Meet T.J. Trivitt
After spending three days with our 2017 Early Childhood and Physical Activity Institute (ECPAI) graduates, the Be Active Kids staff had the opportunity to get to know each of the participants and what they do to help improve the lives of young children. T.J. Trivitt was one graduate who stood out to the Be Active Kids staff. He is the Physical Activity Coordinator at Lulu's Child Enrichment Center in Alexander County. Yes, that's right, physical activity coordinator at a child care center. Our staff was impressed with T.J.'s drive to bring quality physical activity opportunities to young children in a child care center. We were also impressed that a center had a dedicated staff member to provide developmentally appropriate physical activity opportunities to children birth through school age. After ECPAI, we were fortunate to be able to spend some time with T.J. observing him in action with the kids at his center and enjoyed learning more about him and his passion for active play in early childhood.
Share one of your favorite childhood play memories.
One of my favorite childhood memories was those that involved racing, whether it was relay races where we passed metal batons, sack races, or three legged races. The joy of running as a child brings back fond memories. There's just something about racing when you're little and those famous three words, "I'll race ya!"
What is your educational background and how did you get started with an interest in early childhood physical activity?
My educational background consists of several years working with children along with several trainings, conferences, and workshops such as playground safety, Be Active Kids, SIDS, First Aid, and CPR. I am currently finishing up my Early Childhood Education degree. My interest came from working with all different ages and different experiences.
Share what a typical work day looks like for you and what ages you work with?
A typical day for me starts a little before 9:00am with me setting up some sort of games or obstacle course. At 9:00am, I start with the two year olds, move to the three year olds, then to the four year olds, each getting 30-45 minutes of play before lunch. We always start with some basic simple stretches, then we get warmed up and increase our heart rate with some dances. Once we are loose and ready to play, we start our planned activity. Depending on enthusiasm, as well as interest and capabilities, we may do 1-3 separate activities. Around 11:00am, we break for lunch and naps. I use this time to reflect back on how the morning lesson went. I also use this time to work outside on the playground, always making it more fun and inviting for the children. Around 2:30pm, once the children have had snack, we roll into a more free-lance type of physical play, either outside or in the classroom depending on the weather. I spend most of my time with two to five year olds, but I also have the privilege of spending some time with infants, one year olds, and school age children.
When you wake up in the morning, what excites you the most about going to work?
Knowing that the kids look forward to their physical activity time with "Mr. T.J." and the excitement on their faces and they can actually follow and do the stretches, exercise, or activity at such an early age. I love seeing the children and interacting with them and knowing they are learning lifetime habits. I especially enjoy Fridays, as that is the day we set up obstacle courses for the children.
What are the other teacher's feelings toward physical activity and your work with the children? Administration feelings? Do you collaborate on activity ideas/lessons plans together?
The director, Kim Draughn, is excited for me, pushes me, and backs me. She collaborates with me on ideas and keeps me motivated. At first, there was not much teacher buy in, but as time passed more teachers bought in and now they bounce ideas off of me.
Have you faced challenges or barriers in your work? If so, what helped you to overcome them?
I have not seemed to face many challenges outside the norm for children of this age. My only concern surrounding what I do is the fact I love new games and ideas. I feel my struggle comes mainly from being new in this field and not having enough knowledge, experience, or ideas to keep my class on their toes and having fun year around.
How have the parents of the children you work with felt about the physical activity work that you do with their children?
The parents have welcomed me into their lives as well as their children's lives. They have given me advice and helped me with anything I have needed. They have had my back and been very accepting of my free and risky play.
What have you learned from the children that has helped you to grow as a movement teacher?
The children have taught me that not everything has to be "out of this world" for them to learn or have fun. One of my three year old class's favorite games is "Hot Potato." There is no twist or special rules, simply pass the ball around the circle and when the music stops, the person holding the ball gets to be the DJ and control the music. I have also learned that young children love music and dancing 'Way' more than I imagined.
How has Be Active Kids been a helpful resource to you?
Be Active Kids has been more than helpful. They have been encouraging and a great learning resource with training available which I have attended where they educate you with great tips and ideas for active play. They have many ideas and activities targeted for young children. They also have ideas on 'loose parts' and things to use without going broke trying to entertain and teach children with different activities.
What was one of your favorite take away lessons from participating in our Early Childhood Physical Activity Institute this year?
My favorite take away lesson, besides the encouragement I received from the institute and working with the other teachers who shared the same goals and enthusiasm, was in the end, making our own toys to play with. Seeing and learning to make my own toys and coming up with twists to activities was great to be a part of. It actually helped me to expand my mind on making my own objects to promote physical activity. I also really enjoyed the assurance I received in doing my job.
If you could share one tip for incorporating more physical activity into a child's day with other teachers/centers, what would it be?
Just have fun yourself. If you're having fun and the children see that, it's fun and funny to them. Have fun!!!
What are your future dreams to expand on the work that you do with the children at Lulu's Child Enrichment Center?
My future dream for what I do would be to have designated teachers at every child care center doing what I do. As a long-term goal, I would love to run my own center and everything we do be tied into movement and centered around making healthy and active choices. I also love the thought of being knowledgeable at my job and having the opportunity to share what I know and train other teachers to follow in my footsteps and implement my 'Be Active' knowledge.
Would you encourage other centers or schools to dedicate at least one staff member to physical activity as an expert? Why or why not?
I would most definitely encourage other centers to have one person on staff dedicated toward physical activity. Not only to help with the children but other teachers as well. The time I spend with the children gives the teachers a break and a moment to just have fun themselves. It's also great for keeping the children busy and not being bored to the point they start making bad choices. Having this time with the children has improved their sleep habits at school and home. I don't just let them play but I push them, expanding their limits and maximizing their energy, strength, and coordination. Making the children be active and exposing them to new games has also motivated several children and parents to pursue getting their children on local sports teams. I feel like the work I do with children also helps them to understand how to play with toys (throw balls not cars, run outside not inside, play fight with pool noodles and not our hands, and also understanding each other's feelings like when enough is enough as far as a child asking his/her friends to stop when they are playing 'Light Sabers' with noodles). Encouraging children to be active at an early age promotes good habits that carries on into adulthood.