Mud Day

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

It's International Mud Day, a day dedicated for kids to play in the mud.

As our yards have become more manicured with landscaping, there is less opportunity for our kids to experience muddy play and get dirty. There is plenty of concrete, grass, and mulch, but not enough dirt. My general lack of enthusiasm for maintaining our lawn and the current drought in Central Texas have increased the dirt patches in our yard. Instead of bemoaning my ugly lawn, I thought we could use it to celebrate Mud Day with our daughter.

We turned dirt into mud by wetting it.

We dug out the dirt and put it into a plastic tray.

I buried plastic bugs and shells for Miss E to discover while playing with the mud tray.

I brought the mud to her outside play area and encouraged her to play with it using her outside kitchen tools.

She preferred to use the shovels than digging around with her hands. Some children don't relish getting dirty, but it's important to provide opportunities for them to feel the earth on their hands.

Having access to the sprinkler increased her enjoyment because she could rinse off her hands and toy animals.

Muddy play is dirty, but that doesn't mean your entire home will get muddy. As long as you take time to wash off the toys after playing, and allow your children to run in the sprinklers to wash off, the mud stays outside. 


When our children are filthy, it usually means they have had loads of fun! 

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Play Ball

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Considering the summer in Texas is full of 100+ degree days, I allow outdoor play indoors. We play outdoors in the morning, but the afternoons are long being forced into hermitage lest your contact lenses melt in your eyeballs. One way of exercising indoors is playing with a ball.

There are a few points to consider before you play ball indoors.
-Remove breakables from the space.
-Use a soft ball like a beach ball.
-Have an open space to play free of furniture and toys.
-Create rules on how the ball is to be used - rolled, thrown, hit, or bounced. Discuss how high the ball is allowed to be thrown.
-State which rooms ball play is allowed.
-Take time outs from ball play if it becomes too wild, and children aren't following the rules. Discuss again how they need to play.

Here are a few ideas for playing ball indoors.
-Simply throw or roll the ball.
-Create a relay race with a bunch of balls at one end of the room and an empty basket or box at the other end of the room.
-Play volleyball by setting up a row of chairs in the middle of the room as the net.
-Play golf with a wrapping paper tube and ball. Use boxes or baskets to aim the ball.
-When playing catch, practice counting or saying the ABC's to see how high you can count before somebody drops the ball when throwing the ball.
-Use a sheet and several people to hold the sheet into the air. Put the ball into the middle and bounce it on the sheet.
-Set up block towers or empty plastic bottles to play bowling.
-Play soccer with stuffed animals.  Mark the goal with a strip of masking tape and make stuffed animals kick the ball past the goal. 

To combat summer cabin fever, it helps to incorporate indoor exercise into your afternoon schedule, and ball play is an easy way to do it. Best of all it just fun!

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Location:At Home

Little Helper - Making Tea

Monday, June 27, 2011

Today I have a cold, and the only time this avid coffee drinker craves tea is when I'm under the weather. It's important to teach children to care for others. I explained to my daughter that tea makes me feel better when I am sick, and I told her I needed help making tea. At three, she shouldn't be expected to wait on me hand and foot, but making tea would be fun and encourage compassion.

We have a thriving peppermint plant in the garden, and mint would be soothing to my sore throat. Even when sick, I like to spend time outdoors because I feel like the vitamin D from the sun and fresh air helps speed healing.

Miss E picked the peppermint leaves.

I love growing herbs because children appreciate their aroma.

She washed the leaves.

She poured water into the pot.

I brewed the leaves.

When the tea had become cooler, she poured each of us a cup of tea.

By encouraging children to help out in small ways, they can learn compassion and teamwork.

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Location:At Home

Happy Birthday, Eric Carle!

Friday, June 24, 2011

It's Eric Carle's birthday, and An Amazing Child is hosting a link party for play ideas inspired by his works. Eric Carle illustrated the book, Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? written by Bill Martin Jr.  I created an animal hunt for my daughter based on the book.

I gathered the animals found in the book. We didn't have all the animals, so I had to get a little creative. I dyed a cat purple using bleeding tissue paper. It was an animal destined for the donate pile, and I was glad to find another use for her. I needed to use a puzzle piece for the frog.

I hid the animals in the backyard

We reread the book, and I told her she would be looking for the animals in the backyard. She had a blast searching for her animals. We played the hide and seek game a couple of times, but Mommy got too hot. We'll definitely play it again when it's cooler out.

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Growing Confidence

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Miss E has been tending her flower garden for a couple of months. I gave her an assortment of seeds and a little plot to grow them. She has been responsible for tending her plants with tidbits of advice from me, but she was the one who made the choice whether or not to take care of her garden. Some days she wasn't in the mood to garden, but she continued caring for her plants. Just now, she can see the fruits of her labor because the flowers are blooming. I can tell by the sparkle in her eye, she is amazed at her flower garden. I think it is awesome she could grow something taller than herself, and I hope she is just as proud of herself.

Gardening is a wonderful way to build a child's self confidence in her abilities. In order for children to become more confident, they need to face challenges. Gardening is ripe with natural challenges - the weather, pests, and soil conditions. They learn that some goals take awhile to accomplish because growing a plant from a seed can take weeks, sometimes over a month. Even in the face of hard work, they realize sometimes they will fail. Plants will die, but they need to figure out how to keep the other plants alive.
When they persevere through gardening, they witness they were responsible for the creation of beauty, and that will make them feel good about themselves.

Growing a garden is hard work, but children need to work on tasks with delayed gratification. If you want to build children's confidence, they need to face challenges, persevere, and fail. Through this adversity, they will grow into more confident people.

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Location:In the Garden

Loving Literacy - "The 3 Billy Goats Gruff"

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Miss E's current favorite animal is the goat, and she adores the story of The Three Billy Goats Gruff.  I decided to create a story sensory box based on the story.   I've been inspired by many wonderful examples of sensory tubs at Counting Coconuts and the discovery boxes TheImaginationTree.  I'm impressed how engaged the children are by exploring the collections using a variety of materials.  I chose to integrate a favorite story with the idea of sensory play.   

I used rocks, blue glass craft marbles, strips of green felt, and dried flowers for the setting.  I wanted to use as many natural materials as possible - rocks and dried flowers.  I intended to incorporate a variety of tactile sensations with the rough rocks, smooth marbles, soft felt, and crunchy flowers.  The different materials also create different noises. 

I made the bridge out of packaging and popsicle sticks.  I like the idea of using materials found in the home to save resources, but I'm not creative enough to make them all. 

I created the troll using odds and ends from our craft boxes.

I purchased the wooden goats on Etsy from aqua.

I used a photo box to contain it all, but there was no containing it all.

She played out the story of the Billy Goats, but that didn't last very long. She carried the box to the floor and started dismantling it to make her own scene and introduce new characters and create new situations.

She made a pool with a grassy field. The troll was no longer mean, and they all the enjoyed the pool together.

Days later we have still been playing with the story box. The glass marbles are the most enjoyed element. She has created rivers, a bath, and rain with them. The contents of the box have made useful props for acting out my own stories for Miss E, and the little Miss story tells too.

The next time I prepare a story box for her, I plan to give her the materials without setting the scene to encourage more imagination. This way I can see how she visualizes the story rather than how I see it.

I am excited to observe the other stories created with these materials and characters. After all, a good story will inspire us to read, discuss, create, and role play other stories.

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Location:At Home

Simple Math - Candles

Monday, June 20, 2011

Miss E loves playing birthday party. She and her stuffed animals play games, toss balloons, contemplate the guest list, open presents, and eat party food which always includes cake. If you haven't figured this out already, I will share a secret. When it comes to birthday parties, most kids only care about the cake (or cupcakes). Know need to fret when it comes to birthday party planning for a kid as long as you're offering something sweet to eat.

Since a birthday party must have cake, we made cakes using Playdoh. I gave her candles to play with.

Several animals were having a birthday, and she decided the age and put the correct number of candles to match the age. She talked about which animals were older and younger. Then we sang "Happy Birthday" for each animal, and the animals blew out one candle at a time. No need to light the candles as the imagination provides the flame.

After that, we had more fun decorating the cakes with candles. I began decorating using patterns, and she explored different patterns with her candles.

Another idea for playing with birthday candles would be creating shapes - squares, rectangles, triangles, etc - with the candles. If you have an assortment of candles, children can practice sorting. Just be mindful that your child knows that she shouldn't try to light the candles on her own. This activity supports the development of mathematical concepts such as one to one correspondence, counting, patterns, and comparing numbers.

Everyday is a day to celebrate and have fun with math!

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Location:At Home

Doing Nothing

Thursday, June 9, 2011

In the "House at Pooh Corner" by A.A. Milne, Christopher Robin must leave his animal friends, and they bid him a sad farewell. Pooh spends the rest of the afternoon with Christopher Robin. They talk about what they each like doing best, and Christopher Robin says, "...but what I like doing best is Nothing." And he later clarifies, "It means going along, listening to all the things you can't hear, and not bothering." This is especially poignant because I assume Christopher Robin is going off to school, and he is saddened that he realizes he will no longer have time to do nothing. Christopher Robin and Pooh are enjoying laying down in a shaded grove of trees telling tales, doing nothing. Reading this reminded me of the importance of doing nothing.

His satisfaction in nothing comes from free time, a loved one's company, freedom of imagination, an appreciation of natural surroundings, sharing ideas, and not needing to produce anything tangible. While nothing physical is produced, quiet, do nothing time produces a warmth of spirit. Spending time with children with no agenda gives children an opportunity to feel loved for exactly who they are as a person and not what they can do and produce.

With our hectic schedules, it may be hard to find time to just sit, talk, tell stories, dream, joke, giggle, cuddle, feel the warm sun and breeze, and watch the world pass instead of trying to keep up with the world. You don't need to give up the activities you enjoy, but instead of rushing to complete what's next, pause for a moment. Find a beautiful and/or quiet place to pass time doing nothing with your child.

When I think of special memories I have shared with my daughter, many of those times come from the everyday, simple moments. Times when we stop our daily activities of reading, arts and crafts, gardening, playdates, and grocery shopping. I remember holding her on my chest to sleep as a baby. We enjoy sitting at the edge of streams throwing rocks in the water. The times when she wants to stop playing and just cuddle on the couch. She has always enjoyed just sitting on different benches. We cherish our evening walks to meet our special kitty friend, Sweet Boy. Miss E and her Papa love to rest in bed telling stories before bedtime.

Create these moments of serenity for your child. You and your child are sharing love and joy by doing Nothing, and that is Something worth doing.

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Metal and Water Play

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

We are lucky our city of Austin has numerous splash pads to keep our little ones cool. A splash pad is a park with child friendly fountains providing children a wonderful place to play during the summer.

I usually bring along plastic buckets and cups to the splash pad because Miss E enjoys collecting, pouring, and dumping water. This time I decided to bring a collection of metal containers. I wanted Miss E to explore the different sounds water made on the metal while having fun playing at the splash pad. If it's a hot day, keep the metal in the shade when the toys are not being played with because the sun makes the metal quite hot.

She noticed different containers sounded different.

She observed the sounds the metal made together.

She listened to the sounds of the different fountains on the metal.

If you don't have access to a splash pad, children can observe the sounds of water by placing metal containers in the shower or under a hose or sprinklers.

This activity helps develop children's ability to compare and contrast, and they can work on focusing their sense of hearing to discriminate subtle differences in sound. Activities which involve observation skills are important because careful observation is a key component to scientific experiments. Bringing toys to a public park helps build social skills because it gives children an opportunity to share.

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Location:Splash Pad