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!