The carpeted area at the center of our classroom is the music/movement station. We sing here at the end of each class, and many classes have their parent discussions here as well. This way during discussion, parents are available if needed. The children are free to play or venture out to another place and check-in as needed. You'll find that one of the most important skills the children (and parents) learn at Little Hands is building trust in another adult and learning to separate. We have lots of opportunities to practice!
Our music cabinet holds a wide assortment of CDs and cassettes, as well as musical instruments such as bells, shakers, and rainmakers. The music station parent can help the children play instruments, sing and dance. To the right of the music cabinet is a driving bench, where young motorists can sit and steer while watching themselves in the mirror.
At the bookshelf, children may select books on their own and look at them independently, or have a station parent read to them on the nearby bench.
In the creative play space corner, children may transform themselves with play clothes and accessories, and let their imaginations run wild. Creative play station parents help the children cooperate in individual or group stories, and share the various props and costumes.
We have a wide collection of stuffed puppets that are used for play and many of our group songs.
The block station is a great place to practice manipulating small objects. These activities stimulate the small muscles, which helps develop a child's sense of balance. While building with blocks or playing with a toy house/farm, children learn about size and shape, space and numbers - early math and science skills. A variety of age-appropriate materials gives the children lots of opportunities for exploration, trial and error, turn-taking, and language development, including communicating their needs.
The cupboards are full of more games and toys to manipulate. Teachers usually rotate the toys from the cupboards to the tables each week and set up the room before you arrive.
The playdough station is a favorite activity at Little Hands. The station parent sits with the children and encourages exploration. The children love using their small muscles to pound, roll and squish the dough. They also have fun using their imaginations and developing language as they create different shapes and describe what they're doing. The playdough is made by parents and is delivered fresh twice a week with different colors each month.
In the play kitchen, budding chefs can cook up an imaginary meal. There are lots of cabinets to explore, full of toy pots, plates, and vegetables.
The front patio station provides many different activities. The children love the wheeled toys, using large muscles to scoot, push, steer and ride. Witnessing that look of pride on their faces when they're able to travel on their own is priceless. Both spinning and pedaling are correlated to brain development, and learning to pedal is directly related to beginning reading skills! Teachers and parents can select appropriate riding toys from our well-stocked cabinet. On sunny days, a water table may also be set up here or on the back patio. Teachers often provide other tactile-experience tables here, such as soap bubbles, colored corn meal to scoop and pour, piles of cushy cotton balls, or shaving cream painting.
Young children need a place where they can express themselves through art, and our art station is the place! In most classes, the easel is set up and ready to go with crayons, markers or paints, and plenty of paper. The teacher may set up a project at the table that is age-appropriate and process-oriented. Or the station parent might be asked to bring a project idea.
Remember, at Little Hands it's the process, not the end product, that's important. So encourage the exploration of materials by commenting on the colors, technique, and joy in doing the project.
The loft station offers an opportunity for children to master stair climbing and learn social skills, such as turn-taking. A watchful parent is always on duty to ensure safety. Once up top, the children are delighted to find different shaped windows to peek out of, and also a book nook where they can sit in their own space.
The back patio station is usually set up with wheeled or stationary riding toys, such as push cars or rocking horses. This area is framed by a colorful garden mural on one side and a farm mural on the other. The basketball hoops reside here and are a favorite! Watch budding NBA players using large muscles and demonstrating hand-eye coordination as they shoot and dunk, and then kick and throw the balls!
The gravel area is always well stocked with shovels, pails, and dump trucks. Many children in this age group are wild about scooping and dumping, and it's a great way for them to begin learning about concepts such as weight and volume. The gravel table against the fence is available to appropriate ages in this area. At the table, children fill and dump colored gravel. What fun they have, learning cause and effect!
Straddling the back patio and the gravel area is the two-level playhouse. Like the loft, it offers the children another small space in which to play both downstairs and up. The children delight in pounding on the toolshed below and climbing the stairs to peek through the different-shaped windows above.
The small climber provides a great slide for the younger set. It offers a wide surface and gradual angle that allows a slower sliding experience. The older kids love it too because they can slide down in pairs! The children use large muscles to maneuver the peg steps up, and enjoy steering the big orange wheel once they are on top.
Instead of lifting the children to use the climber, we ask that you verbally encourage the children and "spot" them while climbing. They are safer and feel more secure when they feel they are ready to make the climb by themselves. You'll see them bursting with pride once they do!
An outdoor kitchen, along with pots, pans and dishes, sees many a gravel cake creation. The look of pride when a child presents you with a yummy 'stone soup' creation is priceless!
Beyond the gravel area is the parents' kitchen, where snacks are prepared, and the sandbox (not pictured), which is available to appropriate ages on sunny days. Lots of sand toys, including buckets, small and large shovels, molds, dump trucks, backhoes, and more, await exploration and experimentation. In older classes (when there is adequate supervision) the back gate is opened and children can experience a challenging play area, the large climber. The large climber offers lots of opportunities for large muscle development climbing the steps, or scaling the large slide using the knotted ropes and lots of upper body strength, balance and coordination. Once on top, children love being 'under the big top' and steering the big wheel. Under the platform, they enjoy hanging and swinging on the bar or riding the tire swing - great activities for balance and sharing.
Recently a part of Little Hands is the cottage, dedicated to our youngest and littlest hands, with a private indoor and outdoor area. Within a safely gated front yard are pushers for the freshly tottering, a sandbox for amateur sculptors, outdoor play tables, basketball hoops, and other toys sized for those between 6-18 months. Inside is a large room with soft rugs, shelves full of manipulatives and traditional wood and music toys, and a reading nook. A back inlet includes a play kitchen, dress up area, and other interactive toys suitable for fresh toddlers. The cottage is complete with a kitchen, bath, and back room where parent discussions are frequently held.