Sunday, April 28, 2013

What We're Up to in May

Here is what we have in the classroom this month:

Our writing salt is back! This time lavender colored and scented.  My son (aka the beta tester) was using it right after it went into the classroom and I could hear him scratching away....then a big sniff.....and "Ahhhhh, this smells soooooooo good!"

Butterfly and Flower Counting Game
I used laminated butterfly shapes that were name tags last year and wrote the numbers in permanent marker with little dots.  I put 1-5 on one side and 6-10 on the other so there weren't too many materials to work with.  I also added tongs in case the children feel inclined to use them.

Our geranium-scented play dough from last month has held up really well.  I think because we spent quite a bit of time outside, but now the weather is getting hot and we'll be back indoors, so we're giving it another try.  I've just replaced the egg cookie cutter with a butterfly.

Our bug sensory bin is always loads of fun!  Shredded paper, plastic bugs, trees and rocks and some tree blocks, made by my big brother, to bring in some nature.

Butterfly Pattern Match Game
I printed these butterflies from Preschool Printables.  They're meant to be a file folder game, but they work wonderfully on the light table.  Laminated and ready to match!

Our sewing basket has been refreshed again this month.  I've added smaller versions of the flower buttons used the Butterfly and Flower Counting Game to replace our regular buttons.  I also found a fancy flower pin cushion to keep our tapestry needle for button-sewing safe and sound.

I made this little felted bee last year along with the felted turtles pictured below.  The idea for these happy little fellows came from my curriculum purchased from Little Acorn Learning.  I love adding little Waldorf-Inspired elements into the classroom when I can find the time to make them.

Friday, April 26, 2013

A Week of Weather: Wind, Clouds and Rain

A Week of Weather - Day 3: Rain

This week, we've done some great activities with wind and explored clouds.  For our last weather explorations, we focused on rain!!  Yes, I'll say it again, it's the desert, we don't get rain, but the children enjoyed songs or books about rain anyway and they LOVED making their own rain.

Our first experiment was a Rain Jar.  I've been doing this experiment for years, always topping the jar of hot water with plastic wrap, which always left melting ice and a big mess, until I saw it done using a bowl on top of the jar - duh, Miss Lindsey!

So, this year, I set it up properly: start with a mason jar filled about halfway with almost-boiling water (keep little hands away, please!), place a bowl (I used a glass bowl that fit down inside the rim of the jar) on top and fill the bowl with ice.  Observe!
After a few minutes, the evaporating water will condense on the bottom of the bowl of ice, form droplets and then 'rain' back into the jar.  I have to say, I've never seen kids stare so intently at a jar of water than I did when we did this experiment.

The rain doesn't last long, and without a formal explanation of the water cycle, the children may not even know how it happened, but the point of this activity wasn't to learn the science of rain, it was to be awed by rain - which we desert-dwellers tend to be anyway.  It's about watching, waiting, anticipation and finally the excitement of seeing rain INSIDE a jar!!


Next on the rainy agenda - Shaving Cream Clouds and Rainbow Rain, which I've seen floating about the web for quite a while and done very beautifully here.  

We read Listen to the Rain by Bill Martin, Jr. and John Archambault.  I happen to really enjoy this book, both because the writing style is strangely soothing and also because the art style is unique.  After the book, we moved right into making our own rain.  

I filled mason jars about 2/3 full of water, then added shaving cream to the top.  The kiddos began adding liquid watercolors right away, but i think they were so fascinated with coloring the shaving cream, it took a little while before they realized the rainbow rain they were creating in their jars.
Everyone enjoyed adding colors and watching them swirl down into the water until the water was all black.  Even after that, the shaving cream was still lovely, and reminded me of some sort of tasty dessert, so I just took some pictures of the tops while the children finished coloring their clouds.

I hope you've enjoyed our Week of Weather!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Screen-Free! Now what??

Alright, you've done it!  You've made the decision to go screen-free to some degree.  Maybe you've gone for broke and eliminated all the unnecessary screen time from your life and your children's lives or maybe you've committed to screen-free family meals a few times a week.  Whatever your level of screen-freedom, you've done something wonderful for yourself and your family!  I commend you!

Sooooo........(fingers drumming).......(foot tapping).....what in the world do we DO???

Unfortunately, the screen-free lifestyle often gets a bad rap because there seems to be a misunderstanding that the time previously spent watching TV, using the computer, playing video games, texting, chatting, whatever-ing, needs to be 'filled'.  To many people, filling time means organized outings, sports, extracurriculars, etc.  I can tell you, this is NOT the case at all.  You might be amazing at how easily and inexpensively you can 'fill' your time on your own or with your children when you go screen-free.

Here are a few simple ideas to get you started:

- Read a book - Even if you are sitting on the couch reading your own book while your child plays nearby, you are setting an example that will last a lifetime.  Both my husband and I are avid readers - he'll even have multiple books going at once - and we want our children to see us escaping into our stories like they do with theirs.  OR, read books to your child, no matter how old they are.  My mom and I read books together until I neared my teens and I loved every minute of it, even if I could read the words faster over her shoulder.

- Cook a meal - Don't get crazy on me, people, I'm not talking gourmet here!  This week, my son and I made turkey and cheese crescent rolls after I saw it here and thought, 'Gee, this is easy, why haven't I tried this before?'  Some of his other favorites are quesadillas, pita pizza, bread (adding the ingredients to the bread machine), grilled cheese, pancakes and french toast.  These meals might take just a few minutes to prepare and eat, but for your child, a short amount of quality time spent with you doing meaningful work is worth hours and hours of half-attention on your part.

- Create something - Anything!!  Whatever you have around the house can be used to create.  Build towers, color, glue, cut up magazines and make collages, make stamps from potatoes, use anything you can find to make patterns or shapes, throw a sheet over everything and have a picnic in your fort, anything goes and the kids love all of it.  If the kiddos are napping, create something just for you.  I can't sew anything but straight lines with my sewing machine, but I make place mats each month for my preschool.  I'm proud of them and the children comment on them often - simple, simple, simple.

- Sing - Yes, even if you are tone-deaf.  If your child is young enough, he won't care, he'll love your voice anyway.  Or, if you feel really uncomfortable with it, sing in a silly voice on purpose.  We bust out our 'Brady Family Musical' quite often - we literally sing EVERYTHING and my son thinks it's hilarious.  This works especially well if you feel yourself getting frustrated with something that's going on - just sing it out and you'll feel better - and your kiddos will be more likely to comply with whatever you might be requesting.

- Take a Walk - Again, not going for a 10K here, folks, just a walk.  Fresh air is good for you and so is the sun, get your Vitamin D for the day and take a little stroll!  For us, this is a simple as walking to the mailbox, which is just across the street, but for my kiddo, it's a big ordeal.  There are shoes to be found and bikes to be ridden.  He gets to find our mailbox number, open it with the key, grab the mail, lock it up and we head on home.  Sometimes, we luck out and there's something worthwhile in the mailbox, so we get to spend some time reading a new magazine or opening a package. 

- Chores - Do you know why children dislike chores?  Because they see us grumble about the dishes or vacuuming or dusting.  If you approach your chores with care and a fair amount of gusto, so will your children.  I have two spray bottles in my classroom, along with a bucket full of washcloths.  My windows/walls/tables/chairs are cleaned almost every day by a willing child.  They love real work and they love to imitate the adults in their lives, so give them a bucket of soapy water and a few dishes and let them have a blast.

- Play - This is what most of our screen-free time is spent doing - playing.  Both of my boys are amazing when it comes to independent play.  My older son has always been independent and was off and running (well, scooching) by about 4 1/2 months.  My little guy needed some encouragement to play on his own, but now, he's a play super-star - at only 7 months.  Please don't be discouraged by things you read on blogs - even this one - or anywhere else, no special effort is needed, except maybe the willingness to allow messes to happen and being prepared to clean up.  You really don't even need toys!  Your children will be satisfied with items from your house - pots and pans, sheets, towels, pillows, random recyclables, old clothes for dress-up, etc.  Water is always a good one - just add some kitchen tools and they're off!  If you have older kiddos and they're 'bored', I like to paraphrase from Simplicity Parenting and say something along the lines of, 'Something new/fun/interesting is just around the corner'.  It might take practice and patience for the older ones, but they'll get it and you'll be awed by their creations.

Will you be participating in Screen-Free Week?  Do you have anything special planned?

Our Screen-Free stories are here and here.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

A Week of Weather: Day 2 - Clouds

In case you're just catching up, this week is all about weather!  My last post was all about wind and now we've moved on to clouds!  Some of these activities were done on different days in my preschool classes, but for the sake of organization, I've grouped them by weather type instead of when they actually occurred.

To get things started, we read It Looked Like Spilt Milk by Charles G. Shaw.  The kids absolutely loved this book - especially because the words are easy enough to memorize quickly and they can read the book to themselves.  The book also sparks conversations about things the kiddos have seen in the clouds; like the mermaid cloud I heard about today!

First up: Blot Art Clouds.  Yes, I know we just did blot art, but it's the perfect homage to the story, so we got started.

Just like our Blot Art Earths, we used paper with a crease already down the middle to assist in folding. Some white paint, spoons and we're off!

Some expert rubbing and then a look at what he's created.

Hmmmmm.......not really sure what this one might be.  We ventured a few guesses, but he decided to try again.

This kiddo ended up with what I think looks like a horse head, but whatever it was, he loved it so much he wanted to keep doing more!

This one looks just like the little cloud in the story, but my son insisted it was the Earth, maybe covered in snow??  He tried a few more times and ended up with a butterfly as well - what a great way to use our imaginations!

Moving on.  Our next adventure in clouds was Puffy Paint Clouds.  This recipe is so easy and so fun, but I never measure, so you'll just have to wing it.  Mix white glue with shaving cream and food coloring until it looks like this and begin painting!  I always encourage the kiddos to leave lumps on their papers because when it dries, it really looks like clouds!  We use this paint for snowmen in the winter as well.

This is one time we do NOT wipe off the brush on the side of the bowl before we start painting!

All dry and puffy!  The kiddos LOVE to feel it, so don't be surprised if it ends up all smooshy, but that's alright - new sensory experience!

Our last cloud activity isn't really very weather-y, but it's so fun that I couldn't resist putting it in this week.  Bubble Prints!!  I wasn't able to get any pictures of this activity this year, because my parent helper and I were blowing bubbles until we neared exhaustion.  Fortunately, I have pictures from last year.

I use 8x8 aluminum pans and large sheets of card stock to prevent the paper from winding up all the way in the water (though accidents still happen).  Just put a small amount of water in the bottom of the pan, add a good amount of dish soap (I told you I don't measure, maybe 1/4 c.?) and your desired color.  The more color you use, the darker your prints will be.  I used about 2-3 T of liquid water color this year and our results were amazing!

If you have older children, they can blow the bubbles themselves, but we had an unfortunately mishap last year with my little one, so I chose to have the adults do the blowing this year.

Blow enough bubbles to come over the top of the pan (ya know, like clouds!) and lay your paper on top.  When the bubbles pop, they will leave a lovely mark on the paper.  Repeat this with as many colors, as many times as you'd like.

Last year's results on canvas, sent to Grandma.

This year's results - with a ton more liquid water color!

Next up: Rain!!

Monday, April 22, 2013

A Week of Weather: Day 1 - Wind

According to the curriculum I purchase from Little Acorn Learning, one week this month is supposed to be dedicated to rain.  I live in the desert.  We don't have rain - unless it's monsoon season - so it's a bit difficult to fill a week with rain activities and keep the children interested.  I decided to expand upon the theme and cover weather in general.

Day 1 of this Week of Weather was all about WIND!  We have quite a bit of that here in the Phoenix, AZ area, and we've had some very windy days in the past few weeks, so I knew it would be in the recent memories of the kiddos.

I set up the light table with a heavy/light experimentation area.

I also provided a straw for each child.  A note about wind experiments: be prepared for spit.  Blowing through a straw without saliva interfering is very difficult for the little ones, so have your anti-bacterial wipes ready.

The children tried to move everything around on the table and we talked about what moved and what didn't - light things and heavy things.  My son decided that he didn't like the fact that he couldn't knock over that little tower of blocks, so he just leaned in and sneakily bumped it with the bottom of his straw!  We were surprised that we could move the small wooden cars with our ''wind", but not the train cars from our set of Prism Blocks.

Feathers were the favorite!  I plan to have this area open for the remainder of the week, and I think I'll provide a few more feathers and perhaps attempt a 'catch wall' around the perimeter of the light table - there was a lot of bending to pick up on my part, BUT, all in the name of science!

Since we were on a roll with those straws, we tried some "Wind Painting".  This is a super-easy project that works best with older kids; however, if you do it with a class of two-year-olds as I did, hilarity will definitely ensue and they will have a blast anyway!

We used finger paint paper (taped down) - to provide a slick surface so the paint wouldn't be immediately absorbed - and liquid watercolors.  If you have older children, you could have them drop the paint on the paper themselves, but since I had all little ones, I wanted them to focus on the "wind" portion, so I dished out the colors as they asked for them - bonus color lesson!  Teal, Fuchsia, Tangerine and Violet!

What an awesome technique!!  The kids loved it and they were so proud once they finally got the hang of it and were able to move that paint across the paper!

Check out that powerful wind action!!

Happy Earth Day!

Next up:  Clouds!

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Our Screen-Free Kids: How and Why?

In case you missed my post about Screen-Free Week 2012, I'll just give another brief history of how we came to be (almost) screen-free.  In 2009, after the birth of my first son (pictured above with his pool skimmer electric guitar with jump rope cord), my older brother sent me the book Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne.  At that point in my life, I was going through some rough times, and the concepts presented in the book touched something within me.  I just knew in my heart that I had to change in order to provide my son with better opportunities.

I made a conscious decision to change my life. I rid myself of debt and started reducing the amount of stuff around me.  I gave away clothes that I hadn't worn in months; plastic toys, especially those that had noise and flashing lights were gone, too.  I held onto only my most cherished knick-knacks and a tiny book collection that had helped shape me as a person.  Even my husband, a self-proclaimed 'collector' gave away boxes of books, DVDs, Cd's, and video games.  He also agreed to give up our 'living room tv'.  I'll admit, getting him on board with the screen-free life for our son took some time, but after a few months watching our son develop at break-neck speed with only a floor to move around on and a few toys, he began to believe we were heading in the right direction.

Over the past three years, we have definitely acquired 'stuff', but we routinely purge clothing, toys, books, etc. to maintain a balance.  I can tell simply by my son's behavior when it's time to clean house.  We've slowly moved into a more Waldorf-Inspired home life, simply and beautifully described here.

I certainly don't expect other families to go completely screen-free, in this day and age, that's nearly impossible, but there are numerous studies out there that may convince some people that screens aren't right for young children.  I'll leave it to experts to explain why: here and here.  And there are many more studies and articles out there if you feel inclined to do some independent research.

Here is a basic look at our (almost) screen-free life:

- Our TV resides in my husband's office and is only used when the children are sleeping.  We do not have cable.  We do pay for Netflix and HuluPlus in case we are in the mood to watch something.  I have favorite shows like everyone else; good storytelling is out there, I just don't need the junk on the other 200 channels.  My husband is still an avid gamer, but he works nights and plays his games when he gets home and the rest of the family is sleeping.

- Neither of us has a smart phone.  We have basic prepay phones for emergencies.

- Our children do not watch TV at home, and we try our best to avoid restaurants or other establishments that have TVs on every wall.  Even our pediatrician's office has a TV in every room - I turn it off and we read the books they also provide.

- We do have a video camera and my lil guy is allowed to watch videos of himself or slide shows of pictures on the computer - this is a recent addition as he's become more curious about the computer.

- We both try our best not to use the computer for extended periods of time in front of the children.  I get most of my work done in the morning before they wake up, at nap times and after bedtime, but there are times when it can't be avoided and that's part of living in a technological age - the internet is a useful resource.

I'm not sure how long we'll be able to keep our lil guy away from screens and we've already established a game plan should he begin to show intense interest - we do not want the TV or any other screen to become forbidden fruit, and we plan to teach moderation.  For now, though, he's not interested, except to ask if other families watch TV and I always reply, "Some families do and some families don't.  Our family doesn't."  He seems satisfied with that response thus far.

I know there are people out there who swear up and down that TV and other screens don't cause any harm, and I'm no scientist, so I truly don't know for sure, I can only do what feels right for our family.  Sometimes, I hear comments from other people, though, that help to solidify my faith in our choices.  Just this week, we had a company come do some work in the house and my lil guy (always the chatterbox) began talking about the pretend game he was playing with a jump rope (his 'plugger') and part of an old flashlight (his microphone).  After the work was done, the lil guy changed his props into tools to emulate the work that was just done in the house.  This man, a complete stranger, looked at me and said, "He's got quite an imagination for such a young kid."  Yes, yes, he does.  Lack of screens?  Perhaps.  Perhaps not, but why risk it?

Magic Mud: Rainbows and Nature

Ahhh, Magic Mud, aka goop, gak, slime, and all of those other interchangeable words used to describe a variety of amazing sensory materials for children (and adults!).  At Seedlings, Magic Mud is what we call cornstarch and water.  I've tried this a couple of times with my students and received a very unenthusiastic response each time - it's one of those love it or hate it kind of things.  I've seen this solid-ish, liquid-ish material used in some wonderful ways, but two of my favorites are Clubhouse Goop over at Fit Kids Clubhouse - check out the rainbow swirl action over there!  AND, Multi-sensory Goop at Growing a Jeweled Rose - who doesn't love nature in their sensory play?

When my son came home with a handful of rose petals from our Parent-Child Class at the local Waldorf-Inspired school, I thought - why not combine both ideas and see what happens??

I started him off with a whole box of cornstarch, his nature finds - rose petals and a teeny apple, food coloring and some old spice bottles with food coloring and water.  I also gave him a pitcher with more water since I knew the spice jars wouldn't be enough to get the reaction we were looking for.

He started with the food coloring.  He described his process as he was going along, "First I'm going to do this, Mom, then I'm going to add blue."  Such the little chef!

A sprinkling of rose petals looks lovely!  He really did sprinkle, I was pretty impressed with the technique, I could tell there was a lot of love going into this recipe.

Then he discovered the pitcher of water.  Remember all those drops of food coloring earlier??

There they are!!  Neat!  "Mom, this is cool!"  Score for Mom!
Now for a quick stir.  "Mom, it's hard!!"  I thought at this point, he might get discouraged, as he usually quits stirring once it gets difficult when we're baking.  I was wrong, he just kept adding things, even the little apple.

This next part was the best for me to watch.  Instead of adding things directly to the bowl, he created a variety of mixes in the small bowl and then added them.  I'm pretty sure this comes from watching Daddy cook - he loves being his own sous chef and puts everything into little bowls before starting any recipe.

He was still having trouble mixing, so I suggested he find another way to mix.

And then he made a new discovery.  At the bottom of that greenish-brownish liquid mess, was this amazing stuff, still retaining it's original rainbow colors!!  Hey, it IS called MAGIC Mud! 

He mixed and manipulated until the mixture was homogeneous and not very magic anymore - which is what happens if you add too much water - but it took quite a long time to get there.

My lil guy's verdict: LOVE IT!

Hopefully, you'll love it too!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...