Sunday, November 1, 2015

Fun with "Leaf Man" by Lois Ehlert

When the leaves start to change colors and fall from the trees, it's time to have fun with leaf projects!!

First, find the book "Leaf Man" by Lois Ehlert - it is so much fun to read ... and your children will love the awesome illustrations! Each one shows a different character made entirely of leaves ... animals, people ... make sure you look carefully to see it.

Next, take your little guys on a leaf hunt to find as many different varieties of leaves as you can. Make sure to get a variety of colors and shapes, and sizes, to make your own illustrations really cool!

Then, set out your leaves on some contrasting construction paper and move them around, making different combinations until you make a shape that looks interesting :)

Have your little ones try different combinations to make different creatures, and finally, get ready to glue them on paper or encase them in plastic, to keep them forever. You can use glue dots to fix the leaves where you want them, or you can use clear contact paper to make them into a "sun catcher." Either way, make sure you add details, like faces, eyes, hands, paws ... whatever will make your character come to life!

Have fun!

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Books to Love: "The Quilt Story" by: Tony Johnston and Tomie dePaola

There are all kinds of stories - silly, funny, scary, sad ... real stories, pretend stories .... even stories that help your children see something new about the world they live in. Realistic fiction has a important place in your child's library, and can help them learn about things that happened before they were born.

The Quilt Story gives a little history lesson and opens up all kinds of discussions about the past - the past of your country, your family's history, even your own past - before kiddos. It tells the story, in words and pictures, of a quilt which has a place in a family's history and then is rediscovered by a later generation. 

The illustrations also help to tell the story, so make sure to integrate them into your reading :) Look for changes in buildings, dress, transportation, etc. After you read, you can go through your own old family photos, looking for changes that tell the story of your family, too. 

You can extend the reading of this story with so many art projects - use stencils and paper cutouts to design your own quilt or even piece together fabric scraps on paper, using glue instead of thread. If you are really handy, you can show your child a simple stitching pattern with a child-friendly needle and thread :)

The Quilt Story is a special book, with fine illustrations by Tomie dePaola, and makes a great cuddle-up read for bedtime. Watch out, though, your kiddos just might have to search out a forgotten blanket when you're done ....

Have fun!

Monday, September 28, 2015

Rock On!

Have some fun with rocks - and let your little ones explore and learn! We took some stones that were flat on at least one side, and used a paint pen to make upper-case letters on them. Then, we put them out on a table, and . . .

First, there was lots of interest ... and lots of questions!

"What are these? What do we do with them?" We didn't ask our little ones to do anything in particular with the rocks, but soon they were searching for their name letters and lining them up, calling friends over, and trying out new combinations :)

They noticed that some of their names started with the same letter, and that they had to share letters to make friends' names.

Next, maybe they'll want to play a match game - we'll need more rocks!

How about numbered rocks to line up in order ... or addition rocks! We could try shapes and patterns one day, too!

Have fun!

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Books to Love: "Bear Snores On" by Karma Wilson, illustrations by Jane Chapman

Kids LOVE the Karma Wilson Bear books ... This was the first one I discovered and it was an instant hit with my little ones! (There are more!!)

This terrific read-aloud will get your kiddos involved in the story right away with the use of engaging illustrations, by Jane Chapman, and the rhythm of repeating lines. Right from the start, the story builds ... As each new animal joins the story, seeking shelter in the cave, the words get more interesting and the print sizes up and down, from whisper-tiny to shout-out-big! As each new element is added to the sleepy scene, the same phrase caps it off - but it will get louder and louder, as your little friends join in!

Use this book to teach sequencing and pause to recall what happened first, next, and last. Use it to teach concepts of print and have your kiddos point out the words, left to right, one by one. Ask about the characters and make a list of all the animal friends. Try a child-led retelling, for comprehension assessment, using all the sweet pictures. Talk about friends sharing what they have, and meeting new friends. 

Most of all ...
Have fun!

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Little Ones With Big Feelings

When we try something new, we sometimes have feelings of fear, anxiety, or just uncertainty. Little ones just starting school may have these feelings, too, but aren't sure how to express them.

Parents and teachers can help by naming those feelings with them and giving them a funny face, like an emoticon, to label those butterflies-in-the-tummy times. Giving children tools to express themselves can sometimes help avoid those meltdowns created by big changes, and make for a much happier adjustment to school.

Use a little drawing to launch a chat about what your kiddo is feeling. Ask them to think about what face they'd like to have - and then work out a plan with them of how to get there. Maybe arranging a first day walk-to-school partner, or enclosing a family photo in their lunch boxes would help :) Getting your little one talking about feelings encourages them to share fears and dispel any unfounded ideas they may be internalizing.

Try this to get them giggling: Sing a little song with them to help them voice what's going on inside ...

If you're happy and you know it, show your smile, if you're happy and you know, show your smile, if you're happy and you know it - then your face will surely show it, if you're happy and you know it, show your smile! 

Then ...
If you're sad and you know it, make sad eyes ...
If you're mad and you know it, make a face ...

They will be in charge of coming up with some very silly faces :-o

When they complete that all-important first day, make sure you do a happy face check-in. Just another way of getting ready for school!!

Have fun!

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

An apple is not just an apple

Early childhood educators look at things every day through the eyes of their kiddos, in order to help them learn. They know that there are lessons in every single thing a child encounters ... and that helping them see the world so full of possibilities, at an early age, will help make them into life-long learners. Parents can do this, too!

It's not even so much about what the objects are, but what you can explore with them :) Even something as simple as - APPLES! Grab a bunch of apples next time you are in the market ... it can lead to activities full of math, science, and art skills!

First, have your children count the apples into a bowl - one-to-one correspondence work. Next, they can arrange them in a row, from largest to smallest - size and order. Then, use different colored apples to make a row of green, red, green, red or ... green, yellow, red, green, yellow, red - all kinds of patterns. Cut one apple into four equal pieces - fractions. Count them out into equal groups - simple division. (You can do all the above activities with construction paper apples, as well, if you're out of real ones!)

Now, examine the seeds to see how they are encased, how many there are, what size and shape they are, etc. You're doing science! Try a search engine to find pictures of the apple trees that produced these apples - see the different stages of growth! Your children will be excited to see how their own apples came to be! Even setting out a slice and watching it decay over time can be a cool lesson - but, maybe a little gross ... so, kids will like it!

Explore art with apples! Use half of an apple dipped in a yummy caramel or cream cheese sauce to make stamps on a paper plate - see what shapes they look like. (You can also do this with paint - orange paint stamped with apples make great pumpkins! Just don't eat the apples, then!) Let your children come up with ideas ... they will find ways to use the apples that you never even thought of :)

Read "Ten Apples Up On Top!" Your kiddos will love the silly illustrations and get in plenty of counting practice while reading. You can make your own counting book by taking silly-face pictures and cutting apples out to put on top of those faces, one per page ...

Early childhood educators have always known - an apple isn't just an apple! Explore ...

Have fun!

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Water Painting Fun!

The last days of summer are coming fast ... running out of things to do with your little ones?

If you have some water in a bucket and an old (or new!) paintbrush - find a surface like a sidewalk, driveway, or concrete steps, and see what happens. Fun for the pool, too!

They may want to paint the whole surface. They may begin to make shapes or squiggles ... all great for motor planning and control!

You can model a little, if you want ... in a parallel playing sort of way :) Draw a letter - maybe the first letter of their names. Something about wet letters gets their attention. Use different sizes of paintbrushes for different effects.

You can also make chalk shapes, letters, numbers .. and, then paint over them. Any "mistakes" quickly evaporate and then, they can do it again! This would be great practice for back-to-school - getting familiar with names, shapes, numbers, etc. - in a very no-fuss, enjoyable way :)

Have fun!

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Books to Love: "Wet Dog!" by Elise Broach, illustrations by David Catrow

Every time I pull this book out to read, my kiddos go nuts over the pictures, even before I can say the title. Everything about this book makes you smile. David Catrow's fluid, detailed illustrations draw in the reader, and the use of rhyme and rhythm in Elise Broach's storytelling makes them want to join in ... and, they do!!

There are repeating lines that become group chants and the excitement grows as the story unfolds and your little ones start to anticipate what will happen next. Predicting and sequencing the appearance of each story element will add to the fun - and is a great comprehension tool!

This is a great read for the hot, summer days - you can almost feel the droplets of water as the wet dog shakey-shakes off :) After reading, go back and find all the delicious, descriptive ways that show how hot the main character is ... There are so many, you will lose track.

Make sure you spend some time poring over each new setting, as it is introduced. The details are amazing! There will be some recall at the end, as you and your little ones put the pieces together for the culminating scene. This fun book will quickly become a new favorite. :)

Have fun!

Friday, July 24, 2015

Social Skills: Play!

Have fun in the summer - and, use the time to make sure you are exposing your child to new, playful social situations, to prepare the way for school :)

Make a trip to a park or community pool ... or, just take a walk down the street to meet other children  for your child to spend some unstructured playtime with. Playgroups or play dates are also a good option, as long as there is plenty of free interaction between children. To get started, pull out some water toys or set up sand construction tools ... all you really need is some plastic cups and shells or pebbles. Then, let your child imagine what to do with things they find - and share with a new friend! Playtime is their "lab" for discovering what works and doesn't work when forming friendships and working together on projects.

Getting in some non-screen, active time will help your child develop skills such as decision making, planning, sharing - all skills needed in a group setting, like school. The ability to make choices on their own, and to share toys or play cooperatively, are developed over time, in natural play settings. Little ones develop these skills through trial and error, so let them explore :)

In today's world, there are many choices for children's activities that are technology-based, which do not always involve daily interaction with peers. While these may be a favorite part of your child's day, they can detract from building social skills, if used too often. Interactive play time also helps develop your child's speech and language skills, as well as their dexterity in handling objects and art materials.

The more variety your child is exposed to, both through experiences and with handling different toys and art materials, the more they will continue to grow! Keep it simple - there are so many easy ways to inject a little group fun - sidewalk chalk, bubbles, rock and popsicle stick building projects ...

Have fun!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Open-Ended Recycled Art

One of the coolest ways to spend a summer day (or any day!) is to do some art with recycled materials :) If you're like me, these days your recycling bucket fills faster than your actual trash ... So try a little trash to treasure creativity! Some of those items sitting right now in your recyclable bucket will inspire your child's imagination. Make sure to start off with absolutely no plan in mind ... just bring out some materials that could be interesting and let your children explore.

If you need a launching point, try examining an egg carton together and do some verbal brainstorming with your little ones. "What could we make with this? What animals have bumps like this?" Maybe they will want to paint and personalize the outside and use it to collect cool stuff on a nature walk. Then, see what other ideas they have! Egg cartons can become so many things -  bugs, caterpillars, finger puppets ... there is no limit to what your children might think of. (If you do a search online for egg carton crafts, you will find all sorts of ideas.) Your child might be inspired to make a whole collection of insects or other animals by dividing the carton up (adult help needed for cutting) and using markers, googly eyes, and pipe cleaners.

Boxes are another source of unlimited creativity. Use empty cereal or cracker boxes to make a whole town, farm, or big city to play with. Cover boxes with craft or construction paper and your child can personalize with details, such as doors, windows, and even signs for businesses. Lay it down. add wheels, and it becomes a vehicle.
The important thing is to let your children take ownership of the activity, with limited prompting and assistance from you!

Cardboard tubes are cool - there is always something to make with them! Paper towel rolls can be telescopes for pirates or adventurers. Smaller tubes can become binoculars with a little imagination, string, and some markers. Your children may want to connect some tubes and make tunnels to send some bouncy balls or tiny cars through.

Don't overlook your junk mail, either. Your little guys can use recyclable newspapers and magazines to practice cutting things on lines, and then gluing those cutouts or papers into collages of favorite things or mosaic designs. Toy store fliers and catalogs are particular favorites for little ones :)

Have fun!

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Father's Day Fun Gift

For Father's Day this year, I am borrowing this idea from a past Mother's Day post, and changing it up just a bit!

Everyone loves a gift that they can actually use ... here you go! And, it's so easy!!

Have your child make a handprint on a nice, sturdy piece of paper - preferably in a color that Dad would like to have displayed on his desk! We're using some leftover card stock in a nice, medium blue. Make sure the color paint you choose is a nice contrast to the color of the paper.

When it's dry, cut around it in a round shape (use a plastic lid or china saucer as an outline), leaving enough space to also get a name and date on the paper, near the handprint. If your child is able to cut already, then trace the line for them and let them cut away!

Use markers to finish with your child's name and the year, written by them if they are able or by you, if they are too small yet. When all is complete, you can have it laminated at a local copy store, if you have this service available to you, or use clear contact paper to finish it off.

Add a little poem - feel free to grab mine and adapt.  You'll melt their hearts:

Mug mats or coasters make a great gift for dads or grand pops - usable, personal, and easy to keep clean! Slip them inside a handmade card and you'll be all set for Father's Day!

Have fun!

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Apology accepted!

Teachable moments occur in the course of each day ... Sometimes,  the most important, authentic social learning comes from these moments.

Little ones are not born with the ability to know how to apologize. They benefit from you modeling how to do this, so that it becomes natural for them, and then can happen spontaneously in the future. When something happens between friends, siblings, or classmates that calls for an apology, look for your child's ability to stop and say the words or make the gesture. If they aren't able or ready, show them explicitly how to do this :) Just as we model other activities, we can teach accountability, apology, and work on empathy.

Teach your children that apologies are necessary and should be direct and specific. Model this with yourself, as well. When something goes wrong, as it sometimes will, and the teacher (or parent) makes a mistake - possibly attributing blame to the wrong person or misunderstanding a situation - use it as an opportunity to model, as well as to truly apologize.

All of the children who have passed through my classes know "even grown-ups make mistakes." Getting down to eye level, directing my attention to the small person involved, and saying specifically why I am sorry ... "I'm sorry I thought you were talking, when you were actually working so quietly ... can you forgive me? I'll try to look more carefully next time." This shows that child and all observing exactly what an apology should look like and sound like.

I think forgiveness also comes easier to those who know how to apologize. Once your child starts to see the impact of their actions, intentional or not, they also are better able to see their place in the group, and feel the power of forgiveness. A team dynamic in your home or classroom will help your child in many aspects of their lives.

So, have fun - and apologize when necessary!

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Numbers, numbers, everywhere!

So, your children are ready to begin counting?! First, you want to start with one-to-one correspondence ... touching each object as you count and associating the oral number with a bunch of objects. As you are counting blocks, touch and say, "one, two, three - I have three blocks!" You should see your child copy this behavior, after some modeling. Then, play games to see who has how many - I have three cars, how many do you have?

After children understand that groups of objects can be assigned a word (numbers), show them what numbers look like! Show numbers in text and play a find the number game. There are many counting books available, with fantastic illustrations, to help generate interest! Whatever your child is interested in, there is probably a book that shows counting and numbers related to it! Eric Carle's wordless book, "1, 2, 3, To the Zoo!" is a favorite to start with. Look for Dinosaur counting books, books with fairies, etc., ... there is something for everyone! "Over in the Meadow" and the "Five Little Monkeys" books are favorites for rhyming songs with numbers. 

When your child is ready, look for numbers in other printed material, such as newspaper flyers and mailers, and make separate collages of each number - work on one number at a time. Use Legos to "build" the number and talk about how it is formed. Play some silly finger plays like "Five Little Monkeys Swinging in a Tree" to reinforce the number names, too!

When you're ready for hands-on number making practice, use the different letter forming fun tricks mentioned in former posts! You can also find heavy-duty plastic paper protector sheets for 8 1/2 by 11 paper and make some templates to slip in. Then, practice with dry erase markers to your heart's content :) Some children like to practice using a Rainbow Write technique, which is to form the number with a pencil very nicely, and then go over it for repetition with many colored pencils. 

Take it step-by-step and only introduce the next step when your child is ready. Frustration is the last thing you want your child feeling! Have fun!