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Trying Out The Floorbook Approach with a Toddler

Floor bed approach with young toddlers at How we Montessori  documenting with descriptions and photographs

I recently participated in the How to Use a Floorbook to Engage Infants and Toddlers webinar by Claire Warden at Mindstretchers. I loved some of the ideas so much, I tried them out with Otto.

I have used many of Claire's resources before including the Floorbook approach, but always with my older children. The Floorbook approach is much like a project-based approach to learning, still child-led. The Floorbook approach is designed for early childhood learning centres and educators. But I can see how it can be applied, in part, at home. I have included some of my notes and light-bulb moments below! 

A child's right to be heard - One of the key points that I took away from this approach is regarding the United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) and the child's right to be heard (article 12). Wow, the child has the right to be heard from birth. "Every child has the right to express their views, feelings and wishes in all matters affecting them, and to have their views considered and taken seriously." How do we do this with an infant, how do we do this with a toddler? The Floorbook approach is just one way we can allow the young child to express themselves, to be heard. 

Celebrate the scribble -  Claire showed an example of a sign in sheet, where each toddler would sign in each day (at the early learning centre), each child leaves a little scribble to say they have arrived. The point being that even toddlers communicate through written marks. I love it. It changed everything when I started to view my child's scribbles as written marks, as communication. It's a valid and important method of communication. 

Picture cues - I have never done this before but I loved Otto's response to it (pictured above). We use a photograph of the child's interest, Claire gave the example of a photograph of a newt a young toddler was paying attention to, and we present that photograph in the Floorbook, interested in the child's interpretation of the newt and the child's response to it. Otto spent so much time paying attention to the photograph of the ladybug (he loves ladybugs), it absolutely captured his attention, and his response to it (his drawing/mark making) was wonderful to observe. I can't wait to see how his responses develop in the future. 

Touching Floorbooks - Floorbooks are designed to be large so that many toddlers can touch them and use them on the floor. They can be used for documenting learning which the child can later revisit. An example given was photographs of the children on a planned excursion and a feather found on that excursion. The toddlers can sit around the Floorbook and view the images while feeling the feather. Floorbooks are meant to be touched!! 

Looking back at the Floorbook's photographs and visual cues - revisiting the Floorbook can assist the child with thinking back and memory recall, it's about reorientating and reminding the child of the learning or the past work they have done. Photographs of outings or group learning can demonstrate or reinforce feelings of belonging or being part of a group.

Creates links across learning - Floorbooks can provide a feedback loop, creating links across learning. We can document the child's questions. We can observe the child through a series of photographs and question 'what is next' for this child.

Adult records the communication - this is something I haven't done before. The adult can record the toddler's verbal communication in the Floorbook. If the child has anything to say about the work or if the child wants to name their marks or say something about their marks, the adult can record it. 

Floor bed approach with young toddlers at How we Montessori  documenting with descriptions and photographs

Above and below we have recorded some of our most recent activity. 

Floor bed approach with young toddlers at How we Montessori  documenting with descriptions and photographs

This is not Otto's photo album for viewing, it is his documentation. When he is more verbal I will write what he describes in the photographs. We can revisit the feeling of the sand, the sounds of the waves. These images of a family send a powerful message that he is a valued member of this group. For us it's our family, for others it could be their class or photos of group learning. 

Floor bed approach with young toddlers at How we Montessori  documenting with descriptions and photographs

"Hands.... hands" - he says while pointing to his hands in the sand. This is fantastic work for language development. 

For homeschoolers I could also see this method as being valuable for record keeping.

At home, all of my three children (11, 8, 1 year) have their own Floorbook, we use the Artway Recycled, Hardcover, Sprial Bound A3 Sketch Book (UK link). The pages are nice and thick and can handle pasting, the spiral binding allows it to easily stay open. The cover is hardboard, perfect for using outside on uneven surfaces or for when the children want to draw/write/make marks in their laps. Educators might like the slightly larger Floorbooks (A2) offered at Mindstretchers. For older children, 2-8years+ you might like Talking and Thinking Floorbooks: Using 'Big Picture' Planners to consult children (Kindle).

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