based learning in kindergarten is about asking essential questions. When we invite young learners to wonder, we encourage investigation and creativity, to explore new possibilities, ways of thinking and solving the problems of the world.

Our Butterfly Inquiry was so special. 

To begin our inquiry we read The Very Hungry Caterpillar. As soon as the story was finished, we looked back through the book and asked the children to think about how the caterpillar changes in the story naturally this provided the context for questions and wonderings. Many of the children noted the growing process during which the appearance of the caterpillar changes drastically. The process of wondering took time to develop, after reading various books, watching videos/clips and finally having the caterpillars in the classroom, students began to share many of their wonderings because the children could connect with the caterpillar daily, make connections and verbalize their observations.

Our central theme in the classroom around inquiry was to develop a sense of noticing, naming and wondering.

“Inquirybased learning emphasises a student’s role in the learning process and asks them to engage with an idea or topic in an active way, rather than by sitting and listening to a teacher.”


Answering our questions… our wonderings…

Through book readings, videos, other research, and provocations, we may answer a few of the questions over time, but some questions we may never answer and that is okay. Sometimes the children have amazing theories and we discuss them. Inquiry, in the way I see it, creates and fosters a community of learners that become amazing observers, theory makers, and most importantly, wonder seekers. I believe regardless of the collection method, students are always encouraged to question, wonder, and share their wonderings with educators and classmates.


Once our butterflies arrived we placed various non-fiction books to support student inquiry.


One of the questions students ask was: “How long do butterflies stay in the chrysalis, or pupal stage?”

We learned:

  • Butterflies have four distinct stages in their life cycle. They start as an egg, hatch into a caterpillar, turn into pupae during metamorphosis, and finally emerge as a butterfly.
  • Different species of butterflies stay in the chrysalis, or pupal stage, for different periods of time. This can range from about seven days to more than a year, but for a large number of species it is less than 30 days.
  • The painted lady butterfly spends only seven to 10 days in the chrysalis.


Inquiry Prompts:

I like having available in the classroom injury prompts, I have this posted at the inquiry/science table. It helps me encourage students to wonder about the topic we are presently exploring. As their ideas will lead them to ask questions and become curious. This approach puts students in the center of the learning and offers opportunities for every child to feel included.


Representing the Butterfly Life Cycle

We learned: The butterfly life cycle includes four stages: stage one: egg; stage two: larva; stage three: pupa; and stage four: adult butterfly. Butterflies transform through these stages. This transformation is called metamorphosis.



Loose Parts + Butterfly

Since students have been working towards developing their own oral stories this term. We began by reading several stories where the main character was a butterfly.

A class favourite book throughout the inquiry was Bob and Otto by Robert O. Bruel


These stories helped students explore various characters, events, settings and problems in the different stories. Students were invited to use play dough, non-fiction texts (for research), and loose parts (glass beads) to create butterfly stories. Students orally shared their stories with the educators. 


“The butterfly in finding a hiding spot in the bushes, so it doesn’t get eaten by birds, snakes, toads, rats, lizards, dragonflies.” -C.B.


“The butterflies were very thirsty because it was so hot outside, they are puddling together to get the moisture from the soil.” A.B.


“The butterflies have spotted a toad in the pond. The are moving slowly so the toad doesn’t see them. The two butterflies have found a small drop of water.” T.F.

Butterfly Wings and More…

The students watched a various clips from the documentary about Monarch butterflies on called “Flight of the Butterflies” which coincides with their southern migration.  They were fascinated with this process and the intricate wing patterns of this species and butterflies in general after looking closely at deceased butterfly.  Extending their interest, we decided to invite the students to create their own wing designs using loose parts.


After exploring butterfly wing designs students began to notice that the patterns, colours, and shapes were the same on either side of the wing. We discussed that in math, symmetry means that one shape becomes exactly like another when you move it in some way: turn it, flip it or slide it. We demonstrated that shapes on one side of a line are the same as on the other side of a line.

Some of the students symmetrical experiences included…


Writing: “If I were a Butterfly?”

Students had the opportunity to draw and write: What they would do if they were a butterfly. Where would they fly to?, What would they do?, How would they feel?, Who would they visit?, What may they eat?”…





Our Month of October

Wow! What an October… we had soo much fun. Below are some of the daily experiences we engaged in!!

I’ll begin with math…

Ten frames are a simple tool that can help children immensely when it comes to counting, adding, and subitizing. It’s really amazing how much learning children get from these simple activities.

I noticed that even if a child can recognize the numeral symbol for a number they may not truly understand what that numeral represents unless they count each item one-to-one. Working with ten frames helps develop number sense because they actually understand number quantity rather than just identifying the number symbol.

Subitizing is the ability to instantly recognize the number of objects in a small set or arrangement without counting.

Using ten frames helps children see the quantity of each number and understand “how many” without counting. For example, eventually children will see the top row full and automatically know that’s five. This is the base skill needed for the ability to combine numbers from sets (like 5+2) and develop mathematical fluency.

What I observed children doing when they used the Ten Frames…



Here pictured above I observed a children sorting objects and counting each one. This was a very popular activity for children to naturally extend after using the ten frames. We focused on developing success, one of the most important goals was to help the students engage in using one-to-one correspondence.

While some students can recite the number sequence accurately (i.e. say 1, 2, 3, etc.) they are developing their understanding of maintaining one-to-one correspondence when counting a set of objects. Children not using one-to-one correspondence will not co-ordinate saying the number names with taking the counters one by one. Some will say more than one number per object; others will take more than one object per number.

I used google eyes as a counting manipulative and spiders on webs, I noticed these dice games helped strengthen number recognition, base 10 understanding, and addition and subtraction skills. Students roll a dice and then place that number of spiders on the web or google eyes. You may use a standard dice, numeral dice or any type of number representation type of dice to differentiate, support or extend

Students also picked a recipe card and counted out the objects to create the witches’ brew in the witches house, —dramatic centre!!


Alphabet Brew provides opportunities for students to recognise letters and practise the sounds that they make. Spooky Eyes are labelled with each letter of the alphabet and placed in a cauldron (Clear container). Students then select a spooky eyeball and say the sound of the letter written on the eyeball and use a bingo dabber to mark off the letter.


I am learning more about how to use our classroom word wall, I am discovering that an INTERACTIVE Word wall that allows children to access daily is most beneficial. Words used on the word wall are most helpful when they’re meaningful to the children. I believe this means the children’s names and certain words they like to write often should always be included. I also decided to include words and pictures used during specific lessons and surrounding holidays or special events relevant to the children’s daily experiences. Pictured below, is a photograph of a child’s inspirational drawing after i added some words.


Simple enough that the children could memorize it and recite it! The Halloween Sound Poem for Halloween was a hot –such a great way to encourage children to get creative with making sound effects and practicing our popcorn words!IMG_1346


Classroom Field Trip

We learned all about pumpkins, picked various classroom pumpkins (cinderella, knucklehead pumpkins, Jack-o-lantern pumpkins)… this sparked our interested into learning more about pumpkins.

We learned that Pumpkins have thick shells which contain pulp and seeds. Scientifically speaking, pumpkins are a fruit (they contain seeds) but when it comes to cooking, they are often referred to as vegetables. Pumpkins are usually shaped like a sphere (ball).

We extended our learning by reflecting on what we learned on our field trip… 

On the trip students noticed some pumpkins were open on the pumpkin patch… I used the photograph pictured above to help use reflect on what we wanted to learn more about the pumpkin… and begin exploring deeper the inside of the pumpkin. (I pictured the photograph on the smart board as we shared what we learned thus far).


Exploring a pumpkin activity

Fall is the perfect time of year to explore pumpkins! We got to see what was inside the pumpkin… I started by holding up the pumpkin for the children to see and asked them to predict what the inside of a pumpkin looks like. What color will the inside be? Will it be wet or dry? Once opened… I asked questions such as, “How does it feel?” or “What does it smell like?” to develop oral language, communication, and vocabulary.

Example of questions: (Connect these to the 5 senses)

  • How does it feel?
  • Is it hard, soft, mushy, slimy?
  • What does it smell like?
  • Can you hear anything?
  • Do you think we can eat this pumpkin?
  • Does it remind you of anything else you have smelled or touched before?
  • What color is the pumpkin?
  • What color are the seeds?


Inspired by real pumpkins –We used the pumpkins to create some Pumpkin Still Life Art using black markers and watercolours. Students observed the “ribs” (lines), the “skin” (green, orange, brown, purple), and the textures, size and weight or pumpkins.


“There is something incredibly nostalgic and significant about the annual cascade of Autumn” –Joe. L. Wheeler


Some of Our Pattern Wonderings in Grade 1 and 2

1. WHAT is a pattern? How do you know it’s a pattern?    Students shared – things that repeat themselves, grow or change in a special way, they must repeat three times.

2. HOW do patterns work?    Students shared – they repeat themselves, they grow longer and longer (or get smaller); a shape or a color or an object that repeats or grows up, sometimes it can even shrink.

3. What patterns do you know in REAL LIFE? Students shared– animals, clothes, music, language (rhyming words-we loved reading various stories by Rose Bonne’s for example: The Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly), weather, art, furniture etc. *They also pointed to their own clothes, furniture in the room, our rugs (with line patterns) etc.

4. WHY is it important to understand patterns? Students shared– lots of answers (e.g. animals- to camouflage, music – to make songs etc.)


Students used patterns blocks, coloured tiles, popsicle sticks and gems to demonstrate their prior knowledge and understanding of patterns.

Digging deeper as we Inquire about Patterns:

  • How many pattern blocks in all were needed for your pattern?
  • Can you show me a pattern with your body? What would you do first? Second
  • What happens over and over again with these blocks?
  • How would you read this pattern?
  • What would happen to the pattern if I changed ______?
  • What can you tell me about the arrangement of your blocks?
  • Can a friend extend your pattern?
  • What attributes have you used?
  • Can you name another way to show your pattern?
  • How many different kinds of gems did you use?
  • Can you point to the smallest part of your pattern? Can you tell what it’s called?


We took a walk around the school and neighbouring community to notice patterns around us, students were also invited to wonder about patterns they may see at home, and describe them with the class during morning circle.

Students represented a pattern fence, in a collaborative patterning activity in class. Students communicated their ideas, planned what type of pattern they wanted to design to represent a fence for their home, many students also incorporated other patterns elements into their designs (I.e, flowers, windows, rainbow, etc.)

Patterns designs continued…

Students worked in partners to create a sound pattern, we called this “Pattern Theatre” students had 7 minutes to create an action (jump, jump, clap; jump, jump, clap) or sound pattern and share it with the class, whereby we named the pattern (AB, ABAB, ABC, etc) and extended the pattern together. Students were very creative, and used some of their inspiration from FortNite. It was very enjoyable!

Pattern Theatre grew from our discussions of the patterns that are all around us: Children tuned into repeating patterns of sounds (loud, loud, soft; loud, loud, soft) – like the sound of windshield wipers or other sequential rhythms and simply noticing patterns in songs, for example, “Baby Shark.”

Working in Partners to Show what You Know:

Students used pattern blocks to create a pattern, extend the pattern, name the attributes, identify the core and represent it in two other ways.

Another adventure begins tomorrow…

Circles of Life Poem


-Poetry by Suzy Kassem

Caring Environments for Children


For a moment consider the elements within your own home that offer you comfort, security and a sense of belonging?

Classrooms are no different they are places that offer children the opportunity for choices, exploration, relaxation, investigation & discovery. A space that engages families through creating connections. A place that reflects our beliefs about children and what they deserve and supports their development, interactions, and their interests.

What is the role of the Early Learning Teacher?

  • To be intentional in the design of the environment both inside and outside
  • To reflect the children, staff and families in the design of the environment
  • To supply materials and activities that reflect the strengths/needs and interests of the children and deepen their explorations
  • To provide children with relevant, real, hands-on materials
  • To provide long uninterrupted periods of time for children to explore their environment
  • To be playful! 🙂



The Room Arrangement Provides a Variety of Learning Areas
When arranging the learning areas, consider their function and their mood. We want to offer children choice so look at the classroom – is there enough room for children to engage with materials? Provide enough materials for each area (need enough materials to have deep exploration for group of children). Once children are in the classroom how do they flow through the areas – do pathways/walkways interfere with children’s play? Did you find any possible barriers to play (create an inclusive play environment for all!) Is the lighting appropriate for the space? and of course expect that children will move materials from area to area to extend play?


Our beliefs about children and how they learn are reflected in the learning environments we create.

The learning environment functions as the “third educator”

What does the environment say to the children? How do the items displayed on the walls enhance and extend children’s thinking? How will we know if the environment is overstimulating, with too many distracting colours and materials? Do we have too many commercial materials that are not of real interest to the children?



In Kindergarten the classroom environment is thoughtfully designed to invite, provoke, and enhance learning, and to encourage communication, collaboration, and inquiry. The space, with all the objects in it, including the various materials and resources for learning, is created and arranged as the children’s learning process unfolds – it is constantly being negotiated by and with the children.


Students in my classroom had the opportunity to design their own individual preschool classroom floor plans. This is one of my favorite engaging activities for students since it gives them the opportunity to learn about the different learning areas in the classroom, look through classroom floor plans and identify areas of improvement and in addition discuss their rationale for designing classrooms.

Some of the Questions Students Had While Designing:

  • What is the size of the classroom and what are the interior areas?
  • Do the colors of the walls influence children?
  • What types of homelike furniture is appropriate?
  • Will flooring change throughout the classroom?
  • What is the amount of light I will have in the classroom? Should some areas be near the windows?
  • What areas  are most compatible together?


*The photographs are not mine, they were simply used for the purpose of reflective learning and dialogue.

Indigenous + Early Childhood Education

In Canada, Indigenous children are less likely to attend ECE programs compared to non-Indigenous children. This lag in attendance presents an immediate opportunity for policy intervention and a look into what we can do as educators to deepen or awareness, this blog post is just a starting point for the much learning that is ahead of me as I am certain I have much to learn.

As perhaps the most vulnerable segment of Canada’s population, Indigenous children may stand to benefit the most from having access to high-quality early childhood care and education.


“It represents a history, it represents a home, it represents a dwelling where families came together over the fire.”


Creating the culturally competent classroom involves the recognition of Indigenous culture and language.

I do understand many educators struggle to identify and use appropriate resources, and to create contexts in which such knowledge can be embedded. Educators with limited connections to Aboriginal peoples and cultures may require support to incorporate Indigenous knowledge respectfully and appropriately in the classroom.

Rather than just an add-on, the histories and cultures of Indigenous people can be integrated into each learning area to bring new perspectives to existing knowledge and practice, and to encourage interesting and innovative ways to incorporate this knowledge.

Thinking about traditional indigenous child rearing – baby doll in coolamon in home corner
Coolamon (plural coolamons)
An indigenous container with curved sides, typically used for collecting berries

It is essential to incorporate the unique learning values of Indigenous people in creating successful Indigenous-centred early education programs and policies. Unlike many programs based on western pedagogy, the concept of “holism” is a vital aspect of Indigenous-centred education.

Holism treats learning as a process that is spiritual as well as experiential, that has its foundations in language and culture, that spreads across all stages of life, and that integrates western as well as Indigenous knowledge.

Lovely way to incorporate indigenous play into the classroom! These could be used for matching or for storytelling!
Aboriginal story stones live in a basket in Story Corner
Exploring indigenous symbols at Pied Piper Preschool

Early childhood provides an enormous opportunity to build the roots for native language learning. This is particularly important in the Indigenous context, as the loss of culture and language is greatly felt by Indigenous communities due to a long history of colonization and marginalization. Preservation and continuation of languages and culture is a top priority for Indigenous people, and early childhood is the best time to focus on achieving this goal.

Here is a beautiful invitation to play and explore. The inclusion of this culturally specific way of communicating open a dialogue of the “many facets of natural language.


I end by describing my thoughts about learning … All people benefit from a sense of belonging, to their families, culture and communities. It is especially important in the case of parents caring for young children. Parents need to feel supported by family, friends, the community and by ECE’s.

Aboriginal people, through a long history of assimilation and discrimination, may not have this sense of belonging. This may impact their health and sense of worth, and may result in feelings of despair and hopelessness. There are many things that ECE’s can do to foster a sense of belonging in Aboriginal families with young children, connecting parents to the information and supports that they need in a respectful and caring manner, and acknowledging their strengths.

We must ask questions and seek current information about factors that influence Aboriginal children in today’s society and find ways that respect Aboriginal realities in our classrooms.


*Photographs do not belong to me, I am completely thankful for the beauty and dedication that has gone into allowing users to use these photographs for learning and dialogue.

STEM in the Early Years… Is it Possible??

STEM is an acronym for science, technology, engineering, and math. STEM Education, a term initiated by the National Science Foundation, refers to an educational approach which integrates more than one of these disciplines.

My favorite way of better understanding STEM: STEM really is a philosophy. STEM is a way of thinking about how educators at all levels—including parents—should be helping children integrate knowledge across disciplines, encouraging them to think in a more connected and holistic way.

Behind the magnifying glass! Exploring outdoors—👧🏻🌾🍃grasshopper with Sophia

STEM/STEAM for infants and toddlers is about providing multisensory experiences: Seeing, hearing, tasting, touching, and smelling are all important parts of meaningful learning experiences.


When my daughter Sophia was an infant and toddler, at home we began allowing her to touch leaves, watch spiders, hold sticks, listen to water and take her on nature walks.

Were we doing STEM infancy and toddler-hood?

Yes, I truly believe so. She was investigating the natural world around her, beginning to learn about how it works by testing it with her tiny fingers, watching it change, listening to its sounds, and feeling its textures.

The secret is to tap into their natural and innate curiosity about the living world. By simply allowing them to investigate, by encouraging them to ask questions about the real world, you are engaging children in STEM.

… something I feel that I am continually exploring in my own life as a mother and educator.

Become more intentional about what you are doing.  If you start by reflecting on what you are doing already, you will find you that you are already doing things in STEM and with an increase intention in your language and your ability to support children to predict what might happen next or explore or question, you will already be advancing those ideas of science, technology, engineering, and math.” (Dr. Killins on Bam Radio)

How Adults support STEM for Infants and Toddlers:
  • Provide materials
  • Join infants and toddlers in exploration
  • Connect experiences to what children have done or experienced before
  • Invite children to use their senses and describe their observations
    • How do they feel?
    • What do they look like?
    • How do they smell?
    • How do they taste?
    • How does it sound?

Now that my daughter is much older, we often go on “nature walks” as a family, where we encourage her natural curiosity for exploration. She loves the opportunity to collect, pick up and look at or ask simple questions about almost anything: rocks, fossils, seeds, leaves, sticks, bugs, or whatever seems to be peaking her interest that day. As we collect, observe or discuss with her we are encouraging her to create hypotheses about the things we see, and look at the different designs and shapes that we find in nature, as an initial inquiry into engineering design. I would love to extend her experience by bringing along binoculars, magnifying glasses, and a child’s field microscope to deepen her investigations.

Collecting with Daddy at Riverwood Conservancy
STEM Playground Engineering

STEM Activities for Preschoolers… you’ve probably already done some…

  • Go on a nature walk. Can be a great outdoor STEM activity for preschoolers. Take a reusable bag and encourage children to collect interesting objects (i.e., small round stones, leaves, seed pods, or flowers). Later children can sort their found nature materials into categories, such as color, texture, size, and shape. Skills used: math and science


  • Cook together. Find a simple recipe for preschoolers. Follow the recipe letting children help measure and mix. Skills used: science, technology, and math
  • Build ramps to test which cars, balls, or marbles go the fastest. Use a board, sheet of cardboard, or small table with one side elevated to make a ramp, this is often easiest in the block area. Roll a variety of objects, two at a time down the ramp to see which is fastest. Record your findings on a chart, or verbally share in the excitement with children. Skills used: engineering and math
  • Play with water. Water is a rich STEM material. At the sensory table (bin with water). Provide tools to experiment with like a turkey baster, empty dish detergent bottles, plastic measuring cups, etc. to fill and compare. Skills used: math and science


  • Set-up building activities with paper or plastic cups. Give a challenge such as, “How high can you make a tower of cups?” Measure each tower and record their height. Skills used: engineering and math


According to Dr. Sherri Killins, “What STEM does is give a label to what you are already doing… helping children to explore, observe, ask questions, predict, integrate their learning… its what we’ve always done in early childhood education.”

Some Resources I liked:

Be sure to check out the Children and Nature Network. Their site has a wealth of information on the back-to-nature movement.

The Boston Children’s Museum’s excellent STEM Sprouts Teaching Guide assists preschool educators in focusing and refining the naturally inquisitive behaviors of three-to-five-year-olds in STEM.

Infant: Mini Provocations

Students often ask me for list of infant learning experiences they could use on placements. This post is dedicated to students that are seeking to be inspired, take risks and dive deeper into learning experiences for infants.

“Absolutely everything is something to explore and wonder at when experiencing it for the first time!”


To get you started, take a look at some of the inspirational work I’ve collected from various childcare programs (Source: Tinker Tots Discovery Atelier). I am in awe at such professionalism, care that has gone into thoughtfully and intentionally planning activities for infants.

I hope that you feel as inspired as I was by the beautiful work of the educators.

In Reggio thinking there is a belief that the environment is the “third teacher” and that it is crucial to provide children with plenty of natural light, space for movement, stimulation and access to open-ended play resources. For babies and young children it is important that these are highly tactile and varied so that they can investigate them using their primary way of interacting with the world; the senses.

I am continually moved to create play spaces for infants inspired by Reggio principles, that encourage independent play, interaction with stimulating materials and curiosity about the world.



As educators we set out play objects purposefully and deliberately and give children loads of time and space to explore and experiment we are respecting children’s play urges, and giving them the opportunity to grow in self mastery.

So MUCH POTENTIAL FOR: gathering, dumping, transporting, mixing, rolling, posting and more in these simple ideas. All that from cardboard tubes, paper carry bags and tissue boxes! Who’d have thought?


Safe tastes, hands on exploring and tactile investigating

Play together to increase the opportunities for sharing and communicating as they explore and make this a special bonding time! Remember, infants attention spans are not long at this stage and that is fine. A few minutes of one of these ideas per day is plenty, and come back to revisit them often as repetition is what leads to familiarity and building on learning skills later.

Exploring fabric and textures. A beautiful set-up in an infant 🚼classroom, to promote exploration and 💭problem solving.



Tip: Rotate often to keep baby interested

Infants tend to focus the most on high contrast images, particularly black on white and white on black, followed by bright, complementary colours.


So now that you have planned a mini infant provocation … what comes next?

I have put together some of my favourite tips for talking with babies/toddlers and engaging in high-quality back-and-forth interactions.

  •  Move to the child’s level and make eye contact.
  • Mirror the child’s tone. For example, if the child is smiling and happy, use a happy, upbeat tone of voice.
  • Use Parent-ese! Parent-ese is a type of adult speech where an adult talks to a child in an exaggerated, animated, and repetitive way. Babies and toddlers get excited when they are spoken to in fun and interesting ways. Parent-ese captures babies’ attention and can help them learn.
  • Comment! Comment about everything in the baby’s environment, such as their actions and other people’s actions, objects, toys, foods, activities, and daily events.
  • Label! Babies and toddlers are learning to match words with different things in their world. Labeling at every opportunity helps babies and toddlers learn new words and understand their meaning.
  • Point and look at objects when describing them for babies/toddlers. Make sure the baby/toddler looks at who or what you are pointing to.
  • Follow the child’s lead and talk about it! Identify what the child is looking at, playing with, holding, doing, or interested in.
  • Have conversations! Some babies and toddlers may not have words yet, but they still communicate in their own “baby language”. This is usually in the form of babbles, coos, laughter, smiles, looks, and gestures. Talk to them and reply to their “baby language”. That is called a “back-and-forth conversation”- baby style!


As always, never leave infants unattended when playing with any of these ideas.