Friday, November 6, 2015

Play Buzz

As I was writing an email to my families today I became inspired to write a post about the wonderful phenomenon known as a play buzz.  

A play buzz can be described best as a moment during free play when all is good, all is right, all needs are met and all are learning.  

Play buzz happens often at Butterfly Hill and when it happens all of the teachers recognize what is happening.  When this electrifying event happens, we know that children are learning.  We know they are meeting their own needs and are completely comfortable in our environment.  We know they are comfortable with their teachers and classmates.  

When the teachers witnessed play buzz for the first time, we felt very weird.  We felt like we should be teaching them something and we should be having conversations with the children.  We felt like we were not doing enough and not teaching the children.  In fact, we realized, the exact opposite was needed from us.  During a play buzz, the children are able to solve their own problems because we have spent time modeling and teaching them language to use when conflict arises.  

During play buzz, children are making their own decisions and are happy because they CAN make their own decisions.  Teachers at Butterfly Hill allow children time and space to do this!  As humans, we are much happier when we are able to make decisions for ourselves.  

During play buzz, children are learning!  They are drawing, painting, talking, pretending, examining, discovering, running, crawling, dressing up, role playing, gluing, cutting, singing, and so much more!  They are constructing their own learning based on their own interests.  Brain research shows that this is how all people learn best - through self guided discovery.  

The teachers and I realized that our first play buzz of the year happened in October this year (5 weeks into the school year).  I believe this is because we have mixed age classrooms and there are returning students playing alongside new students to our preschool.  The young and new are learning great things from our returning students and the play buzz made an appearance much sooner than last year because of this!  Last year, our first play buzz happened in February.  

We love the play buzz.  We trust that children are learning.  During a play buzz, the learning that takes place is enormous.  

Trust us.  Trust your child.  Trust that your child is learning everything they are ready to learn!

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Fine Motor Development - The Butterfly Hill Way

Fine motor development in many early childhood programs is practiced through manipulating things such as play dough, sand, scissors, glue bottles, painting, writing, coloring with crayons.  Many parents and educators believe that fine motor skills should be "taught" through worksheets, teacher directed crafts that involve cutting and gluing, and handwriting workbooks.  The teachers at Butterfly Hill have researched the way children learn and know that children learn through self-directed play experiences.  In order to eventually write their names, children need to use those little hand muscles to squeeze things.

They need to pound things to gain stength in their core and in the hands.

Children need to have acess to a variety of materials to make marks, color, and paint with.

When given time, freedom to explore and materials to explore with, children are unstoppable. They will strengthen those little muscles so they can do things like this!

She used the muscles in her little hands to cut around all the bends these antlers have!  

Trust us. Trust your child.  Trust the process!  

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Use Too Much!

The children in our preschool program are given free access to all materials that are in the classroom.  

There are typically no rules as to how much or how little of something they can use.  This is most evident in our art area of the classroom. 

Yep!  That is glue.  Many teachers would limit the glue use.  It is messy, it is sticky and it is not fun to clean up.  When I first started teaching I preferred glue sticks.  They are so much easier to clean up and control.  That is the key word, CONTROL.   I now trust children as learners.  I trust that they will make decisions about their day based on their needs and interests.  So, I have learned to trust them with a bottle of glue.  Typically, children need to experience too much of something before they know what just the right amount is.  By allowing children to experience the full effect of glue, they will learn on their own how much is too much and how much is too little.   

By allowing this freedom of glue exploration, the children are also learning many skills: eye-hand coordination, viscosity, gravity and they are having to use their little hand muscles to squeeze those bottles with all their might!  

We give children time and trust.  We give children control of their own learning.  

Trust us.  Trust your child.  Trust the process.  

Monday, October 5, 2015

PVC Pipes - A Math Manipulative?

Our classroom is filled with loose parts.  Loose parts are collections of items that serve more than one purpose.  They are open ended.  Loose parts are items such as rocks, sea shells, puzzle pieces, wood blocks, tree cookies, sponges, gems and sticks.  

We introduced different length PVC pipes and connectors into the classroom two weeks ago.  We placed the PVC pipe in the classroom environment and waited until the children discovered them.  At first, the pipes were swords and rifles.  Then, a group of children discovered that when a flashlight is put in the tube, a light saber is formed!  

Light sabers took over the classroom until a child found out you could connect the pipes to make really long/tall pipes that touch the ceiling.  

Math manipulatives are usually thought of as brightly colored bears or shapes that can be used for sorting, counting and patterning.  Our PVC pipes have turned into math manipulatives except the preschool children don't even know they are manipulating math!  They are exploring concepts such as bigger, smaller, shorter, longer, taller, tallest and more!  They are counting the pipes in their creations to see how many small pipes it took to build a long pipe and who has more pipes and who has less.  

And then this happened...

"Look!  I made a 4!"  

The children created this learning all on their own.  All we have to do as teachers is provide an environment where children have access to open ended materials and the TIME to spend creating, exploring and playing!  
Trust us.  Trust your child.  Trust the process.  Children will learn when they are ready to learn when given the time and materials to do so.  

Monday, September 28, 2015

Literacy Development - It's Everywhere!

A question a lot of people want to know... If the children in your program play all day, how are they going to learn their ABC's and 123's?  In this post, let's discuss the ABC's.
Do you really know what early literacy consists of?  According to the MN Department of Education, language literacy development is made up of 4 parts;  listening, speaking, emergent reading, and emergent writing.  


Children practice listening skills in our program all day.  They listen to their friends' ideas, they listen to directions , we rhyme during storytelling, we use non-verbal and verbal cues for children (ringing the clean up bells and announcing that there a 5 minutes left until clean up time), and listening with understanding to stories and conversations.  Our play is rich with all of these things!


We give children the time to explore their environment and get to know the people around them.  Speaking is a very large part of early literacy development.  Children need to be able to communicate their needs, wants, or thoughts with their actions, non-verbal cues, expressions and words.  Play is important for children to try out these skills.  Through play children also learn to initiate, ask questions, and respond in conversation with adults and with other children.

In the photo below, these children were working on glittering a collaborative piece of artwork.  Their conversation was rich in language, listening to each other's suggestions, giving directions and "good job" moments!  

Emergent Reading

Our environment is loaded with opportunities to explore stories, print, the alphabet, and books.  We spend time with children spontaneously reading and telling stories, allowing them time to "read" books on their own, retelling stories, telling stories with props or the flannel board and allowing them to use those props and materials freely during play time.  We have an Old Lady that Swallowed a Fly puppet and the children have so much fun telling the story over and over on their own.  They are developing a love for reading by being allowed the time to spend singing this song over and over again!

Emergent Writing

Children are given the materials to write if they choose.  Chalk, dry erase markers, crayons, markers, paint, pencils, clipboards, paper, journaling and even glue!  Children leave our program with the knowledge that writing is a way of communicating.  They know the use of scribbles, shapes, pictures and dictation represents their thought and ideas.  We want children to engage in writing daily so we give them time and tools for this!  

So, you see... It's all about time and the environment.  Trust us.  Trust your child. Trust the process.  Your child will experience each of these things daily through child-led play.  

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Defending Play

Our philosophy at Butterfly Hill is that of child centered play.  We build our environment and days on moments of discovery, experimentation, cooperation, problem solving, risk taking, questioning, and exploring.  This is PLAY!  Our academic driven education system has pushed down to preschool and many preschools are giving children workbooks and are forcing children to do teacher directed activities so they have something to show they are learning.  At Butterfly Hill we take a different approach to learning.  An approach that is rooted in  brain based research.  For now, we have to defend play and prove that your children are learning in our environment.  We have to prove that when we allow them to use their whole bodies to learn and make their own decisions that this is the highest form of meaningful learning your child could ever be a part of.
This photo is an example of a child making meaning of the world around her. She spent 10 minutes using her gross and fine motor skills to punch circles out of this piece of paper. She ran over to me and said, "Look!  I made an H!"  She is making connections because we give her the time, materials and environment to make connections.  We let her play!  This is pre-literacy at it's greatest!  We didn't make her sit down at a table and write the letter H over and over to learn what the letter H looks and feels like.  She experienced it on her own and the moment was meaningful to her.  Trust the brain research! 

When given time to make their own decisions, children will learn!  They will be ready for the next stage in life - when it comes.  But, for now, let's let them enjoy being 3,4 and 5.  

Your children are lucky.  They are learning.  Trust us.  Trust them.  Trust the research. Play is learning! 

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Butterfly Hill Nature Preschool is holding a 100 envelope campaign to help raise money for the new preschool that will be offered in the church next year.  There will be 100 envelopes labeled 1-100 on a board in the narthex.  Select an envelope and fill it with the amount listed on the outside.  If the number you would like has already been taken, try taking two smaller envelopes and fill those together.  There will also be some “free 0’s” available.  These zeros may be added to any envelope to change the value.  Example:  pick a 7 and add a 0 to make it 70.  Simply then drop the envelope in the box provided.  The campaign will come to a close on Sunday, July 7th.  Check us out on our Facebook page – Butterfly Hill Nature Preschool – or contact Kristen Peterson at

Butterfly Hill Updates: 

·         We received a grant from the organization, Pets in the Classroom, to get a leopard gecko and a White’s tree frog for the classroom.  The grant will take care of the cost of the habitat and pays for 50% of the cost of animal and first round of food.  We will let you know when they are in the building so you may come down and meet them!

·         We are starting out fundraising efforts.  Once we get money in the bank account we can move forward with the child care center license and the filing of the 501(c)3 application.  We are also hoping to get the team from Nature Explore ( here this summer/fall to start the planning and certification process of our outdoor classroom.

·         Scott Johnston was kind enough to set up and file the articles of incorporation for Butterfly Hill. Thank you Scott!

·         You can follow the preschool progress on Facebook “Butterfly Hill Nature Preschool”, and Kristen has started a blog:

·         The materials for a monarch butterfly garden were donated by Dan and Cindy Perkins.  The garden was planted by Julie Hansen and you can find it in parking lot island closest to the sheds.   Thank You!